Part 2 – God the Father – Week 8

Part 2 – God the Father – Week 8

Last week we discovered that Christ’s Trinitarian identity as ‘Son’ means that He is completely from and toward the Father, in a relationship of completely receiving Himself and giving Himself to the Father, and that this relationship is so deep and fundamental that it constitutes His very being, His essence. We also saw how Ratzinger, following St John, then applies this to Christian existence: to be a Christian, he says, is to become a son in the Son, to become – in,  and through, and with Christ – totally open to the Father, totally from and toward Him. Today Ratzinger extends this reflection and applies it to two more Christological concepts: that of mission and of logos. At the same time, this allows him to extend the being-in-relation of Christ also to His relationship with us, to His being sent from the Father as ‘ambassador,’ as one who is completely ‘for’ us.


“As well as in the “Son” idea it [John’s understanding of who Christ is] appears especially in two further christological concepts which must at least be briefly outlined here for the sake of completeness. These are the idea of the “mission” and the description of Jesus as the “word” (logos) of God. “Mission” theology is again theology of being as relation and of relation as mode of unity. There is a well-known late Jewish saying: “The ambassador of a man is like the man himself.” Jesus appears in St John as the Father’s ambassador, in whom is really fulfilled what all other ambassadors can only aim at asymptotically: he really loses his own identity in the role of ambassador; he is nothing but the ambassador who represents the other without interposing his own individuality. And so, as the true ambassador, he is one with him who sends him. Once again, through the concept of the mission, being is interpreted as being “from” and as being “for”; once again being is conceived as absolute openness without reservation. And again we find the extension to Christian existence in the words, “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (13:20; 17:18, 20:21). In the classification of this existence as mission it is again expounded as being “from” and “for”, as relatedness and hence as unity.

Finally, a remark on the concept of logos would also be appropriate. When John characterizes the Lord as Logos he is employing a term widely current in both Greek and Jewish thought and taking over with it a series of ideas implicit in it which are to that extent transferred to Christ. But perhaps one can say that the new element that John has added to the logos concept lies not least in the fact that to him logos does not mean simply the idea of the eternal rationality of being, as it did essentially in Greek thought. By its application to Jesus of Nazareth the concept logos acquires a new dimension. It no longer denotes simply the permeation of all being by meaning; it characterizes this man: He who is here is “Word”. The concept logos, which to the Greeks meant “meaning” (ratio), changes here really into (word) verbum. He who is here is Word; he is consequently “spoken” and hence the pure relation between the speaker and the spoken to. Thus logos Christology, as “word” theology, is once again the opening up of being to the idea of relationship. For again it is true that “word” comes essentially “from someone else” and “to someone else”; word is an existence that is entirely way and openness.

Let us round off the whole discussion with a passage from St Augustine which  elucidates splendidly what we mean. It occurs in his commentary on St John and hinges on the sentence in the gospel which runs, “Mea doctrina non est mea” – “My teaching is not my teaching, but that of the Father who sent me” (7:16). Augustine has used the paradox in this sentence to illuminate the paradoxical nature of the Christian image of God and of Christian existence. He asks himself first whether it is not a sheer contradiction, an offence against the elementary rules of logic, to say something like “Mine is not mine”. But, he goes on to ask, digging deeper, what, then, is the teaching of Jesus that is simultaneously his and not his? Jesus is “word”, and thus it becomes clear that his teaching is he himself. If one reads the sentence again from this angle it then says: I am by no means just I; I am not mine at all; my I is that of another. With this we have moved on out of Christology and arrived at ourselves: “Quid tam tuum quam tu, quid tam non tuum quam tu” -, “What is so much yours as yourself and what is so little yours as yourself?” The most individual element in us – the only thing that belongs to us in the last analysis – our own “I”, is at the same time the least individual element of all, for it is precisely our “I” that we have neither from our selves nor for ourselves. The “I” is simultaneously what I have completely and what least of all belongs to me. Thus here again the concept of mere substance (=what stands in itself!) is shattered and it is made apparent how being that truly understands itself grasps at the same time that in being itself it does not belong to itself; that it only comes to itself by moving away from itself and finding its way back as relatedness to its true primordial state.”

J. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, Ignatius Press, San Francisco 2004 [20002], 188-190.



  1. What have the concepts of ‘Son,’ ‘mission,’ and ‘logos’ taught me about Christ and about the interior life of God?
  2. In addition to my relationship with God, do I strive to live ‘for’ others in imitation of Christ?

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