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Jesus in John's gospel speaks the language of the mysteries. “Some Greeks” approach him through Philip, likely a Greek himself given his name. It's not entirely clear what they want with a Jewish holy man, but Jesus responds to them in their own symbol vocabulary.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. – John 12:24-25 (RSV-CE)

This is the language of the Eleusinian Mysteries, the annual initiation into the cult of Demeter and Persphone.

Drawing upon the myth of Demeter’s descent into the underworld to rescue her daughter Persphone whom Hades had abducted, initiates achieved an elevated consciousness, likely realizing an innate connection between the seasonal cycles of nature's rebirth and the fate of their soul in the underworld. Though we don't know much about the precise rituals of this premiere secret society of the Athenian world, thanks to the Church Father Hippolytus, we do know that initiates achieved this new spiritual awareness upon being shown “an ear of grain, in silence reaped.”

The Christ speaks to each culture in the language of its own dreams. For these Greeks, the Jewish Messiah revealed all the richness of their most esoteric tradition. What mystery does he reveal today?

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Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the Catholic Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1965, 1966 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.