You see, the reading for Mass on Christmas during the day is not one of the synoptic gospel narratives about the birth of Jesus in a manger, but the beginning of St. John’s Gospel. I was sad that I didn’t get to hear the Christmas story.
Yet John’s narrative is the fruit of the beloved disciple’s contemplation on the Incarnation: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. … And the Word became flesh, and He lived among us” (John 1&14). My young mind could not grasp what a beautiful Christmas reading it is.
A mere two days after Christmas, we celebrate the feast day of St. John. We hear from his first epistle, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life- for the life was made visible” (1John 1:1-2). John is eager to share his experience of Jesus with us.
John’s Gospel and letters are different than the others. As his symbol of an eagle suggests, John’s writings soar above the rest. I propose that the sublimity of John’s meditations come from two sources: 1) time spent with the Blessed Mother, and 2) time spent in prayer.
On the cross, Jesus gave the care of His Mother to John. From that moment on, he took her into his home. Surely, they spent time reminiscing about Jesus. During His lifetime, Mary watched Jesus, observed Him, and treasured all that He said and did in her heart (Luke 2:51). Almost certainly, she would have shared these treasures with St. John.
Mary, like any mother, loved to tell stories about Her Child. Though the hidden years of the Holy Family remain unrevealed, she probably had a few stories to tell the apostles, like that time He stayed behind in Jerusalem!
St. Luke must have talked to the Blessed Mother about the events of that first Christmas Eve. Consequently, in awe and wonder he records them in his Gospel. Yet, John, who no doubt also heard the story Mary told about Jesus’ miraculous birth, reflected more deeply about what was heard, seen, and looked upon that holy night. With the Blessed Mother as teacher (for mothers are the best teachers of their children), John was able to glimpse beyond the senses into the mystery of the Incarnation.
Furthermore, the Blessed Mother would have encouraged John to pray to Jesus after His Ascension. In their home in Ephesus, quiet time to talk to Jesus would have been part of a daily routine. Mary knows the importance of taking time to spend with God in prayer.
Later in life, the exiled apostle had plenty of quiet time to reflect upon the inspirations he received while on the island of Patmos. Spending time with Jesus and the His Mother prepared John for the Revelation that would conclude the New Testament. His heart and soul had been prepared to receive all that God had in mind for John to see and reveal.
Let this be a lesson for us. If we want to be prepared to see the Beatific Vision God created us to behold, then let us be like John. Spend time with Our Lady. Make time for prayer. Read the Word. Imagine being there with Jesus. Use your senses. Listen to him speak. See the surroundings. Reach out and touch Him. Let your meditation become contemplation. Then, when prayer time has ended, go forth and share its fruits.
“What we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; for our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing this so that our joy may be complete” (1John 1:3-4).
Copyright 2018 Kelly Guest