Fathers Nolan and Brown’s Commentary on John 17:20-26

Joh 17:20  And not for them only do I pray, but for them also who through their word shall believe in me.

Instead of shall believe the more probable Greek reading has the present tense, as if Christ looked upon the Churchof the future as actually present. He now prays not alone for the Apostles, but for all who should believe through their preaching. There is direct reference to the Apostles and their converts, but the prayer of Christ included the successors of both.

Joh 17:21  That they all may be one, as thou, Father, 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 unity of the faithful cannot, of course, equal the unity of nature in the Persons of the Blessed Trinity; but since it is here compared with the latter, we are justified in concluding that it is as perfect as possible; and hence a unity of intellect through faith, of will through charity, and of government through the due subordination of the different members. Such a moral miracle as this unity implies, must suppose a principle of unity in the Church; that is to say, a teaching and ruling authority by which this marvellous unity is Divinely secured.

The words That the world may believe that thou hast sent me show that this unity was to be a note of the true Church, pointing it out even to the wicked world as the Church of God.

Joh 17:22  And the glory which thou hast given me, I have given to them: that, they may be one, as we also are one.

And the glory which thou hast given me, I have given to them. (1) Some under stand the glory here mentioned to be the gift of working miracles; (2) others, the glory about to be enjoyed by Christ’s humanity, which is to be shared in by all the faithful after the day of judgment; (3) others, the glorious privilege of Divine filiation which makes the faithful the adopted sons, as Christ was the natural Son, of God; (4) others, in fine, the glory of the Divinity which Christ had just shared with the Apostles that night, and which He was to share with all the faithful in future, in giving them His own glorious and Divine Person in the Blessed Eucharist.

We believe that either the third or fourth is the correct opinion. But it is not easy to choose between these two. The third is the more obvious, and is certainly very probable; but in favour of the fourth it must be said it was very natural that Christ speaking of the union of the faithful on this night when He had instituted the Blessed Eucharist, should refer to that wonderful cause and pledge of union which He had just left to the faithful in the Blessed Sacrament: “For we, being many, are one bread, one body, all that partake of one bread” (1 Cor 10:17). See also John 6:57.

Joh 17:23  I in them, and thou in me: that they may be made perfect in one: and the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them, as thou hast also loved me.

I in them, and thou in me. This clause is in apposition to the last clause of the preceding verse: “that they may be one, as we also are one,” and explains how the union there spoken of is effected, namely, by the presence of Christ in the faithful.

Joh 17:24  Father, I will that where I am, they also whom thou hast given me may be with me: that they may see my glory which thou hast given me, because thou hast loved me before the creation of the world.

Here, too, as in verses 11, 12, some of the critics read the neuter pronoun ὦ (that which) instead of ους   (they whom). The Vulgate reading is at least equally  probable. Having prayed in verses 20-23 for all the faithful, Christ now continues His prayer for the Apostles, as a comparison of this verse with verses 1 1 and 12 proves. And this, His last petition for them, is, that they may one day be made partakers of that glory which He as God enjoyed eternally, and into which as man He was to enter at His ascension.

That they may see my glory; that is to say, see and enjoy the glory of My Divinity (reflected also in My humanity; see above on verse 5). We believe there is not question merely of the glory of Christ’s humanity, for He seems to pray here that the Apostles may enjoy the bliss of heaven, which does not consist in the vision of Christ’s humanity, but in the vision and enjoyment of the Divinity. If this is the correct view, and we think, with Lapide, that it is, then this glory was given From all eternity to the Son. The words: Because thou hast loved me, do not, in this view, state the cause of the communication of the eternal glory of the Father to the Son. See above on 5:20.

If the words be understood, as St. Aug. understood them, of Christ’s humanity, then the meaning is: Share with My Apostles the glory which Thou art about to bestow upon Me because from all eternity Thou hast loved Me, and predestined Me as man for this glory. In this view the love of the Father for Christ as man is the reason why He glorifies Christ’s humanity.

The phrase before the creation of the world, or more accurately, “before the foundation of the world,” denotes that the world is not eternal; while Christ’s claim to have been loved by the Father before creation, is a claim to personal existence before the world began and indirectly, therefore, a claim to an eternal Personality.

Joh 17:25  Just Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee. And these have known that thou hast sent me.
Joh 17:26  And I have made known thy name to them and will make it known: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.

These verses give a reason why the Father who is just, and who rewards man’s  merits, even though these merits are themselves the result of His grace, ought to hear Christ’s prayer. The reason is, because He who prays had known and loved the Father, and they for whom He prays had known and received Himself as the Messias. Moreover, He had made known the Father to them, and would do so still more, afterwards, through the Holy Ghost.

That the love wherewith thou hast loved me, may be in them, and I in them. Here He states His object in making known the Father s name. It was in order that the special love of the Father might extend to them, and that He Himself might remain intimately united to them by His grace, and by the presence of the Divinity in their souls.

With these beautiful and consoling words, which be spoke the special love of the Father for the Apostles, and His own enduring presence with them notwithstanding His departure, Christ concludes this sublime prayer to His eternal Father.

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One Response to Fathers Nolan and Brown’s Commentary on John 17:20-26

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year C | stjoeofoblog

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