Sermon: Translation of St John the Evangelist

Translation of St John the Evangelist

John 19:25–27; 21:24–25

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

We celebrate today the Translation of St John the Divine. He was one of the Twelve Apostles and the author of five books in the New Testament. He wrote the Gospel of John, the fourth Gospel, he wrote three letters, and the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation, which was written during his exile on the island of Patmos. St John the Divine is also known as the Theologian of Love. In both the Gospel and the Epistles, the notion of God’s love is prominent.

In the Gospel reading we encounter Jesus on Calvary, the visible sign of God’s love. Jesus on the Cross extends his love with a divine gesture. When he “saw his Mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, ‘Woman, behold thy son’. Then saith he to the disciple, ‘Behold thy mother.’ And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home” (John 19:26–27). These expressions, or rather this exchange, reveals the true nature of our relationship with the Mother of God, and the important position she holds within the Body of the Church. Jesus extends his love with this exchange. The person of John the Divine, the disciple whom Jesus loved, is a symbol of every member of the Body of the Church. This also implies that our relationship with the blessed and holy Mary acquires a mother-child relationship. She becomes our spiritual Mother: “Behold thy Mother”. Perhaps this is why from the very early Church, in the first Christian communities, the person of the Mother of God acquired such a unique and central place in Christian worship. She’s ‘more honourable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim’.

John testifies everything mentioned in the Gospel to be true: “This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true” (John 21:24). In his letter to the Christian communities, John continues his theme of love. He stresses the importance of loving one another. It is the key to our knowledge of God. “If we love one another”, he says, “God dwelleth within us and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12). There is no other way to know God. Many speak of knowing God or meeting God. “No man hath seen God at any time” (John 1:18), stresses St John the Divine. God is unapproachable, incomprehensible, unknowable. However, “If we love one another”, he says, “God dwelleth within us and his love is perfected in us”.

The notion of love in this context implies communion, relationship, a movement beyond oneself in an effort to connect with others without discrimination and without tolerance — and I stress the world tolerance. Tolerance is problematic for us Christians. It is incompatible with the Christian faith because it implies a sense of superiority over and above others. Christian love does not agree with tolerance. Christian love receives and implies acceptance of all others, just as the Author of our faith, Jesus Christ, accepted every one of us despite qualities that one might or might not possess. Similarly, we cannot discriminate if we want to be true to our faith. We cannot determine who is and isn’t worthy of our acceptance. Otherwise, we lose the opportunity to dwell in him and he in us.

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, if we want to be faithful and true to ourselves, we must try to mirror in our lives the love that God revlealed to the world through his only-begotten and only beloved Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Let me finish with these words from St John the Divine: “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:15–16). Amen.

Archimandrite Chrysostomos Michaelides