Christ's two glorifications
On this Sunday that falls between the feasts of the Ascension of the Lord and
Pentecost, the Church keeps the memory of the first Ecumenical Council (Nicaea
325). The appointed gospel reading for this memorial is (a portion of) the high-priestly
prayer of Jesus Christ, a prayer which the Lord pronounced in the presence of his
disciples only a few moments before his betrayal in the garden of Gethsemane, as
witnessed by St John the Theologian in his gospel.
In this prayer, Christ prays for his two-fold glorification: on the one hand he
prays for a glorification on earth through suffering on the cross and on the other hand
for a glorification in the presence of the Father through the action of the glory of his
divinity: ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you … Father,
glorify me with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed’.
In worldly terms, the first glorification is, as the apostle Paul says, ‘foolishness’.
For the Christian, however, this is the way of God on earth; the way of humble and
suffering love. The glorious summit of this way is Christ’s crucifixion, and this in its
turn opens the way for the second glorification. The Christian way is always through
the cross to the resurrection, as has been witnessed by the multitude of Christian
martyrs throughout the centuries.
Christ, then, asks his Father to glorify him, now, as a human person, since he
has glorified the Father on earth, as a human person, by finishing the work the Father
gave him to do. In the words of St Maximus the Confessor, Christ has fulfilled the
purpose of the Incarnation which, as he teaches, was to keep the two-fold
commandment of love as a man until the end. So now Christ asks the Father for the
second glorification, to glorify his human nature with his own divine pre-eternal glory,
so as to make it possible that those who are his own, namely the Church, the apostles
and those who believe through them and their successors, might also become partakers
of the same glory, to be given eternal life, to know the only true God.
After this Christ prays for the Church: ‘Holy Father, keep those you have given me
true to your name, so that they may be one, as we are one’. The first Ecumenical Council,
which we commemorate today, as an assembly of the successors to the apostles, is a
major expression of this unity of the Church for which Christ prays, as well as an
expression of her faithfulness to the truth that Christ has revealed to her. Christ says:
‘Now they know that everything you have given me is from you’. In actual fact, as the Son of
God, made man in Jesus Christ for our salvation, is ‘begotten of the Father before all
ages, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, consubstantial with