Tag Archives: Advocate

The Father’s Face

Russian icon, The Mystical Supper (early 14th century). Fresco in Vatopedi Monastery, Mt. Athos.

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter

John 14:7-14

If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.

John 14:7

Holy prophets longed to see what the disciples saw but did not see it (Matthew 13:17; 1 Peter 1:10-11). Angels bend and “stoop sideways” (parakúpto) with a yearning to peer into the hidden mysteries of Christ (1 Peter 1:12). 

Not even Moses, who saw God’s glory pass before him on Mount Sinai (Exodus 33:18-23), saw what the disciples saw. Theirs was a singular privilege in the history of Israel. Yet Philip repeated Moses’ request as if nothing new had taken place.

Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”

John 14:8

Moses said, “Show me your glory!”

Exodus 33:18; LXX

Philip duplicated Moses’ request with the same opening words in the Greek version: Show me/us the…

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.

John 14:9-10

What does it mean to know and be known in a relationship? The disciples knew Jesus’ name, physical features, family, community, culture, religion, language, and many of his teachings. But did they really know who Jesus was? 

None of the above variables for knowing a person touched the depth of Jesus’ identity. The unseen Father dwelling in the Son, and the Son dwelling in the Father remained an opaque mystery to the disciples. Yet this is who Jesus was, is, and ever will be, for ever and ever. Prior to the Virgin birth, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” Undivided yet distinct, Father and Son speak with one voice, and act as one God.

Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. 

John 14:11

Considering God’s point of view, how are free thinking human beings to be brought into the knowledge of the Blessed Trinity? Making himself visible in the Son as a human being was the climax of the Abrahamic covenant and prophecies, but the Father remained hidden and unknown. Jesus used two main methods: words (“believe me”) and works (signs and wonders).   Theophanies at the Baptism in the Jordan and the Transfiguration also revealed the identity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  As the Last Supper Discourse progresses, God’s final and most powerful method will be disclosed: 

The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.

John 14:26

The Holy Spirit completes the mission of the Son, whose outpouring of grace will be the cause of “greater works” accomplished through the Body of Christ:

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.

John 14:12

Jesus’ “going to the Father” is the hinge for the Spirit’s movement from one end of the earth to the other, and from the Jewish nation to the nations of the world.

And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.

John 14:13-14

In Hebrew culture, names represent persons and their characters. Faith in the name, character, and person of Jesus Christ brings glory to the Father. 

The priestly blessing to Aaron and his sons became flesh in Jesus Christ. The face of God the Father shone upon his disciples and blessed them. 

The Lord bless you and keep you!
The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!
So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites, and I will bless them.

Numbers 6:24-27

-GMC

What is Life in the Spirit?

Entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), 12th C. mosaic, Palermo Cathedral, Palermo, Sicily, Italy.

What is Life in the Spirit?

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Zechariah 9:9-10; Psalm 145; Romans 8:9, 11-13; Matthew 11:25-30

The theme of littleness runs through the readings this Sunday, from the humble prince of peace riding on an ass to the little ones to whom the Son wishes to reveal the Father. The little ones of the kingdom bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit—love, joy peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

In St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, many in the churches had not yet fully experienced this abundant grace in the Spirit; hence the need to point out its contrast with the fleshly life. After accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior, believers still struggled with pride and other vices. Elsewhere in St. Paul’s letters, contentions and factions also arose among the followers of the “meek” king. Why didn’t a simple assent to truth automatically translate into the transfigured, deified life?

An objective, detached assessment of the spiritual life must admit that baptism is not a magical rite that automatically divinizes a person. It plants a seed of grace that must be continually watered, nourished, pruned and guarded in order to allow it to grow and flourish. Grace is the seed of glory. Seeds can also die in dry and barren ground, and never bear fruit.

Brothers and sisters: You are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.

Why would St. Paul use the conditional “if,” unless deification (transformation into Christ) was not automatic, but a process requiring watchfulness and attention?

For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

More “ifs” follow, plus the action verb “put to death,” with the Christian as the subject and the Spirit as our Paraclete. The baptized do not follow Christ by riding on his Cross, but by carrying it with him (a “yoke” is made for two) and crucifying the “old man” with its deeds. We have an Advocate to strengthen our spirit. The Greek Fathers used the word “synergy” to describe the process of deification—a mystical work of the human person and the Holy Spirit moving as one.

If the Christian life sounds burdensome, Jesus told us that the life of the little ones is restful:

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

In the Little Way of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, she described the spiritual life as a ride in an “elevator” to heaven, which sounds contradictory to the Pauline battle. But the life of the Little Flower was full of tearful self-conquest. Her testimony of ease and trust in Jesus (her “elevator”) came from a deep resolve to follow him day after day as a little child.

“The Lord lifts up all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down” (Psalm 145:14).

-GMC

The Spirit of Truth

Simon Ushakov, Last Supper, 1685

6th Week of Easter, Monday

John 15:26-16:4a

At the nexus between heaven and earth, the Son and the Spirit orchestrate our grand return to the Origin. From the Father and to the Father, the Holy Spirit conceived the Son in the womb of the Virgin. By baptism “with the Holy Spirit and with fire,” He now conceives the Son in the hearts of human persons, commencing their return to the Womb of the Father. 

“When the Advocate comes… 

Or Paraclete, Counselor, Comforter, Intercessor, Strengthener… “he will testify to me. And you also testify…” 

As one, synergistic team. The Holy Spirit does not testify apart from us, nor we apart from Him. 

The apostles have a special role to play “because you have been with me from the beginning.” 

The transition from the Old Covenant to the New will be filled with turbulence as centuries-old traditions violently resist change. 

“They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God.” Religious zeal, as in the case of St. Paul before his conversion, may be sincerely wrong.

“They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me.” The apostles, too, need to be strengthened in this truth in order to give it to others.

Before Pentecost, the disciples may feel like “orphans,” but when the Advocate comes—“the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father”— they will know with certainty, in union with the Son, that they have a Father in heaven.

-GMC