27 December [St John, evangelist]
Mary ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;
In art St John is represented by an eagle, because (as St Augustine said) no one soared so near heaven as he did. Still, he had his feet on the ground too. It was he who showed us, rather than the institution of the Eucharist, Jesus washing the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper and saying (equivalently), “Do this in memory of me.” The most down-to-earth service of one another, it seems, is like another Eucharist – certainly a communion. As Eckhart put it, “Heaven can only work in the ground of the earth.”
He became a disciple first of John the Baptist and then of Jesus, who called him to be an apostle and nicknamed him and his brother James ‘Boanerges’, “sons of thunder” (Mk 3:17). John, together with James and Peter, made up the inner group of disciples who were with Jesus on the heights and in the depths: they witnessed his Transfiguration and were present in Gethsemane. Next to Peter, John was the most active of the apostles in organising the early church in Palestine and, later, throughout Asia Minor. According to tradition, during a period of persecution of Christians by the Romans, John was banished to Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation. Later he is said to have gone to Ephesus, where he wrote three Epistles and the fourth Gospel.
The prologue to that gospel begins with the language of sublimity, but soon we hear the heart-swelling words, “The Word was made flesh and lived among us, and we saw his glory….”
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