Before departing for the garden of His agony, our Lord prays one of the most beautiful prayers in all the New Testament. Comprising the entire seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of St. John, the prayer is distinguished as priestly by two aspects, i.e. sacrifice and intercession.
To delve more deeply into the prayer’s priestly richness, many have noted how it is divided into parts. No one less than St. Thomas Aquinas identified three petitions. Our Lord first prayers for Himself, followed by a prayer for the Apostles, and finally a prayer for the entire Christian people (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, Chapter 17, Lecture 1-6).
Our Lord, tenderly but majestically, addresses the Father. His “hour has come” (John 17:1), and through that hour of suffering and death He prays that glory will come to Him so that the Son can glorify the Father (John 17:2). He will do this by imparting “eternal life” (John 17:2). The Son has revealed the Father’s name to those who belong to Him (John 17:6). We must appreciate that in Judaism pronouncing the name of God, i.e. the Tetragrammaton, is forbidden (cf. Mishnah, Sanhedrin 11:1). An exception was on the Day of Atonement set aside to atone for sin. The high priest would speak the name (Sirach 50:20). Here, in this prayer, our Lord, like the High Priest that He is, clearly states, “I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world” (John 17:6).
Through this prayer we are given special insight into Jesus Christ. He is entirely new. He is at once the priest and the sacrifice for sin (cf. St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermo 108). “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession” (Hebrews 4:14).