I wonder how many billions of people have been comforted by these “Comfortable Words”, as they have sometimes been called. And I wonder if it’s this very passage that St. Augustine had in mind when he said that our hearts are restless until they rest in God.
There is a sense in which Christ not only offers us rest, but is himself that rest, that resting place. We rest in him as the Beloved Disciple reclined in his bosom at the Last Supper. The Beloved Disciple reclines in Christ’s bosom as Christ in turn John is“in (or into) the bosom of the Father”, as it says near the beginning of John [1:18]. Days of retreat are a great time to be that Beloved Disciple at rest.
The One in whom we rest is the One Who Is: ὁ ῷν (ho o̅n) as we see inscribed in the halo in icons of Christ. The One who is being itself. We rest in his “being-ness”. But the One Who Is is also the One Who Does: Christ is the Logos, the Word, the one through whom all things come into being, the creator, the maker of heaven and earth. ὁῷν (ho o̅n) is also ὁ ποιῶν (ho poio̅n). The One Who Is is also the One Who Creates.
If we rest in Christ, we are plugged in, as it were, to the source of all doing, all creating, all generating. All creative, generative energies have their ultimate source in him. It is of our nature, as creatures made in the image and likeness of God, to be both human beings and “human doings”. Or, to put it another way, both the contemplative and the active dimensions of our nature reflect the Divine Image.
But very few of us need to be reminded to be active: we human beings are very good at being “human doings”. If anything, we can be too good at it, always in motion, always on the go—we need, rather, to remember to rest, and to rest in him.
You may prefer a close translation, by the way, of those verses about the Beloved Disciple at the Last Supper [John 13:25; 21:20]. In the NRSV we read that the Beloved Disciple reclined “next to Jesus”. You may prefer the original, which says that he reclined “in the bosom” of Jesus—a more intimate and provocative resting place. A place where we, too, can feel the heartbeat of the cosmos and the breath of all life– the warm, moist breath of all breath.
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