FEBRUARY 26, 2010 : FRIDAY OF 1ST WEEK OF LENT- EZ 18: 21-28; MT 5: 20-26

 

IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD.  When the apostle John wrote his Gospel in the last years of his life, after much reflection he opened it with this statement. The decision to refer to the person of Jesus as Logos, usually translated as ‘word’, was the result of serious deliberation and replete with significance.  In the Hebrew Scriptures that John had known from his early childhood, and his native Aramaic tongue, the term for ‘word’, dabar covered a different range of meaning than the Greek logos. A striking instance of this is found in the mouth of the shepherds at Bethlehem whose comments after they experienced the heavenly vision was “Let us go to Bethlehem and see this word that has happened.” Luke, in fact, writing in Greek seems to recognize that logos is not the precise equivalent of their term and employs another Greek term, rhema, which, like the shepherd’s Aramaic, is used to refer not only to speech but also to a thing. Logos, on the other hand, can mean reason, thought as well as word. Our English language, for example, repeatedly makes use of this second meaning in referring to thought about the various arts and sciences as appears in such terms as biology, which means literally thought concerning life, ecology, thought about the dwelling and cosmology, thought concerning the universe. So when John, at the beginning of his Gospel, presents Jesus as the Logos of God through whom all things that exist are made, he is telling us, quite intentionally, that the whole of creation is a source of information that expresses God’s thought. 

 

In the early period of monastic spirituality, a middle-aged monk, Evagrius Ponticus, friend of Gregory Nazianzus and disciple of St. Basil as well, arrived at a sensitive awareness of the fact that all created realities express a hidden, interior structure that expresses something of God’s truth, intelligence, beauty, and loving care that extends to human history as well. To recover the likeness to God that was disfigured by sin, we must not only work at controlling disordered passions, but strive to recover the purity of heart that restores the lost likeness, by contemplating the logos of creation and God’s Providence active in history.  Already Saint Anthony of Egypt had referred to nature as “the book of God in which the Spirit can write.” Evagrius, at the same time, warns that this involvement with created reality, necessary and essential as it is, has dangers and limits. It must be superceded by contemplation of the Blessed Trinity in order to arrive at the purity that is capable of seeing God.       

 

Human language challenges us unendingly throughout life. Rightly to interpret and use words is an unfailing source of wisdom as Ben Sirach observed: “Wisdom shall be recognized in speech.” (4:29) We are to treat words with respectful care whether in listening or in speaking is an insistent teaching inculcated frequently in the Bible.  Words are instruments possessing unsuspected potential that can suddenly effect great changes in us when we take them into our heart and in those to whom we address them. The ancient Book of Proverbs accordingly alerts us to their power: (18:21) “Death and life are in the gift of the tongue.” God addresses us not only through nature and history but through human speech in the words of the Torah, the Prophets, and the Wise persons we encounter in life as well as in the Wisdom writings of the Bible.

 

Saint Benedict, at this season of Lent, knowing the important role of the Logos Theou, the Word of God, prescribes that each monk should receive from the abbot a book in which he is to read meditatively so as to assimilate its message.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus shows us how he had arrived as a fuller understanding of the words of the Torah by his reading and meditation under the influence of his Holy Spirit. He discerned the fuller, more profound implications of God’s earlier word, passing through them to the hidden logos. He understood that controlling anger, for example, is not enough, we must learn to do good to those who trouble us and cause us suffering. He was eventually to demonstrate how fully he had assimilated this word of God by praying on the cross for those who crucified him, finding an excuse for their evil act in their ignorance.

 

At this Eucharist we renew not only this prayer of Jesus, the Logos made flesh, but re-enact the sacrifice he offered that we might imitate his example and follow his way of return to the Father. May the grace of his offering and resurrection prove fruitful in all our lives by our faithful observances of this holy season of Lent.&  


Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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