Framers of the Gospel
Among the literary characteristics of the Gospels, one of the most significant is their episodic structure. Although each Gospel is an integral literary composition, anyone can see that they were intended to be read story-by-story. These small narratives go by the Greek name pericope, which means “a rounded section.” Obviously, the established lectionaries present the Gospels this way.
Christians assimilate the mystery of Redemption in bite-size stories. The life, ministry, and teaching of Jesus are mediated to the Church in these enclosed frames of narrative. Each account represents a window, as it were, through which believers contemplate the apologos katholikos, the story as a whole.
Let me suggest that the episodic quality of the Gospels prompts a comparison with framed art and the stage. Indeed, I submit that all these forms take their rise from the same impulse: the need for a concentrated regard in order to contemplate the whole. Chesterton perceived this need when he remarked on “the boundary line that brings one thing sharply against another.” He went on to explain, “All my life I have loved frames and limits; and I will maintain that the largest wilderness looks larger seen through a window.”
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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
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