By Father Thomas Esposito
Special to The Texas Catholic
At the beginning of this new column, entitled “A Word to Enkindle,” I felt inspired to ponder our Christian interpretation of “the beginning” and “word.” The first words of Scripture assert the Lord’s domain over absolutely everything: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). The evangelist John is clearly evoking the beautiful simplicity of that phrase from Genesis when he opens his Gospel with “In the beginning was the word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). That statement then acts as a springboard for perhaps the most stunningly awesome verse in the entire Bible: “And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).
We cannot fathom the infinite depths of the mystery contained in those words. The word, through whom God spoke everything into being in the beginning, through whom all things were made, is the very Person of Jesus Christ, God the son made flesh so that we might recognize him and love him on our poor human terms.
We usually translate the Greek word Logos as “word,” emphasizing the connection between God’s creation by speaking in Genesis (“Let there be…”) and the definitive word he speaks to humanity in Christ (see Hebrews 1:1-2).
At the beginning of his Gospel, though, John employs the word Logos with other shades of meaning as well, which can greatly enrich our fascination with the reality of the Lord’s incarnation. Logos can mean, among other things, mind, reason, even an ordering principle governing things. Our English word “logic” is derived from logos, as are all the –ologies (theology, biology, etc.).
If we consider just the connotations of “word” with the person of Christ, though, we miss out on the indescribable mystery of our connection with Christ. I do not mean simply a spiritual kinship, but rather a link created by the very gift of thought itself. For each of us possesses a logos, a mind, which allows us not only to think rationally, but also to know and love the Lord who created that logos for us by means of his son.
One of John’s magnificent claims in the first lines of his Gospel is that human thinking itself has none other than Christ for its very foundation. The Logos who is Christ, the Word made flesh, makes possible our humanity blessed with reason and free will, and makes sense of everything that files through the corridors of our mind. The presence of Christ in our little logos can sanctify memories, perceive God’s provident hand guiding our lives, and console us with the knowledge that we are most gloriously human when we entrust ourselves to him.
But John is not the only New Testament writer who grasps the revolutionary joy of realizing that God has us in mind thanks to the Logos of Christ. In several of his letters, Paul pauses briefly to gather the awe-inducing implications of this truth: “If someone loves God, that person is thought by him” (1 Corinthians 8:2). He exhorts the newly converted Galatians to remain faithful to the path of Christian faith in the following way: “[…] but now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and destitute powers of the world?” (Galatians 4:9).
There is thus something at once humble and awesome in our little logos. It is terribly limited and prone to error, and yet it gives us access to the Logos himself, our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not enough to say with Descartes, “I think, therefore I am”- we must rather admit, “I am thought, therefore I am,” and allow that knowledge to bring us to our knees in serene joy. So let us give thanks at the beginning of this new adventure that we may daily lift our minds to God in gratitude for the gift of thought, and that we may use it to know and love him more dearly every day of our lives.
Father Thomas Esposito, O.Cist., is a theologian and monk at the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas in Irving. His column will appear occasionally in The Texas Catholic.