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Book: A Mystical Portrait of Jesus: New Perspectives on Johnís Gospel
Author: Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.
The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN. 2001. pp. 177.


Excerpt from the jacket:

A Mystical Portrait of Jesus: New Perspectives on Johnís Gospel pays close attention to scientific biblical study but goes beyond it to highlight the spirituality nourishing symbolic message of the Fourth Gospel. By beginning with a study of Johnís passion narrative, the author discovers the guiding principle of this Gospel and then makes some surprising discoveries about the dangers of religious ritual and the promise of a richly rewarding mystical experience for all Christians.

Table of Contents:

1. The Hour Has Come

2. Testifying to the Truth

3. Love Gives All

4. Love Conquers All

5. Love One Another

6. Abide in Me as I Abide in You

7. That They May Be One

8. Conversion

9. Baptism

10. Eucharist

11. Enlightenment

12. Eternal Light

Excerpt from Introduction:

I shall always be grateful for a lesson taught me by my theology professor, Fr. Cipriano Vagaggini, O.S.B. He pointed out that the true role of biblical and theological science is not to reduce, much less to destroy, the divine mystery in human life, but to locate it. Such a scholarly enterprise will assess the authentic characteristics of divine mystery in human life and will evaluate the fruits produced by contact with that mystery. Though the mysterious presence of God among us cannot be fully analyzed or controlled by human reason, the fruits in human attitudes and behavior can readily reveal the authenticity of that presence. The great mystic Teresa of Avila is supposed to have said that if she had to choose, she would prefer a theologian to a saint for her confessor. The clear implication is that the theologian would be better equipped to help her discern the nature and consequences of Godís presence in her moments of mystical transport.

Vagaggini was well aware that one of the pitfalls of biblical interpretation is a false sense of oneís ability to study the Bible in a way that ignores the mysterious presence of God in it or refuses to consult good theology in identifying the dimensions of that presence. Otherwise, one is always in danger of finding a ďdivine mysteryĒ of oneís own making, or one created by a misguided leader, in which case the consequences are inevitably tragic. One need look no farther than the Heavenís Gate cult for evidence of this danger. Their mass suicide may have seemed in a sense heroic but it was tragically out of touch with the reality of a God who is loving and compassionate.

I have found it helpful at times to offer my students a graphic illustration of the biblical project of locating the divine mystery in the text and in our lives. Let us imagine that the thousands of words of the Bible are an outer circle, a kind of verbal galaxy, which we encounter when we first approach the Bible. All biblical scholarship is concerned with the meaning of these words and the importance of wrestling with the words is indisputable. However, there is an inner circle also, which we reach by going beyond the words to the great saving events of the Exodus and the resurrection of Jesus. As we have noted already, the deepest meaning of the Bible is found on this level, and this meaning is available only where there is real faith and personal honesty. For assistance at this sage, one must turn to prayer and, on the human level, to a spiritual director or a trusted friend. Finally, at the very center of these circles, there is the divine mystery itself which, for Christians, is represented by the person of Jesus Christ. When one reaches this heart of the Bible, it is time for worship in loving contemplation.