— The Lord’s Day —

Week 17: Sunday

Pondering Jesus’ victorious Word

εὐαγγελίζω (euaggelizo)
“to announce the Good News of victory in battle”

Jesus was praying in a certain place,
and when he had finished,
one of his disciples said to him,
“Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test.” (Luke 11:1-4).”

θεωρέω (theoreo)
(“to perceive, discover, ponder a deeper meaning”)

“Matters which are so immense and so beyond humanity, so surpassing and exceeding our perishable nature that they are impossible for those of a rational and mortal class to comprehend, have, in the vast and immeasurable grace which is poured from God toward humanity, become, by the will of God, comprehensible through Jesus Christ, the minister of boundless grace to us, and through the collaborating Spirit.” This is how Origen of Alexandria – also known as Origen Adamantius, thus the original ‘man of steel’ – begins his treatise On Prayer (third century) that involves a constant reference to and commentary upon The Lord’s Prayer.

Rembrandt’s Face of Jesus

Known for his prayerful and insightful commentaries on Sacred Scripture, Origen most probably would have composed this translation of the sacred prayer as the basis for his work:

“Father, let your name be hallowed,
let your Kingdom come.
Give us our supersubstantial (or superessential) bread daily.
And release us from our sins, as we ourselves release all indebted to us.
And do not bring us into testing.”

As Origen begins his commentary on The Lord’s Prayer, he is intrigued by the question posed by one of the disciples: “teach us to pray as John taught his disciples.” Jesus’ disciple would certainly know about prayer from the Synagogue experience. Psalms as well as the ritual prayers chanted on various festivals together with domestic feasts such as Passover gave Jewish people of Jesus’ day familiarity with prayer. The disciple then who asks about being schooled in Jesus’ way of prayer recognizes that there is something different about the way Jesus Himself prays. Origen notes: “Since the discussion of prayer is such a task that the illumination of the Father is needed, as well as the teaching of the firstborn Word and the inner working of the Spirit, so that it is possible to think and to speak worthily on such a topic, as a man (for of myself I do not claim capacity for prayer) I am entreating the Spirit before I begin to discuss prayer, so that a discourse which is full and spiritual might be granted to us, and that the prayers which are recorded in the Gospels may be clarified.” For Origen, a fundamental difference that marks the uniqueness of The Lord’s Prayer is its grounding in the life of the Divine Persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. This Prayer is about communion flowing from a graced relationship providing the one who prays all that is needed for the relationship.

The Evangelist Luke’s recording of this ‘short prayer’ with its powerful imperative petitions does offer much for Christian living. We can begin to be schooled in the ways of prayer by voicing these words of Jesus slowly, giving time to reflect on the words we are using. The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers an in-depth commentary on The Lord’s Prayer as well. We call upon the Holy Spirit this day, for ‘we know not how to pray’ and ask for the grace to pray as Jesus did and be drawn into the depths of the Father’s love.