The Pater noster

I have no piercing insights on the Lord’s Prayer, but I should try to get my thoughts a bit more straight on the subject, so here are some reflections. (I’ll use the Latin version because it’s more Popish and so more in line with the blog’s theme.)

Pater noster, qui es in caelis,

It’s “our” Father—the prayer is essentially a prayer of the Church. (I wonder if anyone’s ever tried praying it in the singular? That would seem very odd. I wonder though why unless you’re ICEL it’s “I believe” in the Nicene Creed.)

Jesus addressed God as Father, and here he tells us to do so as well. That’s rather a change from the “I AM THAT I AM” of Moses, but it seems fitting for a religion of Incarnation (and therefore immediate personal relationship) as opposed to a religion of Law. God nonetheless remains transcendent and therefore distant—he’s in Heaven, which means he’s not here in any obvious way. The father who is also God in Heaven is a paradox, and the need to resolve the paradox sets up a dynamism that motivates the rest of the prayer.

sanctificetur nomen tuum.

So first and foremost, God’s name should be holy. Makes sense—it’s not obvious how we can speak of God at all, but if we can’t we’ve got big problems because it means we’re shut up in the closed circle of our own conceptions and experiences. We’ll never get anywhere. So it’s a very good and important and utterly basic thing that we can name God. (I wonder how this fits into speculations about “anonymous Christians”? Don’t know enough about them to say.)

Adveniat regnum tuum. Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo et in terra.

Here the dynamism is expanded. God’s our father, he’s also in Heaven, since we can name him he has a foothold here and we have one in Heaven, and Christianity is about expanding those footholds and resolving the paradox.

Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie, et dimitte nobis debita nostra sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem, sed libera nos a malo.

So here’s how some immediate practical issues that come up in bringing Heaven and earth together get resolved. There’s a great deal of Christian morality packed into those lines: simplicity and purity of life, reliance on God, humility and forgiveness. All of which makes sense—you don’t resolve paradoxes by forcing through complicated schemes that you’ve cooked up. You have to accept God’s way of dealing with things.

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