IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and without Him not one thing came into being that has come into being. In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of all people. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the Light, so that all might believe through him. John himself was not the Light, but he came to testify to the Light. It was the true Light that enlightens everyone coming into the world.
He [the Light] was in the world, and the world came into being through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not accept Him. But to all who received Him, who believed in His Name, He gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified to Him and cried out, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He Who comes after me ranks ahead of me because He was before me.’” From His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The Law indeed was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
Blessed Holy Week to all.
Now in less than a week we will be reading this Gospel lesson.
The following is taken from the Orthodox Study Bible.
"In the beginning" recalls the creation story of Genesis, but speaks more clearly of the Creator Himself. While Genesis spoke of the first creation, the above reading reveals the new creation in Christ.
"The Word" is the eternal Son of God (that is, Jesus Christ). John the Evangelist says that the Word was in the beginning, in order to show that the Word has no beginning. When we say that God is eternal, we mean that He is has existed always, He has no beginning and no end. In other words, there was not a time when He was not. He has always existed.
"The Word was with God" - with shows that the Word is a distinct Person from the Father and the He is in eternal communion with the Father.
"The Word was God" shows that the Son of God is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father. The Son Himself is God with the same divinity as the Father.
The Word is the co-Creator with the Father and the Holy Spirit and not merely an instrument or servant used by the Father. Will, operation, and power are one in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thus, the heavens and the earth are the works of the One Who made them, while the Son was not made but is eternally begotten of the Father.
Only God has Life in Himself. Thus, the Word, being God, is the source of life, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. "The Life was the Light of all people" - John the Evangelist now introduces mankind as receiver of the divine Light. By participating in the life of the Son, believers themselves become children of the light. Moses saw the divine light in the burning bush (Exodus 3); the whole nation saw it at the Red Sea (Exodus 13:21); Isaiah saw it in his heavenly vision (Isaiah 6:1-5); and the three apostles saw it at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-5).
"Darkness" indicates both spiritual ignorance and satanic opposition to the Light. Those who hate truth prefer ignorance for themselves and strive to keep others ignorant as well. The word translated "overcome" means also "understand." Thus, darkness can never overpower the light of Christ, nor can it understand the way of love.
"John" mentioned in the reading is John the Baptist, not John the Evangelist, the author of the above excerpt.
Christ offers Light to every person, but "the world" and even many of "His own" refuse to "accept Him." So, they can neither know nor recognize Him. Those who accept Him have His light. In a hymn sung at the end of the Liturgy, after hearing the Gospel and receive the Communion, we sing, "We have seen the true light, we have received the heavenly Spirit."
To "believe in His Name" means to believe and trust in Him Who in His humanity took the name Jesus as Word, Son, Messiah, and Savior.
Adoption as a child of God is not a matter of ethnic descent ("of blood") as it was in the Old Testament, nor are we children of God simply by natural birth ("the will of the flesh"), nor by man's own decision ("the will of man"). Becoming a child of God is a spiritual birth by grace, through faith, and in the Holy Spirit. This is accomplished and manifested in the sacrament of Holy Baptism.
"The Word became flesh" clarifies the manner in which the Son and Word of God came to His people, pointing specifically to His Incarnation. The Word became fully human without ceasing to be fully God. He assumed complete human nature: body, soul, will, emotion, and even mortality - everything that pertains to humanity except sin. As God and man in one Person, Christ pours divinity into all of human nature because anything not assumed by Christ would not have been healed.
"Lived among us" - in the Old Testament, God's presence lived in the ark of the covenant and later in the Temple. Here, the eternal Word come to live in and among humanity itself. "His glory" refers both to His divine power shown by His signs and wonders (John 2:11, 11:4, 40), and to His humble service to mankind, shown most perfectly on the Cross (John 12:23-32, 13:31). In both ways, Christ reveals that He is the One sent from the Father.
"Full of grace and truth" - this phrase qualifies both the Word and His glory. Grace is Christ's uncreated energy given to us through His love and mercy. Truth includes His faithfulness to His promises and covenants and to the reality of His words and gifts.
In saying we have all received "from His fullness," the Scriptures confirm that God's grace can fill human nature to the extent of actually deifying (sanctifying) it. In Christ, God's children become gods by grace (John 10:34-35) without ceasing to be human. As metal thrust into fire takes on properties of fire (such as heat and light) without ceasing to be metal, so human nature permeated by God takes on properties of the divine nature.
"Grace upon grace" is a Semitic expression signifying an overabundance of grace.
Yours in Christ,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest