December 31, 2011 - The Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas

Today's Readings

We read again today the prologue to the Gospel according to John, one of the greatest treasures of Christian literature. It used to be that this passage was read at every Mass, every day of the year. That was taken away with the new ordinary form of the Mass, but it was rarely appreciated in those days. Priests would try to read it as quickly as possible in order to finish Mass on time. We only have it a few times a year, but we can read it in English and slowly, so as to really appreciate the poetry.

St. John builds a poetic structure starting in the beginning, exactly like the Book of Genesis, except that whereas that book begins with the heavens and the earth being formless and void, John begins before that. Before God created the universe, he existed, and the Word of God existed then too, from the very beginning. Just as God created the universe by means of words, “Let there be light”, so John affirms that it was through the Word of God that everything came to be.

That Word was not really “Let there be light”. Clearly not. The Word of God is not a word in English or even a word in Hebrew. No human language could contain the Word of God, for the word as with God and the Word was God.

Then John claims that this Word came into the world. Now the Word is a divine person, so we always ought to pause at the moment that John affirms that the Word of God became a man and dwelt among us. How amazing! How stupefying! We cannot fathom what it means for God to have come down so low as to be one of us. Here we have returned to the Garden of Eden where God walked with Adam and Eve before they sinned.

Then John takes us to Moses and the 10 Commandments. The Law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. The Law was good. Grace and truth are better. The Law tells us what we do wrong. Grace empowers us to do what is right. This is grace in place of grace. God gave the world a gift when he gave the Law to Moses, but God replaced that gift with something better: grace and truth. God has not repeated himself; he has given more generously than ever before.