Back in my seminary days, we would often study the question of authorship when it came to the books of the Bible. Especially in modern times there are extensive debates about such things. I remember being annoyed at the question since in most cases I didn’t really care to whom the Holy Spirit had given the text. In the end, God was the author.
I was also annoyed at some of the premises used to reject authorship. For example, it was widely held by modern scholars that St. Paul couldn’t possibly be the author of the the Pastoral Epistles (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus) since the description of the Church was “far too developed” to have been written prior to 65 AD. Never mind that the Acts of the Apostles describes many of the “dubious” hierarchal elements (presbyters (e.g., Acts 14:23), deacons (e.g., Acts 6:3), and apostles (bishops)). Never mind any of that. For us moderns there is the tendency to consider earlier eras as “primitive.” So Paul’s authorship was questioned by many in those days.
John’s gospel was also considered far too lofty by modern scholars to have been written by a “simple fisherman.” Where could this “unlettered” man have gotten such profound and mystical insights? Again, never mind that he may have been as old as 90 when he authored the gospel and may have pondered it for some 60 years. Never mind that he lived for at least part of that time with the sinless Virgin Mary, who knew her son as no one knew Him and saw Him with sinless eyes. No, never mind the power of grace and infused vision. No, it was too much for many modern and rationalistic scholars to accept that a simple fisherman could have pulled it off. It must have been by some other more lettered man like John the Elder. Or it must have been other, smarter types in the Johanine community or school that authored this.
Although I was just a simple 25-year-old seminarian, it seemed to me that far too many modern interpreters stressed only the human dimension of Revelation. Something more mystical was missing from their view. That God could somehow give a profound vision and an infused mysticism to the early Apostles was almost wholly absent in their analysis. Even as a 25-year-old young man I knew better than to exclude that. Although I was young I had already experienced aspects of the charismatic movement in which inspiration and gifts were to be sought and expected.
And had not Jesus himself said to the Apostles, But the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you (Jn 14:26)?
I recently came across a quote from Origen (the early 3rd century theologian), whose insight into John struck me as profound and telling, deeply faithful, and challenging for every Christian. Pondering where John “got all this,” Origen says,
We may therefore make bold to say that the Gospels are the first fruits of all the Scriptures, but that of the Gospels that of John is the first fruits. No one can apprehend the meaning of it except he have lain on Jesus’ breast and received from Jesus Mary to be his mother also (Origen, Commentary on John, 6).
There it was, the lynchpin, the truest answer. John had mystical vision and saw the Lord in the loftiest way because he knew and experienced the heart of the Lord, and had Mary for his Mother. John was a brilliant theologian and possessed deep insight, less because he knew books than because he knew the Lord, heart to heart.
And how surely and truly Mary’s role in this cannot be overlooked. Think of the conversations she and John must have had, the mystical prayer she must have enjoyed and shared with John, the memories and the things that only the heart of a sinless mother could see and know. How John must have marveled at the gift of her! And how he, too, who had known the heart of the Lord and rested at his heart at the Last Supper, must have been able to pray and converse with her.
“Speculation,” you say? Perhaps. But it is a vision I share with the great theologian, Origen. It was love that gave John insight; it was through his relationship with Jesus and with Mother Mary, by Jesus’ own gift, that his mystical gospel took flight.
And what of you and me? How will we gain insight into the Lord and the truth of His Gospel? Books and learning? Studying Greek? Reading commentaries? Sure, all well and good. But these things are best at telling you what the text is saying. It takes a deep relationship with the Lord to see Scripture’s mystical meaning.
Study? Sure. But don’t forget to pray! Scripture comes from the heart of the Lord. And it is only there, by entering the heart of the Lord and living there through prayer, that Scripture’s truest meaning will ever be grasped.
Having trouble getting there? No one loves and understands Jesus as does his Mother Mary. Ask her intercession and help; she will show you the heart of her Son.
Jesus gave John two gifts: the gift of His heart, and the gift of His mother. And John soared to such places that people could ask, “How did he get all this?” But you know how.
He offers you and me the same. Do you want vision? Do you want to appreciate the depths of Scripture and all God’s truth? Do you want the eyes of your heart opened to new mysteries and mystical experience? Then accept the gifts Jesus offers: the gift of His heart and the gift of His mother.
Consider well the admonition of one of the most learned men who ever lived: No one can apprehend the meaning of it except he have lain on Jesus’ breast and received from Jesus Mary to be his mother also.
Here is Fr. Thomas Luis de Victoria at his most mystical: O Magnum Mysterium (O Great mystery and wondrous sacrament, that animals would witness the birth of Christ. O Blessed Virgin whose womb merited to carry the Lord Jesus Christ, Alleluia!)
13 Replies to “The Vision of Love – A Reflection on an Insight of Origen”
John brilliantly portrayed with “dramatic irony” the dark side of Jesus’ interlocutors. This dark side resides in those chipping away at authorship. A professor declared, “No possible way Peter wrote 1 & 2 Peter! The Greek was far too sophisticated.” The seminarian sitting next to me almost blew a gasket, “but he tells of being present at the Transfiguration!” Professor, “No,… far too sophisticated. He could not possibly have written it.” Then this favorite seminarian said, “What about the Holy Spirit?” …
2 Peter 1:16-18 “…eyewitnesses of His majesty… ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.”
Same professor totally still perplexed about Paul’s ability to have been so radically transformed. With a shade too much enthusiasm I asked, “What about the prayers of St. Stephen?” This is when the LID blew! “NO way, this is NOT a Magisterial teaching of the Church!”
Interesting Monsignor that so many still teach seminarians! Grateful you are kind enough to share your early experiences.
People who find fault in the authorship of Gospels at this late date are looking for support for their doubt. They are standing in the Church looking at the exit, not the tabernacle. Compared to raising the dead the imparting of insight and writing ability seems a very small matter; of course God can manage it.
Monsignor, love and God bless you! This vision I share also and I pray for those who wish to place limitations on God or the power of His Spirit in any way. Beloved Pope Francis says also ‘Theology best done on our knees’. Jesus be the center of our hearts. Mary our Mother, pray for and teach us always.
So, true. Humility and meekness and obedience leads our path to God.
Best wishes, Jas.
Amen, and in a chaste heart.
The video has been muted because of a copyright claim, it says on YouTube. Wish we could hear it.
Eucharistic Adoration, the Holy Rosary, living a moral life and asking Jesus in humility to unveil the scriptures to you will be the key in understanding the mysteries.
Love this. Our Lady and St. John = cor ad cor loquitur.
Oh my, this Spring I finished a wonderful bible study on John taught by a nun of our parish. I thought it was like a college level theology course and was so inspired, but she did teach us that the the books of the bible were authored by writers other than those named; John, Timothy, Peter, etc. How confusing for one who has recently returned to the Church and is trying to immerse herself in the Faith. I can see now that I must lean on her for her teaching but on Mary for Truth in the Faith. Jeez, nothing’s simple is it.
+The above troubling comment kept coming to mind this morning . . . during morning prayers and devotions . . . (probably inspired by Monsignor’s “isms” of todays and yesterdays sharings) . . .and though it’s a bit late . . . I couldn’t shake the feeling I was supposed to respond to it . . .
Your very wise to recognize the error of your teacher’s thoughts Mary. . . but just a further gentle word of caution . . . when ANY person calling themselves . . . “Catholic” . . . nun or whomever . . . takes it upon themselves to . . . JUDGE . . . and as both judge and jury . . . has judged wanting and in error . . . our Holy Mother Church’s Magisterial Teachings . . . placing their . . . OWN . . . personal judgment as . . . wiser than . . . and above . . . the Magisterium . . . (the teaching office) . . . of the Apostolic Holy Roman Catholic Church . . . then that soul has a . . . SERIOUS . . . problem . . . in relation to the . . . TRUTH . . . WHO . . . is JESUS . . . the Blessed Christ . . . Our LORD and Saviour . . . Himself . . . and the Head of the Church . . . His Holy Bride . . .
Our Holy Mother Church does not waver re the finalized Canon of Sacred Scriptures . . . THE HOLY BIBLE . . . as to the authorship of the individual books therein . . . and it is NOT a matter up for dissension or debate . . . For someone to arrogantly decide they . . . KNOW BETTER . . . than the Church . . . is to enter into the actively . . . openly . . . practice of the self-centered sin of . . . PRIDE . . . which sin should cause . . . ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING . . . that individual has been teaching . . . to be brought up for questioning . . . since recognition . . . and . . .acceptance of . . . and . . . submission to the . . . WHOLE TRUTH . . . is essential . . . if they are going to be able to teach the Truth of GOD’S WORD as GOD intends it to be taught . . . and not just their own “personal” polluted-with-the-sin-of-pride version of same . . .
Certainly . . . we all can make mistakes . . . but to rebelliously openly teach dissension opposing the Magisterium . . . particularly as a Catholic religious . . . shows . . . incredibly/seriously . . . bad/poor judgment . . . and a soul living . . . DEEP . . . in a delusion of error . . . Leaning on such a one . . . ? . . . Not recommended!
“What can be made clean by the unclean? and what truth can come from that which is false?”
“A false witness shall not be unpunished …”
. . . all for Jesus+
I know this may not be printed, but could you send me an email that at least it was read and point out anything I have concluded that cannot be true? Thank you
When the angel appeared to Mary and she agreed to be the Mother of God, she saw herself as a married virgin and was praying as such and as the helpmate of Joseph, acknowledging Him perfectly as the head of the family and afterwards she knew God had not changed that so she continued to be the perfect helpmate, honoring perfectly Joseph as the head of the family and sacrificing and praying for him in his unfathomable responsibility of being this head of the family to the Son of God, who would acknowledge Joseph, (by Mary’s words at the finding at the temple at age 13) as His father. Perhaps we need to include this in our prayers?
Whenever people have a problem and they have tried all the possible solutions they can think of, to no avail, some pundits will suggest they need to be “thinking outside the Box” since the way they are thinking does not seem to be working. Getting “outside the Box” of our thinking requires grace, God’s help. Sometimes, God’s infinite loving knowledge is that we need to be more thankful for the “cross” we are trying to solve (remove, lessen) and accept it with more humility, patience, thankfulness, love and zeal. Romans 8: 26, says, “In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.” Also James 4:3, says “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
And finally we have the CCC teaches at 2740-2741, “2740 The prayer of Jesus makes Christian prayer an efficacious petition. He is its model, he prays in us and with us. Since the heart of the Son seeks only what pleases the Father, how could the prayer of the children of adoption be centered on the gifts rather than the Giver?
2741 Jesus also prays for us – in our place and on our behalf. All our petitions were gathered up, once for all, in his cry on the Cross and, in his Resurrection, heard by the Father. This is why he never ceases to intercede for us with the Father.32 If our prayer is resolutely united with that of Jesus, in trust and boldness as children, we obtain all that we ask in his name, even more than any particular thing: the Holy Spirit himself, who contains all gifts.
“If our prayer is resolutely united with that of Jesus….. we obtain all that we ask in his name…..the Holy Spirit himself” Can the Holy Spirit be praying for anything different than Jesus prayed as He suffered and died? Obviously, no.
The CCC teaches at 2668 that ”The invocation of the holy name of Jesus is the simplest way of praying always” and since CCC 2666 teaches that “The name “Jesus” contains all: God and man and the whole economy of creation and salvation. To pray “Jesus” is to invoke him and to call him within us. His name is the only one that contains the presence it signifies. Jesus is the Risen One, and whoever invokes the name of Jesus is welcoming the Son of God who loved him and who gave himself up for him.”
Jesus always prayed that God’s will be done. Jesus is eternally praying, for every sinner at every point of space and time, His one, single, infinite, always in the present tense prayer and we cannot improve upon it by asking for some good we want. The best we can do is request that Jesus make His prayer our’s in every circumstance, with no additions or deletions, just His Divine Will be done. If we could do this perfectly like the saints in heaven do and like Mary did all her life and especially as she watched her Son suffer and die for all sinners, we would pray only what Jesus prayed and He would be praying His prayer through us and with us and in us, while at the same time eternally doing the same through Joseph and Mary. Therefore we would effectively be praying Jesus’ prayer that He prays through Joseph and Mary in the present tense.
I say it is better when we conform our wills to God’s and consciously do this.
This may be way outside the box many people pray in, but, with the world in the sad state that it is in, maybe we should not focus on whether or not it is different, rather, maybe we should ask God if this must follow from what the Catholic Church officially teaches and therefore we can conclude with a certitude of Faith that this is part of the way you want us to pray with the prayer of Jesus, in His Name.
Another approach in Scripture criticism I always found problematic was the assumption that any scripture that contained an historical prophecy had to have been authored after the historical occurrence.
Actually, the historical critical method does yield up interesting insights into scripture, and I do appreciate my New Jerome Commentary edited by Father Brown, but scholars’ conclusions should not be taken as “Gospel” (pardon the pun), The method doesn’t necessarily explore all the spiritual dimensions of the text, and its premises can surely be at times questioned.
Here’s a link to the Victoria anthem, sung at the 2005 Lessons & Carols at King’s College.
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