Eternity on the horizon

Daily Reading for December 27 • The First Sunday after Christmas Day

As when our ship is near shore and cities and ports pass in view before us that on the open sea vanish and leave nothing to fix the eye on, so the Evangelist here takes us with him in his flight above the created world leaving the eye to gaze upon emptiness and an unlimited expanse. . . .

For the intellect, having ascended to “the beginning,” enquires, “What beginning?” Finding then that the “was” in the text exceeds its imagination, [the intellect] has no point on which to focus its thought. Looking intently onward but being unable to fix its gaze, it becomes wearied and turns back to things below. Indeed, this expression, “was in the beginning,” is expressive of eternal and infinite being. . . .

In this text it is not only the expression “was” that denotes eternity, but also the expressions “was in the beginning” and “the Word was.” For even as the word being distinguishes present time when used in regard to human beings but denotes eternity when used in regard to God, so “was” signifies to us past time—limited at that—when used in regard to our nature but declares eternity when used in regard to God.

From Homilies on the Gospel of John by John Chrysostom, quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament IVa, John 1-10, edited by Joel C. Elowsky (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2006).

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