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The Word, part 1: The First Word


Words. It's almost impossible – okay, I'll say that it is impossible – for anyone reading this to imagine human life without words. We are word-bound creatures. We may gain impressions of our world through our bodily senses, and we may have emotional responses both positive and negative to those impressions, but we process everything with words. We think in words, we dream in words, we communicate with words, we understand things by sorting, categorizing, and describing them with words. It is the wonder of words that allows me to communicate what's in my head to another human being so that she thinks in her head approximately the same thing as I think in mine.


The ancient Greek philosophers understood something of the power of the word and broadened it to get at the underlying rationale of the universe. The logos (word) was the reason behind it all, the glue that held it all together, the order and meaning inherent in all things, the generative power behind the world. It was the logos that brought all things into being, gave them their shape, and directed them toward their end. Although logos was often used for discourse or reasoned discussion, it was not reducible to a bare lexicon or grammatical structure. If anything, it was perhaps closest to 'thought' or 'mind.'


And since these kinds of philosophical uses of 'logos' were in circulation as early as Aristotle (4th century BC), and were even picked up by later Jewish philosophers like Philo, the word was on hand for the apostle John to make use of in his efforts to proclaim the mystery of the Incarnation.


The Incarnation, like the sacred Scriptures and even the creation itself, was the self-disclosure of God. God revealing Himself. God making Himself known. And part of what was made known in the Incarnation was the wonder of Godhead – that God was a communion of Persons – what has since been called the Trinity – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


In the beginning was the logos. Before there was anything there was the Word. Before the account of creation, we find the existence of the logos. Apparently the logos is not part of the creation, but rather is involved in the creating of all things.


And the logos was with God. Interesting. To be with someone means to be separate from them. Apparently there was God and the Word together in the beginning. Separate and distinct, but together.


And the logos was God. He was in the beginning with God. There it is. It had sure sounded like John was trying to say the Word was God. But he also wanted us to know that this was God with God. Same, but different. But not two gods. Hmmm...


All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. Through him. This Word was the agency of God's creative work. In Genesis, we find God speaking. And God said, “Let there be light....” And there was light. Again and again, God speaks. The word God speaks is powerful and fruitful. What God speaks happens. The Word of God brings all things into being and orders them rightly. The Word gives light and life. Interesting that the words we speak can create realities and possibilities too, albeit not quite as dramatically as God's Word. Our words can enlighten (sadly, they can also darken). Our words can give life (and again sadly, they can crush life).


And the logos became flesh and pitched his tent among us. Uh-oh. Now things have gotten personal. Very. God is among us.

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