Tuesday, December 25, 2007

And the Light shines in the darkness..

Lately I've been meditating on John 1:5:
The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
I find it particularly interesting that the alternate translation is "The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it."

Depending on which version of the Bible you like best, the main translation will be either "understood" (sometimes "comprehended") or "overcome" (sometimes "conquered" or even "extinguished"), with the alternate translation given in a footnote.

Long,long ago, when the Catholic Mass was in Latin --the Tridentine Mass, as it was called-- we used to read "The Last Gospel" just before Mass ended. It was the first chapter of the Gospel of John, verses 1 through 14. And, if I remember correctly (haven't had time to dig out my old St. Joseph's Missal, but we humans have a tendency to remember things that happened when we were children much better than things that happened just yesterday), verse 5 read: "The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness grasped it not."

So, although I certainly don't know any Greek, I conclude that the original Greek word must have had both a literal and figurative meaning, just as our word "grasp" does: "to grab," "to hold on to," as well as "to comprehend."

What a coincidence: I attended Mass with my family today, and those verses were read at the (main) Gospel!

Interesting, too, because verse 5 seems so true today, however that central word is translated.

Recently I read In Defense of Waterboarding." In this piece by columnist Mark Bowden, he declares that Abu Zubaydah has so much blood on his hands that torturing him by waterboarding was not wrong, nor should anyone be prosecuted for conducting this "enhanced" interrogation, whether the process yielded actionable information or not.

Like most Americans, Bowden is sincerely seeking ways to keep our country and our people safe from terrorism, not an easy task. However, stripping prisoners of their human rights is not the way, nor will torture keep us safe. I also find it curious, at a time when politicians are vociferously declaring the U.S. a Christian nation, that we're so quick to abandon the command of our Leader to love our enemies -- or at least not to torture them. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it."

The verse from John also brings back the close of last Saturday's peace vigil, when we read from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other visionaries of peace and justice. At a time when many armed conflicts flare all around the world, their words reminded me also that there we were, working for peace, as are innumerable persons in all countried. "The Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it."

Holy and happy Christmas to all!

image courtesy of gospelgifs.com


  1. I have a question, Liberata. Who did the painting that you reproduce in this entry?

  2. Actually, it's an animated gif, but I couldn't get it to work when I uploaded it to my blog, so I just took a screen capture of one of the frames.

    You can see the gif in all its glory, at:


    Click on "animated gifs" and then on "Light of the world" banner.

    Happy New year!


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