My original title today was “The Logos and our logos.” No good. The reader would start thinking of the Nike logo or the McDonald’s logo. I could go with the actual Greek alphabet and say “the λόγος and our λόγος” – but that would scare some away.
Logos (λόγος) is the Greek word for “word.” But it can mean so many other things: reason, explanation, discourse, account, sentence, meaning, language, communication, and much more. It’s one of those Bible words that simply can’t be translated without losing much of the meaning (much of the λόγος).
The beginning of John’s Gospel dramatically presents Jesus as the eternal λόγος, who was with the Father in the beginning, and who is himself God. He is the spoken Word through whom all things came to be. That Word becomes flesh and makes his dwelling among us. That Word gives purpose and meaning to our otherwise meaningless existence. He makes it possible for our life to be worth something, and opens us up to share in his eternal life.
That’s John 1. Today I want to reflect on Hebrews 4:
“Indeed, the Word (λόγος) of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account (λόγος)” (Hebrews 4:12-13).
I had a great “aha!” moment this summer on retreat when I was praying my way through the Letter to the Hebrews. Over the last 12 years, I’ve been slowly soaking in the New Testament on my annual retreats. During each hour of meditation, I read and meditate on the English translation of a chapter or two at a time. Then I go back and look at the Greek.
In this case, I was dumbstruck that this oft-quoted passage begins and ends with the word “word” λόγος). Jesus is the eternal Word of God, living and effective, penetrating soul and spirit, laying bare our hearts. In his presence, my own λόγος comes to full light. I am part of a story. My human life is a “word” in its own right. My story will be told; my “word” will come to full light – possibly in this life and for sure in the next. Jesus, the eternal λόγος, promises to take all that is buried or hidden and expose it fully (Luke 8:17).
His story is a judgment upon my story and your story – not in the sense that he is eager to dole out condemnation. Quite the opposite! He did not come to condemn the world, but to save it. He does not will the death of the sinner, but that we turn to him and live! But the only way for our guilt and our shame to be healed is for the entirety of our story to be brought into his light. So long as we keep parts of it buried away or hidden, we cannot be a whole person. The conflict that is playing itself out in the drama of your story and my story cannot be resolved until Christ, the great protagonist, is allowed to be present to all of it.
This is why we Catholics put the Paschal Mystery at the center of all things. Every Sunday we gather to remember and participate anew in the saving event that is the suffering, dying, and rising of Jesus. Every year we enter the Paschal Triduum – the holy three days that is one single celebration – to remember THE story – the only story, the one true story, without which our human experience cannot be redeemed or resolved.
Hebrews 4:13 is typically translated in English as us giving an account in the presence of Jesus. Literally in Greek this passage says “All things are naked and uncovered to the eyes of him to whom belongs our λόγος.” The vulnerability of this experience is indeed unsettling. But deep down, don’t we all ache to be known, seen, heard, and truly understood? Only the eternal λόγος can make that happen – and only by uncovering and laying bare all that is within us!
We belong to him – not in the sense that he owns us, but that we are ordered to him in a relationship – both in creation and in redemption. The original creation happened through him. Through God’s Word all was made. God spoke us humans into being, breathed his Spirit into us, and declared us very good. He gave us stewardship of the entire cosmos. We failed. He never stopped loving us. He promised to send the woman and her offspring to crush the head of the serpent. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word died of the Cross and rose from the dead. The Word promises to take our tangled mess, to expose and uncover all of it – and to heal, restore, and gloriously transform us.
This, I think, is also the meaning behind Simeon’s cryptic words to the Virgin Mary: that a sword will pierce her heart so that the hearts of many may be laid bare (Luke 2:35). She is the New Eve, the promised woman. Her heart is fully pierced, fully vulnerable, and fully exposed – for sure at the Cross on Good Friday – but actually at many moments. Jesus declares “Behold, your mother!” so that each of us can receive her fierce and tender motherly care throughout the rather unsettling process of our own hearts being pierced by the Word, exposed, healed, and transformed. His eternal Love is both fierce and tender, and it is the only way.
Jesus does not expect this transformation to happen all at once. It’s a gradual process that happens over time. Like any great story, ours has moments of triumph, moments of loss and heartache, moments of betrayal, much adversity, and many setbacks. At every chapter, we can remember that THE story has already been told, and the victory has already been won – in the person of the λόγος. His story gets to become our story. Will we, like Mary, say “yes”?
This post originally appeared on abideinlove.com and is reprinted here with permission.
Image courtesy of Unsplash.