Scripture: Lectionary 435. Sept.6, Colossians 1:15-20. Psalm 100: 18.104.22.168.5. Luke 5:33-39:
Colossians contains this beautiful hymn which is recited often at the Liturgy of the Hours in the evening and which originally may have been a liturgical ritual for the sacrament of Baptism. Paul takes the hymn and adds his own faith perspectives to it to refute the wrong thinking that threatens the community of Colossae with Stoic and nascent or early Gnostic philosophy. He guides the rest of the epistle with the foundation piece of this hymn.
Pope Saint Pius X who advocated frequent reception of the Eucharist and was devoted to the Psalms and the Liturgy of the Church used the final thought of this hymn as his powerful motivation “to restore all things in Christ.”
Our epistle is a refutations of philosophies and beliefs that stressed the Pleroma or fullness of divine powers permeating the whole of the universe. It stems from nascent Gnosticism and Stoicism that Paul wrestled with in confronting ideas that would lead the faithful away from the central point that Jesus Christ is the center of all creation and is the visible image of God’s presence among the community of faith that Paul is addressing.
For our meditation upon the hymn we may wish to turn to the following Scriptural references: Job 28, Psalm 38, Proverbs 8, and Sirach 24—all Wisdom writings that are inspired and found in the Greek of the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. Those works which are only found in Greek are called deuteron-canonical and belong to the Bible of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches; this applies to Sirach, and the Book of Wisdom.
The hymn is a splendid creed for our baptismal renewal and helps us to understand the rest of the epistle that Paul composes. All is seen in Christ, with Christ, and for Christ in this hymn. He vanquishes all forms of pantheism and demonstrates through Paul’s reason and faith the universe’s cohesiveness to Christ. All angelic creatures are subjected to Christ and neither Powers nor Dominions have sway over the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Paul gives us the theme of the Body of Christ as the Church and thus we are all one with Christ in this salvific plan of God. Jerome Murphy O’Connor, a learned Dominican scholar tells us, “It was in Christ that God contemplated the plan of salvation.” The hymn is both Christological in its focus upon Jesus as the center of creation; it is eschatological showing us the goal we are to reach through our Baptism into the community of believers, the Church; and it is soteriological, that is, it is meant for our salvation to embrace what the hymn contains and to live by what we learn from it. Our own physical resurrection is guaranteed by the hymn for it flows from the one who is the “first fruits” of Resurrection offered to God through Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead. J. Murphy O’Connor ends his commentary on the hymn with this important thought: “Reconciliation is exclusively through Christ. All other beings are beneficiaries of his work.”
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.