January 8, 2013

The Lord's Prayer -- I

Catechism Paragraphs 2761 – 2821
The Lord’s Prayer is the most perfect of prayers … In it we ask, not only for all the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired.  This prayer not only teaches us to ask for things, but also in what order we should desire them.    – St. Thomas Aquinas

“This indivisible gift of the Lord’s words and of the Holy Spirit who gives life to them in the hearts of believers has been received and lived by the Church from the beginning.  The first communities prayed the Lord’s Prayer three times a day.  2767  

Our Father Who art in Heaven:  “I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty (2Cor 6:18).  “Before we make our own this first exclamation of the Lord’s Prayer, we must humbly cleanse our hearts of certain false images drawn from this world.  Humility makes us recognize that “no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.  God our Father transcends the categories of the created world.  To impose our own ideas in this area ‘upon him’ would be to fabricate idols to adore or pull down.  To pray to the Father is to enter into his mystery as he is and as the Son revealed him to us.  2779   When we pray to the Father, we are in communion with him and with his Son, Jesus Christ.  We can adore the Father because he has caused us to be reborn to his life by adopting us as his children in his only Son: by Baptism, he incorporates us into the Body of his Christ.  2781-2   The free gift of adoption requires on our part continual conversion and new life.  Praying to our Father should develop in us two fundamental dispositions:  First, the desire to become like him: we ought to behave as sons of God, and Second, a humble and trusting heart that enables us to turn and become like children: for it is to little children that Father is revealed” (Mt 11:25) 2785  

“The Church is this new communion of God and men.  United with the only Son, who has become the firstborn among many brethren, she is in communion with one and the same Father in one and the same Holy Spirit.  In praying ‘our’ Father, each of the baptized is praying in communion.  For this reason, in spite of the divisions among Christians, this prayer to ‘our’ Father remains our common patrimony.  2791    Praying ‘our’ Father opens to us the dimensions of his love revealed in Christ praying with and for all who do not yet know him, so that Christ may gather into one the children of God.” (Jn 11:52) 2793   

Who art in Heaven:  “This biblical expression does not mean a place, but a way of being:  it does not mean that God is distant, but majestic.  Our Father is not ‘elsewhere’: he transcends everything.  “Our Father who art in heaven” is rightly understood to mean that God is in the hearts of the just, as in his holy temple.  At the same time, it means that those who pray should desire the one they invoke to dwell in them --- St. Augustine.  2794   The symbol of the heavens refers us back to the mystery of the covenant we are living when we pray to our Father.  He is in heaven, his dwelling place; the Father’s house is our homeland.  Sin has exiled us from the land of the covenant, but conversion of heart enables us to return to the Father, to heaven.  In Christ, then, heaven and earth are reconciled, for the Son alone ‘descended from heaven’ and causes us to ascend there with him, by his Cross, Resurrection, and Ascension.” 2795 

Hallowed be Thy Name:  “The term ‘to hallow’ is to be understood here not primarily in its causative sense (only God makes holy), but above all in an evaluative sense: to recognize as holy.  In adoration, this invocation is sometimes understood as praise and thanksgiving.  But this petition is here taught to us by Jesus as an optative: a petition, a desire, and an expectation in which God and man are involved.  Asking the Father that his name be made holy draws us into his plan of loving kindness for the fullness of time, that we might be holy and blameless before him in love.  2807   In the waters of Baptism, we have been ‘washed … sanctified … justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God’ (1Cor 1:30).  Our Father calls us to holiness in the whole of our life, and since he is the source of our life in Christ Jesus, both his glory and our life depend on the hallowing of his name in us and by us.  2813    God should be hallowed in us through our actions, for God’s name is blessed when we live well.”  2814  

Thy Kingdom Come:  The Kingdom of God lies ahead of us.  It is brought near in the Word incarnate, it is proclaimed throughout the whole Gospel, and it has come in Christ’s death and Resurrection.  The Kingdom of God has been coming since the Last Supper and, in the Eucharist, it is in our midst.  The kingdom will come in glory when Christ hands it over to his Father. 2817   In the Lord’s Prayer, ‘thy kingdom come’ refers primarily to the final coming of the reign of God through Christ’s return.  But, far from distracting the Church from her mission in this present world, this desire commits her to it all the more strongly.  2818   By a discernment according to the Spirit, Christians have to distinguish between the growth of the Reign of God and the progress of the culture and society in which they are involved.  Man’s vocation to eternal life does not suppress, but actually reinforces, his duty to put into action in this world the energies and means received from the Creator to serve justice and peace.”  2820    

“Human fathers and mothers often distort the image of a kind, fatherly God.  Our Father in heaven, however, is not the same as our experiences of human parents.  We must purify our image of God from all our own ideas so as to be able to encounter him with unconditional trust.  Even individuals who have been raped by their own father can learn to pray the Our Father.  Often it is their task in life to allow themselves to experience a love that was cruelly refused them by others, but that nevertheless exists in a marvelous way, beyond all human imagining.”  YCAT Q 516 

The Christian does not say ‘my Father’ but ‘our Father’, even in the secrecy of a closed room because he knows that in every place, on every occasion, he is a member of the one and same Body.  – Pope Benedict XVI

There remains one more section of the Our Father prayer to complete, and then this section of the catechism will be complete.  Next time I will be reading paragraphs 2822 – 2865, concluding the Our Father section.

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