Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pater Noster: Part 3: Hallowed be thy name

In continuing with our discourse on the Our Father, we come to the next point, 'hallowed be thy name'.  Hallowed, is a older English word for 'holy'.  The word 'holy' has slightly different meaning depending upon whom it is applied.  When in reference to God, it means 'wholly other', in other words, that God is wholly unlike anything of this world, something beyond our comprehension.  When applied to us or any other material matter, it connotes, 'being set apart for God's use.'  Dr. Hahn, in his treatment of this phrase, goes back to the original language of the Old Testament, Hebrew, and the words used for holiness/holy.  they tell us something of why this phrase is here and how it relates to the words before and after it. 

The first is the word kiddushin, which is also the Hebrew word for marriage.  God is a god who draws us into a covenant.  The entirety of the Scriptures likens the bond between God and us in the terms of a marital covenant  In fact, in catholic teaching ( and scriptural as well), marriage is the foretaste and visible sign of the relationship that is to exists between a God who is wholly other, yet wishes out of love to come to us and we who have been set apart through the waters of baptism.  Yet go back to the pronoun,'our' again, he deals with us as a community in covenant and as individuals who belong to that community.  In coming into the covenant relationship by our own free will, we do so in the Lord's name.  This is no small thing!  To take the name of the Lord faithfully in the covenant relationship is to share in its blessings; to be unfaithful to that name and hence unfaithful to the covenant relationship is court being cursed.  Why?  To  break the covenant relationship is to willfully remove ourselves from God's love and protection and thus be at the whims and cruelty of the world; much like the prodigal son who is used and abused by the world once he has left his father's home, so do we leave ourselves open to use and abuse once we have pushed God away from all or part of our lives.  If we are to live this covenant relationship, then it is recognizing the holiness of God and that we are called to be holy as well.

This leads to the second Hebrew word, segullah, a word that connotes belonging to king and hence enjoying his protection.We are holy when we live willingly and joyfully with Him who is holiness in its perfection. Because God wishes to draw us into a relationship based in His own holiness, then that holiness becomes the identification not only of God, but of us as well.  Whereas God lives that holiness always and everywhere, not ever breaking His covenant through Christ, so we are called to make that holiness our own through our cooperation with the holiness of God.  Hence, 'hallowed be your name' is more than merely our saying something true about God, but our committing ourselves to that truth of holiness in the way we live and in the choices we make.  As no element of God is separate from holiness, so too no part of us is to be absent that holiness.  'Hallowed be thy name' is more than expressing an attribute of God, but a pledge to live in that attribute as those bound in a covenant relationship.

Thus when we pray this, we are either acknowledging our faithful covenant relationship with God our Father, or we contemptuously mock it through a life that negates this profession of faith.  The more we go through this simple  prayer, the more dangerous it becomes for us to merely say it without acting it.  Rather than shy away in fear from saying it, we should seek God's grace to authentically live this prayer.

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