From a commentary on the psalms by Saint Augustine, bishop
Jesus Christ prays for us and in us and is the object of our prayers
God could give no greater gift to men than to make his Word, through whom he created all things, their head and to join them to him as his members, so that the Word might be both Son of God and son of man, one God with the Father, and one man with all men. The result is that when we speak with God in prayer we do not separate the Son from him, and when the body of the Son prays it does not separate its head from itself: it is the one Saviour of his body, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who prays for us and in us and is himself the object of our prayers.
He prays for us as our priest, he prays in us as our head, he is the object of our prayers as our God.
Let us then recognise both our voice in his, and his voice in ours. When something is said, especially in prophecy, about the Lord Jesus Christ that seems to belong to a condition of lowliness unworthy of God, we must not hesitate to ascribe this condition to one who did not hesitate to unite himself with us. Every creature is his servant, for it was through him that every creature came to be.
We contemplate his glory and divinity when we listen to these words: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him nothing was made. Here we gaze on the divinity of the Son of God, something supremely great and surpassing all the greatness of his creatures. Yet in other parts of Scripture we hear him as one sighing, praying, giving praise and thanks.
We hesitate to attribute these words to him because our minds are slow to come down to his humble level when we have just been contemplating him in his divinity. It is as though we were doing him an injustice in acknowledging in a man the words of one with whom we spoke when we prayed to God. We are usually at a loss and try to change the meaning. Yet our minds find nothing in Scripture that does not go back to him, nothing that will allow us to stray from him.
Our thoughts must then be awakened to keep their vigil of faith. We must realise that the one whom we were contemplating a short time before in his nature as God took to himself the nature of a servant; he was made in the likeness of men and found to be a man like others; he humbled himself by being obedient even to accepting death; as he hung on the cross he made the psalmist’s words his own: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
We pray to him as God, he prays for us as a servant. In the first case he is the Creator, in the second a creature. Himself unchanged, he took to himself our created nature in order to change it, and made us one man with himself, head and body. We pray then to him, through him, in him, and we speak along with him and he along with us.
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From a letter by Fulgentius of Ruspe, bishop
Christ lives for ever to make intercession for us
Notice at the conclusion of our prayer we never say, “through the Holy Spirit” but rather “through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.” Through the mystery of the Incarnation, Jesus Christ became man, the mediator of God and man. He is a priest for ever according to the order of Melchizedek. By shedding his own blood he entered once and for all into the Holy Places. He did not enter a place made by human hands, a mere type of the true one; but, he entered heaven itself, where he is at God’s right hand interceding for us.
Quite correctly, the Church continues to reflect this mystery in her prayer.
This mystery of Jesus Christ the high priest is reflected in the apostle Paul’s statement: Through him, then, let us always offer the sacrifice of praise to God, the fruit of lips that profess belief in his name. We were once enemies of the Father, but have been reconciled through the death of Christ. Through him then we offer our sacrifice of praise, our prayer to God. He became our offering to the Father, and through him our offering is now acceptable. It is for this reason that Peter the apostle urges us to be built up as living stones into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices pleasing to God through Jesus Christ. This then is the reason why we offer prayer to God our Father, but through Jesus Christ our Lord.
When we speak of Christ’s priesthood, what else do we mean than the incarnation? Through this mystery, the Son of God, though his state was divine…emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave. As a slave, he humbled himself and in obedience he even accepted death. Even though he possessed equality with the Father, he became a little less than the angels. Always equal to the Father, the Son became a little less because he became a man. Christ lowered himself when he emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave.
By this condition, Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, though himself ever remaining God, became a priest. To him along with the Father, we offer our sacrifice. Yet, through him the sacrifice we now offer is holy, living and pleasing to God. Indeed, if Christ had not sacrificed himself for us, we could not offer any sacrifice. For it is in him that our human nature becomes a redemptive offering. When we offer our prayers through him, our priest, we confess that Christ truly possesses the flesh of our race. Clearly the Apostle refers to this when he says: Every high priest is taken from among men. He is appointed to act on behalf of these same men in their relationship to God; he is to offer gifts and sacrifices to God.
We do not, however, only say “your Son” when we conclude our prayer. We also say, “who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit. In this way we commemorate the natural unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is clear, then, that the Christ who exercises a priestly role on our behalf is the same Christ who enjoys a natural unity and equality with the Father and the Holy Spirit.