Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hallowed be Thy Name

Are we simply stating the obvious when we say “Hallowed be thy Name” as we recite the Lord’s Prayer? Surely, we all know that God is all powerful, all good, and creator of all, most holy and therefore to be glorified. God does not need to affirmed that He is “Hallowed.” After all, Hallowed means to be honored as holy. Saint Gregory of Nyssa reminds us in his third discourse on the Lord’s Prayer that what is intended in this phrase is something quite different than recognizing the holy nature of our God.

At the beginning of the Prayer we address God as “Our Father.” This means that we see ourselves as a child of God. As a child in a family bears a responsibility to uphold the reputation of our family. The family’s reputation is determined by the behavior of its members. Therefore, to honor God’s name as holy means we must be holy like Him.

We are in danger of blasphemy, warns Saint Gregory. If we call ourselves Christians, and God our Father, and by our actions contradict this name what will non-believers think about our God? Being His children will they not see our God with the attributes of our evil doings? People outside the faith do not normally distinguish between the exercise of our free choice and God’s will, but see our evil actions as being “against the mystery of the faith itself.” Through our actions we can be accused of blasphemy.

What we are praying for is that the Name of God should not be blasphemed but instead “be glorified and be hallowed through our way of life.” We ask that our actions glorify God so others will know it to be “hallowed” through our good works. It is as Jesus instructed us in the Sermon on the Mount, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt 5:16)

Saint Gregory says the following about the the way of life that we are asking for as we repeat this phrase in the prayer:
...a way of life achieved through virtue and cleansed from all stain of sin, a life free from all suspicion of wickedness. Such life shines with prudence, dignity and discernment. It displays fortitude against the attacks of evil passions, being in no way weakened by bodily pleasure. It is separated from such things as luxury, slackness and the delusions of vanity–and to such an extent that in participates in ordinary necessities only as far as is needful, touching the earth as it were with the tip of the toes. It is not submerged in the enjoyment of pleasures accompanying this earthly life but transcends all the deceits that result from the bodily senses. It uses the body to strive for the spiritual life. It esteems one thing as wealth, that is, the possession of virtue; one nobility, that is, the closeness with God; one value and one power, that is, the mastery of self and freedom from human passions. Rather constrained by the length of the earthly way of life, it is eager, as in the case of those distressed at sea, to reach the port of rest. Who, then seeing such a believer would not glorify the Name invoked by that manner of life?

Those who see such a believer will surely glorify a Name that is involved by such a way of life. When we say “Hallowed be Thy Name” we are asking for God’s help to actualize His good in ourselves. We are asking that as His child, He help us live a life that is ”blameless, just and pious.” It is as Paul instructs to us, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. (Col 3:2)” Saint Gregory says, “by no other means can God be glorified in a person except insofar as his virtue bears testimony that the divine power is the cause of these blessings.”

Commentary on Saint Gregory of Nyssa’s Third Discourse on the Lord’s Prayer.

More on Prayer

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