Father, sanctify them!

It’s not surprising that a contemplative like Daniel should be drawn to John 17 and the issue of sanctification. The book we have titled in translation Jesus’ Final Prayer, in French, Le monde, sanctuaire et champ de bataille, is an extended look at the passage, whereas here it is the starting place for a general look at sanctification leading into what it means to be a priest, examining closely the chapter in Leviticus (16) on the role of the high priest, Aaron, on the day of Atonement, ie making atonment. Clearly, sanctification has to do not so much with moral behaviour, but with intercession, prayer.

A few observations from the first chapter, ‘Jesus’ prayer’. Firstly, this was not a subject mentioned even once by Jesus until his Passion, in the shadow of the Cross; sanctification has meaning only through the cross. Secondly, as part of a general discussion of sanctification, Daniel says that holiness certainly means moral perfection, but rooted in God, received from God, turned towards God, experienced in God. Next: what part does the Law play in sanctification? Well, the Law is not so much commandments as teaching, and contains promise: it is not simply Be holy! but also You shall be holy! God will help you; it is he who sanctifies. Lastly, among many possible comments, jesus invites us to take his prayer in John 17 and make it our own, in prayer for those he entrusts to us.

The larger part of the book is devoted to Yom Kippur and Aaron’s role. Again, a few observations. Firstly, a close look at the passage brings home the truth of God’s holiness, and what it means for Him to approach people and deal with sin; the Yom Kippur ritual is amazing, including a theophany; it’s very rich. Secondly, the way to read is through the grid of the letter to the Hebrews; and thirdly, connected to Hebrews and its Christology, there is a look at the appearance of the priest following atonement as recorded in Sirah, the priest appearing in glory.

This review merely touches on a number of very rich themes in a very instructive book.

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