Jesus Christ the High Priest, Prayer card,
Printed circa 1910
© Private Collection, London
Our lord Jesus Christ the eternal high priest
Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said: ‘Father, the hour has come: glorify your Son so that your Son may glorify you; and, through the power over all mankind that you have given him, let him give eternal life to all those you have entrusted to him.
‘I pray for them; I am not praying for the world but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. ‘I passed your word on to them, and the world hated them, because they belong to the world no more than I belong to the world. I am not asking you to remove them from the world, but to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world, and for their sake I consecrate myself so that they too may be consecrated in truth.
‘I pray not only for these, but for those also who through their words will believe in me. May they all be one. Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me. I have given them the glory you gave to me, that they may be one as we are one. With me in them and you in me, may they be so completely one that the world will realise that it was you who sent me and that I have loved them as much as you loved me.
Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they may always see the glory you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.’
Reflection on the Prayer Card
Today we celebrate the feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest, which we now celebrate annually on the first Thursday after Pentecost. It is a day where we focus on Jesus’ priestly office and where we pray especially for our clergy and priests to be more Christ like. The Devil’s own words to Saint John Vianney (patron saint of priests) were ‘If there were three such priests as you, my kingdom would be ruined’! As lay people, we need holy priests who are true shepherds, willing to lay down their lives for their flock, so we must pray for them without ceasing.
We are looking at a lovely prayer card depicting Christ in red vestments. Red vestments are traditionally used by our priests on Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Pentecost Sunday, celebrations of the Lord’s passion, ‘birthday’ feasts of the apostles and evangelists, and celebrations of martyrs; red mainly reflecting the suffering of the Lord. I briefly want to reflect on these prayers cards which so many of us have in our wallets, bibles, books etc.... In our Christian tradition, these small, playing card-sized, mass produced devotional pictures are important. With the reverse usually containing a prayer, the image is what draws us in first. The invention of the technique of lithography, around 1800, made it possible to reproduce coloured images cheaply, which enabled a much broader circulation of these cards to the faithful. Like the present card, the colours are usually of pastel or soft tones, and eye catching. The image draws us in, but ultimately this imagery is always at the service of the text/prayer on the reverse.
Years ago, I met a collector of praying cards. He loved them, as they are small , usually inexpensive and can be stored safely in plastic sleeves in a binder so they don’t occupy a lot of space. He did say that every card held a prayer which was dear to him, and what I remembered was him telling me that each card was like a little window into heaven. A lovely way to look at these prayer cards. The joy of collecting, combined with the joy each prayer brought to him, was beautiful to witness…
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