Several summers ago I stood in front of a block of stone just outside of what was Ephesus, Turkey. I remember gazing transfixed at the words carved into the marble, “St. Jean In Mezari. The Tomb of St. John.” I could barely move before the immensity of what was cloistered there.
Gently coming to consciousness was the Gospel poet, who with a nod to mysticism gave us the infamous Prologue to his Gospel where God speaks a word and creation occurs, the divine Logos takes on flesh and a majestic Christ of the universe expands our way of seeing and knowing. Here we have the entire cosmos and flesh tied together never to be separated.
At the same moment I recalled “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” a description usually assigned to the person of John and assumed to be the one who reclined close to Jesus at the Last Supper. I wonder, just for the fun of it, if Jesus’ relationship with John had something to do with his poetic artistry. Jesus liked words as he played with them in parables. John liked words as he gave us a light that illumined the darkness in order to see more clearly God’s desire for the whole creation.
Alan Lightman, speaking of a crisis of faith in the sciences, said that, “From the huge range of possible universes predicted by the theories, the fraction of universes with life is undoubtedly small. But that doesn’t matter. We live in one of the universes that permits life because otherwise we wouldn’t be here to ask the question.” John allowed himself to plunge into such grandeur to name the life of the universe among us. Poetic words go beyond the words themselves and point to greater truths. What emerged from the words of John is the Word from the beginning who was God. It became a call to abide in the love shown in Christ. Out of that deep abiding, his and ours, John gave us the gift of his words that through them we might discover in Augustine of Hippo’s words, “…the One who makes our joy complete in fellowship, in love, and in unity.”