Of all the Christmas feasts which follow thick and fast after the Nativity of Our Lord, I think I like St John’s best. He is the most poetic of the evangelists: a man who had learned ‘how to bear the beames of love’ and who reflects the beautiful light of the Word made flesh as stars reflect the light of the sun. But there is more to John than beauty. There is grace and truth, again reflecting the grace and truth of the Word, and there is strength.
Truth needs strength otherwise it easily becomes something less — mere criticism, perhaps, or the kind of grumbling that achieves nothing except to make both grumbler and audience weary. St John is the most mystical of the evangelists not because he wrote beautifully, or because he reflected the grace and truth of the Word made flesh, but because he he was strong — strong in faith and love. It enabled him to see what others could only guess at, gave him the courage to explore what others might shy away from, kept him at the foot of the cross when he was tempted to run away. He was a true contemplative.
Today, the old carol has us singing of ‘three gold rings’, a symbol of the Blessed Trinity into whose life we are drawn through the gift of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. St John understood the gift to the Beloved and celebrated it with every fibre of his being, as a contemplative must. May we do likewise.