Wisdom of the Beloved Disciple

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The wisdom of the Beloved Disciple is perhaps the most profound of all living wisdom streams flowing into the mainstream of Orthodox Christian wisdom, watering the living roots of desert Hesychasm, wisdom that beholds the glory of the slaughtered Lamb, full of grace and truth (John 1:14; 1:29; Rev 5:6-14).  The Beloved Disciple beheld the glory of the Word made flesh, which is the glory of the only-begotten Son of the Father, transmitting this wisdom to the desert in the fullness of grace and truth.  The Beloved Disciple was witness to the crucifixion and descent into hell, and as eye-witness to the resurrection, witness to the wisdom that beholds the glory of Christ’s ascension and glorification.  The wisdom of the Beloved Disciple continues to bear witness to the completeness of grace and truth, inspiring desert wisdom to increase from grace to grace and from glory to glory (John 1:14-18).  No-one has ever seen God as an object of empirical sense perception, but God makes God known when he unveils his Name ‘I AM,’ revealing God through God.  Indwelling the Father’s heart, the Son reveals his presence in the midst.  The Spirit is witness that Christ reveals his Father’s deifying Name to his disciples, including his Beloved Disciple, unveiling the grace of deifying glorification in the wisdom and glory of the hallowed Name.

The wisdom transmitted by the Beloved Disciple is God’s Word in person, who reveals uncreated glory in seven signs ( John 2:11;11:4,40), beginning with a Wedding Feast, veiling the Holy of Holies within the mystery of a Bridal Chamber.  In this, his first sign, Christ turns water into wine (John 2:1-11), signifying revelation of glory in the wine of deifying union, of mystical marriage, of hallowing mysteries of glory with a Song of Songs.  The next two signs are healings, the healing of a royal courtier’s son (John 4:46-54) and the healing of a lame man at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath (John 5:2-18), reminding desert elders that the way of union and glorification unfolds through therapeutic purification and healing illumination.  The fourth doxological sign is the feeding of the five thousand, imparting the nourishing glory of the Name ‘I AM,’ the eucharistic bread of life, bread of God’s eternal life-giving presence (John 6:1-15), as in the saying,  ‘I AM’ the bread of life (John 6:35), the bread of timeless regenerative presence that glorifies those who glorify God’s Name.  

The fifth sign is the healing of the blind man by the pool of Siloam on the Sabbath, a man blind from birth (John 9:1-12), unveiling the glory of the Name ‘I AM’ in uncreated light, in whose light blind hearts are enlightened, as in both sayings, ”I AM’ the light of the world’ (John 8:12; 9:5) and ‘you are the light of the world’ (Mt 5:14).  The sixth sign is the raising of Lazarus from the dead in Bethany after four days in the tomb (John 11:1-45), revealing the glory of the Name in the saying, ”I AM’ the resurrection and the life’ (John 11:25).  This sixth sign transmits the mysteries of resurrection to awaken hearts to resurrection.  The seventh sign is Christ’s own resurrection from the dead (John 20:6-31), which for Hesychast seers experiencing deifying glorification, embraces both the death of the slaughtered Lamb and his blessed ascension into heaven.  Wisdom’s seven signs are the Beloved Disciple’s spiritual legacy of seven mysteries of resurrecting glory, mysteries of transfiguring completeness that cure the seven deadly sufferings, cast out the seven divisive demons, emptying seven blind hells into seven radiant heavens.  The seven signs are clearly saying that Christ’s human life is already the revelation of the glory of the age to come, already the coming of God’s Kingdom, already the presence of the awareness of glory unveiling the Face of God’s presence in the midst.  

The Beloved Disciple also bequeathed two sets of seven mysteries of the Name to the desert, seven ‘I AM’ sayings with predicates revealing ‘I AM’ for us, and seven ‘I AM’ sayings without predicates revealing ‘I AM’ in himself for himself.  We have already encountered three of the former in the fourth, fifth and sixth signs.  The seven ‘I AM’ sayings with predicates are  1. ‘I AM’ the bread of life (John 6:35, 41,48);  2. ‘I AM’ the light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5);  3. ‘I AM’ the gate of the sheepfold (John10:7,9);  4.  ‘I AM’ the good shepherd (John10:11,14);  5. ‘I AM’ the resurrection and the life (John 11:25);  6. ‘I AM’ the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6); and  7. ‘I AM’ the true vine (John 15:1).  The Name with predicates unveils the uncreated energies of God’s names, revealing the Name.  The Beloved disciple also handed on to desert tradition seven ‘I AM’ sayings without predicates, such as ‘Before Abraham was, I AM’ (John 8:58).  These sayings are clearly of profound significance to the Beloved Disciple but some of them tend to get lost or covered up in English translations.  They are to be found in John 4:26; 6:20; 8:24; 8:28; 8:58; 13:19 and 18:5,6,8.  But when modern translations render ego eimi as ‘I am he’ or ‘It is I,’ these ‘I AM’ sayings without predicates are partially obscured, or perhaps some of them were always meant to remain mysterious hints, not explicit propositions.  Indeed, in John 6:20, ”I AM,’ be not afraid,’ can be rendered ‘It is I, be not afraid.’  Similarly, in John 18, the ‘I AM’ sayings are sometimes translated as ‘I am he,’ or ‘It is I.’  Nevertheless, despite these possible double readings, John 8:58 assuredly shows that ‘I AM’ sayings without predicates are subtle ways in which the Beloved Disciple is communicating the mystery of God’s Name, as in Exodus 3:14, where God reveals his Name is ‘I AM,’  awakening hearts in every nation, tribe, language and people. 

The Beloved Disciple would have known that the Hebrew phrases ANI HU, ‘I AM HE,’ and ANOKI ANOKI HU, ‘I AM, I AM HE,’ beloved of prophets of old, supported the divine self-revelation on Mount Sinai, EHYEH, EGO EIMI, ‘I AM.’  ‘Behold, I, even I, AM HE’ (Deut 32:39). The prophet Isaiah (Deutero-Isaiah) shared seven ‘I AM’ sayings in this vein, Isaiah 41:4; 43:10,13,25; 45:18; 46:4; 48:12; 51:12; and 52:6.  These are ANI HU, or ‘I AM HE’ sayings, which are important ‘I AM’ sayings in the prophecies of the Second Isaiah, profoundly inspiring early Christian prophecy, including perhaps Christ and the seer of Revelation.   In Isaiah 45:18, for example, God says ‘I AM HE and there is no other.’  The LXX then adds, ‘I AM God and there is no other beside me, turn and be saved.  I AM God and there is no other, I swear by who I AM, every knee shall bow and every tongue shall swear by God’ (LXX Isaiah 45:22-24).  The Apostle Paul was re-interpreting this prophecy when he  spoke of the Name above all names and of the saving name of Jesus (‘I AM’ saves), affirming that Jesus Christ is Lord, (‘I AM,’) to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:9-11).  Desert wisdom is acknowledging its deepest roots here in this wisdom of the Beloved Disciple, which is simply the wisdom of Christ revealing God’s Name ‘I AM,’ because the Word is ‘I AM’ in person, naming the Name, revealing in the Spirit the person of the Father, who personally abides in love’s glory and sends the Spirit to open hearts to the graced completeness of the co-inherent Name.

The Book of Revelation shares in the Beloved Disciple’s love of wisdom’s sevens when the seer of the Apocalypse first beholds Christ in the midst of seven golden sanctuary lamps, the temple menorah, which he sees as Christ in the midst of seven Spirit’s, or the sevenfold radiance of the Holy Spirit.  Christ in the midst of ineffable completeness then speaks through his angel to the seven angels of seven churches in Asia, sending seven prophetic letters (Rev 2:1-29 and 3:1-22).  The Beloved Disciple’s sevens are everywhere in the Book of Revelation, showing it to be a book of glory’s ineffable completeness as well as a book of illumining glorification.  Seven spirits, seven letters, seven angels, seven churches, seven scrolls with seven seals, seven trumpets and seven bowls with seven woes, not to mention other sevens, such as the seven sealed, unspoken thunders (Rev 10:4), sevens which not only point to the completeness of the Kingdom of God but also to the New Jerusalem, the sevenfold completeness of glory discerned by wisdom.  The Apocalypse is saying that God’s Name is trustworthy and true and that all who turn and see become God’s, for God will be their God in the midst.

The desert’s witness to the mysteries of glorification unites the sevenfold unfolding of wisdom in the Apocalypse with the Beloved Disciple’s seven signs, seven ‘I AM’ sayings with predicates and seven ‘I AM’ sayings without predicates in the Fourth Gospel.  Glorification unfolds within the hour of Christ’s glorification (John 12:23) as the hallowing glorification of God’s Name (John 12:28).  Glorification abides in Christ’s  glorification of God and God’s glorification of him (John 13:31-32), indwelling the Father’s glorification of the Son and the Son’s glorification of the Father (John 17:1).  The desert receives from the Beloved Disciple many profound insights into the mysteries of completeness, revealed in the midst as sevenfold doxological co-inherence (John 17:4-5).  It does so within the scope of the co-inherent completeness of wisdom’s many different sevens, which inspire both the Book of Revelation and the Fourth Gospel.  The Beloved Disciple had leant on the breast of Jesus during the Last Supper and so was ineffably united with his heart (John 13:23).  Whoever the Beloved Disciple was, it is certain that he or she was beloved and so well able to hand on the mysteries of love’s glory as glorification to the desert.  The human identity of the Beloved Disciple has always remained deliberately hidden and the reason for this hiddenness has also remained utterly hidden, but the sacred function of the Beloved Disciple has always been anything but hidden, being the revelation of the glory of God’s Holy Name.  It is God who reveals God here in God’s God-centred revelation of God in his Name.  It is wisdom that unveils glory here in the heart of the Beloved Disciple.  The desert never exhausts the wisdom of this glory or sidelines the glory of this wisdom, beholding wisdom’s sevenfold completeness in the sevenfold completeness of hallowing glorification.