It is with an increasing sense not only of awe but of terror that I pronounce the words of the Lord’s Prayer; of terror, because they all stand before me in judgement. When the disciples asked the Lord to teach them how to pray, He gave them this prayer, and the first words of it, which rejoice us at times so deeply, could and should perhaps fill our hearts with a sense of terror as well as of awe — “Our Father”. When we think of these words we think of our human brotherhood, of our neighbours, of our parents, our sisters and brothers, of the beloved ones; but when Christ spoke these words, it must have sounded so different because He is the only One who can say “Father” to the God of Heaven, and it is because after His Resurrection, He could call His disciples “Brothers” and by implication, “Sisters”, that this prayer becomes so frightening at times.
Christ, the only Begotten Son, could speak to His Father in the words of the prayer “Our Father — My Father — who art in heaven, in the place where I, Myself, sit in glory on Thy throne, while at the same time I am here, walking slowly towards My Passion — Hallowed be Thy Name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. These words were the words of the Son who had left the glory of eternity to enter the twilight and the horror of our earthly life. He had come that these three petitions might come true, and He could say the words because He could say them not only with all His mind, all His heart, all His will, all His gift of Self as God, but as the Son who had come into the world to make them real, real among men. And when we speak these words we should be as a passage in St John’s Gospel puts it “in Christ”. These words we can say without condemning ourselves only if we are so deeply, so totally one with Christ that we share with Him His sacrifice unto the salvation of the world. Only from the depth of Christ can we say these words of divine sonship otherwise they condemn us because our whole life denies the fact that we are one with Christ, His limbs, His continued incarnation in the world, for its salvation.
We forget this dimension and we think only of another one, the dimension of human fellowship — “Our Father” — but does it imply that everyone around us is our brother, our sister. There is a frightening phrase in the works of the Russian writer, Solovyov, in which he says, “Whenever anyone says to me that we have the same Father, my first question to him is, and what is your name, is it Abel or is it Cain?”. And again, when we pronounce on the level of our humanity the words “Our Father”, when we proclaim thereby that we recognise everyone around us as a brother or a sister, who are we, Abel or Cain?
You may say Cain was the first murderer, I am not. Am I not? It is not only by shedding the blood of a person, by depriving him or her of this bodily life that we become murderers. How often people have been betrayed and murdered at the heart of their being by this betrayal. How often slander has destroyed not only a person’s reputation but his whole life? How often gossip, malicious or mindless, has wounded a person and destroyed relationships around him. And how often do we think of those people who are dying of hunger, who are homeless, who are surrounded by hatred, by the desire that they should not be. How often we meet, if we are attentive, people who wish one or another person not to be. Oh — we do not think of killing, but how much we hope that something would remove that person from our life, from our neighbourhood, that I could forget this person and that he should no longer exist for me — this is the way of Cain. He wanted to remove Abel who was his condemnation, or an accusation against him. Do we often think of this? When we say the words “Our Father” and think they unite us in brotherhood, in sisterhood, do we realise the implications?
In the second half of the prayer, we say “Forgive as I forgive”; if we do not forgive, this prayer is a blasphemy, and is no longer our prayer said together with Christ. Do we realise this?
Do we understand how frightening it is to pronounce words which Christ could say to His Father, and which we can say only in Him, with Him, but not in our own right.
Let us reflect on that. One after the other I am sharing with you thoughts and situations which, to me, are so important, it is a summing up of many, many years of life. Reflect on them now, before it is late, and may Christ, who taught His disciples while not yet completely mature for this prayer, who teaches us this prayer also despite our immaturity, grant us, if not the maturity which must be won, at least accept our will that it should be so. Let us renounce every hatred, make an end to every slander, stop all gossip, open our hearts to every need, psychological, spiritual or material; let us learn to be brothers and sisters in humanity, and only then, as we are taught in the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, when we become truly human can we grow to the measure of being divine in Christ. Amen.
Published: Newsletter № 264, 1993 September