[Article from Sunday, 28May23]
Today we commemorate the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council. As we do so, the Holy Church gifts to us today’s Gospel reading, which is the Lord’s “High Priestly Prayer” from the Gospel of St. John, Chapter 17.
There are a couple of “Why’s?” that you are likely to be asking.
Number one—Why is this passage referred to as the Lord’s High Priestly Prayer? In John 14, Jesus begins to teach His beloved Apostles what is about to happen. He tells them plainly about His departure, that they “know the way” to where He is going, and He blesses them, granting peace. In Chapter 15 He teaches them to “remain in Him”, to love one another, and that the world would hate them, as it hated Him. In Chapter 16 He promises them that the Holy Spirit will come to them, “to guide you in all truth.”
It is in Chapter 17 that the High Priestly Prayer takes place. St. John makes it abundantly clear that this IS prayer by beginning the chapter with the words, “Jesus spoke these words, lifted His eyes to heaven, and said…”
Within the prayer, the Lord prays that the Father will glorify Him, that in so doing He may glorify the Father. He prays for eternal life for those who have followed Him. He attests to the Father that these men have in fact “believed that You sent Me.” He says clearly, “I pray for them,” and then asks the Father to keep them, not in an earthly fashion, but a heavenly one, “that they may be one as We are one.” This is a prayer for ultimate unity for mankind through the Holy Trinity!
Number two—Why is this passage selected on a day that commemorates the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council?
There are so many connections between our Lord’s High Priestly Prayer and the continuation, the eternal support of His Bride, the Church, that they cannot be ignored.
Perhaps some of these, not being stated with specificity, might be ignored in such a review, but when pondering the Lord’s more eternal meaning, they become obvious.
Verse 8: “I have given them the words which You have given Me; and they received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You.”
Verse 11: “Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as we are one.”
Verse 15: “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.”
Verse 17: "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth."
Verse 20: "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;”
Verse 21: “that they may all be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they may also be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
The Holy Church was under attack by those who would pervert the faith, teaching heresy about the person of Jesus Christ. His Body, His Bride, the Church, needed the unity and spiritual guidance that this prayer, prayed centuries before, would bring to preserve His Church—for all time. The Apolytikion from Vespers says it this way:
Come you assemblies of Orthodoxy, celebrating with worship and faith the feast of the Holy Fathers. They came to Nicea from throughout the world, and in their wisdom and piety they refuted Arius, dispelling the impious belief which he invented. They banished him by decree of the Council of the Holy Catholic Church, teaching all to confess that Christ is the Son of God, consubstantial and coeternal with the Father before eternity, accurately defining the Canon of Faith. Let us follow their divine doctrines and worship Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Trinity on in essence, and undivided!
Christ is Ascended!!!