Monday, September 16, 2019

Understanding the Lord’s Prayer (3) - Hallowed Be Thy Name

To be hallowed means to be holy. Saint John Chrysostom says the prayer “commands him who prays to seek that He [God] may be glorified also by our life.” We as God’s children, those who dare to call Him Father, to Hallow Him we too must become holy. In this way He is glorified through us. 

God is perfect, all holy. The meaning therefore cannot be to make God more holy. Saint Cyril says, “We say then, that men do not supplicate for any addition of holiness to accrue unto God over all: for who is greater than He, and able to give Him any increase?” It is we who must become like God. God must be glorified through our way of life.

Saint Theophylact says similarly,
This means, make us Holy, so that Thou mightiest be glorified through us. For just as God is blasphemed through me, so also He is hallowed through me, He is glorified as the Holy One.Theophylact on Matthew p 58
Saint Cyril of Alexandria puts it this way,
For when it is our settled conviction and belief, that He Who by nature is God over all, is Holy of the Holies, then we confess His glory and supreme majesty; then we receive His fear into our mind, and lead upright and blameless lives, that by thus becoming ourselves holy, we may be able to be near unto the holy God.
The prayer, therefore, is "May Thy Name be kept holy in us, in our minds and wills." For this is the signification of the word, "hallowed."

Again we are reminded and committing ourselves to perfecting ourselves in God’s image and likeness. We are asking for help to understand all He has commanded of us and to guide us in our daily life so we can glorify Him by the way we live. God is not requesting any addition be made to His holiness. He wants us to pray that we posses a holy mind, true faith, and develop the feeling that His name is most holy.

Saint John Cassian says,
The hallowing of God is our perfection.... We are saying in other words: Make us such, Father that we may deserve to understand and grasp how great your hallowing is and, of course, that you may appear as hallowed in our spiritual life... when people see in us our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven.Cassian 9th Conference, p 342
Saint Gregory of Nyssa writes,
I think, we should pray and regard it as the sum of prayer, that the Name of God should not be blasphemed but rather be glorified and be hallowed through our way of life.
We say this prayer with the understanding that our aim in our life here on earth is to actualize in all our actions His perfection, His love, His humility. We are paying that we will in fact glorify Him by our actions. When we believe He is holy then we will have fear for Him and we will accept that His will is our means to holiness.

Saint Gregory of Nyssa puts it this way,
the meaning of these words apply to me actualizing God's blessings. Lord, through the cooperation of Your help, may I become blameless, just and pious. Abstaining from every evil, may I speak the truth, practicing righteousness and walking on the straight path. May I shine with prudence, be adorned with incorruption, and be beautified with wisdom and discernment.
One way we hallow His name is to pray for the whole world. We must pray for the believers and non-believers, for those with strong faith and those with weak faith. 

Saint Cyril writes,
Following the footsteps of Christ, Who according to the words of John is the "Advocate with the Father... for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world" (1 Jn. 2: 1). Therefore He Who is the Intercessor for the saints, and for the whole world, wills that His disciples be like Himself.
It is as Saint Cassian so simply says,
We testify that our desire and our joy is the glory of our Father, since we have become imitators of him who said: “The one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is no righteousness in him.   Cassian 9th Conference p 341

References: Saint Cyril of Alexandria’s Homilies on the Lord’s Prayer, Saint Theophylact’s commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Saint Gregory of Nyssa discourse on the Lord’s Prayer.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Understanding the Lord’s Prayer (2): Who art in heaven

When we choose to call God our Father and add, “Who art in heaven,” we acknowledge that God’s homeland is in heaven. What does this imply for us? That being His Children, we too see our homeland in heaven.

Saint Theophylact says,
By saying  “in the heavens” He has revealed to you your fatherland and your paternal home. For if you desire to have God as your father, then look toward heaven and not toward earth. Theophylact on Matthew p 58
We now live on earth and it seems far removed from heaven. We may feel like our Father is a long way away. Honoring His abode in Heaven we must have a great desire to be united with Him. Our aim becomes having a place in Heaven. Wanting to be good children of His, we want to do what is necessary to be worthy of a life in His homeland.

Saint Cassian says,
We sojourn on this earth as on a journey and are kept at a far distance from our Father, we may instead hasten with great desire to that region in which we say that our Father dwells and do nothing that would make us unworthy of this profession of ours and of the nobility of so great an adoption... Cassian 9th Conference p341
This prayer reminds us where we as humans have fallen from. When God created man and women they were in Paradise, But, unable to follow his direction, they were cast out to toil and suffer a mortal life on earth. We also know that we were created in His image and likeness and belong with Him there. We have no choice when we choose to recite this prayer to commit ourselves to a way of life that is like heaven.

Saint Gregory of Nyssa writes,
They remind us of the homeland from which we have fallen and of the noble status from which we have been exiled... by directing you to address God as your own Father in prayer, commands nothing less than that you become like the heavenly.
References: Saint Cyril of Alexandria’s Homilies on the Lord’s Prayer, Saint Theophylact’s commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Saint Gregory of Nyssa discourse on the Lord’s Prayer.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Understanding the Lord’s Prayer (1): Our Father

Most of us memorized the Lord’s Prayer when we were very young. We continue to repeat it, often without much feeling. For many, we recite it out of habit. We should not be lulled to sleep in this way. This is a prayer given to us by God Himself. It has great meaning and teaches us how we are to pray.

Most Church Fathers commenting on this prayer begin with an exclamation and question, “How can we dare call God our father?” When the priest calls us to pray the Lord’s Prayer in the Divine Liturgy as we prepare to receive Holy Communion he says,  “And grant us, Master, with boldness and without condemnation, to dare call You, the heavenly God, Father, and to say...” Why does he say it takes boldness that we would dare to say this prayer?
Have you thought about why you are willing to call God, “Our Father”? 

This prayer was taught to His disciples. It wasn’t a general prayer given to all mankind. It is a prayer for Christians who have a devotion to Christ and consider themselves a disciple. The first phrase of the prayer, “Our Father”, is a bold assertion because it means we assume we are like him. We have many traits that are like our biological father, so using the same word, it must mean that we think we are God’s children and also share in His attributes. So from the first two words of this prayer we are affirming that we are children of the Triune God, accept that we are created in His image, desire to become like Him, and are willing to be instructed by Him. How can we dare call Him “Our Father”?

Saint Gregory of Nyssa says;
One thing is very clear. If we had any sense, we would not dare address God with such a name and say "Father," unless we perceived a reflection of the same attributes in ourselves. For it is impossible that God who is good in His very essence should be the Father of anyone engaged in evil activities. 
God sent His only begotten Son to take on flesh and become fully human while remaining fully God. He came to rescue us from the slavery to sin. In Scripture it reads, "He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (Jn. 1: 11-13). Giving to us the destiny to become like Him, one of His children, he commands us to call Him Father.

Saint Cyril of Alexandria says;
He commands us, therefore, to take boldness and say in our prayers, "Our Father." We children of earth and slaves, and subject by the law of nature to Him Who created us, call Him Who is in heaven "Father."
Saint Theophylact says;
By saying “Father”, the Lord shows you of what good things you have been deemed worthy, having become son of God.
Theophylact on Matthew p 57
Saint Gregory of Nyssa says that when we dare to call God our father we must demonstrate our kinship with Him. How? By our way of life. Knowing the perfect nature of God we are attesting to the fact that we too can become perfect. We also know that He loves us and will help us grow into this perfection as good children. We have committed ourselves to be like Him. We do this because we love him dearly. He is the one who gave us life.
Saint Cyril of Alexandria says;
if we call God "Father," and have been counted worthy of so distinguished an honor, must we now necessarily lead holy and thoroughly blameless lives, and so behave as is pleasing to our Father, and neither think nor say anything unworthy or unfit for the freedom that has been bestowed upon us?
What is a primary attribute of God? He is unchangeable and eternal. This implies that if we are so bold to call him Father, then we acknowledge that we have a soul that is eternal and desires to be unchangeable. But we know that at present we are filled with worldly passions, desires, happiness and sadness. It seems to be ever changing. How can we be a child of Him who is perfect and unchangeable? The recitation of this prayer commits ourselves to a path of perfection, to rid ourselves of these passions so our soul can become unchangeable and always filled with love just like our father.

Saint Gregory of Nyssa puts it this way;
I would have to remove my mind far from all things that change and are in flux. By attaining to an unchanging and unwavering disposition of the soul, I would first earnestly make Him my friend who is eternal and unchangeable. Only then would I invoke that most intimate Name and say, "Father!"
Next time you recite this prayer try and remember what you are committing yourself too when you call God your father.

Saint Cyril says;
You call God "Father"; honor Him with ready obedience; yield submission as that which is His due; live so as He pleases; show not yourself harsh or proud, but, on the contrary, yielding and submissive, and ready without delay to follow His directions, so that He may honor you in return and appoint you fellow-heir with Him Who is the Son by nature. 

References: Saint Cyril of Alexandria’s Homilies on the Lord’s Prayer, Saint Theophylact’s commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Saint Gregory of Nyssa discourse on the Lord’s Prayer.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Patience is needful and a product of Faith

In our daily life we encounter many temptations and difficulties. Sometimes it is difficult to think about God and acknowledge His never ending  love. All these trials and tribulations seek to divert us from a God-pleasing life following His commandments. Because of this, the path is described as narrow and difficult. The only way a faithful person can remain on this path is to have patience.

Saint Theophan says,
Patience overcomes misfortunes and patience withstands temptations. It is the foundation of a life that is unquestioning and always faithful to God’s commandments. Without patience not a step can be taken on that path.
The mother of patience, he says, is faith. This is a faith that firmly believes that everything we encounter comes from God or is allowed by Him. He has promised that He will not give us more than we are capable of handling if we only trust in Him. Everything we encounter is part of the path necessary for our perfection in Him.

Saint Theophan says,
If with God’s permission some temptations do occur, this is only to let us overcome that which draws us towards sin and receive the crown of righteousness for our strong devotion to the Lord’s commandments. Therefore, just endure this time of temptations, and that which seems so heavy will bring joy here, and prepare the ointment for eternal joy there, Believers have this kind of patience.
This kind of patience demonstrates our true faith and shows that it is God’s power working actively in our heart. 

Saint Theophan says,
Patience gives steadiness in goodness; and this steadiness makes faultless all the efforts of the enemies, and tears all their nets. Steadiness itself is a fruit of God’s power, which has settled in the heart for its dedication to God.
Prophet David demonstrates the faith and patience. He writes,
Sinners have set a snare for me, yet from Thy commandment have I not strayed (Psalm 118:110).

Reference: Psalm 118: A Commentary by Saint Theophan the Recluse, p248.