Saints Philip and James, Apostles
Today’s Office Antiphons
There is no doubt that the antiphons given in the Divine Office for the feast of Saints Philip and James are among the most beautiful of the Paschaltide liturgy. If you have an Antiphonale, open it and sing them! The Church takes the dialogue of the Gospel and, with an artistry inspired by the Holy Ghost, presents it anew in a series of antiphons interwoven with alleluias:
Domine, Ostende Nobis Patrem
The first antiphon is Philip’s bold request: “Lord, show us the Father and it is enough for us, alleluia” (John 14:8). Philip’s prayer echoes that of Moses in the book of Exodus: “I pray thee, show me thy glory” (Exodus 33:18).
Et Non Cognovistis Me?
The second antiphon is a poignant complaint of the Heart of Christ. It is addressed not to Philip alone, but also to each of us: “Have I been so long a time with you, and you have not known Me? Philip, he who sees Me sees also My Father, alleluia” (John 14:9).
Qui Videt Me
The third antiphon is Our Lord’s astonishing reply. He presents Himself to Philip as the icon of the Father: “Philip, he who sees Me sees also My Father, alleluia” (John 14:9).
The fourth antiphon is a gentle reproach; it ends nonetheless in a triple alleluia. The reproach becomes a promise full of hope: “If you had known me, you would also have known My Father. And henceforth you do know Him, and you have seen Him, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia” (John 14:7).
Si Diligitis Me
The fifth antiphon is an appeal to love. Like the fourth it ends in a triple alleluia: “If you love Me, keep my commandments, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia” (John 14:15).
There are two more antiphons to be considered. At the Benedictus it is Our Lord himself who sings in the midst of His Church: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me, alleluia.” The Church cannot but reply: “Yes, Lord, Thou art the way, and the truth, and the life. Behold, I come to the Father through Thee.” There is no better preparation for today’s Holy Mass. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the Church coming to the Father through the Son, united to Him as His Body and His Bride.
The Magnificat at Vespers will be framed by Our Lord’s words: “Let not your heart be troubled or afraid. You believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Father’s house there are many mansions, alleluia, alleluia” (John 14:1-2). These are words of comfort, words of hope for every situation of fading light and for those moments when darkness descends over the human heart.
[Note: The latest edition of the Antiphonale Monasticum (Solesmes 2007) gives John 1:45 for the Benedictus Antiphon and John 15:7 for the Magnificat. I prefer the ones given in the 1934 edition, probably because they have been my “friends” for lo all these years. One does develop a holy familiarity with certain liturgical texts and melodies. It is always unsettling when they are changed: like getting a letter back marked, “Left no forwarding address.”]
Meditatio At Its Best
By means of these antiphons, the various fragments of today’s Gospel are clothed in melodies that make them easier to assimilate and remember. One is gently compelled to linger over each word, holding it in the heart. Today’s liturgy is a perfect example of how the Divine Office spreads the radiance of Holy Mass throughout the day, moving us in the direction of ceaseless prayer. This is meditatio at its best: the repetition of the Gospel, sustained by simple melodies that allow it to be stored up in the secret tabernacle of the heart.
And Then We Shall Be Satisfied
Saint Philip’s request is one that, secretly, we all burn to put to Jesus; “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied” (John 14:8). This is the desire that the Finger of God (the Holy Ghost) has inscribed deep within the human heart. We were created to see God. We can be satisfied with nothing less. “My soul thirsts for God, the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God” (Psalm 41:2). And to this Philip adds: “and then we shall be satisfied” (John 14:8).
The Yearnings of the Human Heart
Ultimately the Face of God is the only reality that can satisfy the yearnings of the human heart. The eyes of the soul were created to feast upon the Divine Countenance. To see the Face of God is the craving that tormented and delighted the friends of God in every age: from Moses, Elijah, and David to Philip and James; and from the apostles to the saints of every age. I am reminded, in particular, of two holy priests of our own time, both ardent adorers of the Face of Christ: Saint Gaetano Catanoso (1879-1963) and the Servant of God, Benedictine Abbot Ildebrando Gregori (1894-1985). Both priests burned with desire to contemplate the Face of Christ. They found the Face of Christ veiled in the Eucharist. The found the Face of Christ in every human being marked by suffering, especially in needy children, in the poor, and in the sick. Saint John Paul II said that the basic task of every Christian is to become, first and foremost, “one who contemplates the Face of Christ.” Am I that Christian? Are you?
The Icon of the Invisible God
The drama of today’s Gospel is that Philip is face-to-face with Our Lord and doesn’t realize who He is. In the Prologue of Saint John we read: “No one has ever seen God; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known” (John 1:18). To contemplate the Face of Jesus Christ is to know God. Saint Paul says to the Colossians: “He is the image, the icon of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). In the Letter to the Hebrews, we read: “He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3).
And Yet You Do Not Know Me
And so, Jesus says, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? (John 14:9). Our Lord addresses the same question to each of us: How long have I been with you? How long have you been baptized? How long have you had the sacraments, the liturgy, the Scriptures, the Mother of God, the friendship of the saints? And not without a divine sadness, Jesus says: “And yet you do not know me?” (John 14:9).
The Face of Christ
We know Our Lord when we experience in the bright darkness of faith that to contemplate His Face is to see the Father. Christ would have us gaze upon his Face with the eyes of faith; he would have us experience, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, that He is in the Father and that the Father is in Him (cf. John 14:10). One who contemplates the Holy Face here below with the eyes of faith has begun already to participate in the joy of the blessed in heaven.
The Love of the Sacred Heart
To all who seek His Face, to all who gaze upon it through the lattice of the Scriptures, and hidden beneath the sacramental veils in the Most Holy Eucharist, Our Lord makes this promise: “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14). Contemplating the Face of Christ emboldens us to ask, and to ask confidently, in His Name. One cannot look into the Face of Christ, the human Face of God, and remain paralyzed by fear. The contemplation of the Face of Christ is liberating; it is the secret of living in the love that casts out fear, the love of His Sacred Heart.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the school of all right asking in the name of Christ and in the light of His Face. In response to the Church’s sublime “Eucharistic Asking” the Father will pour forth the Holy Ghost on the holy oblations, and on all of us. In that Asking-in-the-Name-of-Christ and in the light of His Face the Father will be glorified. “Look upon us, O God, our protector, and behold the Face of your Christ” (Psalm 83:9).