Three months ago, I offered to teach you about prayer, and more specifically about praying. I wish to pursue this spiritual path by resuming the disciples ' request after seeing Christ praying, "Lord, teach us to pray" (Lk 11:1)
Always, when it comes to Jesus, nothing is simpler than to look at it and nothing is more unfathomable. Just open the Scriptures and see Jesus praying to his father: he raises his hands, he lifts his eyes, he withdraws to a deserted place ...
But nothing is more unfathomable, for his words, his gestures make a feeling beyond love, a fullness of inexhaustible gifts.
That is why if we want to enter into the prayer of Jesus, we must pray ourselves, letting the Lord model us in his image.
Let's not believe that Jesus ' prayer was just ecstasy! These Nights of prayer in solitude, in the wilderness as in Gethsemane, were also nights of anguish.
He prays before the choice of the disciples and he already sees Peter's betrayal: "I prayed that thy faith should not fail" (Lk 22:31-32); Yes, Jesus sees everything when he prays; He knows well all that he will have to suffer from his disciples and with them; The arguments between the apostles to find out who is the greatest (MC 9, 33); Thomas who will have so much trouble to surrender to the truth (Jn 20:24); Philip who will not have understood that seeing Jesus, he sees the father, (Jn 14:9) And there is also Judas, perhaps the one who represents us to varying degrees of course, and at different times.
Night of Prayer, night of fighting, as St. Paul says to the Romans: "Fight, battle with me in prayer."
The Prayer of Jesus is this very humble disposition of all his being who bows before the father's will: "My food to me is that I do the will of the one who sent me and that I carry out his work."
Whatever form the prayer will take, this is the substance, the purpose of its being and its mission: to carry out the work, to fulfill the love of the father, that is the inexhaustible revelation of the father.
These moments of prayer of the life of Jesus, we must always look at them in this light: "My food is to do the will of the one who sent me." (Jn 4, 34) Indeed his first word in the temple at Twelve was not: "Did you not know that I must be in the business of my Father" (Lk 2, 49).
Never did a man know how to pray as Jesus prayed. His prayer cannot be understood out of the fact that Jesus is at the same time God and man. In his prayer, he expresses something of what is living in the Holy Trinity, the inexpressible bond that bestows the father and the son on the other.
Word and answer, love and return of love, gift and return of the gift; Until the coming of Jesus, the prayer remained buried in a very limited horizon. She was still speechless; In Jesus, she can now express herself and hit her highest achievement.
Now let's enter the prayer of our father. But before, "Dare to approach us with confidence in the face of the father." I often like to re-read this passage from the exodus where Moses before the burning Bush, hears the Lord say to him: «Do not approach, take away your scandals» (ex 3, 5). We get a little too used to formulas; This may be an opportunity to realize a little more of the audacity of our prayer. It takes a good dose of Holy Spirit to tell the truth of our Father's prayer. Moreover in the Eucharistic Liturgy, the priest introduces this prayer by: "As we have learned from the Savior and according to his command, we dare to say," or the other formula: "United in the same spirit, we can say with confidence ..." »
Indeed, thanks to the gift of the spirit, we have this filial confidence, this joyous assurance, this humble audacity, this certainty of being loved; For it takes audacity to call the creator, the Almighty, the three times holy, father, and even our father. All our spiritual life is as loving by this desire to see the father, to be in him and with him.
Moses had asked God his name and he replied, "I am who I Am" (ex 3:14), as an end to no-receive! The exegetes interpret this name by emphasizing: I am for you and not against you; It is true that for many, if God exists, he is against us. But Christ came to reveal to us the true name of God: he is a father. Christ, the son of the eternal Father, gives us this new name; What a marvel and what a grace!
Thus, we enter into the mystery of the father, as revealed by the son. Not only is he the father of the son, but also our father.
To pray in truth the pater, we need a humble and trusting heart like God's beloved children. The pater also invites us to a personal conversion: to become more and more in its image and likeness.
"Our Father": This "our" is not a possession; Who else could own God? But rather a new relationship to God. The one who forgets the fatherhood of God, might sink into a disillusioned theism or an atheism. To say the fatherhood of God is to proclaim a god who continually gives himself to his son, it is an all power that gives himself by giving his son, who gives himself by delivering his son.
Through the experiences of human fatherhood, we can perceive that of God; But these are only analogies, for God is God! ' Our spiritual life is becoming; It's a family affair with our father. He wants us free and helps us to acquire this spiritual maturity. We are his sons, but responsible and free sons. It also means that this "our" gives a Community dimension. We are brothers of the same father!
"Our Father in Heaven"
As the Catechism recalls, the word "heaven" does not mean a place, but a way of being; It means rather his dignity, His Majesty; It is the afterlife of everything. I love this prayer of Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, Father Cappadocian of the 4th century:
"O thou the Hereafter of all, how to call you from another name?" What hymn can you sing? No word speaks to you. What spirit do you take? No intelligence can conceive you.
Alone you are ineffable; Everything that is said has come out of you ... »
By beginning our prayer, Christ exhorts us to contemplate the sky. It's about bringing us up to God, turning our eyes to the father. Much more, it is a question of letting us seize by Christ in order to go where he is himself, seated at the right hand of the father: "I will come back to take you with me, that where I am, you are you too." (Jn 14:4). Surely the temple is the father's house, that is what Christ reminded his distraught parents who had lost him; As he did also by chasing the sellers of the temple.
But, as St. Elisabeth of the Trinity says, our soul is a heaven, the place of the Lord's abode.
That is to say that the beginning of "Our Father" is a contemplation; It is about making an experience of God, a meeting with the other.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa, another Cappadocian father of the 4th century, brother of Saint Basil, wrote: "Who gave me wings to raise me spiritually up to the height of these sublime words, to leave the earth, to pass the sea of air and penetrate the beauty of heaven;" Who will give me to lift up to the stars and contemplate their wonders, to go further still, to traverse all that is movement and change to achieve the unchanging essence? ...
Who will give me to leave in spirit all that is subject to the internal orientations to set me in what is immutable and without change? Then I can express the most intimate word and say, "Our Father in heaven." The poor first astronaut, returning from his interplanetary voyage, affirmed with great naivety: God does not exist, for I have not seen him in heaven! He should have studied the fathers and meditated on this beautiful prophetic and theological text.
Yes, this prayer is a true spiritual ascension and we will remain in the mystery of the father throughout the first part. Then we will have to meditate on the four demands.
But let's not go too fast, because it is good to stay with our father. The Union to God is the purpose of the spiritual life; It is the anticipation of the life of glory that awaits us; That is the Kingdom of heaven! By the Union to God, we exceed the limits of matter and touch what is behind this visible world. By the Divine Union, we touch the kingdom, which is not far away since it is already in us.
A singer, a few years ago, addressed himself to God: "Our Father who are in heaven, stay there!" So if my heart is the place of God's abode, I am ready to sing that! If God is in the seventh heaven, then I tell him, stay there, for this God reminds those of Olympus too far away from what we live.
But the god of Jesus Christ does not remain locked in a strong castle; He came down to join us. Isaiah hoped: "Come back, for the love of your servants and the tribes that belong to you." Ah! If you were to tear the skies, if you went down, the mountains melt before you.
At Christmas it was done. This is what we sing during the advent: "Rorate caeli desuper: Heavens, spread from above your dew and the clouds bring down the righteous."
"A little child, the son of the eternal Father" was born to save us; And he saves us by revealing his father's true face. Pope Francis insists on this closeness of God; "Who saw me saw the father"; Now we can enter the sanctuary, in the Holy of Holies.
So, "hallowed be Thy Name"
Let's open the fourth part of the Catechism which is a true treasure for spiritual life. Here is what he writes: After having put us in the presence of God our Father to worship him, to love him and to bless him, the spirit filial makes up of our hearts seven demands, seven blessings. The first three, more virtues, draw us to the glory of the father, the last four, as paths to him, offer our misery to his grace. (CEC n ° 2803)
Let us stop on the name of God and again open the Book of Exodus: «God still says to Moses: you will speak thus to the sons of Israel, the one who sent me to you is the Lord, the god of our fathers, the God of Abraham, the god of Isaac, the god of Jacob, that is my name forever, it is by him that you will remember me , age of age. (ex 3:15).
The revelation of the name of God is the decisive moment of the idea of God who will henceforth be that of Israel. Yahweh is the god of the fathers, of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob. The God of the fathers is the God of men. It is certain that the God, met by Moses in the burning bush, cannot decline his name as the gods of the surrounding. He's the other one! This expression refers us to the unknown, to what is hidden. The name God gives himself shows the infinite distance that separates us. Thus is justified the use introduced in Israel, to no longer pronounce this name of Yahweh and to replace it with circumlocutions.
He recalls a meeting with Emmanuel Levinas, a Jewish philosopher, speaking to young priests, and said, "remember this;" God is God; Don't disfigure him and respect his name. »
The name of God is the name par excellence; It is quoted thus in the Scriptures: "Holy Name" (LV 20, 3); Glorious name (NB 9.5); Large name (1 R 8, 42); Formidable name (PS 99, 3) and so many others.
One does not hesitate to invoke the name of God, that is to call for help; Unlike idols who have ears, but who do not hear (PS 115, 6), our God hears the prayer simply whispered on the lips.
The Divine name therefore holds an important place and we understand why the Decalogue forbids any abuse: "Thou take not in vain the name of the Lord thy God, for the Lord shall not let unpunished the one who summons in vain his name." (ex 20, 7)
But then what does it mean to sanctify your name?
It is certain that this does not concern the name of God who is holy par excellence; It is rather to recognize the sanctity of its name, and to treat it in a holy way. "From the first request of our father," said the Catechism, "we are immersed in the intimate mystery of his divinity and in the drama of the salvation of our humanity." To ask that his name be sanctified implies to us in the benevolent purpose he had formed in advance so that we may be holy and immaculate in His presence in Love (CEC n ° 2807).
sanctifying the name of God, this will recognize him for God; Become aware
That he is the whole other and have an inner and living experience because the adoration that is due to him cannot be given to him as far as we know who she is going to.
To sanctify the name of God is to know him and to discover that he is the source of all adoration, of all honor, of all praise.
Calling God by his name means giving testimony to His holiness.
Christ also evokes the name of God. Remember in Saint John, "Father, glorify Thy name" (Jn 12:28). The glory of the divine Name, Christ realizes it through all his work that culminates in the cross. He alone could reveal to the men the father (Mt 2, 25-27). The glory of the father is the glory of the son, but the father is known in his truth only in the Mystery of love and gift that constitutes the cross. Thus father, name and glory are intimately bound; The time of the fullness of revelation is that of elevation on the cross, in glory.
The Christ who stoops to death, will be raised by God who will confer the name on him above any name. He does not take the place of the father who remains the source, but Christ exercises his kingship, being all ordained to the glory of his father.
That is why the name of Jesus is also a source of grace: "Whoever summons the name of the Lord shall be Saved" (Acts 2:21).
Our brothers in the Orient Love the Prayer of the heart, also called the Prayer of Jesus; It consists in an incessant invocation of the name of Jesus. This prayer is fixed on the rhythm of the breath; This is how the spirit calms down and finds rest. For the Orthodox tradition, the name of Jesus is like a verbal icon.
The fathers of the Church who commented on our father explain that this prayer allows us to remain in holiness: Hallowed be thy name in us. Origen, a father of the third century, writes: "Exult the name of God in himself is to partake in the divine Telogen by the birth of him" (prayer 24).
The Prayer of our Father is theological, it reveals who is God, not so much by the content of knowledge, as by this engendering that it provokes in all of us. This knowledge is a birth within the intimacy of God. It is then a matter of making the holiness of the father's name appear; This name must shine in US and on our faces.
So from the beginning of our father, Jesus reminds us of this requirement. Holiness is at the beginning, otherwise the sequel of the Pater will not make sense on our lips and above all we will not pass the Act. Indeed, how to work in the reign of God, if the name of God was not sanctified in us?
The desire for holiness is not enough; It is the sanctifying grace received at the baptism that is at work. We must find the attitude of Mary: "Let it be done in me according to thy word." It is the opening of our hearts and the gift of our freedom. Holiness is not a personal vision, but a symphony sung by all the choirs of heaven and earth.
So in this first request, we are invited to remain in the kingdom of the father. Let's not go down too fast; Let us illuminate by the beauty of the Divine name.
"Hallowed Be Thy Name" is a beautiful program. God's revelation is fulfilled by the increasingly profound communication of his name, a token of salvation. And Christ, who alone has seen the father, brings this fulness of knowledge.
"Anything you ask in my name, I will do, so that the father may be glorified in the son" (Jn 14:13).
Born October 11, 1951, Patrick CHAMBERS is ordained a priest of the diocese of Paris in 1980 by cardinal François MARTY. Professor of french, latin and Greek from 1972 to 1975 and the institution of Holy Cross in Neuilly, or after his ordination, he became chaplain. He was appointed in September 1984 Director of the Seminary of Saint-Sulpice at Issy-les. Professor [...]