November 3, 2014

Homilies on the "Lord's Prayer", Also Known as the "Our Father" (1 of 9)

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

"Our Father, Who Is In The Heavens"

In this year's sermons, my beloved brethren, for these two summer months, we will briefly analyze the "Lord's Prayer", which is the well known "Our Father". It's called "Lord's Prayer" because it was taught by Christ and for this reason the Church included it in the daily services, even in that of the supernatural Mystery of the Divine Eucharist.

It is known that this prayer is part of Christ's Sermon on the Mount, which is the Charter of Christianity. The Fathers of the Church loved this prayer very much, precisely because it was taught by Christ and we have a command from Christ Himself to pray with the words of this prayer, which have great power. In these sermons we will rely on the interpretive tradition of the Church, as recorded by the Fathers of the Church and other interpreters.

First of all, the interpreters explain that there is a difference between euché (εὐχή - prayer, vow) and proseuché (προσευχή - prayer, request). An euché is a promise - a vow to God, while proseuché is a request, which is what is taking place in the "Our Father". In modern terminology, an euché is a wish or blessing given to others, such as, for example, for them to be well, healthy etc., while a proseuché is a prayer to God.

The first phrase of this prayer is an invocation of God: "Our Father, Who is in the heavens". We will focus our attention on two points:

The first is the invocation "Our Father". With this noun God is called "Father", thus manifesting the certainty and faith that we have a father and are not orphans. And God our Father will satisfy all the requests of our prayers, as long, of course, as we have firm faith in Him, because no father deprives his children of good things when asked. By calling God "Father" we confess sonship by the Grace of God, and besides all the other goods we will receive we will also have a brotherly relationship with the Only Begotten Son of God, and will receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We therefore have communion with the Triune God.

Of course, when we call God "Father" it means that we must have a certain disposition and life, so as not to be unworthy of such a great kindness, and this is why we must struggle, in order to respond to the origin of this kindness towards us.

Because this prayer is in the plural, which is why we say "Our Father", it signifies that we have other brethren, that we are not alone on the earth, and that God is not only my Father, which would indicate me being a single child. Hence, especially within the Church, there is a spiritual affinity between all people, regardless of the various divisions and offices and material goods we have. And because there is this spiritual affinity, a person cannot be hurt by their earthly affinity and the divisions that exist among people. Therefore, the first phrase of this prayer is based on the equality and brotherhood among people.

This brings us to the second part of the phrase: "Who is in the heavens". With this phrase we are saying that our Father dwells in the heavens.

By confessing that our Father dwells in the heavens it does not mean that we must enclose God in the heavens, but that at the time of prayer we must distance our mind (or nous) from the earth and focus it towards heaven. Prayer should be done with a concentrated mind, in order for us to have communion with God. And in this way Christ indicated to us our actual homeland which is in the heavens, where our paternal house exists. Here on earth we are strangers, foreigners and pilgrims, therefore we must feel our citizenship to be in heaven. Who of us would not want to return to their homeland from the place of their exile? And when we say "heaven" we do not mean the sky and space beyond the earth, but a deified and sanctified life, free from sin, the passions and death.

This first phrase of the Lord's Prayer elevates our mind to our Father and raises it towards our authentic homeland. But most of us pray mechanically when saying this prayer, and we live as if we are orphans, wanting to remain immortal on this earth with its temporary attractions, or we even pray as if we are God's only children. So the beginning of this prayer raises our mind and directs it towards our homeland and makes us desire both our Father and our heavenly homeland, as well as to have a deep sense of our brotherhood in Christ and the spiritual kinship we have with the saints and the other members of the Church.