The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.' I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel." And John testified, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God." The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, "Look, here is the Lamb of God!" The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, "What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi" (which translated means Teacher), "where are you staying?" He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter). -John 1:29-42
About This Week's Prompts for Meditation
Attraction. What other explanation can there be for being a Christian? But what does this mean? It's like this: having fallen in love, other values, goals, dreams, ideas, interpretations of reality fade in light of the allure of the unknown.
Where are you staying? Where do you abide? Where are you going? The enigmatic answer is, Come and see. No simple answer suffices for the complex, beautiful, and terrifying transformation awaiting the questioner. If you COMEwith me you will SEE where and how I dwell. There's nothing else I can do but go and perceive along the way that which is completely new, one-ing myself to luminous truth along this mysterious journey.
The season of Epiphany draws the Christian through light, perception, insight, from the star at the manger, to the theophany over the Jordan to the theophany on the holy mountain to see the presence of God (almost) 'face to face'. The story of the disciples, the story of Christ, IS the story of the Christian experience from baptism to transfiguration and beyond, into death and resurrection (meditation one). This call toward our spiritual destiny may come even within the most obscure circumstances (meditation two). Always implied is the message of Pentecost, the necessity of sharing the wisdom derived from the encounter with the Holy (meditation three).
May you perceive profoundly the light along the way of this Epiphanytide. -Suzanne
Meditation One (introit) Where are you staying?
There is a particular poignancy and magic in the first dialogue of Jesus with his disciples-to-be (1:37-39). It is at this point that the reader, like the two disciples, may first experience the power which emanates from the person of Jesus. These two disciples seem to "fall in love" with Jesus; his words to them reflect the invitation of divine wisdom. …
-Bruno Barnhart The Good Wine: Reading John from the Center
You have been baptized in the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, and heard the Father's voice speaking to you: "You are my only-begotten, my beloved child; in you I am well pleased." You have been born of the Father in the waters, received the Holy Spirit, and this voice greets you as you ascend from the waters. As your body was washed in the waters which bathed the body of Jesus, you were physically reborn in him, Your new life in him is a bodily life, and it is to be maintained by eating the fruit of the tree of life which is his word and his Eucharistic body. Your bodily birth in him and the nourishment of your continual life in him are inseparable. And so you live by eating the flesh of the paschal Lamb.
You have come and entered the waters, and there you have seen the place where he dwells. Now you are to remain with him there. …
-Bruno Barnhart OSB Cam. "John's Narrative as Baptismal Catechesis" from The Good Wine: Reading John from the Center
Miscellany note: I was looking for a meditation prompt expressing the difficulty of communicating something profound (Andrew going to Peter and saying, We have found the Messiah). In her memoir, Patti Smith describes being a very small child, observing the inadaquacy of words to communicate an overwhelming impression.
Swan, my mother said, sensing my excitement. It pattered the bright water, flapping its great wings, and lifted into the sky. The word alone hardly attested to its magnificence nor conveyed the emotion it produced. The sight of it generated an urge I had no words for, a desire to speak of the swan, to say something of its whiteness, the explosive nature of its movement, and the slow beating of its wings. The swan became one with the sky. I struggled to find words to describe my own sense of it. Swan, I repeated, not entirely satisfied, and I felt a twinge, a curious yearning, imperceptible to passersby, my mother, the trees, or the clouds.
-Patti Smith b.1946 Just Kids
Darest thou now O soul,
Walk out with me toward the unknown region,
Where neither ground is for the feet nor any path to follow?
No map there, nor guide,
Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand,
Nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, nor eyes, are in that land.
I know it not O soul,
Nor dost thou, all is a blank before us,
All waits undream’d of in that region, that inaccessible land.
Till when the ties loosen,
All but the ties eternal, Time and Space,
Nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds bounding us.
Then we burst forth, we float,
In Time and Space O soul, prepared for them,
Equal, equipt at last, (O joy! O fruit of all!) them to fulfill O soul.
– Walt Whitman
Lamb of God Vault in San Vitale, Ravenna
Lamb of God Vault (ceiling), San Vitale, mosaic
Meditation Two (insight) Come and See
The Bodhisattva is never entirely forgetful of his high calling. Yet it is needful that he should be reminded of the approaching hour; and to this end the cosmic Buddhas made audible to Siddhartha, even as he sat and listened to the singing of the dancing-girls, the message - "Recollect thy vow, to save all living things: the time is at hand: this alone is the purpose of thy birth." And thus as the Bodhisattva sat in his beautiful palaces day after day surrounded by all the physical and intellectual pleasures that could be devised by love or art, he felt an ever more insistent call to the fulfillment of his spiritual destiny.
-Ananda Coomaraswamy 1877-1947 Buddha and the Gospel of Buddhism quoted from Parabola, "The Call"
Meditation Three (integration) he found his brother
If we are not interested in the minds, the feelings, the hopes, fears, sorrows and joys of everyone with whom we come in contact, we are not interested in Christ. Whatever we do to anyone, we do to him. If we are impatient with the mental suffering, the doubting, the questioning, and the wrestling with the angel of the more sensitive minds, then we are impatient with the mind of Christ bleeding under the crown of thorns. If we shrink from the broken lives of sinners, then we draw away from Christ fallen and crushed under his cross. If we will not go to the sick and the poor to help them, we will not help Christ.
How shall we educate ourselves to face other people’s sufferings? First, we can start with the physical. …
…None of us is so poor that we cannot find another in greater need than ourself. It takes far greater skill to attend to a broken heart than it does to attend to a broken limb.
-Caryll Houselander 1901-1949 The Comforting of Christ (1947) Quoted in Mystics, Visionaries & Prophets: A Historical Anthology of Women’s Spiritual Writings, Shawn Madigan, C.S.J., editor
The Last Word
The Fathers connect the whole sacramental life with the activity of the same Spirit. According to them, we are to see in the Spirit's action on the water of baptism our own new creation and our entry into the life of God. The same Spirit who effected the coming of the eternal Word in the flesh also effects our birth in God.
-Adrian Nocent OSB The Liturgical Year
John the Baptist & Veronica Diptych, Hans Memling, c.1483, detail
What else can I do?
The scene (John 1:29-42) imprinted upon my imagination early in my journey of faith. Struggling terribly with the humiliation of finding myself drawn to “the Christian thing,” and overwhelmed by what seemed a very illogical sense of calling, this moment in John's Gospel became a threshold into the world that attracted me and which I simultaneously resisted. I kept trying to “figure it out”. If I can just figure it out, get a grasp on the whole, put Christianity in a context which seems rational... Meanwhile, my soul roiled with the great upheaval happening inside for which I had no language to order the chaos.
I already trusted John the Baptist. He points beyond himself to the undescribable I Know Not What that is to come. He says, Behold the Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world. (Now you have to imagine, too, a musical backdrop to both this scene and to my inner drama - the majestic and dark 'Behold The Lamb of God' from Handel's The Messiah. BeHOLD the lamb of God, beHOLD, beHOLD, in different voices and modulations, people coming from different directions, in different eras, perhaps, ending together in one firm statement, that takest away the sins of the world! expressed with exquisite beauty and authority.)
John says, Behold.
I see the two disciples (I see them as fairly young) sort of trip over each other to talk with Jesus as he walks away.
Rabbi where are you staying?
Come and see.
Suddenly I am the disciple and Jesus is talking to me.
Come and see.
What else am I to do?
And so I say, “You must increase and I must decrease.”