Gospel of John and the Christian Wisdom Tradition

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Retreat on the Gospel of John

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You know, it's as if our faith has to become sensitized, as if our faith has to become
perceptive of that which is within us, because we're probably not going to experience it
in dramatic ways, you know, either outside of ourselves, as the Jews did in the Old Testament,
or even in our own inner, psychological experience, the way a lot of the mystics have.
We may, but it's the exceptional thing.
Okay, I guess you're very cool.
Thank you.
Lord, we bow to Thee, and we thank Thee, Son of God.
We bow to Thee, and we thank Thee, Son of God.
We bow to Thee, Lord of all the world.
We bow to Thee, Son of God.
Father, and Son of the Holy Spirit,
heavenly Father, send Your living water into our hearts,
and awaken in our hearts, that we may recognize You,
and that we may deeply know Your Son, Your Word,
our Lord Jesus Christ.
We ask this in His name.
This evening, I'd like to talk about John Chapter 4,
Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman.
First, let me read something from Thomas Merman.
The beginning of his little writing, Hagia Sophia,
a very beautiful thing, it's a prose poem.
Some of Merman's finest poetry, I think, is in his prose, actually,
when his prose kind of begins to glow, begins to catch fire.
Hagia Sophia means Holy Wisdom.
There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity,
a doomed life, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness.
A hidden wholeness, it seems to me, became the title of a book by Griffin,
a picture book of a Merman.
This mysterious unity and integrity is wisdom, the mother of all,
natura naturans.
There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity,
a silence that is a fount of action and joy.
It rises up in wordless gentleness and flows out to me
from the unseen roots of all created being.
Welcoming me tenderly, saluting me with indescribable humility.
This is at once my own being, my own nature,
and the gift of my creator's thought and heart within me.
Speaking as Hagia Sophia, speaking as my sister wisdom.
Here we have a beautiful presentation of this feminine wisdom,
a mysterious being who somehow cannot be encompassed within any boundary lines.
See here how she breaks the boundary lines between nature and between God.
She also breaks the boundary lines between the insiders and the outsiders,
the good guys and the bad guys, even the believers and the non-believers,
and even between the conscious and the inanimate.
Something of this comes out in this chapter 4 of John's Gospel in a certain way.
I don't want to try to pin down this feminine figure to any particular person,
but you'll notice that that strain runs throughout John's Gospel.
It's very interesting to look at the encounters of Jesus with women in the Gospel of John.
If you take this series, I think there are about five of them.
The first one being the encounter with his mother, who has a rather low profile there,
but it's very important that the Wedding Priesthood came.
The second is the one we're going to consider this evening.
When Jesus goes to the well, sits down beside the well, and asks the Samaritan woman for a drink.
And that whole dialogue follows there.
The third is the anointing of Jesus by Mary at Bethany, which is a sacramental act in some way.
And in the other Gospels we're told that what she has done will be told everywhere where the Gospel is preached.
So this has a very big significance, not only for John, but in a special way for John,
because he has this kind of sensitivity to the feminine.
The next one is at the cross, where we have mentioned, especially in John, the presences of women.
We don't know where the men are, except for the beloved disciple.
But the women are there. There are three of them named, and they're all named Mary.
And this is a very important moment, of course, when Jesus says to the beloved disciple,
Behold your mother, and says to his mother, Behold your son.
Those are kind of doctrinal statements for John, theological statements.
And then finally we have the surprising fact that Magdalene is the first one to see the risen Christ,
and Mary Magdalene, the woman becomes, she's a little bit like the Samaritan woman here.
She has seven devils, and the Samaritan woman has a similar checkered vest.
She's the first one to carry the message of the Gospel, of the resurrection, to the disciples.
So somehow there's a line throughout John's Gospel in which the women are very close to Jesus,
and they have a kind of affinity with what he is, with what he's about,
which is in keeping with what we've been saying.
Jesus somehow is in the embodiment of this wisdom which is feminine in the Old Testament.
I won't attempt to explain how that can be when he's a man.
One of the ways in which Jesus, the incarnate word, pulls all things together, even the various sexes.
And what I'm saying is only a scrapbook of the depths that's in this truth.
Let's take a look at John chapter 4.
You remember that Samaria had a special meaning for the people of Palestine, the time of Jews.
Samaria had been the place where, wasn't it that Judaism had been most contaminated?
Because a lot of the, first of all, that kingdom had fallen away,
and then they'd been carried away into captivity,
and then I guess the Assyrians and Babylonians had planted a lot of other people there who had different religions.
In other words, who were like the Canaanites of old,
who weren't really Jews, weren't really Orthodox Jews.
And so the Jews from Judea, especially from Jerusalem, and especially the priests and Pharisees,
looked with great contempt at the Samaritans, and the Samaritans also were hostile to the Jews.
And so the Samaritan woman is surprised when Jesus speaks to her.
This is an extraordinary dialogue that happens between Jesus and the Samaritan woman,
because he says things here that he doesn't say in any other place.
So Jesus left Judea and departed to Galilee, and to pass through Samaria.
Jacob's well was there, and so Jesus, weary as he was with his journey,
something that's rarely told is that Jesus is weary.
He's weary and he's in need, and he asks for a drink.
And it's curious that later on his disciples offer him food.
He says, I don't need any food, I have food that you don't know about.
But here, he actually asks for the water, so there's a difference between the drink that he asks the woman for,
and the food that he won't accept, and which he already has.
And yet, after he speaks to the woman, and she replies, he says,
if you had known enough to ask me, I would have given you living water.
So he's got a water and a food within him.
The food, we learn, is to do his Father's will.
So, the living water, let's leave that an open question for a while.
It was about the sixth hour.
The sun is risen to its midpoint.
And somehow, at this moment, maybe it has something to do with the way that Jesus opens himself up to this woman.
Maybe his revelation at this moment for John has reached a kind of midpoint, at least verbally.
I don't know what it means.
The sun is in the middle of the sky above, and Jesus sits down beside the well.
Remember the significance of the well.
Because a well is always a very suggested symbol.
But, if you look in the Old Testament, in Genesis, I think it's chapter, what is it, Genesis 24?
Remember when Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for his son Isaac.
Isaac, who has always been seen as a kind of foreshadowing of the Christ.
And, the servant came to a well, back in Abraham's home country.
And, he made a resolution within himself, that the first woman whom I meet draws water.
And, if I approach, and she says, I'll not only give you water, but I'll water your camels and so on.
And so it's Rebecca that comes out.
It's a very beautiful scene.
And then he takes Rebecca back, puts a gold ring on her finger, and takes Rebecca for Isaac.
That's related too to what's happening here at the well.
In other words, the fact that it's a man and a woman, and counting one another.
Again, it's the marital moment of Jesus.
It's not just accidental.
There's a deep meaning under there, which throws us back to what's happened at Canaan.
At Canaan, where you have both the marriage, as it were, of the Word suggested there already,
of the Incarnate Wisdom, in the background of that simple human marriage.
And also the gift of the wine.
Here we have something like that suggested, and the gift of the living water,
which really is identical with the wine.
At least according to Brown, I think he's right.
There came a woman of Samaria to draw water.
And Jesus said to her, Give me a drink.
For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
I don't think we've got anything like this in the other Gospels.
A Samaritan woman said to him, How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?
She's a somewhat feisty woman, and she appeared to be.
Now he talks back to Jesus.
Jesus answered her, If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, Give me a drink,
you would have asked him, and he would have given you a living water.
And then she says something that seems silly to us.
She's still understanding him on a literal level.
This is always happening in the Gospel of John.
He talks about bread, and they begin to think about bread.
And he's really talking about something deeper, another kind of bread.
And so it is with the water.
Jesus said to her, Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again.
But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.
That's a twist on a quotation from one of the wisdom books.
Remember? It's Sirach, I believe, 24.
That he who drinks of the water that I will give him will always thirst for more.
And he who eats of the food that I will give him, the bread that I will give him, will always hunger for more.
Jesus turns it around.
He's the fulfillment.
And somehow he does create a thirst in her.
The water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water, flowing up to eternal life.
This relates to two other places in the Gospel of John.
One's in chapter 7. Remember? In the middle of the temple.
Jesus cries out at the Feast of Tabernacles.
If anyone believes in him, in me, out of his relish shall flow rivers of living water.
And the ambiguity is left there as to whether it means out of the core, out of the heart of Jesus, or out of the heart of the believer.
The exegetes have been haggling about that for 20 centuries, and still it's not settled.
And I suspect that John means both.
And the other place is in chapter 2, which we considered yesterday.
Where Jesus says, and John says, that the temple that he was talking about is the body of Jesus.
The temple, the new temple which is the body of Jesus.
The water, the living water, flowing from within the body, flowing from within the new temple.
Flowing from both, from within the body of Jesus and the body of the one who believes.
The woman said to him, sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst and come here to drink.
And then Jesus says something curious.
He says, go call your husband and come here.
Now why did he say that?
Somehow, she's got to appear with her husband if she's going to receive this water.
Reminds us a little bit of Cain, once again, in a very kind of subtle way.
The woman answered him, I have no husband.
Jesus said to her, you're right in saying I have no husband.
For you've had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband.
This you said truly.
Five and one is six.
Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet, she replies.
And she changes the subject in a way.
She starts off on a kind of theological, liturgical discourse.
She isn't quite comfortable with that line of conversation.
Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, a mountain in Samaria.
And you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
Jesus said to her, woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem
will you worship your father.
Those are two mountains.
You worship what you do not know.
We worship what we know.
For salvation is from the Jews.
It's magnificent.
And it's a theology.
It's in those few words.
It cuts through so many problems.
He doesn't say salvation is in the Jews.
He doesn't say the Jews are the only ones who are saved.
He says salvation is from the Jews.
You worship what you do not know.
We worship what we know.
But the hour is coming, and now is when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth,
for such the Father seeks to worship in spirit and truth.
So we have two crushing statements of Jesus to the Samaritan woman already.
There's another to come.
The living water that he's going to give.
The worship in spirit and truth, which no longer depends on this place or that place.
It sounds like it no longer depends on orthodoxy or heterodoxy,
but it really means it no longer depends on this or that structure.
It depends on spirit and truth.
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
The woman said to him, I know the Messiah is coming.
He was called the Christ, the anointed one.
The anointing is very important.
We have to remember that Christ, our Messiah, means the anointed one.
The one who's anointed with the spirit, the one who's anointed with a gift of wisdom.
When he comes, he will show us all things.
Jesus said to her, I who speak to you am he.
Now that's an amazing statement, because we don't find a statement like that anywhere else, do we?
He says it to this woman, who is kind of a stray, kind of a lost sheep.
And we have to wonder what John means by that.
The Samaritan woman is a little related to Nicodemus.
Remember, he's the orthodox man who is also the just man, so we believe.
Whereas the Samaritan woman is both the heterodox, the kind of heretic,
and the woman who has the shady pets.
And both of them have their needs.
Nicodemus needs to be born again.
He needs that freshness in her birth.
What does a woman need?
She needs something to satisfy that thirst of hers.
She's gone through five and a half husbands now, and she still isn't satisfied.
Jesus promises her to live in water.
He told Nicodemus he had to be born again from water in the Holy Spirit.
Somehow it's the same promise, but it fulfills the needs of each.
I think the anointing and the living water, perhaps, are really the same thing.
And it's as if this anointing is constitutive of Jesus,
just as he is the one who gives the living water.
What is the living water?
Raymond Brown has a little digression on this in his commentary, a little discussion of this.
And they come up, it seems, with three alternative options,
translations of the living water.
The first is obvious, and that's the Holy Spirit,
because John says in his Gospel, chapter 7, in the Temple where I live,
this he said of the Spirit when he spoke of the living water.
For the Spirit had not yet been given.
The Spirit was not yet, he says, actually.
Because Jesus has not yet been glorified.
The Spirit of the Lord has something to do with it.
But there he says it's the Holy Spirit.
And then, maybe it's not only the Spirit.
The other alternative is wisdom,
that this living water is the same, actually, as the wine we were talking about before.
That it's the teaching, the doctrine of Jesus,
that which enables one to worship the Father in spirit and truth.
That which, in fact, gives one the knowledge of the Father,
which is not just knowledge, but experience,
gives one the ability to call God Father.
That which brings his Jesus friend to him.
That which, in fact, he is, and which he shares.
Wisdom, as it were, the anointing, the word broken open.
The word broken open and flowing into us,
so that we too can call God Father.
The living water.
Now the woman leaves her jar behind,
and she becomes an apostle.
She runs off to tell the others.
She says, come, see a man who told me all that I ever did.
Remember that come and see language from the first chapter of John?
First of all, where do you live?
Jesus said, come and see.
And then when Nathaniel said, can anything good come out of Nazareth?
He said, come and see.
Come and see, that's the wisdom language.
She leaves her jar behind her,
because she's had a taste of this living water,
and she runs off to share it.
The water jar doesn't mean anything to her anymore.
Come and see a man who told me all that I ever did.
That reminds us a little of Nathaniel too,
because Jesus saw him under the fig tree.
That was very important to Nathaniel.
Jesus knew him.
He's the one who knew me, who knows me somehow.
The third possibility for the interpretation of living water
is the sacramental one, of course, that refers to baptism.
As the water referred to baptism in the case of Nicodemus.
Let's talk a little bit, change the subject a little bit,
bring this up to date a bit,
because I think the idea of the Samaritan is very current.
There's a split in our tradition in our society today,
ever since, I guess, the Renaissance,
when we have, as it were, a church which tends to,
a church of Orthodox, of believers,
who tend to become defensive,
tend to become a kind of ghetto church,
except until about 20 years ago.
And on the outside we have a kind of humanistic tradition,
a kind of agnostic society,
even an atheistic society sometimes,
which perhaps had never existed before in the same way.
That's split.
And yet both of them are children of a Christian tradition.
The Jews and the Samaritans were children of a Jewish tradition.
And it takes, actually it takes that Sophia,
it takes that, not just the teaching of doctrine,
not just the preaching of conversion,
but somehow it takes that inner wisdom
that brings the ends together
to begin to be able to talk to the Samaritans in their time.
The Samaritans of the 60s were the hippies and so on.
A lot of the Samaritans are people who
actually know something about the living world,
but they don't know that salvation is from the Jews.
Maybe they don't know who the Anointed One is,
who the Messiah is,
but they have a little taste of their living world,
sometimes more than the Orthodox do.
Rosemary Hartman is marvelous,
writing about this whole wisdom subject,
especially in the contemporary scene.
In one of her books, The Catholic Thing,
she talks about two sides of the Church,
a kind of two models of the Church.
Avery Dulles says there's five models of the Church,
but she's got two more, and they're both feminine.
One is called Mother Church,
and the other is called Sophia.
And Mother Church is a kind of,
what we call kind, compassionate,
strong, wise, domineering,
and somewhat jealous figure.
Whereas Sophia is the free one,
the one that can't be confined.
The free one, the spontaneous one,
the beautiful one,
the one that you don't know quite where she is,
and not too orderly.
But one of them is only temporary,
the functional one, Mother Church.
The other one, that's forever.
The other is the real heart, the real soul of the Church.
I would read some of that to you,
but that's going to take too long.
Today we're experiencing a kind of rediscovery
of that other side of the Church,
Sophia's side of the Church.
The movement from the mountains to the well,
you neither worship on this mountain
nor on that mountain.
Neither in this particular place
nor that particular place.
This eminence nor that eminence.
This structure nor that structure.
But the worship will be
from that place of the living water,
from that deep well which is within.
From the worship of that which is outside,
that place which is outside in the water,
to the worship of that which is
beneath, below, deep, and within.
And this too is the emergence of the feminine.
And remember in chapter 7 of Jesus Christ,
from within will first float these stones of living water.
Okay, let me shift the discussion a little bit.
What does this worship in spirit and truth really mean?
It doesn't just mean interior worship.
It means a kind of rediscovery, I think,
of the simple core of Christianity.
And here we have to talk about St. Paul.
St. Paul was the man who faced most,
the Christian who faced most,
in the birth of the Church,
the discontinuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament,
between the law and the spirit,
between the Jewish structures
and that wisdom which is gathered into the body of Christ,
which somehow is a very simple point
around which everything now orbits.
And who preached most the liberty of Christians.
Liberty from a kind of pedagogy
that was the law for the Old Testament.
Remember in Galatians where he talks all the time
about moving from law to spirit,
from slavery to freedom.
From law to faith in Jesus Christ,
from trusting in the things that you do according to the rules
to trusting in that Word
who has become man and who has died for us
and has risen to live within us,
based on that interior reality.
Let me read something from 1 Corinthians,
something that we'll come back to in a couple of days.
It seems to me that there's an emergence now
of a kind of rediscovery of something that's in John
and of something that's in Paul.
And the two overlap very much.
They're talking from the same mystery,
but each has a different situation,
each has a slightly different emphasis.
What I'm talking about is these different emphases.
We've been talking a lot about what John says in particular,
this kind of focus on, as it were,
the union with Christ as in current wisdom
and discovering that wisdom within ourselves.
Let's see what Paul has to say.
It's as if you don't need any wisdom anymore
because Christ is your wisdom.
And somehow you appropriate,
you possess that wisdom that is Christ through faith.
Faith is the very simple mustard seed, as it were,
the very simple point,
the kind of infinitesimal point of contact
between you, between your roots,
and that all-containing comprehensive wisdom of God,
which is Jesus, which is God itself.
And this point is at its kind of smallest,
at its most difficult, as it were,
to recognize in the cross,
when it seems a contradiction of itself.
When wisdom turns into foolishness,
when light seems to turn into darkness,
that's where faith is at its finest,
its sharpest, its most powerful.
Now this is Paul's point.
And the point that this faith in Jesus Christ
and the cross of Christ,
and of course his resurrection is in that,
is all that you need.
That's the totality, in some way, of Christianity.
Or that's the core of Christianity,
and everything that follows from it.
That's the root of Christianity,
and if you have the root, you have the whole tree.
When I came to you, brethren,
I did not come proclaiming to you
the testimony of God and lofty words of wisdom.
And then he says later on,
we do preach the wisdom, right?
We do, we do have the wisdom.
But it's the wisdom that issues from that
muster, you see, at that point.
For I decided to know nothing among you
except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
And before, he's been talking about
the word of the cross.
Don't preach eloquent wisdom
lest the cross of Christ be emptied out.
So that's one side of this wisdom,
is the word of the cross,
that fine point, that kind of diamond
upon which the whole structure of Christianity is balanced.
And if you have that center,
potentially, virtually, you have it all.
And the other side is this kind of totality
in which we meet wisdom and karma
and Jesus for the whole of our being,
and we find somehow that
He fills the whole of our being.
We'll see more of that when we get to the
Discourse on the Good of Life.
Now, this has something to do with the time
that we're living through,
this time of Vatican II.
I think, in our time,
is a rediscovery of this simplicity,
of this mobility,
of this freedom of Christianity, once again.
I think that the Protestant Reformation
was a kind of somewhat abortive
realization of that,
which tended to throw out the baby with the bathwater.
And it's taken us 400 years to be able,
in some way, to grasp that,
to be able to let it be,
that intuition.
Monasticism has something to do with that, too.
Monasticism, which is always characterized by simplicity,
as Panakar says,
by knowing the center,
of being devoted to the center.
When Panakar's talking about it,
about his blessed simplicity,
he's not talking about the theological center of Christianity.
He's talking about the center of the human person,
that point of emptiness,
that point of karma,
which contains everything
in our heart of hearts.
It applies also to this theological center.
Our center is this wisdom,
which is Christ,
which is the cross of Christ,
which is God in bodily form.
And monasticism,
Christian monasticism,
somehow is the realization
of that very simple truth,
the truth which freezes to simplicity,
to the simplicity which, in turn, freezes.
And so monasticism ought to have a kind of intuition
of the direction in which the Church itself needs to go in our time.
There's one more point here,
which I'd like to bring out,
and it comes from Rahner.
Rahner has been one who, in our time,
has tried to grasp, once again,
the simple essence of Christianity.
Let me read you, for instance,
how he quoted this.
This is from an article
on the historicity of theology.
It seems to me somewhat like theological investigations.
He says,
There is an impenetrable mystery
of the most real kind in our lives,
namely God,
and that this God is near to us,
that the absolute self-communication
of this God to us
has been manifested in history
in a manner which is irreversible and valid
in Jesus and his faith.
If there are any Rahner freaks here
that recognize his language.
This is something that is really quite simple,
yet in it we already have, fundamentally speaking,
the whole of Christianity.
He's able to put it into about ten words.
But only provided that,
in addition to this,
in addition to this truth,
this core,
you also reflect that there is,
and necessarily must be,
a community which confesses and lives by this truth.
And then this community has all its structures.
You know, the structures of liturgy,
the structures of doctrine,
the structures of law,
and all of that.
But that flows from this simple truth.
The community is the essential consequence of it.
This is what St. Paul means when he says,
I decided to know nothing among you,
but Jesus Christ, in Him crucified.
Word of the cross.
Simple distillation of what Christianity is.
If you have Christ, you have it all.
Of course, you can't really have Christ
without having both,
without having the community,
without having the church.
And all that goes with that.
Liberating to realize
that simple core of Christianity,
as the apostles did,
as St. Paul did.
this connects with something else, finally.
I don't know if any of you
have run into Rahner's
several articles on
the theological interpretation of Vatican II.
He contends that
actually the history of the church has three periods.
Very simple.
But they're not exactly proportional.
The first period is out of Jewish Christianity.
When the apostles were all Jews.
When they didn't really
think about the extension of the gospel
outside of their own race,
outside of their own culture.
Then comes the Council of Jerusalem,
and Christianity is opened up to the Gentiles
without making them become Jews.
So the second period of the church
extends from the Council of Jerusalem
up until our time.
And Christianity at that time
has been preached to the Gentiles,
but really confined to the culture
of Roman, of Greeks, and of Europe.
So that's a European Christianity.
He says that second long period
of Christianity,
not to a fully liberated Christianity yet,
extends up to the time of Vatican II.
And our time, he says,
beginning now,
is the time of the world church.
The third period of the history of the church.
When Christianity is actually
able to become incarnated
in all the different cultures of the world.
And when the church begins to function
with the participation of all these different elements.
Because you've always had African Christians,
you've always had Indian Christians
since the first century.
But they were really European Christians.
Or Christians who had accepted the culture
of the people who preached to them
as well as the gospel.
But now it's changed, he says.
So we're entering this new phase.
Do you see the way in which Christianity
is liberated?
And in which it relates to
that simple essence,
that simple core of Christianity.
That St. Paul is talking about.
The inside of St. Paul when he says
this is the situation
of the Gentiles
and our own time.
I think it's evident also how
monasticism relates to all of this.
Monasticism in its simple way
of living the essentials
of the faith
with a minimum of extras.
And therefore its ability to descend into the depths.
Where the living water
tells us all we need to know.
I guess our time is up. Thank you.
So this evening I'd like to talk
about John chapter 6.
The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves
and then his discourse on the bread of life.
Before I do that,
let me read you something from John the cross.
This is a couple of stanzas from the spiritual canticle.
I'm sure many of you are familiar with that.
My beloved is the mountains
and lonely wooded valleys,
strange islands and resounding rivers,
the whistling of love-stirring breezes,
the tranquil night at the time of the rising dawn,
silent music, sounding solitude,
the supper that refreshes and deepens love.
Now John is carrying on in the tradition,
St. John the cross is carrying on
in the tradition of John the evangelist.
It's the tradition of this notion of spiritual marriage
with the bridegroom who is the word of God.
The word of God which is the wisdom of God
and who somehow contains all of these things within himself.
So the love of Jesus the bridegroom,
the love of the word,
means somehow the transparency of all of these things,
the gathering up of all of these things within the beloved
and a new way of relating to these things in God
rather than just relating to God in these things.
That's what John the cross is writing about.
He has some other depths to bring us into
that lead directly from what St. John is saying in his gospel.
So we'll return to John the cross later on.
He's got a special angle on all of this.
But he's directly in that line
of the interpretation of the mystery of Christianity
as a matter of espousal and marriage union with Christ
who is the word of God, who is the wisdom of God
and in whom we are filled with the wisdom of God.
He's got a commentary on that poem of course
and maybe we'll get to that later
where he describes what he means by that supper for instance.
The supper that recreates in Kendall's love.
He says in the end that the supper is God's
but the supper for him is the knowledge of God.
It's that wisdom that somehow refreshes his senses
and brings his to life, recreates his.
Let's go back to St. John's gospel
and before talking about the bread of life
let's just recall what we saw about the living water.
The two are very close together.
They're parallel to each other.
Remember the living water appears in John chapter 4
where Jesus promises to this American woman at the well
that he will give her that water springing up.
Whoever asks for it, whoever approaches it.
And then in John 7 we have Jesus crying out in the temple.
Remember how wisdom cries out in the streets.
Wisdom cries out.
Come to me all you who thirst, all you who are hungry.
Jesus cries out and says
whoever believes in me from within him will flow
these rivers of living water
springing up like pieces of eternal life at that point.
Those two references to the living water
which is usually interpreted as the spirit
because John tips us off that it is the spirit.
He who believes in me as the scripture has said
out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.
Now this he said about the spirit
which those who believed in him were to receive
for as yet the spirit had not been given
because Jesus was not yet glorified.
This receiving of the spirit, receiving of the living water
the receiving and drinking of the wine
which is so often connected with a marriage.
It's connected with a marriage at Cana.
It's connected implicitly with the union of man and woman
I believe in John chapter 4
when Jesus is talking to the Samaritan woman at the well.
It's not such a mystery that that should be so
when we think about the vine
and how the living water, the wine
that flows through the vine
flows through the vine into its branches.
So the union of the branches with the vine
All these metaphors of John somehow converge
into one reality which he's talking about
which he's kind of orbiting around all the time.
It's for us from all those metaphors to try and intuit
try and get some sense of what he's talking about
of that relationship to Jesus and to God in Jesus
which he's talking about all the time.
It's his obsession, he's not interested in anything else.
And he's the poet who moves around it
as John of the Cross used to do later on.
The tradition of St. John is a tradition of poetic rendition
of that which can't be expressed in flat language.
John of the Cross himself said that his poetry came out of
as it were the white heat of mystical experience
the commentary was a later more rational attempt
to pull out of that experience some of the riches that were inside it.
But it's the poetry that comes closest to saying that.
And even the poetry can't say it.
The living water is interpreted as the spirit.
Now this he said about the spirit
which those who believed in him were to receive
whereas the other spirit had not been given
because Jesus was not yet glorified.
A mysterious relation between the glory and the spirit.
The glory and that gift which Jesus is to give.
You find that coming out of John 17.
He praised him and he glorified him.
The glory turns out to be what he gives us in some way.
These things all roll together in a way which is not simply rational.
So we have to develop another kind of, another way of thinking
in order to read the Gospel of John.
The first level of interpretation of the living water is as the Holy Spirit.
The second one which Brown really prefers is that of wisdom
and which is supported by the Old Testament preferences.
The water of knowledge, the water of wisdom.
I won't quote them to you.
And there's still a third reference there which is a sacramental one.
A reference to baptism it seems.
Now we're going to find the same thing when we talk about the bread of life.
There's one level in which the bread of life is simply Jesus.
There's another level in which the bread of life is wisdom.
Identical with the word.
Drawing all things into itself.
There's still another level which is sacramental.
Let's, before we do that, consider the first part of John 6.
What goes on there.
The action before we get into the discourse.
Remember Jesus goes across the sea
and the crowd follows him
and they have nothing to eat.
They've missed the top.
And the miracle goes very much as it goes in the Synoptic Gospels from that point on.
So Jesus then took the loaves and when he had given thanks he distributed them to those who were seated.
And also the fish.
And they feed, how many, 5,000 people or something.
Take out 12 baskets full of fragments.
When the people saw the sign which he had done they said this is indeed the prophet.
Remember the prophet was told by Moses.
Not Moses.
Who was to come into the world.
Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him gain.
Jesus withdrew again to the hills by himself.
He's reached a kind of peak of public popularity.
This is out of Galilee, remember.
It's not down in Jerusalem.
And he flees from this recognition which he must gain.
It isn't his hour.
And it's not the right way.
So he goes away.
And when evening came his disciples went down to the sea and got into a boat.
And they started across the sea.
This is a miracle you find also in the,
an unexpected miracle because most of Jesus' miracles are healings.
This one is something different.
Most of them have something directly to do with the needs of the people.
This one is not in the same way.
Perhaps there's another way.
It was now dark and Jesus had not yet come to him.
The sea rose because a strong wind was blowing.
When they had rowed about three or four miles they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat.
They were frightened.
But he said to them,
It is I. Do not be afraid.
It is I.
The real words are echoed in me in Greek which means I am.
I am.
And in the other gospel where you read of the storm being silenced immediately.
This voice sounds.
The word speaks.
This word which is itself not in the name of God.
Remember, I am, Yahweh, Exodus 3.
And the storm ceases.
Somehow the center of the universe is right there at that moment.
The creative center of all being is there.
And at that voice everything quiets and falls to pieces.
In the other gospel what do they say?
Truly this is not God.
Then they were glad to take him into the boat.
Immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.
That I am statement could lead us off into a long digression on the different uses that Jesus makes of I am.
These two words which are echoed in me in Greek and which refer back ultimately to the name of God in the Old Testament.
Let me just use a little bit of what Baram has put together.
He's got a useful appendix on the back of his commentary on John.
He says there are three categories of that statement.
There's a great richness in this actually.
We don't have time to go into it in an adequate way.
One category is the one that we have here where there's a kind of predicate suggested that is I am he.
I am the one. I'm the one you know. It's me.
And the other use of that form of I am is when the soldiers, the guard, come to arrest Jesus.
The guard looks down at him and he says, who are you looking for?
Jesus answers, I am.
And they fall backwards in the gospel of John.
So it's as if a mere saying of those words, a mere expression of that has a certain power in both of these cases.
There's another use which we're going to run into when we get into our discourse on the bread of life.
And that is where Jesus says I am something.
I am the bread of life and the living bread.
I am the light of the world.
I am the sheep cale.
I am the model shepherd.
I am the resurrection of life.
I am the way, the truth, and the life.
I am the blindness.
I am the real blind.
Very often there's a contrast here with something which has gone before, maybe in the Old Testament.
There were blinds in the Old Testament.
There was bread before the man.
That was a certain bread.
But I am the bread of life.
I am the true bread.
And we're going to find as we talk about Jesus being wisdom that this coincides very much with that theme.
You get the same kind of movement, the same kind of geometry as Jesus speaking from a point of view in which he draws everything into himself.
In which he draws, we were reading that just a moment ago in John's course, in which he draws everything that's created into himself and opens it to some kind of symbolic meaning.
Or puts himself, you could say, in these ways, into it.
So that everything refers back to him, orbits around him.
And this is wisdom.
This is the word speaking out of which everything has come.
The third use of I am is the simple one, the absolute one.
Unless you come to believe that I am, you will surely die in your sin.
That's in John 8.
There it's a flood vault statement.
I am.
Doesn't mean I am he.
I am the Messiah.
No doubt it does, but it means more than that.
It goes back to that simple statement, I am.
As simple as it were, voice of God.
Which comes across very strongly, by the way, in Isaiah.
2nd and 3rd Isaiah.
We'll be hearing a lot of it in a minute.
When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am.
Then you will realize that I am the Son of God, the Messiah.
But also simply you will realize that I am.
Before Abraham even came into existence, I am.
So there you can see these different predicates converging into the simple statement, I am.
As it were, into the simple being of this one who is the wisdom of God.
This is where the being of God is as far as we can go.
Which leads us to our discourse on a better thought.
There are two divisions to this discourse usually made, which Brown, I think, very intelligently makes.
The one is verses 35 to 50, and the second division after that.
Because really, the interpretation of what Jesus means by the bread seems to change around verse 50.
There are different interpretations, of course, of this whole thing.
Some people will say that Jesus is talking about himself and talking about faith.
He's always talking about faith, of course.
But simply himself as the bread of life and faith receiving him as bread throughout the discourse.
Others will say that the whole thing refers to the Eucharist.
And others, like Brown, will discriminate and say the first part of the discourse refers really to Jesus as wisdom,
as the bread of life which comes and nourishes man through his mind.
And the second part refers to the Eucharist where he says,
he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood will live forever.
As soon as he talks about the flesh and the blood, the eating and the drinking of that,
which somehow imply his death, the discourse seems to move over to the Eucharist.
And that could be an interesting literary fact, but it seems also to imply some kind of relationship between wisdom and sacrament,
between wisdom and Eucharist, that we can only kind of guess at.
Between this fullness of wisdom which somehow gathers all of the realities of the created world into itself,
as we've seen, as does the I Am.
And it's moving into the created world by becoming bread, by becoming wine.
See, just as it's become flesh and blood before.
Word, spirit, flesh, blood, bread, wine.
So it moves into the universe, and so it comes into us and becomes in us,
flesh and blood once again, answer to it.
And understanding.
The bread and the water go together, in a way.
Brown quotes a number of places in the Old Testament where God says,
I'll give you the bread of wisdom and the water of understanding, or something like that.
So the two rays of the living water that we've heard about, the two rays of wisdom come together.
Let me read a little bit of this, and then try to say something about it.
First of all, they find, the people for whom Jesus multiplied the bread on the other side of the lake,
they find it on this side.
He said, Rabbi, when did you come here?
Rabbi is important, not teacher.
He says, Truly I say to you, you seek me not because you saw signs,
but because you waited to fill up the loaves.
Don't labor for the food which ferretches, but for the food which endures to eternal life.
He'll say later on that flesh doesn't matter,
it's these words that are spoken to you, spirit and life.
Spirit that matters.
Even when he talks about the flesh, he's talking in terms of the spirit.
This is going to raise a question for us.
That's why John puts this emphasis that he does.
Food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.
For on him has God the Father set his seal.
And they said to him, What must we do to be doing the works of God?
Jesus answered them, This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.
The work of God, which contains the food of God, or the harvest of God, is faith.
And that faith is simply faith in Jesus Christ, who is the bread of heaven, the bread of God.
So when you believe in Jesus, that's the work by which you are nourished,
with the bread from heaven, the food of God.
Now this is not directly the Eucharist.
Later on we'll move into the Eucharist.
But this is simply Jesus himself, who is that living bread, who is that wisdom,
who is that which is shown to us.
As John says at the beginning of his first letter,
that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we have heard with our ears,
that which we have touched with our hand.
We can only touch it with our hands in the Eucharist.
That's not very adequate in that way.
But we can see it and we can hear it in some way through the scriptures, through the Word.
We have to ask ourselves why John doesn't show us the institution of the Eucharist.
Now the other three Gospels give us the exact scene, it seems,
differing in little details, of the institution of the Eucharist at the last supper.
John doesn't do it.
And why does he speak about the sacrament more explicitly?
Why does he simply move always away from the sacrament?
Why does he seem even to suppress the Eucharist for us?
I think it's because he presupposes it.
And my guess is that John has a very particular focus all the time.
As I said, he's interested in one thing.
And what he's interested in is initiating us to something that somehow is within the sacrament.
Assuming that the sacrament is already the existential center of Christian life,
in the time of the Apostles,
he tries to initiate us into something that's within the sacrament,
and something which is easy to miss, I think, if we go through in a rather exterior way.
If we are only sort of involved in the actions of the liturgy,
if we're only involved in the community scene, as it were, of the Eucharist,
which is there, and which is extremely important,
and which we found out again in the time of Vatican II is of primary importance.
That is, the Eucharist is the community, the Eucharist is the church.
But John has a particular scope.
He's leading us into something.
Now, what is that something?
I think that that something is this intimate personal relationship with Jesus,
who is the wisdom of God.
That's where he wants to focus us.
That's what he wants us to discover in the Eucharist.
Another person, another evangelist, another apostle, may take a different approach.
St. Paul does.
St. Paul talks about, you are the body of Christ, you know,
and because the bread is one, therefore we're one.
We're one body in Christ.
Why doesn't John ever call us the body of Christ directly?
He never does it.
He uses a bunch of other expressions.
He, as it were, bypasses the direct expression of the Eucharist,
and he bypasses the direct expression of the body of Christ.
I think maybe the reason why he bypasses the body of Christ is this.
Even Paul doesn't use it all the time.
If you're the body of Christ, it puts you in a kind of, perhaps, inanimate relationship to Christ.
What John is pointing towards is this personal relationship to Christ,
the wisdom of God, the Word of God, as bride and bridegroom.
As bride and bridegroom.
Remember where he says somewhere in John the Baptist,
in about what John says in chapter 3 somewhere,
I rejoice, you know, because I'm the friend of the bridegroom,
and I hear the voice of the bridegroom, but the bride belongs to the bridegroom.
John the Baptist is leading us past himself to Christ,
who somehow is the only one with whom we can be united in this way.
The wisdom of God is the only thing in the universe,
the only place in the universe where we can find this union.
And that's what John is interested in.
And so he even takes us, as it were, through the surface of the Eucharist to that point,
and tries to help us to find Jesus everywhere in our lives,
everywhere, especially in our consciousness.
And so I think that the interpretation of the Eucharist in John is in chapter 6, right here,
where Jesus says, I am the bread of life.
Look at me. Get past the surface and find me.
And then in chapters 14 through 17,
especially when he says, he who loves me will keep my word,
and I'll come to him and make my home with him.
I'll manifest myself to him.
The Father and I will love him. I'll come and dwell with him.
That mutual indwelling, you see.
Mutual indwelling which moves through a personal metaphor,
an interpersonal metaphor of two who are in some way equal
because they're able to know one another in that way.
They're able to know one another, relate to one another,
rejoice in one another, find fulfillment in one another like bride and bridegroom.
That's what John wants to put before us.
So to call us the body of Christ, I wouldn't be adequate,
even in the way in which Paul is.
That's just a guess.
Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life.
He who comes to me shall not hunger,
and he who believes in me shall never thirst.
That's the language of wisdom in the Old Testament.
It's the language in the book of Sirach,
where the expression is a little different, remember?
Come to me while you are hungry and so on,
and he who eats of me shall never hunger more,
or shall always hunger,
and he who drinks of me shall always thirst.
Isn't that the way it goes?
And Jesus reverses it somehow,
but keeps the familiar language.
And continually there are references to the wisdom literature here
in this bread of life discourse,
as if to rivet down for us the connection between this bread
and the wisdom which Jesus is,
and which is not taken just once when we're in the church,
but can be continually.
As he is...
The expression co-consciousness occurred to me.
The idea of Jesus, the wisdom of God being our co-consciousness.
We've got an unconscious, we've got a subconscious,
maybe we've got a super-conscious,
and people say, so why can't we have a co-conscious?
This word of God which is within us,
and which very delicately suggests,
suggests, invites,
and very delicately fills, nourishes.
All that the Father gives me will come to me,
and him who comes to me I will not care serve.
This leads us to something else,
which also comes from Brown.
In some of his readings he found,
studied by a certain Miss Gilding,
who studied the synagogue readings
for the Judaism of the time of Jesus.
And remember that this whole event
of the multiplication of the loaves and the discourse
is near the Passover time.
So she studied the Passover synagogue readings,
and they had three cycles, like we do.
And some of those readings were from Genesis.
And some of them were from Genesis chapter 3.
And here, of course, I'm condensing,
and kind of very much simplifying.
But listen to these phrases from Genesis 3,
about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
You shall not eat of the fruit of this tree,
lest you die.
And then John 6, verse 15.
This is the bread that comes down from heaven,
that a man may eat it and never die.
A direct connection.
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil,
and then the later wisdom literature,
you see the direct line,
and then leading into chapter 6,
and this whole bread of life thing.
Genesis 3, again, 22.
God's decision to drive man out of the garden,
lest he put forth his hand and take also the tree of life,
and eat and live forever.
John 6, 51.
If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever.
Genesis 3, 24.
So he drove man out.
Drove him out of the garden of paradise.
Had him outside in the flaming sword.
John 6, 37.
Anyone who comes to me, I will never drive out.
Well, that opens up something, really.
It opens up this bread of life
to something that's been there from the beginning of Revelation,
from the beginning of God's relationship with the human person.
And that is this tree that's in the center of the garden.
Remember there were two trees.
There was the tree of life,
and there was the tree of the knowledge of God and evil.
Now, in some way, those two trees in Jesus become one.
So that the tree of a certain knowledge,
which is this knowledge of him,
which is this wisdom,
which is this faith in which we accept the bread of life,
which is Jesus,
that knowledge becomes for us, then, life.
So he becomes for us the tree of life.
And here we have both kind of the wisdom theme
and the Eucharist theme somehow drawn together, too.
The tree that's in the center of the garden.
So Jesus is now for us the tree that's in the center of the garden.
And through that tree, somehow we can return to that garden.
We can return to that place.
And by this, I don't suggest a kind of Gnostic fight from the world.
But we have to face it, that John is a Gnostic in a certain way.
In other words, there's a true Gnosis in Christianity.
There's a true Gnosis in Christian tradition,
which has often been excluded and suppressed and forgotten
because it's very hard to handle.
But it's there.
And John is the key spokesman for it.
And it belongs to the Gnosticism,
that true Gnosis,
which is entering in faith into the center of the mystery.
Where is that tree of life?
No longer the tree of ambiguity,
the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,
the tree of fragmenting knowledge,
but the tree of the one knowledge,
the knowledge of the one thing.
The tree of wisdom by which, by knowing one thing,
somehow you know enough, because you're fed.
The tree by which you know the one thing,
in which everything else is known,
in the way that ultimately it's supposed to be known.
And yet, for us, still in the darkness.
That's both the Word of God, as it were,
and it's the Eucharist.
But also, it's something dwelling within us,
which we can relate to at every moment.
And it's like moving from being fed from outside of yourself,
to being fed from inside.
When Jesus rails at the Jews,
because they're never understanding about this work of God,
and this food of God,
this manna and so on,
they want to be fed with that material food.
He's trying to get them to move from outside to inside.
From outside to inside.
The food that he wants to give
is something that we discover within ourselves.
When we believe in Jesus the first time,
when we recognize him, something clicks.
Something clicks.
And the knowledge that we have of him,
that, as it were, view of him, that sight of him,
connects directly with something we already know within ourselves.
With something which is down in the center of ourselves.
With something which is, as Eckhart would say,
in the ground of our being.
Eckhart would probably call it the spark.
The spark in the ground of our being,
which is the Word of God.
Which is already the wisdom, the knowledge of God,
and it's in us.
Rahner's good on this too,
even though he doesn't talk that language.
That experience of God that we have all the time.
The experience of God we don't even identify as the experience of God
because it's too common.
Because it's as obvious as the sunshine.
We have it all the time.
And only rarely does it come actually to explicit notice.
But when we recognize Jesus,
we recognize the perfect expression outside of us
of that which has been inside of us all the time.
And when that happens, the tree is there.
It's planted.
We're rooted.
So now, we know.
We know.
And everything else comes out of that knowledge.
Everything, every other direction comes from that tree.
It leaves us the problem of relating to the world,
which is a small problem.
It's only the other 99% of our life.
But somehow the key is there.
The food is invisible.
The bread is invisible because it's the bread that's consumed in faith.
And here I'd love to read to you a bunch of,
because we have a couple of minutes more,
I can read you one or two quotes from John of the Cross.
He's marvelous on this.
For John of the Cross,
the food, the hidden manna, the bread of God
is this secret knowledge of God which we have in faith.
And John of the Cross is like a great world's fare of spiritual experience.
But it's funny because every time he brings up a form of spiritual experience,
he disclaims it and says,
well, no, you don't want that.
That's just another goody.
That's just another diversion.
It's just another distraction.
What you really want is the substantial,
complete contact with God,
possession of God,
that you have in dark faith.
Now in that dark faith there is a food, a bread.
And that bread is what he calls mystical wisdom,
or secret wisdom,
or the contemplation of God,
but in complete darkness.
That is, we touch God or are nourished by God in that darkness.
We're fed.
And so he compares that to the manna of the Old Testament.
And somehow our palate, our appetite has to be readjusted,
has to be trained to that new food that we receive.
That food is the Son of God.
It's the Word of God.
We were made for that food.
And in eating that food, we're in God.
We know God.
It's all ours.
John of the Cross is more of a poet than anything else, I think.
When he writes about that, he's marvelous.
Let me see if I can find just a phrase or two to quote a bit.
There's one good one here on the food of the Father.
We eat the food of the Father.
There's this phrase in John of the Cross' spiritual catecholm,
Where have you hidden yourself?
And he comments on it.
This is like saying, O word, my spouse.
The bride is talking to the bridegroom.
The bride is gospel.
O word, my spouse, show me where you are hidden.
The bride of the divine catecholm had this very idea.
Now he quotes the Song of Songs.
See, this whole thing is his recreation of the Song of Songs.
And I believe that John's gospel is the Song of Songs of the New Testament.
It's in the same line.
It's the recasting of the Song of Songs
in the light of the explicit revelation of Jesus Christ, the wisdom of God.
And the commentators in the Christian tradition on the Song of Songs
always interpret it in terms of the marriage with the Word,
which is Christ, which is God's wisdom.
Anyway, here's John's interpretation of this little phrase.
The bride of the divine catecholm had this very idea.
When longing for union with the divinity of the Word, her bridegroom,
she asked the Father, show me where you pasture and where you rest at midday.
You've got to picture that.
There's a great quiet and satisfaction that comes out of those few words.
Show me where you pasture, where you feed and where you rest at midday.
And requesting him to disclose his place of pasture,
she wanted him to reveal the essence of the divine Word, his Son.
For the Father does not pasture in any other than his only Son.
The Son is the food of the Father, he's saying.
Since the Son is the glory of the Father, somehow he feeds on his glory.
And in begging that he show her his place of rest, she was asking to see that same Son.
The Son is the only delight of the Father who rests nowhere else,
nor is present in any other than in his beloved Son.
You see how this simplification of drawing the bread and the living water and the wine
and all of those I-am statements into the Son
is ultimately like drawing it into the simplicity of drawing it into the simplicity of