The first 18 verses of John’s Gospel are referred to as the “Prologue.” They deal with truths that soar far above the limits of human reason, and they are one of the reasons why John is symbolized as an eagle.
It is John’s prologue that explicitly states what we mean by the term Incarnation: “And the Word became flesh.” This is one of the most basic truths of our faith.
What we do teach is (take your time with this) . . . that the eternally pre-existing Son of God (the Second Person of the Trinity), at a certain point in time, became a human being, born of a woman. Jesus is truly divine and truly human, and neither detracts from the fullness of the other. He did not simply become “like us.” He became one of us, a permanent member of the human family.And (this is the most important part of all) he did this so that, as part of the human family and also Son of God, he could bring us into his own relationship to the Father.
This is what we celebrate at Christmas. And it’s something worth celebrating.
The “Last Gospel”
In the 13th century, it became custom in some places for priests to recite this Gospel passage privately after Mass as they were taking off their vestments.
In the form of the Mass that emerged from the Council of Trent (late 16th century), the priest was to read this Gospel passage (to himself) before leaving the altar. Catholics referred to this part of the Mass as “the Last Gospel.”
In the liturgical reform of Vatican II, this private thanksgiving of the priest was no longer included as part of the Mass.
- Little Blue Book, December 31