Sunday, October 7, 2007

Guru and Beloved Disciple

(b) Abide in me (Jesus & the Beloved Disciple John: Design for door panel of the chapel of NBCLC Bangalore. Collection of the artist.)

The setting for this loving intimacy of Jesus and John is actually before the resurrection according to John’s Gospel. It is the last sacramental meal together, after the foot-washing and just before the ‘final discourses’. Yet, both in that Last Supper and in the intimate communion of Christ and his followers depicted by John in much of those ‘final’ teachings, there is clear anticipation of life with the risen Christ.

The mystical intimacy implied in such words as ‘Abide in me and I in you’, ‘Remain, dwell in my love’, ‘You in me and I in you’, ‘My joy will be in you and your joy will be complete’, have been especially treasured in India. It was at that time that we read of the ‘beloved disciple’, John himself, ‘leaning close to Jesus’ (or ‘on the bosom of Jesus’ in older translations), and thus able to ask questions more intimately than the others. Indian theologians such as A.J.Appasamy (later Bishop in South India), seeing special significance in John’s Gospel, naturally interpreted faith in Christ as a distinctive form of bhakti-marga, the way of ‘love-drowning’ - love for God, love by God (Christianity as Bhakti Marga, CLS Madras 1930, was Appasamy’s doctoral thesis at Oxford).

Christ rising in intimate love and transfiguring life within the heart and soul of the believer has often been the central theme of Indian Christian faith. That this transfiguring life is also cosmic in its range is also far from absent in such faith, though the awakened consciousness has been the starting point. In recent years that new consciousness has compelled Indian faith to struggle also for a transfigured society, new forms of life in our human world, especially for those cruelly deprived of their human dignity. They too are as beloved by Jesus as John was.

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