ABOUT JOHANNINE HOURS
The following text explains a way of reading and reflecting on a Bible passage that passage that we have developed in the Taize Community in France to respond to the needs of young adults primarily. We have called them “Johannine hours”. The “Johannine hour” is posted at the beginning of each month and involves a short commentary on a given Bible passage, followed by some questions for reflection.
The idea of “Johannine hours” was born in Taize as a simple response to all those who were trying to assimilate the Bible’s message in the midst of their daily life. Because of work or studies, it is often impossible to spend long hours in silence and reflection, but everyone can take an hour from time to time to enter a church, sit quietly at home or go out for a walk in the woods. There, in silence, we can meditate on a passage of Scripture to listen to the voice of Christ.
Why “Johannine hours”? To try and listen, in the steps of the apostle John, to the voice of Christ. For John, perhaps more than for the other Biblical authors, being with Christ does not mean first of all acquiring knowledge, but recognizing the voice of the one who responds to our deepest longing (see John 10,3-5).
But how can we read the Bible so as to hear the sound of Christ’s voice? We need silence for this, because amidst the flood of words and noise that forces itself on us, the voice of Christ is quite soft. We also need to share, to communicate what we have heard and to listen to what others have understood. Nobody can, by themselves alone, grasp all that Christ has to offer.
Another reason for the “Johannine hours” is to foster a sharing. Concretely, this can happen in several ways. Some friends from the same parish or city can meet at the end of an afternoon to read aloud the Bible passage together, then they can spend a while in silence and conclude with a brief sharing and a prayer.
Others choose to read and reflect on the same Bible passage for an entire month, and then, when they have become very familiar with it, they meet for a time of sharing. Even for those who cannot come together there are means to communicate with others. Perhaps those who read and think about the “Johannine Hours” on this BBS could share their reflections and discoveries with others.
In this way a sharing can take place together with others even over a great distance! Whatever form it takes, the important thing about the “Johannine hours” is the complementarity between two elements, silence and sharing. The Word of God both touches the depth of the heart and gathers together in a fellowship.
During the time of silence, and even more during the group sharing, it is important to concentrate on what we understand and not waste time worrying if, in some Biblical expressions, we find it difficult to hear the voice of Christ. Saint John wrote, “What we have seen and heard, we proclaim to you…so that your joy may be complete” (1 John 1,3-4). Each person should say to themselves concerning the sharing that concludes the “Johannine hours,” “What I have understood and heard of Christ, that is what I want to communicate to others. I don’t want to burden them with my own hesitations but rather tell them what has brought me joy, what has led me to run the risk of trusting more deeply.”
The Word of God has sometimes become an object of disputes. When that happens, the voice of Christ can no longer be heard. The Bible, instead of offering nourishment and vitality, instead of being a way of inner liberation, becomes a burden. Many years ago, a century after the time of the apostles, arguments and different opinions concerning Bible texts threatened to disconcert people’s humble trust in God. Then Irenaeus of Lyons who, in Asia Minor, had personally known a witness of the faith taught by John himself, wrote: “Through the polyphony of texts, a single harmonious melody rings out, singing of the God who made all things.” May the “Johannine hours” allow us to hear that harmonious melody, which is nothing other than the voice of Christ who loves us.