“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear … and the one who fears is not perfected in love”, wrote great St John in chapter 4 of his First Epistle. It is so deep, we are still challenged today not so much to understand these words as to apply them in our lives, to see where we fear but do not love, and to reverse the equation so that we love but do not fear.
When St John wrote, earlier in that letter: “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all,” he is saying that the Lord Jesus Himself told John that God is light. It is similar to the teaching about fear and love: where there is darkness in our lives, there is a lack of God. Once more, we are called to reverse the equation. To the extent that we sense the presence of God, to that extent the light will come – we do not need anymore.
I think of St John as being the first and the greatest of the Christian theologians. Any why not? Born the son of Zebedee and Salome, and the brother of James, he was one of the first whom Our Lord called to be an apostle, and he alone of the apostles remained with Our Lord at the foot of the Cross, and there Jesus gave him Mary as mother, and made John her son. As the Church grew he was one of the “pillars of the Church”.
Tradition states that there are five of his writings in the New Testament: the Gospel, three letters, and the Apocalypse (the Book of Revelation). There is an ancient tradition which states that he approved of what Ss Matthew, Mark and Luke had written, but he felt that a more spiritual Gospel was needed, and so he wrote his. When one reads his Gospel, one can see how it is designed to fit in with the other Gospels, repeating just enough detail from the others so that you can see where he is up to, but adding many stories and talks which the others had omitted, all of which point more to the inner spirit of the Lord’s teaching.
In particular, though all of John’s writings, there runs the great theme of unity in Christ through love and love of each other in unity with Christ. We must be one with Christ, which means not only to have faith in Him, but also to do as He commanded, and this above all else, means to love God and our brethren with a selfless love.
It was also given to St John that he should be given the inspiration which produced the Apocalypse, the book with which the Bible closes, the perfect complement to Genesis, with which it opens. From that book we have the magnificent vision: “And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son” (Revelation 21:5-7).
We remember him by celebrating his feast on 8 May each year.
- Fr Yuhanna Azize