John 17, the Coin

Palermo Pantocrator Christ priest

John 17 has two names. 1. The Priestly Prayer of Jesus. 2. The Prayer of the Hour of Jesus.

Both names ultimately mean the same thing. In Christ’s “Hour,” Judas betrayed Him, like Adam and Eve and all us sinners betrayed Him. Jesus answered this betrayal with His sacrifice. He offered Himself with perfect justice and infinite love, for the salvation of His betrayers.

Christ’s prayer in John 17 reveals that His death involved not just an injustice, not just the wrongful execution of an innocent man. The Priestly Prayer reveals that Jesus’ death was no ‘tragedy.’ Christ took up the cross to make a thoroughly deliberate, wise, and all-knowing religious sacrifice. It was the sacrifice of His divine love: He offered Himself with perfect love to the Father, out of perfect love for us.

Christ’s prayer in John 17 reveals that the Crucified Lamb is the Creator and the Pantocrator, the ruler of everything. We can know Almighty God, and understand His many works, in only one way: By looking at a crucifix.

And this sacrifice, the true Passover sacrifice, is eternal. It happened at one point in time, to be sure, just as Jesus used a particular language and particular words to pray the prayer recorded in John 17. In that particular hour and using those particular words, however, the eternal, omnipotent Love–the unfathomable power that governs everything–revealed Himself.

Catechism-of-the-Catholic-CHurchJesus’ prayer to the Father, “Consecrate them in truth,” is not one human statement among many. It is not just one audio blip in the endless noise made by fallen man on this earth. It is not just a “tweet” by a Nazarene carpenter.

Consecrate them in truth is the eternal, unchanging divine will. It expresses the groaning of the eternal Spirit in the Heart of Christ, the inexpressible groaning that moved Christ to utter His every word and do His every deed.

The Catechism has six mind-blowingly profound paragraphs on John 17—article 3 of chapter 3 of Part IV. It all may seem way above our pay-grade—until we realize that John 17 and the Our Father are like two sides of the same coin.

The ‘heads’—John 17—belongs to Christ, the Head of the Body. The ‘tails’ is our dearest of all friends, the Our Father. Whenever we celebrate Holy Mass, we have the whole coin.

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Reality Novena

Father, consecrate us in the truth. Protect us from our propensities to subterfuge and close-mindedness. Free us from ourselves and the tendency we have to make up our own version of reality.

Now, if ever there were days to make a Novena…This is the week of the original Novena.

“Father, consecrate them in truth,” prayed the Lord Jesus. “Wait until you are clothed with power from on high,” He told His disciples.

ezekiel bonesCome, Holy Spirit of truth. Come and consecrate us with the greatest gift any human being can ever receive: a firm grip on reality.

I don’t know about you, but on Sunday something struck me like a ton of bricks, as if for the first time. The Savior came to the world, showed Himself the Savior, overcame death—and then He vanished.

He was here. At one time, Jesus wore shoes and a tunic of some kind, and dust collected on His garments, and He had to spend time cleaning His teeth every day.

But then He departed from the world. Peace out. To heaven. And—except by certain visionaries—He has not been seen with human eyes on the earth since.

This would seem to mean heartbreak and pain for His disciples. We read on Sunday, however, that they rejoiced and praised God when Jesus ascended and disappeared from their sight (Luke 24:52). The Master had triumphed altogether and returned to the unimaginable heaven from which He had come. Unlike the Christians of Miletus, who wept when St. Paul left them for good. In Jerusalem, after the Ascension of Christ, the disciples did not cry. Rather, joy filled their hearts as they prayed the first Novena.

el_greco-sinaiNow, we know that the Lord Jesus does not despise the world. He abides with us here still in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. And He promised one day to come again in the sight of every human eye. His sandals will touch the earth again. Then heaven and earth will come together. Where He disappeared to on Ascension Day, and where we are now, will be the same place.

And it’s not just a matter of our passively waiting for Him to come back in all His glory. We can hasten the re-union. By prayer and zealous works of justice and peace.

But this reality which the Holy Spirit helps us get a grip on… This truth…

The Holy Spirit, Who looks like…what exactly? Pentecost looks like: “power from on high.” I think the greatest artists will freely tell us: Not easy to depict this for human eyes. Actually, it’s altogether impossible.

For now—while we still make our pilgrim way—the true reality which the invisible Holy Spirit helps us grasp is itself a lot more invisible than it is visible. “Getting a grip”—really getting a grip on reality—means believing. We pray with joy that God will help us to get a firm grip on the ungraspable Truth that He Himself is.

Prayer of Christ Extended

When we pray, how do we do it?

We pray to the Almighty Father. We thank Him for giving us everything. We offer Him His own Son as our sacrifice. We pray on behalf of the whole Church, that we would be delivered from evil and reach the final goal. We pray that everyone, living and dead, would be gathered into Christ’s fold. We give the Father all glory and honor through Christ, and we consecrate ourselves in the Spirit of truth.

We pray this way by praying the Mass together. We pray like Christ Himself prayed at the Last Supper. He prayed to the Father with confidence and trust. He gave thanks for the gift of everything: His existence, born of infinite love. His mission. The glory prepared for Him and for all those predestined for glory with Him. He offered to the Father His sacrifice of obedience. And Christ united Himself with all who believe.

Our prayer at the altar echoes Christ’s priestly prayer. Jesus’ prayer at the Last Supper has not passed away; He hasn’t stopped praying to the Father for us. He prays perpetually as our High Priest in heaven. He prays for exactly what we need, when we need it. He pours out the right graces at the right time.

When we pray, we want only to pray with Him. Obviously, we cannot pray on our own any better than He can pray in us.

Praying with Him, uniting ourselves in our inmost souls with Him—that in and of itself can get us on the right track—and keep us on it. We can walk out of church peaceful, focused on what we need to focus on, full of love, ready to do what we need to do and help the people we need to help.

When we pray Christ’s prayer in union with Him, the world makes sense. Our lives make sense. Our duties make sense.

Which doesn’t mean easy. Easy doesn’t actually make sense for us. A self-respecting human being sitting around watching t.v. all day doesn’t make sense. A Christian living as if other people don’t matter doesn’t make sense.

Letting the Holy Spirit consume us with love, like He consumed Christ with love: that makes sense. Walking out of Mass dedicated to loving the least lovable people, like Christ has loved us: makes sense. Living at all times with gratitude to the Father, offering everything to Him, glorifying Him with the smallest, most apparently insignificant actions: all of this makes sense for someone who prays regularly with Christ the High Priest.

Pray like Christ, with Christ, in Christ. Live like Christ, with Christ, in Christ. One week at a time; one day at a time; one hour, one minute, at a time.

Next thing we know, we will be praying and living with Christ in heaven.

Christ the Priest’s Prayer

At the end of the Last Supper, the Lord Jesus prayed aloud to the Father.

He prayed for Himself, for His Apostles, and for us. In other words, He prayed as a priest. He offered Himself to the Father, He consecrated Himself, and He invoked divine assistance upon all the people gathered around Him—gathered around Him then and throughout the ages, from St. John and St. Peter down through time to us.

In the eternal Trinity–the blessed communion of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–there is no need for a priest. The three divine Persons are bound together in perfect, perpetual unity—more inseparable than a ball and its roundness or water and its wetness. A ball doesn’t need a priest to be round; water doesn’t need a priest to be wet; the eternal Son doesn’t need a priest to be consubstantial with the eternal Father.

But then God created. He created something other than Himself. He brought into existence a world with limts.

Don’t get me wrong. The world excites our wonder and esteem. As Woody Allen put it, “The world is the only place where you can get a good steak.” In this lovely world, you can grow blueberries; you can go for a boatride; you can listen to Mozart.

Continue reading “Christ the Priest’s Prayer”

91st Street Subway Station of Easter

When you ride the Seventh Avenue-Broadway IRT on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, you roll through the ghost of the 91st Street Station. The train doesn’t stop, because the station has been closed since 1959.

Book of the Holy Gospels
When you pray your way through the Easter season according to the Roman Missal–in most ecclesiastical provinces–you roll through the Seventh Sunday of Easter like a ghost station.

Because now this Sunday is the perpetual home of the Solemnity of the Ascension, transferred from Thursday. The liturgy train doesn’t stop on the pages of the Lectionary marked “Seventh Sunday of Easter” anymore.

The gospel reading for the Seventh Sunday of Easter is the priestly prayer of Jesus.

I certainly am not competent to judge great things, like how to make decisions about when people have to go to Mass.

But this situation is rather ironic.

According to the Second Vatican Council:

The treasures of the bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God’s word. In this way a more representative portion of the holy scriptures will be read to the people in the course of a prescribed number of years.

And yet, because going to Mass on a Thursday is too inconvient for people, we solemnly read the Prayer of the Hour of Jesus–by any estimation, one of the most important texts of Scripture, upon which the entire spiritual life of the Church is based–we read it in church…never.

(Well, only at daily Mass.)

Alas.

Perhaps you will say, ‘Father, we actually hear the priestly prayer of Jesus at EVERY Mass, because the Eucharistic Prayer is the Church’s humble echo of Her Founder’s prayer.’

You would have a fine point. I would grant your penetrating pertinacity. Praise God. You cheered me up.

But, nonetheless, it would be edifying, don’t you think, to hear the original version of the Eucharistic Prayer read from the holy book, at least every once in a while.