What reflection on the Sermon of the Mount would be complete with meditating on the Our Father? And what better guide than to meditate on it with our fathers in the faith? We will here examine some of the writings of St. John Chrysostom, St. Cyprian, and St. Augustine and see both the communal and personal importance of this prayer in the Church and in our individual prayer life.
“What praying to the Father can be more truthful than that which was delivered to us by the Son who is the Truth, out of His own mouth? So that to pray otherwise than He taught is not ignorance alone, but also sin;” (Treatise of Cyprian on the Lord’s Prayer) Now, St. Cyprian is not telling us that to use any other words in pray besides that strictly in the Our Father is wrong, but we can glean two important insights here.
First, there is untold depth in the prayer itself. One could meditate for their entire life on the first words, pondering what it is to be able to call God “Father, Abba, Daddy.” “See how He straightway stirred up the hearer, and reminded him of all God’s bounty in the beginning. For he who calls God Father, by him both remission of sins, and taking away of punishment, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, and adoption, and inheritance, and brotherhood with the Only-Begotten, and the supply of the Spirit, are acknowledged in this single title. For one cannot call God Father, without having attained to all those blessings.” (Chrysostom, Homily 19 on Matthew)
Our Father, Who art in Heaven. St. Chrysostom continues “He says, “in Heaven,” He speaks not this as shutting up God there, but as withdrawing him who is praying from earth, and fixing him in the high places, and in the dwellings above.” Our goal is to be in Heaven with God, and that God’s creation is fulfilled, as we were in the beginning to be partners with Him in bringing about the fruits of creation. “And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:28).
The separation of Heaven and earth was not intended in the beginning, but was caused by our sin. Jesus teaches us here we can now, through Him, call God our Father. But as we lost our vision of God through sin, which is nothing more than a turning away from God, we must now pray that we do not fall back to that state. We, therefore continue, “Hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.” Space prevents us from doing any more than scratching the surface of the depths of this prayer. Indeed, volumes have been written over the last two thousand years by those who have reflected deeply upon the Our Father, and yet it’s depths have scarcely been searched. We shall continue next week.