Friday, April 17, 2009

High Priestly Prayer - John 17

After the end of the farewell discourse, immediately following it, when, according to the suggestion of some interpreters, the Lord and His disciples, on their to Gethsemane, had already reached the Kidron Valley, but not yet crossed it, the Lord spoke out loud before His disciples His triumphant prayer to God the Father. This prayer is normally called the High Priestly Prayer, inasmuch as in it the Lord prays to God the Father as the Great High Priest, offering Himself as a sacrifice that has a great and inexplicable significance for the entire world.

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee” — it is with this solemn exclamation that the Lord begins His prayer. The hour of My sufferings has arrived: allow Me to demonstrate in this hour all My love for Thee and for the world created by Thee, so that through My forthcoming deed [podvig] of redeeming mankind Thy glory may be revealed. “As Thou hast given Him authority over all flesh...” The Father entrusted the whole human race to His Son, so that He might undertake its salvation and grant eternal life to humanity. The Lord defines eternal life as the knowledge of God and the Redeemer of the world sent by Him. In the Lord’s spiritual vision, all His work appears already accomplished, and therefore He says: “I have glorified Thee on earth…” Now it remains for Him to enter the Divine glory in His humanity, for which He prays: “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Thyself, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.” This first part of the Lord’s prayer concerns Himself (verses 1-5).

Having finished the prayer about Himself, the Lord prays further for His disciples (verses 6-19), for those to whom He is now entrusting the mission of spreading and affirming on earth His Kingdom. The Lord, as it were, gives an account to God the Father of what He had achieved: He has revealed to His disciples the full and correct understanding of God, and they have become God’s elected, having received the Divine teaching, brought from the Father by His Son, and they have also comprehended the mystery of the Divine dispensation. The Lord further prays for His disciples, that the Heavenly Father would take them under His special protection in this hostile world, where they will remain alone after the Lord’s departure, that He would preserve them pure and holy in spiritual unity of faith and love among themselves, in the unity that is akin to the unity of God the Father and God the Son. The Lord states further that He, being in the world, protected them from downfall, and “none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (Judas the betrayer), that is, according to the prophesy of Psalm 40:10. Praying to His Father for the preservation of His disciples from all the evil in this world that hates them, the Lord asks that they be enlightened with the Word of Divine truth, that is, to grant them unique gifts of grace for their successful service of spreading the true teaching throughout the entire world. The Lord states further that He consecrates Himself for their sake – offering Himself as a sacrifice, that they might follow in His footsteps and become His witnesses and sacrifices for the truth.

The third part of the Lord’s Prayer — concerning the faithful — begins from verse 20. The Lord prays for them: “That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, are in Me, and I in Thee; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me” — the union of the faithful in Christ must be similar to the unity of God the Father with God the Son. This means, of course, a moral union [нравственное единение]. Such a union of all Christians in faith and love would assist to bring the whole world to belief in Christ as the Messiah. We can see this in the first centuries of Christianity when – apart from those who were completely spiritually blind and hard-hearted – the elevated beauty of Christ’s teaching captured both Jews and pagans, who became Christians themselves. The Lord further defines this union of all the faithful as unity in the glory of God and Christ. In the following verses (22-24), the Lord, as it were, contemplates His Church in heavenly glory and in the union with God in the Messianic Kingdom, saying that this glory will bring even the world hostile to Christ, against its will, to the acknowledgment that the Lord Jesus is the true Messiah. The words: "Father, I desire that they also whom Thou has given Me may be with Me where I am" are akin to the last will of the Dying One, which should undoubtedly be carried out, especially since the will of the Son of God is inseparable from the will of God the Father: here giving His life for the world’s salvation, the Son of God is appealing to God the Father, asking for all the faithful those Heavenly mansions about which He spoke to His Apostles at the beginning of His farewell discourse (John 14:2).

Verses 25 and 26 represent the conclusion of the High Priestly Prayer, where the Lord addresses God the Father as the All-righteous Rewarder. The Lord points out the superiority of the faithful over the rest of the world, in that they "have known God" and consequently are capable of receiving the gifts of Divine love. The Lord asks that God the Father make them known to the world by His generosity and make them communicants of the love that He has for His Son: "That the love with which Thou hast loved Me may be in them." For this, the Lord Jesus Himself promises to "be in them," so that the love of the Father that continuously dwells in the Son might extend, from the Son and for the sake of the Son, onto those in whom the Son abides. Thus this all-uniting and all-enveloping love will be all-perfecting in the eternal glory of the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Archbishop Averky †1976 (ROCA)

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