Alpha & Omega
“I Am the Alpha and the Omega”
says the Lord God in the Book of Revelation
By this statement Jesus the Christ (the Anointed One) does not indicate that He is the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, or that He wants us to worship those letters as representative of Him. Rather, through these representative letters He asserts His Being as the origin and destiny of creation by dint of him being the Word of God. Being the “Word,” it makes sense to use letters to identify part of the essence of the Son of God. Of additional importance is completing the quote that was begun in the title of this post:
"...the first and the last, the beginning and the end."
Whenever Jesus uses the words "I Am," which he does many times, he is referring to his essence or to his being, or to what is known in the fields of philosophy and theology as "ontos" or "ontology" (the study of being). For example,
- Jesus does not say "I have the bread of life" but rather "I am the Bread of Life"
- Jesus does not say "I have the light of the world, but rather "I am the Light of the world"
- Jesus does not say "I have the way, the truth and the light" but rather "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life"
So in truth we should not say "I am hungry" but rather "I have hunger," because hunger is not our essence or our being. It is not who we are but only a temporary feeling, state or condition. It therefore seems to me that the correct interpretation of John 19:28, which describes Jesus imminent death on the cross, is not "I am thirsty," but rather "I thirst."
As the Alpha, or the Eternal Word, Jesus' "I Am" means he existed before Moses, Abraham, Noah, Adam, Time and Creation. Although the aforementioned had a beginning and the Eternal Word caused those beginnings, the eternal nature means the Son of God always "Is" and always "I Am." That's pretty special. And as the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, there never was a time when the Son was not. That last clause is St Athanasius' response to bishop Arius' heretical assertion that "there was a time when the Son was not" (a heresy that dwarfs our modern sex scandals, prompting the influence and presence of an emperor to try and help resolve the rancorous dispute!). The result of this controversy was both the First Council of Nicaea and the Nicene Creed. Another example of a good coming out of a bad. As the Omega, Christ completes Revelation to the world and humanity. This use of "beginning and ending" phraseology is evidence of Christ's Jewishness and his rabbinic tradition, as rabbis would typically refer to the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet to point out the wholeness, completeness, totality and truthfulness of something. The end implied by "Omega" can also mean "to the end or purpose of something," and the ultimate end or purpose of a Christian is Christ, and our destiny to be with him in his kingdom--wherever that is ("The Kingdom of God is at hand" and "The Kingdom of God is within you").
What does all this mean for you and me, as we live each day?
Prior to becoming Pope Benedict the XVI, Joseph Ratzinger spoke of creation being the result of Reason or Intelligence, and that human beings are the result of God’s loving will, saying, “Yes, Father, you have willed me.” So Creation makes clear God's intellect and will, as well as his desire to greatly expand the love from within the Trinity to a new creation: beings who also had intellect, will and the ability to return that love or the freedom to reject it.
Theologian Dr. Michael Himes notes in The Mystery of Faith, “The Incarnation,” that is, God desiring to become human, “is the highest compliment ever paid to being human.” In other words, God wanted to be one of us. And why is that? Because He is the source of love and of loving, and He therefore ultimately wanted to bring us home with Him—to our destiny. As written in Isaiah, “Who has formed and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the Lord, the first, and with the last; I am He.”