My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
THE LORD'S PRAYER (Part II)
By Archimadrite George Egoumenos (Abbot) of the Saint Gregorios Monastery of Mt. Athos.
"OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN..."
The Lord's Prayer begins with this invocation. The Lord teaches us to name God, Father.
Father, because He is Our Creator and Maker, the granter of being, of life.
Father, because for us Christians He is also the granter of well being, of the adoption which He gave us through Jesus Christ. Before Christ, due to our apostasy from our Heavenly Father, we were not only separated from Him, but we were, also, His enemies. Jesus Christ, the Son of God the Father, by nature, with His Incarnation and His Crucifixion, reconciled us to God the Father and made us His children by Grace. With Holy Baptism, we received the grace of adoption. Thus we became brethren in Christ, Who is the first born amongst many brethren.
Therefore He is Father because He grants us life; and not only life, but His life in Christ.
As Saint John Chrysostom writes, "He who calls God, Father, confesses through this sole appellation, deliverance from sins and retraction of hell and righteousness and sanctification and redemption and adoption and heritage and brotherhood to the Only Begotten Son, as well as to the granting of the Holy Spirit" (St. John Chrysostom, Treatise to Matthew, homily 19, Greek Fathers of the Church, vol. IX, p. 668).
Addressing as "Father" our All-Holy God and Almighty Creator of everything, we confess what He has done for us, His unworthy children, and mostly what He has done for us through our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. Thus, the invocation "Father" brings us close to the Trinitarian God.
Saint Maximus the Confessor writes, "Justly the Lord teaches (those who pray) to promptly start from theology. He also introduces us to the mysterious way of the Cause who created all beings, He who is actually the cause of all beings. Because the words of the prayer contain the revelation of the Father, of His Name and of His Kingdom, so that we learn from the very start to respect and worship the Trinity in One. Because the Only Begotten Son is the name of God the Father, with substantial hypostasis. And the Holy Spirit, with substantial hypostasis, is the Kingdom of God the Father (Ibid, p. 256).
His infinite love and charity allow and impel us to name Him Our Father.
The mind of the pious man is amazed. "Who will give me wings like the doves, according to the psalm?", Saint Gregory of Nyssa writes, "so that I am able to ascend over all things perceptible by the senses, over those that are changed and altered, to ascend over to the Unchangeable and Unalterable, and with an unmoved and unwavering state of soul to dwell in Him, with the very familiar invocation and say "Father"! What boldness? What conscience?" (At Prayer, Homily 2, Great Fathers of the Church vol. VII, p. 43).
Great and priceless is the gift. As many times as we want, we can address God and call Him our Father. Still, when the Christian is rendered worthy and perceptibly received the Grace of the Holy Spirit, then he feels in his heart the paternity of God and his own sonship. He feels filial and tender love towards God the Father. He feels like an affectionate son of a loving Father.
The Holy Spirit Himself cries out in our heart "Abba, Father", creating this tender love towards God. "Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son to our hearts, shouting, Abba, Father."
In accordance to the image of our Heavenly Father, we men can also become True spiritual fathers or fathers of the flesh. Saint Gregory Palamas teaches that we do not name God the Father in accordance to earthly fathers, but we name men 'fathers' in accordance to the image of God the Father, "...after whom, according to the great Paul, all fathers in heaven and earth are named" (Discourse II against Grigoras, par. 69).
If the earthly fathers reflect the grace and the blessing of the heavenly Father, they are true fathers as well. Without this grace, they are not true and genuine fathers and they cannot offer anything essential to their children. When men are estranged from the heavenly Father, they cannot become genuine and proper fathers.
How many people suffer today because they did not have a True and loving father!
A heterodox Christian, who came to Orthodoxy, said that he had become Orthodox because only in Orthodoxy did he find spiritual fathers, a gift that no longer exists in Western Christianity.
I remember the case of the Romanian writer, Virgil Georgiou, who, as he himself mentions, saw in the face of his poor but holy father (a priest) the face of God. This vision never let him stray far from God during his stormy life.
When we address God, "Father", we acknowledge His paternal concern for us. We are not orphans. We are not alive because of some fate or blind destiny. We are creatures of His love and we are constantly under His paternal attendance and care. His guiding and remedying love can be seen even behind life's hardships.
Saint Cosmas the Aitolian reminds us of God's paternal love: "And first of all our duty is to love our God because He granted us such spacious land to temporarily dwell in, so many thousands-myriads herbs, plants, fountains, rivers, wells, the sea, fish, air, day, night, fire, the sky, stars, the sun, the moon. For whom did He do all this? For us. What did He owe us? Nothing. All these are gifts. He made us human beings and not animals. He made us pious and Orthodox Christians and not impious and heretics. Even though we continually sin, He feels compassion for us like a father does and He does not put us to death in order to place us in Hell, but He awaits with open arms for our repentance. He awaits for the time when we will repent and stop doing evil deeds and do good, confess, amend ourselves, so that He will embrace us, kiss us and place us in Paradise where we will rejoice forever. Such a Loving God and such a Loving Lord and Master should we not also love and if need be shed our blood a thousand times for His love, as He shed it for our love? (Teachings of Saint Cosmas the Aitolian, I. Menounou, Athens, p. 152).
Therefore, a feeling of security that banishes every feeling of insecurity and anxiety, emanates from the faithful invocation of Our God as Our Father.
It is a great honor for us to call God, our Father, but also great is the responsibility for us who must become worthy of our Heavenly Father. Let us recall Our Lord's words. "Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful" (St. Luke 6:36). "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (St. Matthew 5:48).
Saint Nicodemos the Hagiorite writes on this subject, "For this reason our Lord instructs us how to pray to our Father by grace, so that we are always protected under the grace of adoption until the end, that is to say, to be God's children not only by the rebirth and the baptism, but by our labors and deeds, as well. Because he who does not perform spiritual acts, but performs satanic ones, is not worthy to call God his Father, but instead the Devil, according to the word of our Lord, "Ye are of your father the Devil, and the lusts of your father ye do" (St. John 8:44), that is to say, in relation with evil you are born from your father, the Devil, and you love to act according to the evil desires of your father. The Lord orders us to name Him our Father. To inform us firstly, that we were truly born children of God with the rebirth of the Holy Baptism and secondly, that we must preserve the signs, that is to say, the virtues of our Father and not be ashamed somehow of the relationship we have with Him" (About continual Communion, Athens 1887, p. 24).
(To be continued: Next: "Our Father…")
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" -- Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God