‘Our Father who art in heaven’ (CCC2794-2812)
Posted on November 29th 2009 in The catechism explained
The expression ‘who art in heaven’ describes the way of God’s being, not His location. He is not elsewhere, but transcends every place and time, and His complete otherness allows Him to come close, especially to the pure of heart. The symbol of heaven refers to the covenant, the relationship established by God with humanity. Since the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, man has longed to return to his homeland, but this is only possible through a conversion of heart. Jesus Christ has reconciled heaven and earth, and heaven is now attainable through His Cross, Resurrection and Ascension. The Christian in reciting this phrase recognises that they sit in the heavenly places, while still striving to reach the kingdom. Heaven is both now and not yet.
The Our Father consists of seven petitions. The first three take us towards God for His own sake. The first concern is not ourselves but God; thy name, thy kingdom, thy will. These supplications have been fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but also point forward to the point when God is ‘all in all’.
The second series of petitions has the same pattern as the Eucharistic Prayer in offering our expectations to attract the attention of the Father. The petitions concern the present life; ‘give us, forgive us’; and also the battle towards the victory of life in prayer; ‘lead us, deliver us’.
To ask that the Father’s name be held holy is to be drawn into the drama of salvation that begins in the Old Testament and reaches its conclusion in Jesus Christ because He has made visible the holiness of His name. The holiness of God is His inaccessible centre, which is made visible through His revelation of glory. The name of God is revealed slowly, and only after He has triumphed gloriously, when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea. The holiness of God is mirrored in the holy Law, and the holiness of the people. The continual rebellion against their holiness is the subject of many prophetic denunciations.
The final priestly prayer of Jesus involves the sanctification of both the name of the Father and the Son; ‘Holy Father….for their sake I consecrate myself, that they may be consecrated in the truth’, and leads into the sanctification of the believer.