This Lent I have been reading Whittaker Chambers's Witness. Chambers says of himself, "I was a witness." If you have not read the book, read it. This time, I'm going to read it all the way through. To whet your appetite for Witness, please do read Bill Luse's excellent choice of selections.
I also began reading I John through with my younger daughters for the second time recently. St. John, very much like Chambers, thought of himself primarily as a witness: "And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." "That which was from the beginning, which we have seen with our eyes, which our hands have handled of the Word of life." "That which we have heard and seen declare we unto you." "And he who saw it bare record, and his record is true...that ye might believe."
John must have been quite young, in all probability only a teenager, when he lived with Our Lord through His ministry and was the only one of the twelve to witness the crucifixion. It was all burned into his mind in those early years, and then in old age he writes his epistle to "My little children" (a phrase he uses again and again), telling them, as the last living eyewitness, of what he has heard and seen. John was a witness.
This is what Chambers says about the cross, as a witness to his children:
My children, when you were little, we used sometimes to go for walks in our pine woods. In the open fields, you would run along by yourselves. But you used instinctively to give me your hands as we entered those woods, where it was darker, lonelier, and in the stillness our voices sounded loud and frightening. In this book I am again giving you my hands. I am leading you, not through cool pine woods, but up and up a narrow defile between the bare and steep rocks from which in shadow things uncoil and slither away. It will be dark. But, in the end, if I have led you aright, you will make out three crosses, from two of which hang thieves. I will have brought you to Golgotha – the place of skulls. This is the meaning of the journey. Before you understand, I may not be there, my hands may have slipped from yours. It will not matter. For when you understand what you see, you will no longer be children.I wish all of my readers a blessed Holy Week.
Assist us mercifully with thy help, O Lord God of our salvation; that we may enter with joy upon the meditation of those mighty acts, whereby thou hast given unto us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.