Father Matta’s Commentary on Saint John’s Gospel (5)

Father Matta al-Miskīn’s Commentary on Saint John’s Gospel (Introductory Volume)

Thematic Considerations

5 Glory

by Wagdy Samir

In the previous article, I explored the theme of true light as one aspect of witnessing in Father Matta’s introductory volume on the Gospel of Saint John. In what follows, I consider the second aspect of witnessing: witnessing the glory of God. 

For Father Matta, the word glory in Saint John’s Gospel points to the “noetically perceived splendour of the divine radiance.” He substantiates his argument by pointing to the explicit “noetic revelation” in Nathanael’s declaration, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the king of Israel” (John 1:49) as he first encountered the Lord. Christ’s glory was unveiled to Nathanael as soon as he (Christ) revealed himself. Father Matta adds that the same is true with the Samaritan woman (John 4:19, 29).

When Christ reveals his glory “as the true light that dispels the darkness of ignorance, doubt, sadness, suffering, sickness, and even death itself from the human being,” the latter responds with faith. In revealing his glory, Father Matta asserts that “the divine light that Christ bestows on the sinner’s heart, thought, and entire being permeates the whole person making him/her a bearer and partaker of that light.” 

Father Matta makes a pertinent point regarding the fourth gospel. While the Synoptic Gospels and the rest of the New Testament books proclaim Christ’s glory after his resurrection (e.g. Mark 13:26; Rom. 6:4; 1 Tim. 3:16; 1 Pet. 1:11, 21), Saint John’s Gospel reveals Christ’s glory during his sojourn on earth before the cross. The first time Christ’s glory is revealed in the fourth gospel is at the wedding of Cana of Galilee, “and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him” (John 2:11).

Fundamentally, to his own, Christ reveals his glory (John 1:14, 16) while still “requiring faith” from those who receive his revelation (John 1:12). For Father Matta, the first universal declaration of Christ’s glory took place at the cross (John 7:39; 12:16; 13:31, 32). Thus, “this (the cross) is the entrance by which Christ entered, gaining this glory on our account […] over and above the (eternal) glory he had with the Father in his being.” 

In conclusion, Father Matta adds, “don’t you realise, my dear reader, how our sufferings, distresses, and suffocations till death are the battlefield of God’s and Christ’s glory …? Astonishingly, the cross, suffering, and death represent glory for the account of oppressed and humiliated human beings. As if Saint John’s Gospel grants us the mystery of beholding the glory of Christ’s divine love through the lens of sufferings, distresses, and tears. And what glory? The glory of God.”

Source: Matta al-Miskīn, Introduction to the Commentary of the Gospel of St John: Study and Analysis (Al-Madkhal li-Sharḥ Injīl al-Qiddīs Yūḥanna: Dirāsah wa-Taḥlīl) (Cairo: Monastery of St Macarius, 1989) 123-128. (W. Samir’s translation of quoted passages)

Credit for the bookshelf image: Some of Father Matta’s books and booklets in Wagdy’s collection. Photo by Nadine Samir

3 September 2022 © AIOCS

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