“And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me; that they may be brought to perfection as one…” (Jn 17:22-23)
Some pagan philosophies, including Plato’s, have put forward a didactic legend that the human race began as one soul which was broken apart. Plato posited that since the One has become many (Plato didn’t like the many) man is trying desperately to get back to the One. Plato explains that war is one way man unknowingly fights and claws his way back to the One. This is interesting as an ancient myth, but as a serious religious belief it will not do.
We know that only God is One, and that he has created many things and beings other than himself; and that he has called these “good” (Gen 1:10,18 etc.). We also know that war offers no promise, poetic or otherwise, toward unity. We know that war is the ultimate human disunity and that peace (e.g. which may sometimes come only after war) is what brings about unity.
We also know that the human race is not united. This is not to suggest that the world should have one government for all people; this would never accommodate the varied and diverse free peoples. The Church is certainly a sign of unity on earth, and it is more diverse and varied in peoples than anything the secular agenda could ever manage to construct artificially. The Church is of course the Body of Christ. Its unity relies upon the grace of God. It requires that the Father be in the Son and the Son in the Father and that this divinity be in us through the Holy Spirit. Charity and justice is one of the main unifiers of the Church. However, the Church would run amiss in its universality if it were to neglect its primary unifier, its common liturgy which must be wholesome, beautiful, and worshipful so as to preserve its dignified unity.
In order to capture this notion we have placed on our bulletin cover for this 7th Sunday in Easter a work by the minor Spanish Baroque painter Juan Carreno de Miranda, entitled Mass of St. John Matha (1666). Miranda was a court portrait painter who also had the Church as one of his patrons. St. John Matha was the founder of the Trinitarian order of priests whose original charism was to ransom back captive Christians from Muslim pirates.
Here we see the Holy Mass in its triumphant reality: a holy sacrifice offered by the priest, prayed for by the laity, witnessed by the saints, gathered in by the angels, and deposited at the throne of the Blessed Trinity – all through the vessel of the holy altar on earth. Unifying earth and heaven is also the prayer of the Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, seen standing in visionary form upon the tabernacle.
In this image the entire earthly attendance is focused on the consecration of the Holy Eucharist, while Miranda gives us also a vision of the invisible heavenly attendance which joyously receives this offering. In this great prayer, “the source and summit of the Christian life”, is the hope of all our unity, and the unity of all our hope.
–Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services