Part 3 – God the Son – Week 5

Part 3 – God the Son – Week 5

Last week we reflected on the first Christological title that stands at the center of our faith in Jesus Christ: ‘Son of God’. Today we continue that discovery, concentrating instead on the second, and far more intimate, personal, and mysterious title that reveals Jesus’s innermost reality and relationship with the Father: ‘Son.’ And the incredible reality that Jesus as Son is the Christ, that He is someone who in His inner identity is both entirely ‘from’ and ‘toward’ the Father and completely ‘for’ us, means that in Him God has now turned toward us and inserted us into His own intra-trinitarian relationship. In Christ, in other words, we too become sons of the Father, sons in the Son.


“Jesus’ own description of himself as “the Son” is something quite distinct from the concept “Son of God” that we have just discussed. This phrase, “the Son”, has a different linguistic history and belongs to a different kind of language, namely, that of the coded parable, which Jesus employed in the wake of Israel’s prophets and teachers of wisdom. And here again the phrase is to be located, not in the public preaching, but in Jesus’ conversations with the inner circle of disciples. Its real source is probably to be found in Jesus’ prayers; it forms the natural corollary to his new mode of addressing God, Abba. […]

Among the few small treasures in which the original Christian community preserved Jesus’ Aramaic words untranslated, because they seemed a particularly striking reflection of his personality, is the form of the address Abba – “Father”. It differs from the way in which it was possible to address God as Father in the Old Testament as well, inasmuch as Abba is a term of intimate familiarity (comparable with the word “Papa”, if rather more elevated); the intimacy implicit in the word excluded for the Jew the possibility of using it in reference to God; such a close approach was not seemly in man. That Jesus prayed in this way, that he used this word in his converse with God, thereby expressing a new form of intimacy with God belonging only to him personally—this was what gripped the first Christians and caused them to preserve word as it originally sounded.

But this form of address finds its intrinsically appropriate corollary, as we have already indicated, in Jesus’ description of himself as Son. The two words express the distinctive way in which Jesus prayed, his awareness of God, into which, in however restrained the fashion, he let his closest circle of friends have an insight. If, as we have seen, the title “Son of God” is taken from Jewish Messianology and is thus a phrase with a rich historical and theological content, here we are confronted with something quite different, something infinitely simpler and at the same time infinitely more personal and more profound. Here we see him to Jesus is experience of prayer, into the nearest of God that, while distinguishing his relations with God from those of all other bend, yet does not aim at any kind of exclusiveness but is designed to include the others in its own relationship to God. It wishes to incorporate them, as it were, in its own kind of attitude to God, so that with Jesus and in him they can say Abba to God just as he does: no set distance shall separate them any longer; they are to be embraced in that intimacy that in Jesus is reality.

St. John’s gospel puts this self-description of Jesus, which in the first three gospels occurs only in a few places (at moments when the disciples are being instructed) at the heart of its picture of Jesus; this corresponds with the basic tendency of this text, which is much more inward in character than the other three gospels. Jesus’ own description of himself as “the Son” now becomes the guiding threat of the depiction of the Lord; and at the same time, as the gospel progresses, the full meaning of the phrase is unfolded. […]

To John, the description of Jesus as Son is not the expression of any power of his own claimed by Jesus but the expression of the total relativity of his existence. When Jesus is put completely into this category this means that his existence is explained as completely relative, nothing other than “being from” and “being for”, coinciding precisely in this total relativity with the absolute. In this the title “Son” is identical with the designations “the Word” and “the one sent”. And when John describes the Lord in the words of God’s dictum in Isaiah [chapters 41ff], “I am”, again the same thing is meant, the total unity with the “I am” that results from an attitude of complete surrender. The heart of this Son-Christology of John’s, the basis of which in the synoptic gospels and through them in the historical Jesus (Abba!) was made plain earlier, lies accordingly in what became clear to us at the outset as being the starting point of all Christology: in the identity of work and being, of deed and person, of the total merging of the person in his work and in the total coincidence of the doing with the person himself, who keeps back nothing for himself but gives himself completely in his work.



  1. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, Ignatius Press, San Francisco 2004 [1968], 223-225.




  1. What is my relationship as a Christian – as someone who has been incorporated into Christ through baptism and the Eucharist – with the Father? Do I realize that with Christ, and in Christ, I too can call God Abba, Daddy? Indeed, not only can I speak to Him in this way; I should speak to Him in this way!!! This is precisely what the mystery of Jesus as the Christ is telling us: that in Him, I too have access to God as a beloved child.


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