Three months ago, I proposed to you a teaching on prayer and more specifically on prayers. 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 raises his eyes, he withdraws to a deserted place...
But nothing is more unfathomable, for his words, his gestures make a sense of a beyond love, a fullness of inexhaustible gifts.
That is why if we want to enter Jesus ' prayer, we must pray ourselves, letting the Lord model us in his image.
Let us not believe that the prayer of Jesus was only ecstasy! These Nights of prayer in solitude, in the desert as well as in Gethsemane, were also nights of anguish.
He prays before the choice of disciples and he already sees the treachery of Peter: "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 quarrels between the Apostles to know who is the greatest (Mc 9, 33); Thomas who will have so much trouble to surrender to the truth (Jn 20, 24); Philip who did not understand that when he saw Jesus he saw 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 battle, as Saint Paul says to the Romans: "Fight, battle with me in prayer."
Jesus ' prayer is this very humble disposition of all his being that bows to the father's will: "My food is that I do the will of the one who sent me and that I carry out his work."
Whatever form his prayer takes, this is the substance, the raison d'être of his being and his mission: to carry out the work, to fulfill the love of the father, that is to say 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) Besides his first word in the Temple at twelve years old was not it: "Did not you know that I must be in the affairs of my Father" (Lk 2, 49).
Never has a man been able 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 accords the father and the son to each other.
Word and answer, love and return of love, gift and return of the gift; Until the coming of Jesus, prayer remained buried in a very limited horizon. She was still speechless; In Jesus, she can now express herself and hit her highest achievement.
Let us now enter into the prayer of the "our Father". But before, "Dare to approach us with confidence from the face of the father." I often like to reread 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 used to the formulas a little too much; Perhaps this is 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 this prayer of our father. Moreover in the Eucharistic Liturgy, the priest introduces this prayer by: "As we have learned from the Savior and according to his commandment, we dare 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 trust, this joyful 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 magnetized 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 of 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 real name of God: he is a father. Christ, the son of the eternal Father, gives us this new name; How wonderful and what 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 to the Pater, we need a humble and trusting heart as beloved children of God. The Pater also invites us to a personal conversion: to become more and more in its image and its likeness.
"Our Father": This "our" is not a possession; Besides, who could own God? But rather a new relationship to God. The one who would forget the fatherhood of God could fall into a disillusioned theism or atheism. To say the fatherhood of God is to proclaim a god who continually gives himself to his son, it is a 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 just analogies, for God is God! ' Our spiritual life is becoming; It's a family history 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 thee of another name? What hymn can you sing? No word speaks to you. What spirit will you grasp? No intelligence can conceive you.
Alone, you are ineffable; Everything that is said came out of you... »
As we begin our prayer, Christ exhorts us to contemplate the sky. It is about raising ourselves to God, turning our eyes towards the father. Much more, it is about letting us seize by Christ in order to go where he is himself, seated to the right of the father: "I will come back to take you with me, so that where I am, you are you too." (Jn 14, 4). Surely the temple is the father's house, that is what Christ recalled to his distraught parents who had lost him; As he did also by chasing the vendors of the temple.
But, as St. Elizabeth 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 whole other.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa, another Cappadocian father of the 4th century, brother of Saint Basil, writes: "Who gave me wings to raise myself spiritually up to the height of these sublime words, to leave the earth, to pass the sea of air and to penetrate the Beauty of the Sky; That will give me to lift up to the stars and contemplate their wonders, to go even further, to traverse all that is movement and change to reach the unchanging essence?...
Who will give me to leave in spirit all that is subject to the internal orientations to fix me in what is immutable and without change? Then I can express the most intimate word and say: "Our Father who is 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 ascent and we will remain in the father's mystery throughout the first part. We will then have to meditate on the four requests.
But let's not go too fast, because it is good to stay with our father. Union to God is the purpose of spiritual life; It is the anticipation of the life of glory that awaits us; This is the Kingdom of heaven! By the Union to God, we go beyond 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 spoke 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 say to 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 up in a strong castle; He came down to join us. Isaiah hoped: "Come back, for the love of Thy servants and the tribes that belong to you." Ah! If you tore the skies, if you went down, the mountains melt in front of you. "
At Christmas, it came true. This is what we sing during 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 the true face of his father. 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.
Then, "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 filial spirit makes seven requests, seven blessings, rise from our hearts. The first three, more theological, draw us to the glory of the father, the last four, as paths to him, offer our misery to his grace. (CEC No. 2803)
Let us stop on the name of God and again open the Book of Exodus: God still says unto Moses: Thou shall speak thus unto the sons of Israel, the one who has sent me to you is the Lord, the god of our fathers, the god of Abraham, the god of ISAAC, the god of Jacob , this is my name forever, it is by him that you will make memory of me, of age. (Ex 3, 15).
The revelation of the name of God is the decisive moment of the idea of God which will henceforth be that of Israel. Yahweh is the god of the Fathers, of Abraham, of ISAAC and of Jacob. The God of fathers is the God of men. It is certain that the God, met by Moses in the burning bush, cannot decline his name like the gods of the surrounding. He's the other one! This expression carries us back to the unknown, to what is hidden. The name that God gives is to see the infinite distance between us. Thus is justified the use introduced in Israel, no longer to pronounce this name of Yahweh and to replace it with circumlocutions.
He remembers a meeting with Emmanuel Levinas, a Jewish philosopher, addressing young priests, saying, ' Don't forget that; God is God; Do not disfigure it 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, i.e. to call for help; Unlike idols who have ears, but do not hear (Ps 115, 6), our God hears prayer simply whispered on the lips.
The Divine name therefore holds an important place and we understand why the Decalogue forbids any abuse: "Thou shall not in vain the name of the Lord thy God, for the Lord shall not let go of the one who pleads in vain his name." (Ex 20, 7)
But then what does it mean: 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, says 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 us in the benevolent design which he had formed in advance so that we may be holy and immaculate in His presence in love (CEC No. 2807).
Sanctify the name of God, this will recognize him for God; Aware
That he is the whole other and have an inner and living experience because the adoration 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 worship, of all honour, of all praise.
To call God by his name is thus to bear witness 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 by all his work which culminates on 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 hour of the fullness of revelation is that of elevation on the cross, in glory.
Christ who descends to die, will be raised by God who will give him the name above all 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 will be saved" (Acts 2, 21).
Our brothers of 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 breathing; This is how the spirit soothes 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 who are in him. Origen, a father of the 3rd century, writes: "Exult the name of God in himself is to partake in the divine Telogen when he is born 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 spawning that it provokes in each of us. This knowledge is a birth within the intimacy of God. It is a question 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 Pater's sequel will have no meaning 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 Mary's attitude: "Let it be done in me according to your word". This 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 choruses of heaven and earth.
So in this first request, we are invited to remain in the kingdom of the father. Let's not get down too fast; Let us be enlightened by the beauty of the Divine name.
"Hallowed Be Thy Name" is a beautiful program. The revelation of God is accomplished by the increasingly profound communication of his name, a pledge of salvation. And Christ, who alone has seen the father, brings this fulness of knowledge.
"Whatever you ask for in my name, I will do so that the father may be glorified in the son" (Jn 14, 13).
Born on October 11, 1951, Patrick Baldt is ordained priest of the Diocese of Paris in 1980 by Cardinal François MARTY. Professor of French, Latin and Greek from 1972 to 1975 at the Holy Cross Institution of Neuilly, where he becomes chaplain after his ordination. He was appointed in September 1984 director of the Séminaire Saint-Sulpice in Issy-les-Moulineaux. Professor [...]