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.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.