November 10, 2014

Homilies on the "Lord's Prayer", Also Known as the "Our Father" (6 of 9)

"And Release Us From Our Debts, As We Release Our Debtors"

Every prayer has four elements, namely doxology, thanksgiving, repentance and supplication. We see these also in the Lord's Prayer. With the fifth request of this prayer - "and release us from our debts, as we release our debtors" - we are supplicating God to forgive the sins we have committed as we also forgive those who have sinned against us.

Here we can identify two points that Christ shows us with this request. The first is that we must ask forgiveness from God for the sins that we commit and by this we show our repentance, and the second point is that we should be distinguished by not having the remembrance of wrongs committed against us. He thus shows us the way and the preconditions under which we will receive the remission of our sins.

The first point refers to the repentance that must exist after we have been baptized. Because this prayer begins with the invocation of God as Father, which becomes a living reality after Baptism, this means that this prayer refers to Christians who are members of the Church. And of course this means that a person through the Mystery of Holy Baptism is spiritually regenerated, but because they are prone to passions and sins, this is why sins are committed after Baptism. Yet here the great love and philanthropy of God is shown, since He is ready to forgive our sins, as long as we flee to His philanthropy. God is not a feudal lord, but a God of love and philanthropy, mercy, compassion and a God of all comfort. This is why we often say in church: "For You are a God Who is merciful and philanthropic."

After the sin of Adam and Eve, mankind was wounded in their entire being, they were deeply injured. It is characteristic that the sacred hymnographer, in referring to the desire of the Apostle Thomas to see the side of Christ, presents him as saying: "I saw the side that healed the great injury of mankind." Man truly was the great injury that was healed by the side of Christ, because from there poured forth blood and water, which are the two basic mysteries of the Church - Holy Baptism (water) and Divine Communion (blood).

Because the injury of man was very deep, for this reason it is not healed easily and quickly. And because after Holy Baptism man sins again, this is why God's philanthropy is again manifested and in this way the grace of adoption is renewed that is received through Holy Baptism. Hence, repentance is identified with a second baptism. And of course, repentance means a complete change of the mind of man. The nous that was darkened through sin and does not have communion with God must revert back to its previous position in order to be illumined. Here again we see the great love of God towards us, since He judges us worthy of forgiveness when we have sinned again, after being given the gift of Holy Baptism.

The second point relates to the manner and precondition for our forgiveness from God, and at the same time it indicates the virtue of not having the remembrance of wrongs. Somehow God, in order to forgive us, He has us as an example. If we forgive the faults of our brethren, then He will forgive our faults. In some way we must first show philanthropy and not have the remembrance of wrongs towards our brethren, and God will follow. If a person is hard and stubborn with his brethren, then their heart cannot feel the love and philanthropy of God. God loves the entire world - righteous and sinners - but the hardhearted and unmoved cannot see and feel the love of God towards them. Thus, with forgiveness towards others, we purify our hearts, and we prepare them to receive the philanthropy of God.

This request reminds us of the parable of the debtor of many talents that was told by Christ. The debtor was punished, because even though he asked God to forgive him of his many debts, he himself did not give the same forgiveness to his fellow servant for his even smaller debts.

In the Divine Liturgy we ask forgiveness from God for all our faults, but we must also be ready to grant forgiveness to our brethren for all they are blameworthy against us. And because the Lord's Prayer, the "Our Father", is recited before the Divine Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, this is why this prayer is also a preparation for its reception. To commune of the Immaculate Mysteries we ask God's forgiveness of our venial sins - because this prayer does not abolish the Mystery of Sacred Confession - but we also assure God that we have also given forgiveness to those who have wronged us, slandered us and harmed us.

But we must beware lest we give God false assurances. In such a case we jeopardize our salvation and the forgiveness of our many sins.