Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies
COLLECTS OF THE ROMAN MISSAL - SUNDAY, DECEMBER 23rd, 2018 A.D.:
St. John, Apostle and Evangelist: Missale Romanum 1970
For our weekly meditation of the Collects of the Roman Missals, we turn today to the Collect for the feast of St. John the Apostle, which we celebrate in the Christmas Octave (12/27). The following is the official ICEL translation of this prayer in the MR’70:
“O God, who through the blessed Apostle John have unlocked for us the secrets of Your Word, grant, we pray, that we may grasp with proper understanding what he has so marvelously brought to our ears. Through our Lord, etc. Amen.”
In its ascription clause, “John [has] unlocked for us the secrets of Your Word,” the Collect very subtly alludes to St. John’s posture at the Last Supper, reposing on the bosom of Jesus (cf. Jn. 13:23). In the dining habits of that culture, it was customary for those gathered at table to recline and to lean in towards the food by resting on their right arm. This posture also meant that one might comfortably, and not awkwardly- and certainly not in an untoward way- lean somewhat on the person to one’s right. We might call the person at one’s right their “bosom buddy.”
As we see in John 13, it was Our Lord who was St. John’s bosom buddy. Consequently, St. John’s right ear was close to Christ’s mouth, which meant that he could easily hear what He was saying, or engage in a semi-private conversation, and even hear “secrets,” so to speak- unlike someone else reclining further away or on the opposite side of the table [this may be why St. Peter motions to St. John to ask Jesus who is going to betray Him, cf. 13:24].
This same imagery is partially behind St. John’s words in the Prologue: “No one has ever seen God; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known” (cf. Jn. 1:18, RSV, emphasis mine). Christ reveals the “secrets” of the Father, in the words This same imagery is partially behind St. John’s words in the Prologue: “No one has ever seen God; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known” (cf. Jn. 1:18, RSV, emphasis mine). Christ reveals the “secrets” of the Father, in the words
Thus, St. John rests upon Jesus, who Himself rests upon the Father. This is the line of communication of divine revelation from heaven to earth. This introduces an important ecclesiological principle, namely, the indispensability of the Church.
St. Paul tells us the following about divine revelation and faith: “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ” (cf. Rom. 10:17, RSV). In other words, it is through the apostolic preaching that we hear Christ, as our Collect notes: “O God, who through the blessed Apostle John have unlocked for us the secrets of your Word…”. The saving content of divine revelation contained in Scripture and Tradition is authoritatively handed onto us through the apostolic ministry of the Magisterium in the life of the Church (cf. Catechism nos. 74-95).
In view of this, we might argue that if we want to repose upon Christ’s bosom, it is possible only by reposing upon the Church’s bosom. In our Collect, the Church is represented by St. John, who “has so marvelously brought to our ears” this saving revelation by his apostolic preaching and writing. St. John, who represents the Church, is our bosom buddy.
We must stress that this mediation of the Church is immediate: in reposing upon the Church, we truly repose upon Christ himself, for the Church is his Body (cf. 1 Cor. 12). And since the Church is Catholic (universal), such reposing upon Christ is open to all who respond with faith and charity, as St. John so robustly argues in his First Epistle. Accordingly, if we hear and receive Christ’s “secrets,” His divine revelation, from the Father, we will receive eternal life: “But to all who received him, who believed in His name [i.e., Faith], he gave power to become children of God [i.e., Baptism]” (cf. Jn. 1:12, RSV).(David Allen)
|Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.