Reclining on the breast of Jesus

The last supper account in John's gospel gives us a wonderful mystical image. The evangelist describes the beloved disciple as reclining on the breast of Jesus. What's contained in this image?  A number of things, writes Ron Rolheiser.

First, when you put your head upon someone else's chest, your ear is just above that person's heart and you are able to hear his or her heartbeat. Hence, in John's image, we see the beloved disciple with his ear on Jesus' heart, hearing Jesus' heartbeat, and from that perspective looking out into the world.

This is John's ultimate image for discipleship: The ideal disciple is the one who is attuned to Christ's heartbeat and sees the world with that sound in his or her ear.

Then there is a second level to the image: It is an icon of peace, a child at its mother's breast, contented, satiated, calm, free of tension, not wanting to be anywhere else. This is an image of primal intimacy, of symbiotic oneness, a connection deeper than romantic love. 

And for John, it is also a Eucharistic image. What we see in this image of a person with his ear on Jesus' heart, is how John wants us to imagine ourselves when we are at Eucharist because, ultimately, that is what the Eucharist is, a physical reclining on the breast of Christ.

In the Eucharist, Jesus gives us, physically, a breast to lean on, to nurture at, to feel safe and secure at, and from which to see the world. 

Finally, this is also an image of how we should touch God and be sustained by him in solitude.

Henri Nouwen once said: "By touching the center of our solitude, we sense that we have been touched by loving hands."  Deep inside each of us, like a brand, there is a place where God has touched, caressed, and kissed us.

FULL STORY Listening to Christ's heartbeat (Ron Rolheiser) 

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