Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Pater noster explained by Fr. Segneri

by Fr. Paolo Segneri

ST. TERESA. I will cry like a young swallow, I will meditate like a dove (Isaias xxxviii. 14).

I. Consider first, how eagerly the hungry young swallow in
its nest opens its beak and cries to its mother, to show her its
need of food. If thou observest well, thou wilt see that of all
young birds there is none that, in proportion to its size, opens
it so widely. For which reason it certainly may most suitably
represent to thee the earnestness with which thou shouldst
daily invoke God, when, while reciting thy vocal prayers, thou
askest of Him that which will be for thy greatest spiritual good,
since this should be the only food which thou desirest: "I will
cry like a young swallow." But what avails the labour of
the tongue in much asking, if it alone asks? There must be
the union of the mind with the tongue: "If I pray with the
tongue, my spirit prayeth" (that is "my breath"), "but my
understanding is without fruit." What is it then? "I will
pray with the spirit, I will pray also with the understanding.'' [1 Cor. xiv. 14, 15.]
While, therefore, thou criest to God like a hungry young
swallow, thou shouldst meditate like a thoughtful dove, sighing
from the depths of her heart: "I will meditate like a dove."
But what does the word "meditate" here mean? It means
to consider the thing that thou askest of God, and to endeavour
to enter thoroughly into the sense, the force, the object of the
words which thou addressest to him, in short, into everything
that may make thy requests more forcible. Is it not a cause
of great shame that thou hast recited the Pater noster for so
long a time, and yet hast not arrived at the comprehension of
its meaning? If thou wouldst know in a few words the origin
of so great an evil, it is when thou recitest it, thou dost indeed
cry like the swallow, but dost not meditate like the dove.

II. Consider secondly, that speaking generally, to meditate
is simply to think attentively. Hence it is sometimes employed
in a bad sense: "He hath devised (meditatus est) iniquity on
his bed."[Psalm xxxv. 5.] Now, however, we use the word exclusively in a
pious sense. For example, then, there are three ways in which
thou mayest think of the petitions of the Pater noster which
are all day in thy mouth. Thou mayest think of them without
any kind of consideration of their meaning, which is the
mere act of thinking. Thou mayest think of them with
a consideration of their meaning, but with the object of
extracting from them some ingenious idea, as is done with
words which are not sacred, and this is merely to study them.
Lastly, thou mayest think of them with a consideration on
their meaning which arises not from curiosity, but from the
desire to excite within thyself sentiments of devotion, and this
is what we now call to meditate. Observe what takes place
among the flowers of thy garden: thou seest flies, butterflies,
and bees hovering over the same roses, but for very different
ends. The flies merely pass from one rose to another, which
is like mere thinking; the butterflies fly to them and rest on
them in order to suck their ordinary nourishment from them,
and this is like mere study; the bees fly to the roses and alight
on them in the same way, but it is in order to extract thence
their sweetest and choicest juice, from which to make honey:
and this, thou mayest understand, is to meditate. And so it
is that meditation is indeed also study, but not that of the
understanding only, but of the understanding and the will.
This is what thou shouldst do when thou recitest the Pater
noster: endeavour certainly to understand as well as possible
the deep meaning of the prayers thou art addressing to God,
but in order, at the same time, to benefit thy soul by those
affections, now of confidence, now of confusion, compunction,
or love, from which is formed the choice honey which we call
devotion. When thou appliest both thy understanding and
thy will to the matter of which thou art treating with God,
then mayest thou be truly said to meditate; just as the dove is
said to meditate when she thinks and mourns at the same time:
"We shall lament as mournful doves" (columbae meditantes). [1 Isaias lix. II]

III. Consider thirdly, that this kind of study, although it
is adapted to the true nourishment of thy soul, may appear
tedious to thee, and therefore thou mayest say that there is no
good in meditation, that contemplation is far better; since, on
the one hand, the same and even more fruit is gathered from
it than would be gathered from meditation, and, on the other
hand, this is done without labour, and without giving the soul
any of those occasions of distraction or dryness, which are so
frequent in meditation, which is very laborious in its nature.
But if thou shouldst speak in this way, thou wouldst in truth
show thyself but ill versed in the school of prayer, seeing that
thou wouldst be in error as to its first rudiments. For what is
the difference, in general, between meditation and contemplation?
According to the universal opinion, the difference is
that contemplation is undoubtedly a meditation also, but a
mature, advanced meditation which is no longer made by
protracted reasoning, as was formerly the case, but merely by
a glance, which, far from giving trouble, infuses the greatest
joy, although this joy is greater or less according to the degree
of love which has been acquired. But how canst thou expect
to attain all at once to the understanding by a mere glance at
as a whole, that which thou hast not first taken the trouble to
study in its separate parts? It is enough for the bride to hear
her Spouse spoken of to be dissolved in sweetness: "He is all
lovely, such is my Beloved." [1 Cant. v. 16.] But why is this? Because she
has first spent much time in dwelling on all His lineaments
individually with a special delight in each one: "His head is
as the finest gold: His locks as branches of palm-trees: . . .
His eyes as doves."[Cant. v. II] And thou wouldst fain have the highest
gifts of love in time of prayer without having first laboured
greatly in meditation to acquire them! In what a delusion art
thou living! No one can deny that the sweet fire of Divine
love is enjoyed in contemplation, but this fire is enkindled in
meditation: "In my meditation a fire shall flame out."[Psalm xxxviii. 4.] Be
not, therefore, ashamed of doing as he did, who said, "I will
cry like a young swallow, I will meditate like a dove;" otherwise,
when occasions of self-conquest come, thou wilt perceive
that the prayer thou delightest in is a plant rich indeed in
leaves and blossoms, but not in fruit, because its roots are not
deeply struck within thee.

IV. Consider fourthly, that the doctrine which has been
here given thee is drawn from the maxims of St. Teresa, the
Saint whom all now regard as so great a teacher in the
sublimest school of prayer. She appeared in the Church in
the last century like a gentle swallow heralding the coming
spring. For it was not only in her time, but by her counsels
and co-operation that there was a revival of the great Order of
Carmel, which after being, as is said, the first to arise, and to
become a garden of chosen contemplatives in which God took
delight, had, in the course of time, been, as it were, wholly
overwhelmed by a cruel winter. Then, having completely
finished her work, she disappeared, transformed into a dove,
in the likeness of which she was seen by some in her passage,
perhaps to signify the lofty place she was to occupy in Heaven.

Now this great Saint, who has given rules suited to every stage
of prayer which any one can be in, always herself practised
and taught to others that of which I have been speaking to
thee, namely, not to aspire to higher flights till thou hast well
tried thy wings. As to her own practice, she always cried
out like a humble swallow from her nest, acknowledging her
own misery, and imploring the Divine mercy; and she also
meditated like a dove, for it was her usual custom to begin
her prayer by meditating on some point of the Passion,
according to the wise counsels she had received on this
subject from a holy man, and then she freely left her soul in
the hands of God, like a vessel which is put out to sea by
manual exertion, and when once in deep water, is borne along
by the wind. And, desiring to teach her daughters the noblest
possible form of prayer, she, in her Way of Perfection, declared
this to be the Pater noster, the favourite meditation of so
many holy Doctors before her, and of so many after her. Do
thou, therefore, choose this Saint as thy advocate, to teach
thee how to practise both these profitable parts of which we
have been speaking: that of the swallow, so as to commend
thyself fervently to God, and that of the dove, so as to
meditate carefully at the same time. And since there is no
better means of doing both these things than this prayer, the
Pater noster, I am going to propose it to thee as the subject of
meditation for several mornings, according to the simplest and
most profitable interpretations which I have gathered, after
examining, if I am not mistaken, most of the books which
treat professedly of it. And this I have done in order that
thou mayest always remember, when reciting it, that these two
things are necessary for saying it well — an ardent desire, and
loving attention: "I will cry like a young swallow, I will
meditate like a dove."

Thus, therefore, shall you pray: Our Father Who art in Heaven, &c. (St. Matt. vi. 9).

I. Consider first, that if the son of the king to whom is
committed the direct administration of the kingdom, were,
with his own lips, to dictate to thee the petition which thou wert to present to the king, his father, it is very certain that thou wouldst not go in search of any other more suitable for
the attainment of thy desire. Now this is precisely what that
famous prayer is which we commonly call the Pater noster,
and which I now wish to propose for thy profitable meditation.
It is a petition to be presented to God the Father, a petition
taught by Christ with His own mouth: by Christ, Who is not
only the Son of so great a King, and the Son charged with
the direct administration of the Kingdom, but a Son Who acts
as our Advocate with the King; an Advocate so loving that
we cannot doubt that He desired to teach us how to act
aright, and so wise, that neither can we fear that He was
unable to do what He desired. Think, then, whether there
can be any petition more sure of success than this. And yet
how often and eagerly dost thou affect others, to the neglect
of this, which surpasses them as far as the ocean surpasses all
rivers, even those which came forth from Eden! If this is
thy case, thou deservest to hear Christ say to thee: "You
transgress the commandment of God for your tradition."[St. Matt. XV. 3.]
Stir thyself up, then, to the constant use of this prayer, so as to be
able to use it aright; prepare thy mind to understand its value
by first looking at it in general, as one does on first entering
a splendid palace, and then going on to examine it in detail.

II. Consider secondly, that the first thing required to
make a prayer efficacious in attaining its object is, that that
object be a right one: "Prayer is the asking of God those
things that are right." For if unreasonable or foolish petitions
are not presented even to an earthly sovereign, how much less
should they be addressed to the King of Heaven? Now, this
prayer of our Lord is a prayer that is right in every way; for
there are two things which may be rightly asked of God. The
first, that He will give us that which is truly good, and this is
what is properly termed prayer; the second, that He will save
us from what is truly evil, which may more properly be termed
deprecation. And these are the two things which are here
asked. As to the good, indeed, we are not to be satisfied with
asking of Him our own only, but His also; nay, His even
than our own. And because His good can be only His
more extrinsic glorification, it is this which we ask of Him
when we say, "Hallowed be Thy name." As to our good,
it is of three kinds: heavenly, spiritual, and temporal. The
first is to be asked for absolutely, and this we do when we say, "Thy Kingdom come." The second is to be
asked according as it may most conduce to our attainment
of the heavenly good. And this we do when we say, "Thy
will be done," &c. The third is to be asked in so far as it
does not hinder, but furthers our spiritual good, and this we
do when we say, "Give us this day our daily bread."

Next, as to evil, we should ask God to save us from all which
is opposed to the good of which we have been speaking.
Now, as to the first, that which belongs to God, it is in danger
of no contrary evil, because no one can lessen it in the
slightest degree: "If thou sin, what shalt thou hurt Him?"[Job xxxv. 6.]
Nay, God gains glory from the dishonour which is done Him
by the reprobate, as well as from the glory rendered Him by
the elect; because His omnipotence is shown at the same
time equally in rewarding the latter as in punishing the former.
So that, as regards Himself, we do not ask; that He may be
delivered from any evil, since He is liable to no such fatal
necessity. We do but ask Him to save us from the evil which
is contrary to our good. And therefore, since sin alone is
opposed to the heavenly good (which is the attainment of
Paradise), we say, "Forgive us our trespasses." And since
temptation is, in its nature, opposed to our spiritual good, we
say, "And lead us not into temptation." And since all
adversity is, in its nature, opposed to our temporal good, we
say, "But deliver us from evil." If, then, thou observest
attentively, thou wilt here see the most perfect rectitude in
the things asked; and if this is so, how is it possible to
doubt that God will grant them? "He that speaketh right
things shall be loved."[Prov. xvi. 13.]

III. Consider thirdly, that for prayer to be sure of its
object, it should not only be right, but duly ordered, because
prayer is the interpreter of desires, and therefore, what should
we think of one who should listen to him who desired more
earnestly what is much less to be desired, or who desired less
earnestly what is much more to be desired? See, therefore,
how well Christ has arranged the petitions which we should
present to God in our prayer. He has done so according to
the order which we ought to observe in our desires; since it is
most natural for every one to ask first for what he most desires.
And so thou seest that, as regards good, He first makes us
ask for that which concerns God, and afterwards for our own.
And even with regard to our own good, He makes us ask first that which is heavenly, then for the spiritual, and lastly for the temporal. The heavenly is our end, that is, His
Kingdom, and therefore it comes first; the spiritual is the
means for attaining that end, namely, the fulfilment of His
will, and therefore it comes next; the temporal is the help
which makes those means easier, that is, our daily bread, and
therefore it comes last. In the same way, as to evil, He
makes us first pray to be free from sin, which is contrary to
spiritual good. And seeing that this is so, oughtest thou not
to conceive a great confidence of being heard, since God sees,
in this manner, that thou art not only right, but in right order
in thy desires? What then canst thou fear? "To the just
their desire shall be given."[Prov. x. 28.] But who can be more just in his
desires than the man who not only desires that which ought to
be desired, but desires it, too, in the order in which it ought
to be desired? "He set in order charity in me."[Cant. ii. 4.] This is
the choicest and sweetest melody which thou canst offer to
God — the harmony of desires. And is not this just what is
meant by a well-ordered prayer?

IV. Consider fourthly, that a prayer, in order to be sure,
should be conceived with great confidence: for we all know
by experience how much it inclines us to grant just requests
when we see that the petitioner has great confidence in our
affection, and therefore makes them with courage, tenderness,
and brevity, whereas we are disinclined to do a favour to one
who asks in a contrary way. And yet we are all an unkindly
race. How much more will this, then, be the case with God,
Whose chief glory it is to love to do good? "Thy life shall be
saved for thee because thou hast put thy trust in Me."[Jerem. xxxix. 18] Now,
see that these requests are made to God with courage, tenderness,
and brevity, the three requisites which characterize a
petition made with confidence. They are made with courage.
which is seen by the expressions we use, Sanctificetur, Adveniat,
Fiat, Da, Dimitte, Ne inducas, Libera, all of which are such
as might seem peremptory, if they had not been dictated to us
by Christ, to teach us that one who asks right things of God
should never ask them with hesitation, as we do when asking
requests of men: "Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering."[St. James i. 6.]
They are made with tenderness; for since this tenderness has
its source in that sweetness of charity which is exercised
towards God and man, we here say "Father," to express our
charity towards God, and "Our Father," to express our charity
towards man; and not only do we add, "Forgive us our debts,
as we also forgive our debtors," but we ask for all men that
which we ask for ourselves, praying always in the plural, like a
full choir singing together. And they are also made with
brevity; for all that is asked could not possibly be asked in a
more succinct or speedy manner. This, too, shows very great
confidence, for the habit of circumlocution which is practised
towards earthly sovereigns is a plain sign of want of confidence.
For which reason Christ said, in reference to this subject,
"When you are praying, speak not much." He did not say
"pray not much, do not ask for much," but "speak not
much," and "speak not much as the heathens," who believed
that they were able to prevail with the gods by their eloquence:
"For they think that in their much speaking they may be
heard." It is desire, not words, which makes God hear us:
"The Lord hath heard the desire of the poor."[Psalm ix. 17.] And a desire
may last as long as we please; indeed, if we ought to pray
always as Christ commanded, it ought to last always.

V. Consider fifthly, that the confidence which is required
in prayer must never be founded on our opinion of our merits,
but wholly on the goodness of God. And therefore, in order
that prayer may be sure of success, it is requisite, lastly, that
it should proceed from a heart filled with the spirit of humility —
"The prayer of him that humbleth himself shall pierce the
clouds "[ Ecclus. xxxv. 21.] — because, according to our manner of speaking, it is
able to penetrate into the inmost sanctuary of the Most High.
And this humility is wonderfully displayed in the prayer which
Christ here teaches us. For true humility consists in complete
distrust of self, as being altogether miserable, and in expecting
all good from God. And whoever uses this prayer manifests
this; for not only does he show that he expects every possible
good from God alone, but also that it is from Him alone that
he expects deliverance from all evil, past, present, and to
come, to which humility also makes him take for granted that
he is liable. With great reason, then, did our Lord say, "Thus
therefore shall you pray," for this is the right way of praying
so as to be heard. He did not say, "In these words shall
you pray," so as to exclude various other prayers, such as those
which are piously recited daily by the Church, who desires to
elevate the souls of the faithful by a variety of forms, but He
said "thus," to teach us that other forms, in order to be
efficacious, must all be in conformity with this one, both as
to the nature and order of the petitions, and as to the confidence
and humility with which they are made. And therefore
it is the opinion of St. Augustine, that all good prayers must
be able to be resolved into this one, which, however, must
also be esteemed better than others, seeing that it is the rule
for all: "Thus shall you pray." There is no rule fixed for
praising God, because there is no limit to the praises which
are due to Him: "Exalt Him as much as you can, for He is
above all praise." [Ecclus. xliii. 33.] But there is a fixed rule for praying to
Him, because all petitions must be kept within the limits here
prescribed by Jesus Christ, Who therefore here says, "Thus
shall you pray," but neither here nor elsewhere ever said, "Thus shall you praise."


I. Consider first, how great a marvel this is, that a vile
man when making his supplication to God, can with truth call
Him Father, and not only can, but ought to do so. It is a
thing that would seem impossible to be done, unless Christ
had commanded it. The priest, therefore, when about to
recite the Pater noster at the altar with the people, as a public
minister, always prefaces it by this preamble: "Instructed by
Thy saving precepts, and following Thy Divine institution, we
presume to say: Our Father," &c., by way of declaration that
such a mode of address ceases to be presumptuous when
preceded by a command. Do thou, too, before opening thy
lips to say "Father" to God, awaken in thyself a deep feeling
of confusion at seeing what thou art in regard to God, a vile
worm, hideous, defiled, and sinful: "And now, O Lord, Thou
art our Father and we are clay." [Isaias Ixiv. 8.]

II. Consider secondly, that all men may call God their
Father, inasmuch as they are His work, formed by His hands,
and in His likeness; inasmuch, also, as they are protected,
cared for, and fed every day by His fatherly love: "Have we
not all one Father?" [Malach. ii. 10.] But we, who are the faithful, look
higher when we call God Father. We call Him so because of
that great supernatural election, which we possess in our state of grace. Hence, although God is, in the broadest sense, the universal Father of all men, He, nevertheless, gives but
common gifts to the rest of men in the world, as Abraham,
who was a father, and a rich father, when he sent away his son
Ismael, only gave him a loaf of bread and a bottle of water,
which he put upon his shoulder. He keeps the inheritance
for us, who are His faithful, as Abraham did for Isaac. See,
then, with what affection thou shouldst always say this word
when thou sayest "Father" to God. And this affection should
be two-fold, the affection of a son in the order of nature, and
that of a son in the order of grace. In the former character
thou owest Him thy whole being, and therefore thou art more
bound to be His, with all that thou doest, than the tree, with
all its leaves, flowers, and fruits, is bound to be for the
advantage of the owner who planted it. And in the latter
character, not only dost thou owe Him thy whole being, but
His also, which He has begun to impart to thee with the
intention of making thee one day altogether like Him in glory,
as thou art now like Him in grace. Consider, then, at this
point, what feelings should be thine when thou sayest to God,

III. Consider thirdly, that the blessed saints of the Old
Testament were also the adopted children of God, as we are,
through the grace which, from the beginning of the world, was
given to all those who had faith in the future coming of Christ.
And yet those saints very seldom called God their Father,
except in the character of Creator. And the reason is, that
although they, too, were truly His adopted children, yet they
did not venture to call themselves so, because they were still
in the condition of servants, just as children when they are
little, are subject to a strict tutor, which the Law was to them: "As long as the heir is a child, he differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all." [Galat. iv. I.] l With the coming of Christ, "when the fulness of the time was come," we issued from the state of servitude: we are "not servants, but sons." So that
now we not only are the adopted children of God, as those
who were before Christ's coming, but we are called so: "They
shall be called the sons of the living God." [Romans ix. 26.] And therefore
it was the will of Christ, that as, by His favour, we are free to
call ourselves the children of God, so, too, are we free to call
God, Father; and this is what the Apostle also meant when
he said: "Because you are sons, God hath sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." [Galat. iv. 6. ] What thinkest thou, then, of thy state? Is it not one which deserves to be highly esteemed? Thy state is the same as that of
Jesus, with the difference that He is the Son of God by nature,
and thou art so by adoption. Still, thou also art a true and a
mature son: "I have said you are gods, and all of you the
sons of the Most High." [Psalm Ixxxi. 6. ]

IV. Consider fourthly, that it is for this reason that Christ
would have us, whenever we say this prayer of our Lord, first
call God our Father in that nobler sense of which we have
just spoken, in order that we may always call to mind the
dignity of our state, and therefore, if we are sons, refuse to
degenerate from it so basely as to behave like servants, as is
the case with so many Christians who are unworthy of the
name they bear. Is it, then, right for such a one as thou art
to pursue madly after the miserable goods of this world, like
the sons of Mahomet or Melancthon? "The prince will
devise such things as are worthy of a prince." [ Isaias xxxii. 8.] It is a far
greater disgrace to thee, who art of so high a rank as to be the
son of God, to stoop so low as to look upon money, fame, or
sinful pleasures, than it would be for the son of an emperor
to collect the filth of the dunghills, to desire the management
of the sewers, or to steep himself in the foulness of putrefaction.
And yet what dost thou not sometimes do for the
sake of worldly goods? Thou wilt go so far as to renounce
thy sonship, nay, actually to make thyself the slave of the
devil who offers them to thee, seducing thee with his deceitful
promises, and saying to thee as he said to Christ, the Son of
God by nature, in the hope of deceiving Him: "All these
will I give thee, if, falling down, thou wilt adore me." Why
dost thou not answer him, as Christ did, by an anathema?— "Begone, Satan!" A son of God to make himself the devil's
slave! Oh, what a monstrous, unnatural insanity! What is
this but going into the country to feed swine? Surely thou
canst not venture to lift thy eyes any more to Heaven to recite
the Pater noster, unless thou first cast thyself with the prodigal
son at thy Father's feet, saying to Him with bitter tears:
"Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and before Thee, I
am not now worthy to be called Thy son." [St. Luke xv. 21.]

V. Consider fifthly, that our Lord would have us address
God by this name of Father whenever we say the Pater noster,
in order that we may call to mind not only the dignity of our
state, as has been just said, but also those deep obligations by
which we are bound to behave to God as sons. These may
be reduced to five: namely, to love Him, to honour Him,
to obey Him, to imitate Him, and lastly to submit to His
paternal correction: "Children, hear the judgment of your
father, and so do that you may be saved." [Ecclus. iii. ] The first obligation
is to love Him: "With all thy strength love Him that
made thee." [Ecclus. vii. 32.] The obligation is fulfilled chiefly by the heart.
It is true that it can only be fulfilled in one way, that is, by
loving God for God, which is the love of a son; it is not
fulfilled by loving Him for the gifts which we hope for from
Him, for that is the love of a hireling. The second obligation
is that of honouring Him: "If I be a Father, where is My
honour?" [Malach. i. 6. ] This obligation is chiefly fulfilled by words, that
is by words of praise, respect, and reverence towards God: "The sacrifice of praise shall glorify Me." [Psalm xlix. 23.] It is true that
the honour that is pleasing to God is not that which is merely
exterior, but that which is both exterior and interior. Otherwise,
what honour is it? Not that which is paid by a son to
a beloved father, but by a courtier to a prince: "This people
glorify Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me." [Isaias xxix. 13.]
The third obligation is that of obeying Him: "Thou shalt be
as the obedient son of the Most High." [Ecclus. iv. II.] This obligation is
fulfilled chiefly by actions, because it consists in the diligent
practice of His commandments: "I will do all things, father,
which thou hast commanded me." [Tobias v. I] It is true that this, too,
can only be fulfilled in one way, that is, by obeying from love.
He who obeys for fear of punishment obeys as a slave, not
as a son. The fourth obligation is that of imitating Him:
"Thou shalt call Me Father, and shalt not cease to walk after
Me." [Jerem. iii. 19.] This obligation can only be fulfilled by the whole man,
by heart, words, and works together, because it consists in
aiming at doing whatever is done for the love of God, with
the greatest perfection possible: "Be you therefore perfect, as also your Heavenly Father is perfect." [St. Matt. v. 48] Lastly, the fifth obligation is that of submitting to His paternal correction: "Persevere under discipline. God dealeth with you as with
His sons, for what son is there whom the father doth not
correct?" [Hebrews xii. 7] This is fulfilled by patiently accepting the chastisements which God sends us, such as poverty, sickness, disgrace, temptations, and by being convinced that He really sends them for our good: "He that loveth his son frequently
chastiseth him, that he may rejoice in his latter end." [Ecclus. xxx. I] This
is the conduct of a son, but to murmur is the conduct of
a rebel: "In vain have I struck your children, they have not
received correction." [Jerem. II. 30] This, therefore, is what Christ would
have thee remember whenever thou sayest "Father" to God.
He would have thee remember all the obligations thou owest
Him as a son; but especially that in which thou art most
wanting. What manner of son, therefore, wouldst thou be to
God, if, unhappily, thou shouldst discover thyself to be wanting
in all?

VI. Consider sixthly, that Christ has commanded us to
call God Father in this prayer; because, as very great things
are asked in it, as thou wilt see in time, He desired by these
means to encourage our hearts by an infallible certainty of
obtaining them. And where is there even an earthly father,
who does not take pleasure in gratifying his son in what is
right? How much more, then, the Heavenly Father Who is
so much greater and better than they, that in comparison none
of them deserves even that we should call him father: "Call
none your father on earth, for One is your Father, Who is in
Heaven." [St. Matt. xxiii. 9] But this is the principal reason which ought to
excite in thee a very great confidence in God, the knowledge
that thou belongest to Him as the effect does to its cause:
"And now, O Lord, Thou art our Maker, and we all are
the work of Thy hands." [Isaias lxiv. 8] Therefore, just as a statue, if it
had reason, would count upon every possible good from the
excellent sculptor who made it, as also every picture would
from its painter, every palace from its architect, every utensil
from its artificer, much more may we certainly count upon
every good from God: "Cannot I do with you as this potter,
O house of Israel, saith the Lord?" [Jerem. xviii. 6.] I say much more,
because other agents may be prevented in numberless ways
and by various defects from successfully accomplishing their
aim, however dear it may be to them. But it is not so with
God, for He is liable to no defects whatsoever. Not to
impotence, because His hand conquers all things: "The
hand of the Lord is not shortened," like the hand of one
who is paralyzed or stiffened, "that it cannot save." [Isaias lix. I.] Not
to ignorance, for His mind sees all things: "All things are
naked and open to His eyes" [Hebrews iv. 13.] — "naked," because He sees
them from without, like a naked body; "open," because He
also sees them within, like a body laid open to anatomy.
Neither can there be in Him any defect of perfect good-will,
because His Heart loves all: "For Thou lovest all things
that are, and Thou didst not appoint or make anything hating
it" [Wisdom xi. 25.] — "appoint" being said of the decree which is called that
of intention, and "make" of the decree of execution. If,
therefore, God, even when prayer is not made to Him, must
yet do good to us merely by reason of His being our cause,
how much more will He do so when earnestly entreated?
This is the foundation whereon thou hast to rest that hope
which is not confounded: the knowledge that God is thy
Father by so many titles; and therefore this word "Father"
seems to be placed in this prayer as the foundation of the
whole of it, and of each one of its parts, just as though it were
repeated in every petition: "Father, hallowed be Thy name; Father, Thy Kingdom come; Father, Thy will be done," and
so on. It is this word "Father," I repeat, which is the keynote
of the whole.

Our Father.
I. Consider first, that the only son of his father has hopes
of obtaining from him much more in proportion than one who
has numerous brothers. But do not suppose because this
is true of an earthly father, that it can be so of the Heavenly
Father. The number of God's children may be so great as
to surpass that of the sands of the sea, yet, for all that, not
one of them has any reason to hope less for himself on that
account, because He is a Father Who is abundantly bountiful
to all: "If the number of the children be as the sand of the
sea, a remnant shall be saved." [Romans ix. 27.] Do not, therefore, be discouraged
when thou hearest that in this beautiful prayer of
our Lord thou art not to say to God, "My Father," like an
only son, but "Our Father," as one of many brethren, because,
notwithstanding, He is entirely ready to hear thee, as though
He were the Father of none of these, but of thee only.

Indeed, He will hear thee more gladly when thou sayest to
Him "Our Father," instead of "My Father," because it is
a mark of thy not doubting His power, as so great a Father,
to do good to all, while doing it to thee— nay, it is a declaration
on thy part that He thinks of all, provides for all, feeds
all, and takes equal care of all: "He hath equally care of
all." [Wisdom vi. 8.] This is the first reason why Christ would have us, His
faithful, here say "Our Father," and not "My Father," that
we may show that high esteem of our Father, which all the
rivers would have of theirs if they were able to say to the
ocean, "Our Father." Is it this kind of esteem which thou
showest when thou sometimes fanciest within thy heart that
God does not think particularly of thee, because He has, at
the same time, so many others to think of. This is to fear
that His Heart is less wide than the ocean, which is as much
bound to consider one of the countless rivers great or small,
which are derived from it, as to consider them all together.

II. Consider secondly, that, in the next place, Christ
would have us here say "Our Father," not "My Father," to
give us an opportunity of remembering that we are brethren,
vying with each other, as it were, in doing good to one
another. Thou, when thou settest thyself to pray, art more
ready to pray for thyself alone than both for thyself and
others. Nay, when thou prayest for thyself it is with great
feeling and fervour, and when thou prayest for others it is, as
a rule, but languidly. But this is a serious error. Is it that
thou art afraid of being the loser if thou prayest also for others,
and not for thyself only? On the contrary, then is the very
time that thou gainest most for thyself. For when thou
prayest only for thyself it is possible that thou mayest be
influenced merely by self-love. But whenever thou prayest
also for others, and especially for such as are not bound to
thee by any tie but this of Christian brotherhood, it is certain
that thou art then influenced by pure charity, and therefore,
by thus making thyself dearer to God, thou preparest thyself
also to receive from Him more abundantly that which thou
askest of Him in one brief moment for thyself, for which
reason the Apostle said to his Roman converts, "God is my
witness . . . that without ceasing I make a commemoration
of you always in my prayers." See how important the Apostle
thought this point — he went so far as to swear it. Unless,
indeed, he did so, because to pray earnestly for others is so rare amongst men as hardly to be believed by any one without
an oath. Further still, by praying for others together with
thyself thou also showest greater love for God than by praying
for thyself alone, because it is a sign that thou desirest the
number of those who serve Him to be great; and by praying
for others thou also honourest Him more, because thou
showest thy esteem not only for Him, but for all who bear
His likeness. Thou also obeyest Him more, because thou
showest care not only for thyself, but for all those who are
commended to thee by Him. Thou also imitatest Him more
by displaying a love like His own which pours itself like a
golden shower abundantly over all. How much more then
dost thou merit by praying for others together with thyself?
Thou hereby provest thyself God's true son: "Be ye therefore
followers of God, as most dear children" (and such are those
who most resemble their Father), "and walk in love." [Ephes. v. 1, 2.] Do
not wonder, then, that Christ would have thee here say "Our
Father," not "My Father." He would have every one prepare
himself to obtain his requests with greater ease, by practising
so many beautiful acts of virtue as these are which he offers
to God as perfumes collected in a mass of heavenly sweetness.

III. Consider thirdly, also, that by making this prayer
thus universal for all, Christ has taken away all pride from
men, for what noble or prince could ever despise any one in
the world if he remembered that we are all children of one
Father? "Hath not one God created us? Why, then, doth
every one of us despise his brother?" [Malach. ii. 10.] He has taken away
envy, because every one thus endeavours to promote the good
of others as his own. He has taken away inequality, because
every one endeavours also to obtain as much good for others
as for himself. He has taken away enmity, because how
can one who has not first acknowledged his neighbour as his
brother offer for him such sublime petitions as these are
without being rejected by God as an impudent liar, having
honey on his lips and poison in his heart? "They blessed
with their mouth, but cursed with their heart." [Psalm lxi. 5.] And lastly,
He has established a means of wonderful power for taking
Paradise by storm, since He has united together the forces
of all His faithful into one body. A great number of feeble
soldiers, if they were to fight singly, would be despised, but
when collected together, they become formidable: "The
children of Israel, pursuing in one body, defeated all that they could find." [Judith xv. 4.] And therefore Christ would have the faithful,
when praying daily together, not pray each for himself, but
all for each and each for all — "Pray one for another, that you
may be saved "[St. James v. 16.] — so that the attack made upon Heaven may
be of immense power: "If one fall he shall be supported by
the other." [Eccles. iv. 10.] Dost thou then not value or practise so beautiful
a method of prayer?" Curse ye the land of Meroz, said the
angel of the Lord, curse the inhabitants thereof, because they
came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of His most
valiant men." [Judges v. 23.]

IV. Consider fourthly, that although the mutual help
which we give one another by praying in this way is of
immense virtue in obtaining every possible good that we can
ask of our Heavenly Father, yet doubtless the mighty help
which our Elder Brother, Jesus Christ, is pleased to give us
every day by making Himself our most loving Advocate is of
far greater virtue, since He of Himself alone is able to do far
more than all of us together. Now we merit this help of
Jesus Christ much more by saying to God in this prayer
of our Lord, "Our Father." And why? Because by so
saying we show to Christ a beautiful act of reverence, respect.
and worship by leaving it to Him to say "My Father.''
Strictly speaking, Christ only has the right to say "My
Father" to God: "My Father, if this chalice may not pass
away, but I must drink it, Thy will be done." [St. Matt xxvi. 42.] And the
reason is, that this is the privilege of the Only Begotten, Who
alone can always say in the house, "My Father." Where
there are many brothers it is right for them to say to Him "Our Father," particularly when speaking to Him all together.

But Christ is the Only Begotten of God the Father, and therefore
He alone can speak as such: "He shall cry out to Me,
Thou art My Father." [Psalm Ixxxviii. 27.] We are not even second or third
begotten, because, as St. Augustine observes, we are not
begotten at all — we are created, and therefore we ought to
say to God, "Our Father." For, though we are adopted into
the very same sonship which belongs to Jesus Christ, it is
through Him we are thus adopted. He gave us that wonderful
example of the great and only Son in His Father's Kingdom.
desiring to have many brethren as co-heirs in that Kingdom,
and therefore asking His Father to adopt us so that we might
sit with Him on His own throne. But this very fact is a reason
why every one of us should, out of gratitude to so good a
Brother, leave to Him alone that great honour which He
merits by nature, of saying to God, "My Father," and not
seek to claim it, even by grace; especially since we cannot,
being many, speak of ourselves as God's only sons, even in
the order of grace. It is not, however, forbidden to thee,
when praying privately in thy chamber, ever to say to thy
Father, "My Father," by an impulse of affection, just as a
son may do so in a house where there are many brothers.
But, in the case we are considering, remember that thou never
canst do so by right, on account of the deep reverence due
to Jesus Christ, Who always said, "My Father," when speaking
to God, and when speaking of Him to men always said, "My
Father," or else "Your Father," but never "Our Father."
Whenever, therefore, thou, a vile worm, desirest to say to God,
"My Father," I would point out to thee that thou shouldst,
as it were, ask leave of Christ each time to be free to do so,
and thus treat Him with that respect and reverence which
are due to Him as the Only Begotten. For to whom among
men (with the exception of Christ alone) "hath God said at
any time: Thou art My Son, to-day have I begotten Thee?" [Hebrews i. 5.]

Who art in Heaven.
I. Consider first, how evident it is that so noble a Father as
has been described in the last two meditations cannot possibly
be an earthly one. Nevertheless, in order to make a more
marked distinction between Him and all earthly fathers, we
must add, after saying "Our Father," these words, "Who art
in Heaven." And for what reason? Is it in order to gain
His good-will (as men sometimes do) by so fair and magnificent
a preamble? Surely not: such arts are altogether superfluous
in addressing the Father. We are to do this in order to stir
ourselves up to remember that we are speaking to a Heavenly
Father, and that therefore we should not ask of such a Father
anything earthly, at least not as the final object of our prayers,
but only that which is worthy to be asked of so great a Father.
"Seek the things that are above, . . . mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth." [Coloss. iii. 1, 2.] Dost
thou not think that thou wouldst be doing a great dishonour
to the sun, if it were endowed with reason, to ask of it wild
berries, rushes, and other wild and common plants? It would
certainly be right to acknowledge them as coming from it,
seeing that they are, in their way, of use to men. Nevertheless,
supposing prayers to be addressed to the sun, thou wouldst
ask for flowers, corn, gold, pearls, rubies, and choice diamonds,
which are more properly its gifts. And so, although all gifts,
including those which are temporal, come from God, nevertheless,
if thou wouldst behave to Him in a manner becoming
His dignity, thou wilt not ask of Him those goods which dogs
and horses, if they could speak, would ask of Him. Thou
shouldst ask of Him those only which it is His glory to give,
namely, spiritual goods, because the others, if it is well for
thee to have them, will be given to thee by Him without the
asking: "All these things shall be added unto you." [St. Matt. vi. 33.] In
what manner, then, dost thou pray to this great Father?
Dost thou behave to Him as to a Heavenly Father, which He
is? or dost thou venture to ask frivolous things of such a
Father, as if thou wert a pagan — foolish things of so wise,
wicked things of so holy, a Father? This would be doing
Him a greater wrong than thou wouldst do to a king if thou
wert earnestly to beg him to cover thee with filth.

II. Consider secondly, that it would have been sufficient
to remind us that we should ask of a Heavenly Father those
goods only which are suited to His dignity, if when praying
to Him, we were to add "Heavenly" to the word "Father,"
that being His usual title: "Behold the birds of the air, ...
your Heavenly Father feedeth them." [St. Matt. vi. 26] Nevertheless, it was
the will of Christ, that here, instead of saying "Heavenly,"
we should say "Who art in Heaven." And why? That we
may lift up our souls more vigorously above this low part of
the world in which we are living, and may soar, as it were,
instantaneously to that higher part which is the empyrean
Heaven, above which we are wont to represent God to ourselves
as dwelling in His royal palace: "To thee have I lifted
up my eyes, Who dwellest in Heaven." [Psalm cxxii. I.] Every one knows
that God is present everywhere alike: "Whither shall I go
from Thy Spirit?" He is in the plains, the mountains, the
seas, and the lowest depths of the earth: "If I descend into
Hell Thou art present." [Psalm cxxxviii. 8.] Still, more strictly speaking, it is
said that He is in Heaven — "He that dwelleth in Heaven
shall laugh at them" [Psalm ii. 4.] — for just as our soul, although it is
in every living part of our body, no matter how mean, yet
is said to be, in an especial sense, in the heart and in the
head, because it is there that it performs its noblest operations:
in the heart, as the principle of animal; in the head, as the
principle of intellectual life. So, although God is always
altogether present in every part of the universe, however low,
He is nevertheless more properly said to be in Heaven — "He
that dwelleth in Heaven" — in the ethereal and the empyrean
Heaven, because it is there that His chief operations are
performed: in the ethereal Heaven as Lord of the natural,
in the empyrean as Lord of the supernatural order: "His
dwelling is above." [Dem. xxxiii. 27] Our soul, indeed, is contained in the
body, as in a receptacle, but God is not contained: on the
contrary. He contains in Himself even those vast spaces in
which, according to our gross manner of thinking, He is
contained, and which He far exceeds by His more vast immensity:
"Thy magnificence is elevated above the heavens." [Psalm viii. 2.]
This, then, is what thou hast to aim at, first of all, whenever
thou beginnest to pray, namely, to lift thy mind from the
earth by a lively faith, raising it as high as thou art able, not
only to those regions whence thy great Father, as Sovereign
of the natural order, sends down all those pure and favourable
influences which flow upon us from the skies; but also to those
where, as Sovereign of the supernatural order, He makes blessed
all the angels, archangels, and elect souls, who encircle Him
like a glorious crown, for it is this Heaven which is the abode
prepared for thee, also, by thy good Father, if thou dost but
desire it. This is why, whenever Christ prayed, He, too, was
wont to lift up His eyes to heaven — "Lifting up His eyes
to heaven, He said, Father, the hour is come" [St. John xvii. 1.]— to teach
us how much more we miserable creatures, when we pray,
should remember that our Father listens to us from above,
and so should detach our minds from earth when we are
addressing Him, since at present we cannot so detach our
bodies. This is the first reason why our Lord would have us
here say, not "Our Heavenly Father," but "Our Father Who
art in Heaven," in order to excite our faith more vividly at
the beginning of our prayer by the thought of His local presence, to believe that God is in Heaven hearing us, as our beloved Father, on His royal throne: "The Lord's throne
is in Heaven." [Psalm x. 5.]

III. Consider thirdly, that Christ would have us here say "Our Father Who art in Heaven," rather than "Our Heavenly Father," not only in order to excite in us a more lively faith,
as has just been said, but, also, together with faith, to excite
in us the hope which is so very necessary to one who prays. It
is certain that hope, by its nature, always tends to those things
which are difficult, high, and great, since we do not hope for
things that are easy: "What a man seeth, why doth he hope
for?" [Romans viii. 24.] We rather consider them as already ours. As, then,
in this sacred prayer of our Lord, thou art about to ask great
things of thy Father, it will help thee immediately to think of
Him as in the highest heavens, because thou wilt then at once
understand that by merely thence holding out His hand to
thee He is able to raise thee to a very lofty place with Him: "He sent from on high, and took me, and received me." [Psalm xvii. 17.]

And do not say that, being so high above thee, especially
among so many other men, and so many, too, who are greater
than thyself, amongst whom thou art living; since this, on
the contrary, is a ground for hope that He will not lose sight
of thee, because His dwelling is on high: "He dwelleth on
high, and looketh down on the things ... on earth." [Psalm cxii. 5.] Just
as, because the sun is so high in the heavens, there is no one
in the world who can fear that he will not share in his
favours, every one enjoys them as much as though he were
alone in the world. He looks down as attentively on a little
flower as on innumerable palm-trees, cedars, cypresses, and
planes, amongst which it is more lost than a pigmy would be
in a nation of giants: "The sun, giving light, hath looked
upon all things." [Ecclus. xlii. 16.] Why, then, shouldst thou, poor and mean
as thou art, fear lest God should not discern thee in the crowd
of more important persons? He discerns thee more clearly
even than the sun discerns the flower amongst numerous tall
trees. And, just as the sun is not prevented from communicating
himself wholly to the little flower by communicating
himself to all the countless thousands of plants which grow
on the earth, as though that flower were the only object he
had on which to pour down the light of his beams, so, too,
is it with regard to God and thyself, provided only that thou
interposest no obstacle between thyself and Him. And therefore,
when thou sayest to Him, "Who art in Heaven," have
great confidence, for it is not without reason that He would
have thee think of Him as on high, and not as enclosed within
a temple or shrine, as was once the case with the foolish
Jewish people, who consequently supposed that they were
obliged to seek Him in the Tabernacle whenever they wanted
to pray. Thou mayest always find Him in Heaven— "He
hath set His tabernacle in the sun" [Psalm xviii. 6.] — in a place which is
manifest, vast, and lofty; where He hears thee wherever thou
mayest be, in plains, mountains, lakes, seas, gardens, or woods.
All that thou hast to do is to call upon Him: "I will cry to
God the Most High." [Psalm lvi. 3.] For being, as He is, not in the sun,
but infinitely higher than the sun, there is no more danger of
His not having His eye upon thee everywhere, than there is
of the sun not shining upon thee: "The Lord hath looked
from Heaven; He hath beheld all the sons of men." [Psalm xxxii. 13.] Further
still, just as it follows, from God's dwelling being so high,
that He easily sees all that He chooses, as we do from a lofty
tower, so also does it follow that He has power over all. And
why? Because no one has authority over Him. Thy Father
is "in Heaven," and certainly He is there as its ruler. Why,
then, dost thou fear the fatality of adverse influences, like the
heathen, who consequently thought all prayer useless? The
very contrary is commanded thee: "Be not afraid of the signs
of heaven, which the heathens fear." [Jerem. x. 2.] Thy great Father is
where He holds under His dominion all those causes which
we call favourable, all the intelligences, spheres, stars, and
lower powers; and therefore none of them can withstand the
execution of His Divine decrees, if it is His will to save thee: "All things are in Thy power, and there is none that can resist Thy will if Thou determine to save Israel," said Mardochai
in his affliction. [Esther xiii. 9.] And just this, only more briefly, dost thou
say in the words, "Our Father, Who art in Heaven."

IV. Consider fourthly, that, besides faith and hope, this
form of words is calculated also to excite charity within thee,
for it is impossible that when, with a little reflection, thou here
expressest what that place is in which thy great Father dwells,
thou shouldst not infinitely rejoice in the happiness which is
so justly His. It is never said that a king is in any city in
which he is living incognito; it is only said of one where he is known, loved, valued, and courted by a loyal people, as he is,
above all, in his metropolis. Doubtless, thy Father is the
Universal King of the whole world, and He is so everywhere,
on earth as much as in Heaven. But on earth He may be
said to live incognito, so little does He here receive of the
homage due to His sovereign Majesty; and therefore it may
almost be said that He is not here. Where, then, is He? In
Heaven above, where He is really honoured as He deserves;
where "all" know "Him, from the least of them even to the
greatest." [Jerem. xxxi. 34.]] When, therefore, thou sayest to Him, "Who art
in Heaven," what oughtest thou to understand by this word "art"? Thou oughtest to understand "art known, art loved,
praised, glorified, and exalted." How greatly shouldst thou
rejoice in so saying! It is true that, considering the great
distance there is from the earth in which thou art living to
Heaven, there will come over thee a desire for the wings of
the dove, so that thou mightest fly thither to thy beloved
Father; and because this is impossible, thou wilt grieve and
say in thy heart, "Who will grant me that I might know and
find Him, and come even to His throne?" [Job xxiii. 3.] But do not be
troubled at this, for it is only the effect of charity, which will
therefore all the more move God to hear thy prayer. A little
child, who is the son of a great king, and who sees his father
sitting on a splendid throne, would fain climb the steps
leading to it, so as to be clasped in his arms, but not being
able to do so, he begins to weep. And these very tears bring
consolation, for they compel the father to come down from
his throne to embrace him. So will it be with thee. Those
tears which thou sheddest at seeing thy Father so high and
thyself so low will draw Him down lovingly to thee, to unite
Himself to thee till the hour comes when He will call thee to
Him, as a son of mature years, to sit with Him and reign with
Him on His own throne.

Hallowed be Thy Name.

I. Consider first, that, as thou callest thy God "Father"
in this prayer, thou art bound to show, in all the petitions
that thou addressest to Him, that thou behavest like a true
son. But what can a wise, respectful, and loving son first of
all desire, save what is for the honour of his father? And so
thou, too, art to ask, in the first place, of thy Heavenly Father
that only which is for His honour: "Hallowed be Thy Name."
And this is the very noblest petition that we make in this
sublime prayer of our Lord. When making it, therefore, let
us strip ourselves of all self-interest, let us love God for His
own sake, not for any advantage to be gained by loving Him.
This petition is placed at the very beginning, to teach us that
it must be the final end of all the rest which follow. If we
pray to God that His Kingdom may come, that His will may
be done, that He will give us our daily bread, forgive us our
sins or keep us from them, and lastly, deliver us from every
evil — what is the final end for which we ought to ask all these
things? Is it our own good? Certainly not; it is His.
This is the conduct of a son, not to act like marshes having
their source in the sea, which slothfully keep, to swell themselves,
all the water they receive from it; but like rivers, which
give it all back as a tribute. Thou seest, therefore, that to
make this petition aright would require the heart of a seraph,
who loves God for His own sake, and only takes delight in
loving Him because his doing so redounds in the end to the
honour of God. Thou art not a seraph, but thou canst
compel thyself to be one: and how? By sending this petition
up to God like a dart from thy soul, in all thy daily actions.
"Hallowed be Thy Name:" this is the dart of love, which,
whether it bear to God the offering of the most precious or
the most insignificant thing that thou hast, is equally pleasing
to Him: "Thou hast wounded My Heart" (in the same
manner) "with one of thy eyes," that is, with something of
great price, "and with one hair of thy neck," that is, with
something of no value. [Cant. iv. 9.]

II. Consider secondly, that it is certain that God is not
capable in Himself of receiving any good, because He is rich
in all things. There is only one way in which He can receive
it outside of Himself, and that is, by increase of His glory,
which, as it was the final end for which He made the world,
according to the words, "Every one that calleth upon My
Name, I have created him for My glory, I have formed him,
and made him," [Isaias xliii. 7.] that is, "created him" by the creation of
the soul, "formed him" by the formation of the body, and "made him" by that noble combination resulting from the union of soul and body; so, too, is it His will that this
should be the final end of everything that we do, just as every
artificer justly chooses His glory to be the final end of all the
good which his work produces to others. Ought we, then,
never to do anything for our own glory? God forbid that
we ever should. All must be to the greater glory of God:
"To Thee, O Lord, justice," that is, glory; "but to us confusion
of face." [Daniel ix. 7.] And it is this glory, which is so justly due
to Him as to be called "justice," that we here ask of Him,
because He only can cause it to be rightly given to Him. We
do not, therefore, ask it by the name of glorification, though
we might very properly do this, but by that of sanctification,
because that is the glory most pleasing to God: "Holy, Holy,
Holy, Lord God of hosts." And when this is said by all on
earth as it is in Heaven, there is nothing more that can be
said: "All the earth is full of His glory." [Isaias vi. 3. ] Now, it must be
premised that this expression "to sanctify" has two meanings
in Scripture: the first is to make holy, the second to treat as
holy. In the first sense it is said that God sanctified the
Sabbath: "He blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it," [Genesis ii. 3. ]
because He set it apart for Himself. In the second sense
it is said that God commanded us to sanctify that day — "Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath-day" [Exodus xx. 8.] — because
He caused it to be reverenced as His day. Now, God's
Name cannot be sanctified in the first sense, because He
cannot be holier in Himself than He is, that is, infinitely
holy: "Holy is His Name." [St. Luke i. 49.] It can be sanctified only in the
second sense. And in what way? In the same way as He
formerly would have the Sabbath, and as He now would have
the Sunday and all other days that are consecrated to God,
sanctified, that is, first, by refraining from profaning them by
servile, unbecoming, or wicked works, which is a merely negative
sanctification — "Keeping the Sabbath from profaning it" [Isaias Ivi. 2.] —
and, secondly, by various holy acts of religion, which is
positive sanctification. So, too, when we beg of God that
His holy Name may be hallowed, we first ask that He will not
suffer His Name to be profaned, that is, dishonoured or
mocked, as is done by so many unbelievers, who give that
Name to stocks and stones, and even to the foulest fiends of
Hell, nay, as is done by many of the faithful even, who blaspheme
like devils; and then we beg of Him that His Name may also be honoured by acts of religion, and above all, of
immense adoration, love, and praise. Thou seest, then, how
much more properly we address God when we say, "Hallowed
be Thy Name," than if we said, "Praised, manifested, magnified,
glorified be Thy Name." We say all in one word, and
in those terms, also, which are most pleasing to God: "Sing
to the Lord, O ye His saints, and give praise to the memory
of His holiness." [Psalm xxix. 5.]

III. Consider thirdly, why it is that we do not here beg
of God that He may be hallowed, but only His Holy Name
may be hallowed. Ought it not to be desired that He should
be glorified, in the ways that have been mentioned, still more
in His Person than in His Name? Surely it ought: "The
Holy God shall be sanctified." [Isaias v. 16.] But he who desires that God
should be glorified in His Name, shows by that very desire
that he also wishes Him to be glorified in His Person. And
yet we do not here say, "Hallowed be Thou, Father," but "Hallowed be Thy Name," because a good son cannot endure
to see his Father dishonoured, not only in His Person, but
not even in the name He bears: "I will glorify Thy Name
for ever." [Psalm lxxxv. 12.] Another reason may be that the praise which is
rendered to every one usually corresponds to the name or
reputation he bears. If he has the reputation of being
munificent, he is praised for munificence; if of being gentle,
he is praised for gentleness, and so on. Therefore, when we
desire of God that His Name should be glorified in Him, or
He in His Name, we do not merely desire that He may be
glorified, but that He may be glorified according to every
name that He possesses, whether it be Lord, or powerful, or
provident, or just, or good, or gracious, or holy, and so on
without end: "Let them know that the Lord is Thy Name," [Psalm Ixxxii. 19.]
or that "powerful, provident, &c., is Thy Name." Hence the
Psalmist was not satisfied with saying, "O ye children of God,
bring to the Lord glory," but "glory to His Name," because
he desired that God might be glorified according to every
name belonging to Him: "According to Thy Name, O God,
so also is Thy praise unto the ends of the earth." [Psalm xlvii. n.] It is true
that, for all this, we ought not here to add any of these titles
of God, powerful, provident, and the rest, but simply to say "Thy Name." And why? Because it ought to be enough to know that any name is God's, for us to desire that it may be glorified.
When thou desirest that God may be glorified
according to any of these names, powerful, provident, and the
rest, it is possible that thy wish may have reference to the
benefits which, as such, He has conferred on thee personally.
But in this petition thou oughtest altogether to forget thyself,
and so say to God, "Hallowed be Thy Name," that is,
"because it is Thy Name," without thinking of anything else
that might be added. This is to act like a son who knows
that he loves his Father and his Father's Name as he ought to
do: "All they that love Thy Name shall glory in Thee:" [Psalm v. 12.]
not "in Thy gifts," but "in Thee."

IV. Consider fourthly, that loving sons not only desire
most ardently that the name of their father may be glorified.
but desire also that they themselves may glorify it above all
others: "I will declare Thy Name to my brethren." [Psalm xxi. 23.] It
might seem, therefore, that in order to show thyself a loving
son to thy Father, thou oughtest to say, not, "Hallowed be
Thy Name," but "may I," or at least, since thou art praying
with others, "may we hallow Thy Name." But thou art
grievously mistaken in so thinking. Thou oughtest always to
say, "Hallowed be Thy Name." And why? Because this
shows thee to be a loving son. It is quite true that such a
son ought to desire to be the one who, more than all others,
shall give glory to his Father, but he ought not to desire this
above all things. What he ought to desire above all things
is that his Father may be glorified, whether by himself or by
others: by himself, if so great a favour may be granted him;
if not, then, at least by others. Therefore it is not true that
thou shouldst rather say to God, "may I," or "may we hallow
Thy Name." Thou shouldst say precisely as is said here, "Hallowed be Thy Name," to show that the thing that thou askest is that which thou desirest above all things. And dost
thou not know that it is impossible for thee to give glory to
God in any special manner without its redounding to thy own
great honour? "The glory of a man is from the honour of
his father." [Ecclus. iii. 13.] How easily mayest thou be grossly deceived by
self-love, so as to seek thyself even while seeking thy Father's,
glory. How frequently, indeed, is this the case! Thou
wouldst be the only one in the world to glorify God; the first
to bring souls to true penance; the first in preaching, expounding,
instructing, governing; the first to gain abundant palms
of honour: thus acting like the disciples who, while yet rude
and untaught, desired to be alone in giving glory to the Name
of Christ by casting devils out of men's bodies by virtue of it: "Master, we saw a certain man casting out devils in Thy Name, and we forbade him because he followeth not with us." [St. Luke ix. 49.]
Remember how Christ immediately answered those disciples: "Forbid him not, for he that is not against you is with you."
Exercise thyself, then, in saying continually to thy God, not "may I," or "may we hallow Thy Name," but "Hallowed be Thy Name." It is this which thou art to desire above all
things, not that thou mayest thyself glorify the Name of God,
but that the Name of God may be glorified by all; and as
thou shouldst desire it, so too shouldst thou pray for it above
all things. It follows, that if, in spite of thy endeavouring to
the utmost of thy feeble strength to promote His glory as
much as all others, thy efforts are unsuccessful, this ought not
to distress or humiliate thee; rather shouldst thou rejoice that
there are so many in the world younger and stronger than
thyself to supply thy deficiencies, and desire that they may
supply them: "Praise the Lord, ye children, praise ye the
Name of the Lord." [Psalm cxii. I.] It might be thought, however, that it
would be preferable to say, "Hallow Thy Name," rather than
"Hallowed be Thy Name," because it is God only Who can
give to His Name the glory due to it. Nevertheless, it is not
so: for if it is the will of God to be glorified, it is His will to
be glorified by our means also, not by Himself alone; and
therefore we ought to say sanctificetur, which is an abstract
expression including both Himself and us, for as we are not
able to do anything for the glory of God without Him, so
neither will God accept anything from us without our exertions.

Thy Kingdom come.

I. Consider first, that, after the good of his father, every
good son may, nay ought, rightly to think of his own. But of
what kind of good ought he to think first? Surely of that
which he ought chiefly to love and value, which is, without
doubt, his inheritance. It is this which, above all, is due to
him as a son: "If sons, heirs also." [Romans viii. 17.] And it is this which,
as a son, he should, above all, endeavour to secure. This,
therefore, is the reason why, after having said to our Heavenly
Father, "Hallowed be Thy Name," Christ would have us
immediately add, "Thy Kingdom come;" because, if it is
right that, after thinking of the glory of the Father, we should
think of ourselves, there is nothing which we ought so earnestly
to desire or seek after for ourselves, as to secure that inheritance
in our Father's house which is the attainment of the
final end of all His children. Neither is it to be wondered
at that we may boldly ask this inheritance of God. For a
heavenly inheritance is not like others. If a son in this world
desires the inheritance prepared for him by his earthly father,
the very fact of his desiring it makes him unworthy of obtaining
it, because it is the same thing as desiring his father's death.
Not so with the heavenly inheritance prepared for us by our
Father above. For this inheritance is the same as the enjoyment
of Himself: "The Lord is the portion," that is, the
whole portion "of my inheritance." [ Psalm xv. 5.] It is to see Him, to be
united to Him, to live in Him, and therefore it is the same
thing to ask Him to admit us to our inheritance as to ask
Him to grant that we may be with Him for all eternity. And
is it possible that thou art not ravished by the thought of so
magnificent an inheritance? Oh, how fair, how rich an inheritance
it is! "My inheritance is goodly to me." [Psalm xv. 6.] Is it not
right to be asking for it continually? "Thy Kingdom come."
Therefore it is not here said, "Let us come to Thy Kingdom,"
but "Thy Kingdom come," that is, "May Thy Kingdom
come to us," because this is the way in which to speak of an
inheritance; we ought never to pursue after our inheritance,
but to wait for it to come to us.

II. Consider secondly, that when Christ would have us
here pray for what is in substance our inheritance, He would
not have us pray for it by that name, but by the name of a
kingdom — "Thy Kingdom come" — in order that we may
esteem that inheritance as we ought. Do not think that it is
an ordinary good that we shall inherit when we inherit the
Beatific Vision. We shall inherit a Kingdom that has no
equal, for it is that Kingdom which belongs to God only,
namely, beatitude: "Heirs of the Kingdom which God hath
promised to them that love Him." [St. James ii. 5.] We cannot imagine
greater blessedness on earth than that of a sovereign prince,
because the state of a sovereign appears to us to be the only
one which contains in itself a perfect assemblage of all good.
One who reigns has whatever he desires, whether it be money,
or company, or followers, or pleasures, or music, or the chase;
for which reason God, with His own mouth, thus described
the kingdom when He gave it to Jeroboam: "I will take thee,
and thou shalt reign over all that thy soul desireth." [3 Kings xi. 37. ] But that
which we think constitutes the chief blessing of a sovereign is
that he is absolute lord of all his people, and deals with them
according to his pleasure. It is true, indeed, that this pleasure
on earth is very imperfect. For where is there a king, however
great, who is not without innumerable good things which he
would fain possess, and who does not, moreover, meet with
disobedience, stubbornness, rebellion, and countless acts of at
least secret disloyalty from his people? To reign truly belongs
to Heaven alone; for we see that on earth even God Himself,
although its true and universal King — "God is a great King
over all the earth" [Psalm xlvi. 3.]— nevertheless does not reign so absolutely
as not to be subject to flagrant disobedience from great
numbers. Nay, do not even His own children band together
against Him with Satan, the king of darkness, and make war
upon Him every day? He can be said to reign truly in Heaven
only, where all the blessed pay Him that complete homage
which is rendered to Him nowhere else, not even by any of
the just. And He will reign there still more absolutely when,
having utterly destroyed the kingdom of the devil, and finally
trampled upon all the disobedient and rebellious, He will
reign triumphantly with all His faithful children in everlasting
peace: "Sion, Thy King shall reign." [Isaias lii. 7.] And this, strictly
speaking, is the reign for which we here pray when we say to
God, "Thy Kingdom come," that sovereign beatitude in which
we shall reign with Him for endless ages above the stars, when,
possessing God, we shall possess with Him all that can be
desired; there we shall indeed "reign over all that our soul
desires," and shall see not only all our own inferior appetites
subject to us, but all the damned and all the devils whom
Christ our Judge will put under us in these words: "Come, ye
blessed of My Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for
you from the foundation of the world." [St. Matt. xxv. 34.]

III. Consider thirdly, that it might seem as though, when
asking this Kingdom of our Father we might say, "May our
Kingdom come," because if it is, as has been said, the inheritance which belongs to us as children of God, we might think that we had a right to demand as our own that which is "prepared" for us. But such was not our Lord's will: He would have us say to God, "Thy Kingdom," not "Our
Kingdom," because although it is true that Paradise will truly
be the Kingdom, not only of our Heavenly Father, but also of
us, His children, nevertheless, if we would ask for it in a holy
manner, it must never be as ours, but as His. This is the
conduct of a son of generous mind — to love his inheritance,
not for his own advantage, at least principally, but because by
means of it he can do greater honour to his father. Therefore,
when thou here sayest to thy God, "Thy Kingdom come,"
thou oughtest to think, above all, of that Kingdom which God
will then possess in thyself, when there will no longer be
anything of thyself left in thee which is in opposition to God,
or which can keep thee from Him, but when thou wilt be all
His in will, imagination, understanding, speech, and every part
of thee, even the least: "The Lord will reign over them in
Mount Sion, from this time, now, and for ever." [Micheas iv. 7.] This is the
chief delight of the blessed in Heaven — not the being kings
themselves, but the seeing that God reigns over them, and
therefore when they thank Christ for the beatitude which He
has won for them by His Blood, they all say to Him in unison: "Thou hast redeemed us to God in Thy Blood... and hast made us to our God a kingdom and priests, and we shall reign
on the earth." [Apoc. v. 9, 10] They thank Him first because they are made
a kingdom to God, that is, because God will reign over them
wholly, and afterwards they thank Him because they too have
been made kings, but kings who are also priests, as were all
the kings of the chosen people, that is, kings who should
continually offer to God in golden thuribles the incense of
eternal praise: "Thou hast made us to our God priests, and
we shall reign upon the earth," that is, "priests reigning upon
the earth," reigning over all things which they, together with
God, shall have to all eternity beneath their feet. Thus thou
seest that their first cause of rejoicing is that they are the
Kingdom of God, and the second that they also are to reign
with God. And thou, upon the earth, shouldst observe this
same beautiful order which the saints do in Heaven. They
rejoice incomparably more because they are God's Kingdom
than because they are kings; and this too shouldst thou
desire incomparably more whenever thou offerest to God this
petition, "Thy Kingdom come," not so much that thou
mayest reign with God as that God may at the same time,
perfectly reign over thee.

IV. Consider fourthly, that there are two classes of persons
who can never say with a good countenance to God, as others
can, "Thy Kingdom come." The first is that of obstinate
sinners, and the second of those imperfect just persons whose
hearts are unduly attached to their mortal life. The first class
cannot say this, because when they ask of God that His
Kingdom may come, they are, in fact, asking for their final
damnation. God certainly will reign to all eternity over all,
not the just only, but sinners also — "God shall reign over the
nations" [Amos v. 18.] — but in a very different manner. He will reign over
the just in Heaven, and over sinners in Hell. And thus the
just will be God's Kingdom, because He will reign over them
as a loving Sovereign reigns over kings who, having been
crowned by Him, will, in return, rejoice to vie with each other
in placing their crowns before His glorious throne. And
sinners will be God's Kingdom, because God will reign over
them as a terrible Sovereign over slaves whom He has condemned
to perpetual imprisonment, and who will hopelessly
try to shake off the iron chains and fiery fetters under which
they groan, desiring in their despair to find death, but in vain.
This, then, is what hardened sinners are unconsciously asking
for when they pray to God that His Kingdom may come; they
are asking that that everlasting slavery may come, which is to
be their portion in the abyss of Hell: "Woe to them that
desire the day of the Lord." [St. Luke x. 9.] Neither can these words be said
by those imperfect persons among the just who are living in
too great an attachment to their earthly life; for with what
face can they pray to God that His Kingdom may come if
their hearts are so ill-disposed as to be almost willing to resign
Heaven for ever if only God would give them leave to remain
with a good conscience in this world for ever? Whenever,
therefore, thou recitest the Pater noster, think for a moment
in what state thou art when thou askest of God that His
Kingdom may come, and if thou art living in sin, tremble and
fear at the thought of thy danger when that Kingdom draws
near: "The Kingdom of God is come nigh unto you." [Psalm xlvi. 9.] And
if thou art still too much attached to this world, seek to be
detached from it; for how is it possible that thou canst be so
much attached to a poor cottage, such as the earth is in
comparison with Heaven, as to shrink for fear of leaving it,
from going to another country, distant though it be, to take
possession of a vast kingdom, which is thine by right of inheritance?
Even though thou wert, I do not say a noble or a
prince in this world, but even one of its greatest kings, still it
would be for thee to say, as Christ did, "My kingdom is not
of this world." [St. John xviii. 36.] He did not say "in this world," but "of this
world," because He was truly King of this world, as well as of
the next, and yet He made no account of the former, but only
of the latter, and therefore He said that He was King of
Heaven, not of earth, because it was not in His earthly, but
His heavenly Kingdom that He found His consolation: "My
Kingdom is not from hence." [St. John xviii. 36.] If thou doest this, thou wilt
accustom thyself to say these beautiful words, "Thy Kingdom
come," in life and in death with the utmost affection to thy
Heavenly Father: in life, with the sentiments of one who
desires that the Kingdom of God may come to him also, as it
does to so many here; in death, with those of one who sees
it approaching, and gives it the welcome which is due to it.

V. Consider fifthly, that even if thou hast not yet got rid
of sin, or laid aside that excessive affection which thou bearest
to the world, thou oughtest not to think on that account that
the Lord's Prayer is either useless or unbecoming in thy
present state, and so leave off saying it. First, because thou
prayest in common with others, always in the plural, and
therefore it is not unbecoming, because if thou art conscious
of not being able to ask the gift for thyself, thou art performing
an act of charity in asking it for others. Secondly, because
thou prayest materially at least, if in no other way, and so
performest an act, if not of charity, still, at any rate, of external
religion, an act which is easy to pious persons, but tedious to
others. And so this prayer is not useless even to thee,
because, by virtue of that material good act, which is pleasing
to God, thou mayest prevail with Him to give thee one day
such grace as may bring thee altogether out of thy miserable
state, and enable thee at length to say boldly, not for others
only, but for thyself also, "Thy Kingdom come."

Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

I. Consider first, that it is perfectly just for every son to
aspire to his inheritance, but on one condition, that he does
not make himself unworthy of it by the lack of respect which
he shows his father. He is, indeed, bound to merit it by
positive submission to his father's will in all things. Dost
thou not think it right, then, that after saying to our Heavenly
Father, "Thy Kingdom come," in which petition we ask for
the inheritance, we should immediately add, "Thy will be
done," thus showing our readiness to do whatever He pleases?
Nevertheless, we do not say to our Father "may we do Thy
will," in order not to ascribe to ourselves, by such a way of
speaking, more than is right. We say fiat, in order to testify,
by a more modest form of expression, on the one hand our
readiness, as free agents, to do the holy will of God, and on
the other, the need we have of His grace to enable us to do it.
It is true that when we say "Thy will be done," we do not
mean to imply merely that it is to be done by us, but both by
and in us. For a good son is bound not only to do whatever
his father commands in particular instances, such as when he
bids him, for example, come or go, or leave off amusing
himself; but he should also be willing to be disposed of in
general as his father pleases — to be placed, for instance, with
certain company, or at a certain court, or in a certain calling.
And this is what we signify our readiness for by our fiat with
respect to our Father Who reigns in Heaven. First, that His
will may be done by us — "Thy will be done by us" — that is,
that His precepts and counsels and most secret inspirations
may be performed and followed by us: "In the head of the
book it is written of Me that I should do Thy will." [Psalm xxxix. 8, 9.] Secondly,
that His will may be done concerning us — "Thy will be done
in us" — that is, that He may dispose of us in all our affairs,
both in prosperity and in adversity: "Yet not My will, but
Thine be done." [St. Luke xxii. 42.] Dost thou think, then, that it is treating,
thy God as a Father, and so meriting the inheritance which
He prepares for thee, if thou art so far from submitting to His
will in both these ways, as to fulfil it in neither? "He that
doeth the will of My Father Who is in Heaven, he shall enter
into the Kingdom of Heaven." [St. Matt. vii. 21.]

II. Consider secondly, that the first of these two wills here
mentioned is what is called the will of intimation, or the will
which is made known to us; for it is not a will by which God
decrees that a work required by Him shall be done, but only
a will of desire, manifested to us by precepts, counsels, and
other similar signs by which He discovers to us what He
desires: "He hath made known His wills to the children of
Israel." [Psalm cii. 7.] The second is called the will of good pleasure, and
is that absolute will by which God has positively decreed to
dispose of us in one particular way rather than in any other,
without the possibility of any one ever resisting it: "All My
will shall be done.'' [Isaias xlvi. 10.] Speaking strictly, it is said that we
obey the former of these wills, and that we are conformed to
the second. When, therefore, by the words "Thy will be
done," we mean "done by us," we pray to God to give us
a perfect obedience: "Teach me to do Thy will, for Thou
art my God." [Psalm cxlii. 10.] And when we mean "done concerning us,"
we offer Him an entire conformity of our will with His: "Not
as I will, but as Thou wilt." [St. Matt. xxvi. 39.] And do not say that this is not
a petition, but an act of resignation; for even those things
which God has positively determined to do for our salvation,
He has for the most part determined to do by our means,
and especially by the instrumentality of our prayers, which,
therefore, we have the intention of applying to that great end.
And when we mean both "by us" and "concerning us," then
we do both of these things, that is, we ask Him for a perfect
obedience, and we offer Him a perfect conformity. See, then,
what a sublime petition this is! It may be said to be a golden
epitome and compendium of all sanctity at once. For it is
certain that as the means for obtaining the inheritance prepared
for each one of us, the prompt employment in due season of
all the Christian virtues is necessary, as of so many different
and, so to speak, small coins which are in use. There are
patience, mortification, meekness, humility, chastity, charity,
fortitude, and so many more, that their number would certainly
exceed that of all the different coins which are in circulation.
But it is evident that it would be a tedious exercise to pray
for all these to God separately and by name as often as they
are required. What, therefore, has Jesus, the Infinite Wisdom,
done? He has comprised them all in one, but one which,
like a gold coin of immense value, is equivalent to them all—
that is, the doing of the holy will of God. So that when we
say "Thy will be done," we seem, indeed, to be asking of
Him one thing only, namely, that His will may be done; but
in reality we are asking Him an infinite number of things.
For what is the will of God, but that we should practise all
these virtues as the saints did? "For this is the will of God,
your sanctification." [1 Thess. iv. 3] This is what Christ has here made us
ask. How is it, then, that these words are not continually on
thy lips, when thou knowest them to be so powerful?

III. Consider thirdly, how right it is that these words
should always be in our mouths in the first sense of asking
God for grace to do His will: "May He incline our hearts
to Himself, to walk in all His ways." [3 Kings viii. 58.] It is right because of
the honour we render to God by doing it, and it is right also
because of the benefit that accrues to us from doing it. It is
right because of the honour we render to God by doing it, for
obedience is the first honour which every father requires of his
children: "Why call you Me Lord, Lord, and do not the
things which I say?" [St. Luke vi. 46.] Thus, Christ declared of Himself that
to do in all things the will of His Father was the chief end for
which He came down from Heaven to earth: "I came down
from Heaven not to do My own will, but the will of Him that
sent Me.'' [St. John vi. 38.] How, then, would it be if thou wert, on the
contrary, so ill-disposed, that after having readily performed
some good work, such as going to a hospital, fasting, taking
the discipline, because it suited thy humour, thou shouldst
immediately lose all desire of performing it as soon as ever
it is commanded thee? This certainly is not honouring thy
Father. In the next place, it is right because of the benefit
accruing to ourselves, for no son is more loved by a father
than a very obedient one: it is such a son whom he embraces
and on whom he lavishes most caresses and favours. So is
it with God: "I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man
according to My own Heart, who shall do all My wills." [Acts xiii. 22.]
Children who, on the contrary, are continually disobeying
their father, are never in favour, but continually under his
displeasure. Dost thou wonder why thou never livest in peace
with God? Because of thy disobedience: "Who hath resisted
Him and hath had peace?" [ Job ix. 4.]

IV. Consider fourthly, also, how right it is that these
words, "Thy will be done," should be continually on our lips in the second sense, namely, that of rejoicing that the will of God should be done in us: "It is the Lord, let Him do what
is good in His sight." [I Kings in. 18.] And this for the same reasons. First,
for the honour redounding hence to our great Father; for
when we willingly give Him absolute dominion over us, we show
how greatly we trust in Him, in His love, power, providence,
goodness, and wisdom: "The Lord ruleth me, and I shall want
nothing." [Psalm xxii. 1.] This is the greatest honour that He can receive
from us. Sailors can show no greater honour to their pilot
than by sleeping quietly in their berths when he is at the helm.
But if they stand round him, full of anxiety to know why he
steers more to the left than the right, they insult him and make
him very angry in the end. Thou canst do no greater dishonour
to God than by obliging Him, so to speak, to give thee an
account of His government: "Why have we fasted, and Thou
hast not regarded?" [ Isaias Iviii. 3.] Wouldst thou truly honour Him? Say
to Him continually from thy heart, "Thy will be done," that
is, "because it is Thine," for I desire no other reason. It is
right also because of the great advantage we derive from it, for
we are ignorant children who, unless we freely let ourselves be
guided by our Father in all things, are in danger of losing our
way at every step. A sheep wandering by herself through a
wood, is trembling and full of fear. And why? Because,
simple as she is, she understands her great need of guidance.
When she follows in the steps of her shepherd she is at rest
So, too, with us. If we desire to walk safely on earth, we
must let ourselves be guided by God like simple sheep. This
alone will take away all fear from us: "And I am not troubled,
following Thee for my pastor." [Jerem. xvii. 16.]

V. Consider fifthly, that to desire what is the will of God
in every way, whether by us or in us, is so important a work
that we should endeavour to perform it in the most perfect
manner possible. Therefore Christ commanded us, whenever
we say to our Father, "Thy will be done," always to add, "on
earth as it is in Heaven." It is doubtless impossible for the
will of God to be valued and adored on earth by every one as
it is in Heaven, where love is in proportion to knowledge.
Nevertheless, we shall aim high in order to reach the highest
possible mark: "I show you yet a more excellent way." [Cor. xii. 31.]
And this to see what is done in Heaven, where both these
wills of God, His revealed will and His will of good pleasure,
are accomplished. His revealed will is done specially by the
angels, who, as indefatigable messengers of their God, are
always ready with outspread wings to hasten whithersoever He
sends them: "Bless the Lord, all ye His angels, you that are
mighty in strength, and execute His word." And how is this
will done by them? Promptly? Exactly? This is not
enough: it is done out of pure obedience — "Hearkening to
the voice of His orders"[Psalm cii. 20.]— that is, not merely "so soon as
they hear His voice," as some have explained it, but "for
this one end, that they may hear or obey His voice," which
is the interpretation especially insisted on by Bellarmine as
most conformable to the original; for the angels obey from
no interest of their own: they obey simply for the sake of
obedience. The will of good pleasure is done continually,
not only by the angels, but by all the blessed. And how is
this also done? It is done with all their soul, that is, with the
perfect assent of the understanding, which is resolved to think
that which God wills in every matter is the very best; and it is
done with the perfect assent of the will, which is resolved to
choose it as the best. We upon the earth sometimes obey
God with promptness and exactitude, but we obey Him at the
same time for the advantage accruing to us from obedience.
This is not the obedience of the angels. And we are sometimes
also conformed to the Divine will, but at the same time
we wish, if it were possible, that God's will were different.
This is not the conformity of the blessed. The blessed not
only desire whatever God wills, but they desire it in such a
manner that they would not, if they could choose, have God's
will different from what it is. Thus it is that the will of the
blessed is so transformed into the will of God as not to be
distinguishable from it: "He who is joined to the Lord is one
spirit." [1 Cor. vi. 17.] It is a consequence of this, that although the blessed
are not all equal in their beatitude, they are all equally contented.
The reason is that all of them, as loving sons, not only
do not desire a portion of the inheritance in the least degree
greater or less than that which their Eternal Father has from all
eternity appointed to each one of them, but they cannot even
desire that it were His will to appoint such a portion. This
is a thing which it may be that thou art not able fully to
understand here, because nature here overcomes grace by its
motions; but thou wilt understand it in Heaven, when grace
overcomes nature. And just as God cannot desire ever to
have willed anything different from what He has willed with
regard to any one of the blessed, so neither can the blessed,
who have one spirit with God, desire it. It is, then, this short
saying, "Thy will be done," which makes the perfect bliss of
Paradise. As, therefore, if it were possible for self-will to
depart from Hell, it would be Hell no longer — "If there were
an end of self-will, there would be no Hell "— so if it were
possible for self-will to enter Paradise, it would be Paradise no
longer, because there would no longer reign there that perfect
peace which comes from there being in Paradise one only and
single will, that is, the will of God: "Thou shalt be called My
pleasure in her." [Isaias Ixii. 4.] Wouldst thou know why it is that thy heart,
instead of being a little paradise of pleasure and peace, is so
often a hell of confusion? It is because self-will is there:
"Israel shall be confounded in his own will." [Osee x. 6.]

Give us this day our daily bread.

I. Consider first, that as every father justly requires due
reverence from the sons whom he would make his heirs, so
in order that they may easily render it to him, he ought, on
his part, to take thought for their daily food, more especially
when he is a father who is exceedingly rich, and when they
have nothing. But where is there a father so rich as our
Heavenly Father? and where are there children who, without
Him, are so poor, or rather so destitute as all of us? Therefore,
in order to give thee the assurance that this thy great
Father will not fail to provide thee with all the nourishment
necessary for thee, Christ, after the first three petitions which
can be perfectly granted in Heaven only, invited thee to beg
that nourishment of Him, not that thy Father is not very ready
of Himself to give it, but to accustom thee to acknowledge
that everything comes to thee after all from Him alone.
There are two kinds of food, corporal and spiritual, the latter
to support the life of the soul, the former that of the body.
And as an earthly father shall provide his children, as far as he
is able, with both of these, giving them as to the body meat,
clothes, and shelter, and whatever else is necessary for life,
and as to the soul whatever is necessary for leading a good
life: much more should the Heavenly Father do so. Hence
it is that these words, "Give us this day our daily bread," are
explained by some of spiritual food, because the bread, which
is here called "daily" by one Evangelist, is by another called
"supersubstantial;" and they are explained by others of
corporal food, because the bread here called "supersubstantial"
by one Evangelist is by another called "daily;"
and, lastly, they are taken by some in both senses, because the
word admits of both meanings in the Greek root from which
it is derived. It will be safest for thee to adhere to the
opinion of these last, and to understand by "bread "both
spiritual and corporal food, both because a good father is
bound to provide both of them, and a good son to desire each,
and because all the words of which this petition is made up
are applicable to both. Do thou beg of God light to understand
it all aright, so that when thou askest of Him this bread
thou mayest not do so as beasts would ask for their food.

II. Consider secondly, these words first in their higher
sense, that which refers to spiritual food. And here thou hast
to observe that this food is expressed by the word "bread:"
first, because the chief of all kinds of spiritual food is that
of the Eucharist, which is especially designated by that name —
"This is the Bread that came down from Heaven" [St. John vi. 59.] —
and next, because this same name is commonly used to
express all other similar kinds of food, as, for example, the
Word of God, the consolations, lights, and tears that accompany
prayer, and, above all, those helps of grace which are called
actual, and which by their strengthening influence enable us
to do the will of God with ease, and to rest in it. These
helps are asked of God only by the name of bread, not that
they are not in themselves full of sweetness, but because we
ought not to ask them of God for that reason, but only
because they have the power of strengthening and confirming
the soul: "That bread may strengthen man's heart."[Psalm ciii. 15.] And
by so doing God has here, in the first place, removed that
excessive taste which some have for feeding their souls on
spiritual sweetnesses; let us be content with bread. The
next thing to be noted is the word "our," which is added that
we may not desire to appropriate the bread of others, but be
satisfied with our own, that is, with that which belongs to our
state. It may be that thou seest with displeasure the daily
Communions which are permitted to another by the same Spiritual Father who refuses them to thee.
Thou enviest the higher gift of prayer which thou discernest in another, the
lights, nay, even the raptures, ecstasies, revelations, and
wonderful communications of grace which God does not
grant to thee, either because thou art not worthy of them,
or because they are not suited to thy state. This is not to
desire thy own bread only. Be satisfied with that which God
thinks well to give thee as suited to thee, and never complain
that He gives to others bread which is made of finer flour;
say to Him "our bread." In the third place, thou sayest "daily bread," that is, that which is eaten daily; not that all these kinds of food are necessarily to be taken every day, but
because they are usually taken, at least by desire. Such is,
in an especial manner, the Most Holy Eucharist, which thou
mayest receive daily, if not sacramentally, at least spiritually,
as Christ did Himself, Who for three-and-thirty years desired
it only: "With desire I have desired to eat this pasch with
you before I suffer," [St. Luke xxii. 15.] not any pasch, but "this," that is, the
one in which He instituted Holy Communion, and, as is
most probable, was the first to receive It, so making in
Himself a worthy abode for Himself: "The children are
partakers of flesh and blood, and He also Himself in like
manner hath been partaker of the same." [Hebrews ii. 14.] So that if, instead
of calling this "daily," thou preferrest to call it "super-substantial bread," thou seest why it has that name. It is
because it is intended to nourish the noblest substance of
man, namely, his soul. The next words to be noticed are "give
us," and from these thou shouldst take great confidence in
asking food of so good a Father. The word used is da, not
dona, a word which is not used in speaking of food. Food
is not given as a present, but as a matter of course, especially
by a father. Only it must be remembered that this is not
a reason for living in idleness; for although it is true that
a rich father gladly gives food to his children who have
nothing of their own, yet this is not the case when he sees
them standing idle, and doing nothing to help the family.
And is it just, that God should feed thee, even daily, with the
food of the Eucharist, and "give thee spiritual joy and tears,
and extraordinary aids, while thou on thy part renderest Him
no service? There is surely great inconsistency in demanding
food and not labouring in any way: "If any man will not work, neither let him eat." [Thess. iii. 10.]
Fifthly and lastly, the
restrictive phrase "this day," that is, "for this day," is added
in order to do away with all excessive anxiety in thinking of
the future. Often thou losest heart, and dost not apply thyself
in earnest to the spiritual life for fear of soon losing those
helps which make its beginnings so sweet. Do not do this;
think only of the present day, "this day," as Christ teaches
thee by this hodie: to-morrow thou shalt think of to-morrow,
but how dost thou know that thou wilt live to see it? "Be
not solicitous for to-morrow."

III. Consider thirdly, in the same way, that these words
which we are here meditating may be easily applied to the
food which is intended for our bodily sustenance. It is called
bread, because if we are not to seek after even spiritual, how
much less after carnal delights, when the body which we would
pamper becomes food for worms in a few days after death!
It is true that according to the Hebrew expression the word
means not only bread, but all kinds of food — "Call him that
he may eat bread" [Exodus ii. 20.] — and even everything that is in any way
necessary for the support of life: "He that taketh away the
bread gotten by sweat is like him that killeth his neighbour." [Ecclus. xxxiv. 26. ]
But it is asked for by the name of bread to remind us that
as we are not in the habit of eating more than enough of it
(for very few persons would eat it from gluttony), so, too,
should we act with regard to all temporal goods which we ask
of God, using them in moderation: "Use as a frugal man the
things that are set before thee." [Ecclus. xxxi. 19.] It is called "ours," because
we ought to be content with asking only that bread which is
ours — "We will eat our own bread" [Isaias iv. 1.] — for there are too many
persons in the world who desire that of others; and if this
is unlawful even as to spiritual bread, which does not diminish,
no matter among how many it is divided, how much more is
this the case as to corporal food, which is so limited? It is
called "daily," to teach us that no one ought to act like
certain insatiable rich men, who do not, indeed, rob others,
but who busy themselves in heaping up what would suffice
for the support of many families who have hardly enough to
eat: "That hoard up silver and gold, and there is no end
of their getting." [Baruch iii. 18.] This is not to desire food, but a large
income. And if thou askest how the bread, which means
common food for the body, can be called not only "daily,"
but "supersubstantial," it is to teach thee for what end thou
shouldst ask this food of thy great Father. It is not merely
for the preservation of thy body, which is the inferior substance,
but that thy body, being preserved and strengthened by this
food, may be subject to the soul, which is the superior
substance, here called supersubstantia. In asking for this
bread we say da, not dona, because even these corporal goods,
if they are asked for only as food, and food intended for so
good a purpose as that of subjecting the body to the soul,
should be asked for with confidence. Dost thou fear that
God will deny needful nourishment to one who is His son,
as thou art, when He gives it even to brutes? "He giveth
to beasts their food, and to the young ravens that call upon
Him." [Psalm cxlvi. 9.] Oh, how greatly dost thou wrong Him by not
trusting Him, and by providing thyself with this nourishment
in unlawful ways! Be satisfied with meriting that He should
give it thee, by behaving as a son who does not live in idleness,
and remembering that He has innumerable ways of
supporting thee. We are told to say "this day" in praying
for our corporal nourishment, first, because it is taken for
granted that thou art to have recourse to God every day to
beg for it, as well-conditioned children, who do not go about
the house helping themselves from the larder, but ask their
father for it; and next, because thou art to ask for it this
day without anxiety for the morrow, as the children do of
whom we have been speaking. If they were to ask for the
provisions of next day they would show a lack of confidence
in him, as though he would not be the same father on however
many days they appealed to him. The manna was given day
by day to the children of Israel, yet it never failed them for
forty years.

IV. Consider fourthly, that this petition, salutary as it is,
may become a rock on which two very different classes of men,
the rich and the poor, are equally in danger of striking. If
thou art rich thou art in danger of thinking that the daily use
of this prayer is unnecessary for thee, seeing that thou art
provided not only for days, but for almost innumerable years:
"Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years." [St. Luke xii. 19.] Thy
cellars and barns are full, how then canst thou require to say
to God, as the poor do, "Give us this day our daily bread,"
whether thou understandest by "bread "the spiritual or corporal
food which thou hast in abundance? But thou art greatly
mistaken, for if thou hast much thou mayest lose much, and
that in an instant. Therefore, as thou mayest very easily
every day lose all that thou possessest, so, too, shouldst thou
every day pray to God to preserve for thee at least as much
as is sufficient for thy honest maintenance. Neither oughtest
thou to change the forms of petition because thou art rich,
by saying to God, "preserve," or "continue," instead of
"give." For every moment that He preserves thy possessions
for thee, so that no harm may come to them, He really gives
them to thee; and therefore thou art bound to come before
thy God daily, as a poor beggar, to beg of Him bread for thy
support. If thou art poor thou art in danger from the contrary
quarter, that is, the danger of not troubling thyself to labour
for thy daily bread, but only asking it of Him Who is certain
to give it thee if thou dost ask it. But is not this folly? No
father, as we have said, intends when he gives food to his
children to encourage them in idleness, but to remove them
from the danger of it by giving them strength to work. Do
not say, either, "But if I work to gain my daily bread, what
is the use of asking for it?" Because if thou didst not ask
for it thy work would be useless. God might send down upon
thee hail, rain, and storms to destroy thy work, and so thou
wouldst indeed labour, but without profit. When, therefore,
thou sayest to God, "Give us this day our daily bread," in
whichever of the two senses that have been explained thou
usest the petition, whether for spiritual or corporal needs,
thou art not by it to ask exemption from the universal law
which declares, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat
bread," [Genesis iii. 19.] but to ask that thy labours may be so far successful
as to provide thee with the means of living; for it is of little
use for thee to plant and water the tree unless God give it
the interior sap from Heaven: "Neither he that planteth
is anything, nor he that watereth, but God that giveth the
increase." [1 Cor. iii. 7.] Thou seest, therefore, that whether thou art rich
or poor thou hast always alike to say to God these words,
"Give us this day our daily bread," for it is in virtue of them,
that thy food is given thee.

And forgive us our debts.

I. Consider first, that a father, who merits the greatest
honour, both in himself and on account of his extreme care
of his children, not only in providing them with a rich inheritance,
but with food which is both suitable and unfailing to
support them till they receive it, would certainly deserve from
all his sons such reverence that not one of their number would
displease him on any account. But it is impossible, at least
morally, that this should happen, so great is the corruption of
human nature. And therefore Christ, Who well knew that
notwithstanding our obligations to our Heavenly Father we
should be insane enough to displease Him repeatedly and
grievously, chose to join together the preceding petition for
daily bread and this one for the pardon of debts by the word
"and," to point out to us the close connection there is between
the innumerable favours we receive from God and the equally
innumerable acts of ingratitude with which we repay them.
Still we must take courage, for after this sadly significant
"and," Christ goes on immediately to teach us how to beg
of God so needful a pardon with an infallible certainty of
obtaining it, if we ask it with all our hearts. For what would
be the use of teaching us to ask it, if by asking we could not
receive it? "Ask and it shall be given you." Imagine,
therefore, that in this beautiful prayer we have hitherto been
speaking to our Father as innocent children, seeing that, after
praying for the glory of His great name in that fervent petition,
"Hallowed be Thy Name," we have asked of Him (as was
right) first our promised inheritance in the words, "Thy
Kingdom come," then the interior merit for obtaining it, in
the words, "Thy will be done," and, thirdly, the means, both
exterior and interior, for doing so, in the words, "Give us
this day our daily bread." We now begin speaking to Him
as guilty but penitent children, because no father should think
only of his children who are well, but also of those who are
sick. Indeed, it is the chief joy of a true father to win back
his erring children. This was shown by the father in the
famous parable, who rejoiced more at the return of the
prodigal than in all the service he received from the good
son: "Let us eat and make merry, because this my son was dead and is come to life again."
[St. Luke xv. 23, 24.] Do thou, therefore, conceive a great confidence in remembering that when thou
sayest to God, "Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our
debtors," it is to a Father that thou sayest it.

II. Consider secondly, that we are truly debtors to
another when we have either taken from him or withheld from
him anything that is his by right. But what is the right of
God over us as our Father? It is that, as good sons, we
should, in all circumstances, prefer His pleasure to our own.
Whenever, therefore, we fail to do so, we are debtors to God
on a large scale, that is, both in the guilt and in the penalty,
according to the degree of the sin committed. These, then,
are the two great debts of which thou beggest forgiveness of
God whenever thou sayest "Forgive us our debts." It is
neither the guilt alone nor the penalty alone which thou
askest Him to remove from thee, but thou prayest Him, as a
tender Father, to remit both: first, indeed, the guilt, as one
who is truly penitent desires, and then the penalty. It is true
that thou canst only beg Him to forgive thee these debts in
the appointed way, and therefore, as to the debt of guilt, if
thou desirest to obtain its remission by these words (which
have not the power of conferring it in themselves, as the
sacraments do, but only by way of impetration), it is necessary
for thee to have in thy heart at the time both the true sorrow
and the true purpose of amendment which are requisite. And,
as to the debt of penalty, it is necessary for thee to give to
God due satisfaction, both by confessing the sin thou hast
committed to him who occupies His place on earth, and by
performing the penance imposed on thee for it. Does this
seem a great thing to thee? If so, thou dost not understand
what these debts are. The debt thou hast contracted by the
commission of the smallest venial sin is so great that, if all
the saints and all other pure creatures most pleasing to God
were to desire to make condign compensation for it by their
homage, and were even to come down from Heaven to offer
solemn sacrifices for thee in this valley of tears, to fast, to
take the discipline, to pray incessantly for thee, they could
not succeed in making that compensation to all eternity?
And why? Because God hates the smallest venial sin that
is committed in the world more than He loves all the united
worship of His pure creatures. Is it so great a thing when all
the children of a house join together in reverencing and honouring their father? They are only doing their duty;
indeed, they always fall short of it: but if one of them offends
him, he sins greatly against him to whom he is bound, and
so there is no proportion between the cases. The debt of
penalty is also so great that it can never be understood but
by one who is now in Hell or in Purgatory in order to pay it
to the last farthing. Canst thou think it a great thing that
God, for the forgiveness of thy debt, requires thee to retract
from thy heart the sin thou hast committed, to confess it,
secretly, but sincerely, to a priest, and to perform some
penance imposed on thee for the good of thy soul? Return
thanks to Jesus Christ, that, by making satisfaction for thee by
His works, which are of infinite value, He has also obtained
for thee full remission. And remember that however much
thou mightest do, it would all be nothing. When, therefore,
thou sayest to God, "Forgive us our debts," think of what
thou art saying. Do not think thou art asking of God what
costs nothing. It is true, indeed, that the pardon which thou
obtainest by this prayer costs thee nothing; but how much
did it cost Jesus, the Son of God, when He made Himself a
sacrifice for the good of all? "He gave Himself a redemption
for all." [Timothy ii. 6.]

III. Consider thirdly, that this great petition was directed
by our Lord to two principal ends: to save men both from
presumption and despair, those two tremendous precipices,
one of which is the danger of the just, the other that of
sinners. There are some who may reach such a pitch of
audacity in this world, as to imagine that they have nothing to
ask their Father's pardon for—"I have never transgressed thy
commandment" [St. Luke xv. 29.] — and there are others who maybe so filled
with terror as to have no hope of forgiveness: "My iniquity
is greater than that I may deserve pardon." [Genesis iv. 13.] Both these
dangers, then, are provided against in this beautiful prayer.
This prayer was, in the first instance, enjoined on the Apostles,
and then, in them, to all the faithful without exception:
"Thus shall you pray." And it is commanded to be recited
every day, for which reason it is called the Daily Prayer; it is
to be said in public, in private, in every part of the world.
Let no one, then, presume in himself, for however holy he may
be he is bound to say to God, not only for others, but for
himself (as has been taught by numerous Councils), "Forgive
us our debts." The Blessed Virgin alone could not say it for
herself, but only for others, or if she said it for herself it was
only because, like our Lord, she in her charity esteemed the
debts of all mankind as her own. But who besides has there
ever been in the world who could exclude himself from the
long list of debtors? "If we say that we have no sin, we
deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us;" [1 St. John i. 8.] not only,
as St. Augustine observes, "humility is not in us," but not
even "truth." It is indeed, possible, that at some particular
moment of time in which thou recitest this prayer, thou
mayest be free from every kind of debt in consequence of
having just gained a Plenary Indulgence by which all thy sins,
even the very smallest, have been done away. But how canst
thou know this certainly, unless an angel were to come down
from Heaven on purpose to reveal it to thee? So that even
in this case thou shouldst still pray in the same manner,
because thou art certain that the debt has been incurred, and
not certain that it has ever been cancelled: "Be not without
fear about sin forgiven." [Ecclus. v. 5.] In the next place, as no one who
says the Lord's Prayer ought to presume, so neither ought any
one to despair, provided only that he does not merely recite it
with his lips (as even parrots have been taught to do), but
from the bottom of his heart. For how could all men be alike
commanded to say to God, "Forgive us our debts," if there
could possibly be debts so enormous that it was impossible for
them to be forgiven, even though this petition were offered
with heartfelt sincerity? This is not so. Ask, and then thou
mayest be firmly convinced of obtaining thy request: "I
forgave thee all the debt, because thou besoughtest me." [St. Matt, xviii. 32.]
And hereby two foolish heresies are also confuted, that of
Jovinian, who said that the grace of Baptism made men impeccable,
and that of Novatus, which was the direct reverse, and
taught that whoever lost the grace of Baptism by sin could
never regain it. Both are utterly false. Our Lord has charged
baptized persons to say daily, "Forgive us our debts," and
therefore it is possible both to fall into sin and to obtain
forgiveness of it after Baptism.

IV. Consider fourthly, that here thou mayest ask whether
a sinner who is not resolved to do penance can say this prayer,
since everyone who says the words, "Forgive us our debts,"
ought to say them, as is taught by the decisions of Councils,
not only for others, but for himself. But, I would ask, what
is it that such a sinner has the intention of asking in these
words? Is it that his debts, whether of guilt or penalty, may
be forgiven him in spite of his maintaining an obstinate determination
of persevering in his sinful life? If so, he would be
making a prayer as audacious as it is sacrilegious, and therefore
there can be no doubt that he ought to leave off making
it, for he would be praying contrary to our Lord's intention,
which was that we should pray for the remission of our debts,
not for impunity. But if, notwithstanding his hardened determination
to sin, he does not intend to ask of God that his
debts may be forgiven him in his present state of a sinner
who is resolved not to make satisfaction, but that He would
give him the dispositions for abandoning that state, then he
may pray, not only without sin, but with profit, because he is
not asking for a remission at the present time, which is incompatible
with the state he is in, but for one in the future, when
it will not be so. Therefore, at the very least, however great a
sinner thou mayest be when saying the Lord's Prayer, thou
shouldst desire to cease one day to be a sinner. And surely,
unless thou hast become a fiend in human shape, thou canst
not think this is much to do. If thou wilt not do it, then
take to thyself that terrible text from the Proverbs, "He that
turneth away his ears from hearing the Law, his prayer shall be
an abomination." [Prov. xxvi. 9.] Observe that it is not said, "He that
heareth not the Law," which is the case with every sinner who
does not practise it, but, "He that turneth away his ears from
hearing" it, as is the case with those hardened men who stop
their ears, like the adders, because they do not wish to
practise it.

As we also forgive our debtors.

I. Consider first, that if there is anything of which the
father of a numerous family should be desirous, it is that all
his children should live together in peace. "Behold how
good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together
in unity." [Psalm cxxxii. I.] "Good," because it is advantageous, and "pleasant,"
because it is delightful. And whereas peace reigning in a
family makes it a paradise, when the scene is changed by the
disturbance of that peace, it is turned into a hell. Hence,
while our Heavenly Father is perfectly satisfied that all the
other petitions of the Pater noster, no matter how comprehensive
they are, should be offered to Him unconditionally,
He has not chosen that this should be the case in this one
petition, in which we apply to Him for the forgiveness of sins.
He would have us ask for it, indeed, but on this condition,
that we, too, forgive our brethren: "Forgive us our debts as
we also forgive our debtors." This word "as" is not, however,
employed by God to signify the rule of proportion for the
remission which we beg of Him. Alas for us, if this were so!
The debts which He forgives us far exceed any which we
forgive, or can forgive, our neighbour. We do but forgive the
hundred pence, as in that beautiful parable in the Gospel, and
He forgives us ten thousand talents. There is no comparison
between the two. Then, as to the manner of this forgiveness.
God forgives us with unbounded love, and we forgive our
neighbour with one that is restricted; God forgives promptly,
and we reluctantly; God, so heartily that He buries our debts
in the depths of the sea, never to rise again — "He will cast
all our sins into the bottom of the sea" [Micheas vii. 19.] — and we so feebly
that the debts are always, as it were, just below the surface, so
hard do we find it to blot them from our remembrance. This
"as," then, is not set by God as a rule, but a condition; it is,
therefore, not a thing to be fulfilled, but that is already fulfilled,
or in the act of fulfilment. So that we are not to say, "Forgive
us our debts as we will forgive our debtors," but "as we
forgive," that thou mayest not act like a cheat, who, if he
receives the favour before fulfilling the annexed condition,
either fails to fulfil it or delays doing so. But if, after all,
thou wouldst take this "as" not merely for a condition, but
for a rule (as some of the Fathers seem to do), it must not
be thought to be in any way a rule of perfection, but only of
proportion. It is not a rule of perfection; for what are we,
vile worms of earth, that we should lay down the law to God
as to the perfect way of doing His works? We ought to take
the law from Him, not give it to Him: "Be you therefore
perfect, as also your Heavenly Father is perfect." [St Matt. v. 48.] But it is
a rule of proportion, because, in proportion to the love with
which we forgive our brethren, God will forgive us. If we do
nothing but what we are strictly bound to do, namely, to
forgive injuries, God will deal with us in like manner. If we
not only forgive, but repay them by extraordinary, special,
and superabundant acts of kindness, so, too, will God treat
us: "With what measure you mete it shall be measured to
you again." [St. Matt. vii. 2.] See, therefore, how full of meaning is this little
word "as;" a whole day would not be enough to exhaust it.

II. Consider secondly, that though this word "as" is used
here with perfect propriety, it might have been thought
sufficient to leave it to be understood as a tacit condition,
not needing to be expressed. For if it is taken as a condition
absolutely necessary for obtaining pardon of God, that condition
was already sufficiently imposed by Christ in the words,
"When you shall stand to pray, forgive, if you have aught
against any man, that your Father also Who is in Heaven
may forgive you your sins." [St. Mark xi. 25.] Or, if it is taken as a rule of
proportion, this also was fully implied in the saying: "With
what judgment you judge you shall be judged." [St. Matt. vii. 2.] What, then,
was the use of emphasizing this "as" so forcibly that it should
be impossible to recite the Lord's Prayer, even once only in
a lifetime, without clearly, deliberately, and expressly declaring
to God that we forgive? Of what use was it? Of infinite
use; for when in this prayer thou beggest God to forgive thy
debts, either thou art in dispositions to forgive thy debtors, or
not. If thou art so disposed, then, by immediately adding,
"as we also forgive our debtors," thou receivest a very strong
inducement to do so very completely, because this word "as"
then comes before thee as a rule, and reminds thee that in the
same proportion with which thou forgivest thou shalt be
forgiven. If thou art not so disposed, then this word compels
thee to enter into thyself, because in that case this word is put
before thee as an absolutely necessary condition, and reminds
thee that unless this condition is fulfilled, it is not only useless
but foolish to expect pardon. Further, with what confusion
oughtest thou to be covered, if, although thou daily recitest
the Lord's Prayer, both in public and private, thou findest
that thy conduct is the very opposite of what thou declarest
it to be to God! If thou wert to present a memorial to thy
sovereign, in which he were to discover a falsehood, especially
of such a kind as rendered it fraudulent, thou wouldst certainly
be so overwhelmed with shame that if thou hadst any sense
of honour thou wouldst be ready to sink into the earth. And
yet thou dost not hesitate to beg of God so often to forgive
thee because thou forgivest thy neighbour, while all the while
this is false. If thou actest in this way thou deservest that
whenever thou comest to these words of the Pater noster, "as
we also forgive our debtors," all the devils should surround
thee and cry out, "Thou liest! it is false! We know that for
many months thou hast not even returned the greeting of such
a one, not to speak of those kind and courteous offices which
are due to all in token of real peace; and canst thou talk of

III. Consider thirdly, that in order to avoid these just
reproaches thou mayest say that thou wilt resolve, when thou
sayest the Lord's Prayer, to pass over these inconvenient
words, which so evidently reveal thy falsehood. Dost thou
imagine that this is an original idea? Consult Cassian, and
thou wilt see that formerly some persons who were superstitious
rather than devout in their prayers did the very same
thing. Take care never to imitate them. Canst thou suppose
that thy Heavenly Father, to Whom thou art speaking, is
either so forgetful or so distracted as not immediately to
perceive thy omission? He knows what thou art leaving out,
and why thou art doing so. And do not say that thou actest
in this way out of reverence, to avoid lying to a God of so
great Majesty. For if this reverence impel thee to refrain
from falsely saying to Him that thou forgivest when thou dost
not forgive, why then does it not far more impel thee to obey
Him by forgiving? This is not reverence, but shame at seeing
thy miserable state, which thou lackest the courage to forsake.
This, therefore, is what thou shouldst do. Say the words, and
say them all, as is right; and if in the act of saying them thou
art so weak as not to be able as yet thoroughly to change thy
heart, at least desire to change it. In this way, if thou dost
not forgive at the time, thou wilt at least have some intention
of forgiving, and so thou wilt not lie when saying these great
words, "as we also forgive our debtors;" and this is not
merely because thou sayest them in common with all (for if
that were sufficient excuse, all the saints would not speak so
strongly with one voice against the man who says them,
however seldom, without practising what he professes), but
also because, if thou hast not yet reached the goal of forgiving
like others, thou art at least on the way to do so. The worst
of all would be neither to have this desire nor to wish to have
it. In such a case, what can I say? That thou shouldst
altogether abandon the practice of saying the Pater noster,
since it is not right to mutilate it? God forbid! But I do
say that when thou sayest it, thou shouldst declare to God
that thou art no longer worthy to do so except in the common
name of Christendom, because thou canst not yet ask pardon
of thy sins in thy own person, not having granted it, for love
of Him, to thy neighbour.

IV. Consider fourthly, that although to forgive is a
necessary condition for obtaining God's forgiveness, it is
not, therefore, as some have thought, a sufficient condition.
For if at the same time thou dost not abandon evil habits,
restore his good name or his goods to one whom thou hast
robbed of either, and do whatever else is commanded thee
by the law of thy God, it is certain that He will not forgive
thee thy debts, even although thou mayest forgive those of
thy debtors. For there is this difference in the Scriptures
between what are called affirmative promises — such as, "He
that believeth and is baptized shall be saved," and those
which are negative, like the converse, "He that believeth
not shall be condemned" [St. Mark xvi. 16.] — that the latter are to be understood
without limitation, and therefore it is certain that not
to believe is enough to condemn any one; but the former
are always understood with this limitation, that the promise
holds good if certain necessary things are not neglected.
And thus thou perceivest that it is not enough for salvation
merely to believe and to be baptized, as certain heretics
of our time maintain; but that it is also necessary to act as a
believer and a baptized person if life is prolonged. So, too,
in our case: if thou dost not forgive thy debtors their debts,
it is plain that God will not forgive thee thine; for this is an
instance of a negative declaration: "If you will not forgive
men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences," and
therefore it is without limitation. But the fact of thy having
forgiven thy debtors is not enough to make God forgive thy
debts, because this is an affirmative declaration: "If you will
forgive men their offences, your Heavenly Father will forgive
you also your offences," [St. Matt. vi. 14.] and therefore it is to be understood
with the aforesaid limitation, that thou on thy part fulfillest
what remains. Unless thou art chaste, sincere, temperate,
and virtuous, it is evident that to forgive is not enough of
itself for thy salvation. Do not think, however, on this
account, that Christ makes promises which are more magnificent
than real when He repeats so often and in so many
ways that the means of obtaining forgiveness of God is to
grant it to our neighbour: "Forgive, and you shall be forgiven." [St. Luke vi. 37. ]
For though it is certain that to forgive one's
neighbour is not a work sufficient of itself to gain God's
forgiveness, yet it is one so dear in itself to God that He is
often moved by it to change men's hearts, sometimes even
miraculously, as in the case of St. John Gualbert, so as to fill
them with compunction, to convert them, and to make them
accomplish with ease everything else which is necessary to
obtain God's pardon. Whereas the contrary act has sometimes
caused God to drive away from Him one who was on
the very point of gaining the palm of martyrdom, as was the
case with the unhappy Sapritius. How anxious, then, oughtest
thou to be to satisfy thy Father in this matter! He is above
all things desirous, as a good Father, to see peace in His
house. Woe to those quarrelsome brothers who dispute and
rage together. They can hope for no good from Him; for
just as it is right to encourage peaceable children, so is it
necessary to repress turbulent ones: "For God is not the God
of dissension, but of peace." [I Cor. xiv. 33.]

And lead us not into temptation.

I. Consider first, that a good resolution is the touchstone
by which repentance is tried before God accepts it as fine gold.
If, therefore, we desire to appear before our good Father full
of sorrow for our offences against Him, we must show Him
truly that we have made a firm resolution not to repeat them,
for this is the test: "To depart from injustice is to offer a
propitiatory sacrifice for injustices." [Ecclus. xxxv. 3] And this cannot be
better done in our case than by begging Him to keep us
Himself far from everything that might lead us into fresh
prevarications; because we can, indeed, abstain from putting
ourselves into fresh occasions of sin, as he did who said, "I
shall keep myself from my iniquity," [ Psalm xvii. 24.] but we cannot prevent
them from finding us out of themselves. Do not suppose,
however, that, when we here say to God, "And lead us not
into temptation," we are asking Him never to allow us to be
tempted in any way. In the first place, this would be
impossible, seeing that our very life is a battlefield: "The
life of man upon earth is a warfare." [Job vii. 1.] Secondly, it would
not be to our advantage, for the enduring of temptation is of
immense value to those who know how to profit by it: "My
brethren, count it all joy, when you shall fall into divers
temptations." [St. James i. 2.] Thirdly, it would not be fitting, for it appears
contrary to all reason to desire to be dispensed from all
fighting, and yet to be crowned: "But this every one is sure
of that worshippeth Thee, that his life, if it be under trial, shall
be crowned." [Tobias iii. 21. ] What we ask, then, is that we may never be
so tempted as to fall in the temptation, as birds, deer, and
other animals fall into the snare, and are caught in it: "And
lead us not into temptation." And so, in fact, we ask of God
to be preserved not from every kind of temptation in general,
but from those in particular in which He foresees that we
shall fall, either from being enticed by pleasure, like birds,
which allow themselves to be tempted into the net by a grain
of millet, or from being overcome by suffering, like deer and
other wild game, which run into the snare from not being able
any longer to resist the fierce pursuit of the huntsmen. This
may be gathered from our manner of here addressing God,
when we say to Him, "Lead us not." In other temptations,
which issue in good to us we do not yield, but stand firm and
unseduced by the snare that is laid for us: it cannot, therefore,
be said that He leads us into these. That expression may be
used of those temptations which are injurious to us; not,
indeed, that He ever positively makes us fall into them, but
that He suffers us to do so. And, as thou knowest, this way
of speaking is used in Scripture with regard to God: it is a
human way of speaking. It is said that God hardens our
hearts when He foresees that if He does not give us timely
and efficacious assistance we shall be hardened, and allows
us to be hardened: "Thou hast hardened our heart that we
should not fear Thee." [Isaias Ixiii. 17.] It is said that He blinds our eyes,
when He allows them to be blinded; it is said that He makes
our ears dull, when He allows us to make them dull; it is even
said that He makes us go astray from His precepts, when He
allows us to do so: "Thou hast made us to err, O Lord, from
Thy ways." [Isaias Ixiii. 17.] And so, in the present case, it is said that God
makes us abide in a state of temptation when He allows this: "Thou hast brought us into a net." [Psalm Ixv. II.] This, therefore, should properly be thy meaning when thou addressest these words to
God, "Lead us not into temptation," that He will not suffer
thee to come into that temptation which He sees will entrap
thee. And so, speaking strictly, thou here askest for two
things, which may, indeed, be reduced to one, but which are
nevertheless two: the first is that thou mayest not fall when
temptation comes, that is, mayest not consent, and by this
thou askest to be kept from sin; the second is that He will
not allow any temptation to come into which He foresees that
thou wilt fall, and by this thou not only humbly confessest thy
weakness, but also thy determination not to fall.

II. Consider secondly, that there are two kinds of hurtful
temptations, some interior, others exterior. The first have
their source in the innate concupiscence which is within us;
the last come to us from external objects. The first are said
to arise from the flesh, which, by its interior assaults, aims at
two things, to deter us from the good to which the soul would
otherwise tend, and to incite us to evil: "Every man is
tempted by his own concupiscence, being drawn away and
allured:" [St. James I. 14.] "drawn away" from good, "allured" to evil. The
second class of temptations are said to come from the world,
which aims, indeed, at the same end as the flesh, namely, to
deter us from good and to allure us to evil, but does not, like
the flesh, do this in one way only. The flesh attacks us only
by way of flattery, as Dalila did Samson; the world employs
both the way of flattery and that of persecution, as Saul did
with David. It uses the former by setting before us all its
sensible goods, and the latter by representing to us contempt,
imprisonment, crosses, and horrible torments. It is true that
both these most dangerous tempters would be less formidable,
if they had not a powerful infernal ally; for not only are we
tempted by the world and the flesh, but also by the devil, who
has a share in both exterior and interior temptations: in those
which are interior, by incessantly instigating the flesh to flatter
the spirit, saying to it, as was said by the Philistines to Dalila, "Deceive him;" and in those which are exterior, by aggravating
the world's rage or cunning, as the case may be, and
by stirring it up to injure the good, as he stirred up Saul to
injure David: "An evil spirit troubled him." [I Kings xvi. 14.] And so the
devil, by himself alone, can do nothing. His power is in the
degree to which he is able to excite the flesh and the world
against thee. This being so, thou oughtest to convince thyself
firmly of this rule: that thy principal care should be directed
to defending thyself against the flesh; because this is an
interior temptress that never, leaves thee for a single instant,
not only holding thee in its arms, as Samson was held by
Dalila, but dwelling in the innermost recesses of thy being.
Thy second care must be to defend thyself from the world,
which encloses thee all around, so that thou hast to dread its
assaults on whichever side thou turnest, as when David was
persecuted by Saul in town and country, in caves and in
deserts. Thy third consideration should be to defend thyself
against the devil, who, if thou art on thy guard against the
flesh, as Samson should have been, and against the world, as
David was, will have very little power to prevail against thee.
And do not think that if thou takest great care to protect
thyself from these three cruel tempters, it is needless to say
continually to God, "Lead us not into temptation;" because,
however carefully thou mayest guard thyself, very great need
hast thou still of God's help, so many and so fierce are the
temptations that may surprise thee at any moment without thy
perceiving them: "Watch ye and pray, that you enter not into
temptation." [St. Mark xiv. 38.] It is not enough to watch, prayer too is necessary;
just as one man who keeps timely watch, and another
who calls to his neighbours for help, both escape the danger of

III. Consider thirdly, how great is thy folly, if, without
even waiting for the three malicious traitors to set themselves
to catch thee in their snares, thou walkest into these of thy
own accord: "Will the bird fall into the snare upon the earth
if there be no fowler?" asks the Prophet Amos, as though the
case were impossible. And yet it is one which happens even
time that thou dost not wait to be tempted, but goest of
thyself to meet the temptation: thou fallest into the snare
when there is no fowler. And when is this? Whenever thou
voluntarily placest thyself in any grave occasion of sin. Thou
oughtest to know that, in such a case, thou offerest a vain
prayer to God when thou sayest, "Lead us not into temptation,"
for art thou not mocking God when thou askest Him
not to let thee fall into temptation, whilst thou art inviting it
by thy own will? If, therefore, thou observest well, this is not
a prayer intended to save us from those snares in which a man
entangles himself through curiosity, caprice, or idleness; but
from those which surprise him against his will, as was the case
with those which were laid for David: "The snares of death
prevented me." [2 Kings xxii. 6.] For it is an infallible rule, that he who
knowingly lets himself into a snare, like Samson, will be
caught fast in it: "He hath thrust his feet into a net. . . .
The sole of his foot shall be held in a snare." [Job xviii. 8, 9.] Who would
pity birds, if they had sense to discern the net, and did not
avoid it? We pity them, because they are simple little
creatures that do not know whither they are going when they
fly so merrily to the snare: "The bird maketh haste to the
snare, and knoweth not that his life is in danger." [Prov. vii. 23.] Who
pities the man who stirs up a wasp's nest? who pities the man
who attacks vipers, or provokes panthers in their dens? "Who
will pity any that come near wild beasts?" [Ecclus. xii. 13] No one, surely:
and this is what thou doest when thou goest in search of
temptation; thou art "coming near wild beasts," thou art
provoking thy tempters; and then, if they spring upon thee,
thou expectest God to save and preserve thee! I will tell
thee when thou mayest make this prayer with great confidence
of being heard even when it is not the occasion of sin that
has sought thee, but thou the occasion: it is when thou art
induced to seek it by a good object, that is either by an
obligation of duty, or a disposition of obedience, or a law of
charity, as when Judith set herself to go voluntarily into the
tent of the wicked Holofernes, and could yet say boldly to
God, "Give me constancy in my mind that I may despise
him, and fortitude that I may overthrow him," [Judith ix. 14.] because she
was going to deliver her people. But with the exception of
such cases, how canst thou beg of God to preserve thee from
a temptation which thou art seeking? "He that loveth danger
shall perish in it" [Ecclus. iii, 27.] He is not said to love danger who places
himself in it from an honourable motive, but he only who
does so wantonly. If, therefore, thou wantonly seekest temptation,
which is thy net, trifling and playing with it, do not ask
of God to preserve thee from entering into it; for this is
asking Him for miracles, merely in order that thou mayest
take thy pastime with impunity. And if so, is it not, still
further, to ask Him not to let thee fall into temptation, and
at the same time to tempt Him? "Thou shalt not tempt the
Lord thy God." [St. Matt. iv. 7.]

But deliver us from evil.

I. Consider first, that in the two preceding petitions all
that we have been doing is to entreat our Heavenly Father to
deliver us from evil, and therefore they, like the petition we
are about to consider, are called by commentators "deprecations,"
which differ from prayers in this, that the latter hare
for their object the attainment of good, and the former the
averting of evil: "Hear my prayer (orationeni), O Lord, and
my supplication (deprecationem)" oratio referring to the good
to be obtained, deprecatio to the evil to be averted. In the
words, "Forgive us our debts," we have asked to be absolved
from past sins and from the penalty we have incurred by them:
in the words, "And lead us not into temptation," we have
asked to be preserved from future sins, and from the penalty
we may incur by them. Why, then, do we add, "But deliver
us from evil," as though we had asked nothing of all this?
We add in these words as much more as though we said
"deliver us from all evil," for besides the deliverance from
sin and the penalty answering to it, there remains to be asked
also the deliverance from many other evils which we call
temporal, thorns to which even those who by their innocence
are, as it were, virgin soil, are subject; these are evils which
are certainly like thorns, not merely in their power of tormenting,
but in their manner; for some are natural, such as
ignorance and infirmities; others are planned, like the
private persecutions we endure, and like wars, seditions,
and schisms; and others again, such as we call accidental,
like fires, floods, failures, tempests, earthquakes, famines,
and many other similar evils, from which our good Father
loves to deliver us, lest these terrible scourges should so
overwhelm our hearts as to prevent their bringing forth due
fruit to the glory of God, but from which for the most part
He loves to deliver us by virtue of our prayers: "If My
people . . . being converted shall make supplication to Me . . .
then will I hear from Heaven, . . . and will heal their
land," [2 Paral vii. 14.] which is the reason why so many prayers are ordered
by the Church every day for this end. And thus, in effect,
these three last petitions by which we ask all that is good for
ourselves answer to the other three immediately preceding.
them. When we beg of God that He will forgive us our
debts we ask to be delivered from that which is directly
opposed to the attainment of our inheritance, that is, the
beatitude of Heaven, namely, from sin and its penalty
incurred by us. Therefore the petition, "Forgive us our debts," answers to that other, "Thy Kingdom come." When
we pray to God not to lead us into temptation, we ask to be
delivered from that which directly prevents our doing the will
of God, and desiring that it may be done in us, namely, from
those temptations to which God foresees that we should yield
if He allowed them to assault us. And therefore this petition, "And lead us not into temptation," answers to "Thy will be
done." Lastly, when we beg of God to deliver us from every
evil, we pray to be delivered from that which interferes with
the supply of our daily food, both spiritual and temporal,
namely, from the innumerable adversities to which human
life is subject. And, therefore, this petition, "But deliver us
from evil," corresponds to that other, "Give us this day our
daily bread." Or thou mayest take this last petition as an
epitome of all the others, and then when we say to God, "But deliver us from evil," it is as though we tacitly asked
Him to grant us all the good that we have prayed for in the
preceding petitions, and to prevent our falling, as He might
justly allow us to do, into the contrary evil. Hence, whenever
we say to God, "But deliver us from evil," we should make
this petition with exceeding humility, knowing that we deserve
not one particular evil or another, but every evil, simply
because it is evil.

II. Consider secondly, that if we restrict this petition to
those evils, either natural, planned, or accidental, to which, as
we have said, all, even the most innocent, are subject in this
life (which seems the best interpretation), thou art not to think
that God only delivers us from them by preventing our being
assaulted by them, as it is said, for instance, that He delivered
just Lot from the destruction appointed for the wicked cities:
"He delivered Lot out of the destruction of the cities in
which he had dwelt." [Genesis xix. 29.] This kind of complete deliverance
from every kind of evil cannot be found in our valley of
tears. If, therefore, this were thy desire whenever thou
shouldst say, "But deliver us from evil," thou wouldst be
simply asking to go to Paradise, where there is neither
hunger, thirst, weariness, nor any other evil, whether planned
or accidental, or merely natural: "The creature also itself
shall be delivered from the servitude of corruption." [Romans viii. 21.] If,
then, thou wouldst ask for such a deliverance from evil as
is suited to our miserable life, where glory is to be gained by
suffering, do not ask only that which is complete, but that
which God, in His most wise providence, prefers. Dost thou
suppose that He has no other ways of delivering us but that
one which is least suited for us? On the contrary, He has
three ways, all of which are more glorious than that one. The
first is by alleviating the evil by those consolations which make
it easy to bear; thus He dealt with Jacob, to whom, when
fleeing from his brother's anger, He appeared so many times
to console him with glorious promises, and showed Heaven
opened in a vision. The second is by compensating the evil
with a good which counterbalances it, as when He made
Daniel, in his sorrowful captivity, find favour with the princes
who kept him prisoner. The third is by changing the evil
itself into a greater good. This was Joseph's case, when his
being sold was the cause of his prosperity. When, therefore,
thou here sayest to God, "But deliver us from evil," thou art
not, so to speak, to desire to tie His hands by asking Him
absolutely not to send thee some particular kind of evil,
because thou art ignorant which will be for thy greatest
advantage — "Remember that thou knowest not His work" [Job xxxvi. 24.]—
but only to beg Him to deliver thee from it in that way
which He sees to be most beseeming His glory. If, therefore,
it is His pleasure to deliver thee from such an evil by not
sending it to thee at all, blessed be His Name: "I will give
glory to Thy Name . . . because Thou hast delivered me from
them that did roar, prepared to devour." [Ecclus. li. 4. ] If this is not His
will, then leave it to Him to deliver thee as seems best to
Him: "Deliver me in Thy justice." [Psalm xxx. 2.] He may so console
thee in that evil that thou wilt scarcely feel it, as in Jacob's
case. This is to take from the evil all its power of tormenting:
"I exceedingly abound with joy in all our tribulation." [2 Cor. vii. 4.] He
may counterbalance it by giving thee an equivalent good,
which will make thee forget it, or count it as nothing, which
was Daniel's case. This is to take from the evil both its power
of tormenting and of injuring: "Afflicted in few things, in
many they shall be well rewarded." Or He may turn the evil
into good, as He did with Joseph, which is the peculiar art of His Divine wisdom, by which He makes even affliction turn into joy, and injury into profit: "You thought evil against
me, but God turned it into good." [Genesis l. 20.] See, therefore, in what
manner God is to be addressed. We may not say, "Deliver
us from tribulation," but "deliver us from evil," because tribulation
is often made the cause of far greater good than the
merely not suffering tribulation would be; and if so, it is not
for thy advantage to ask Him to deliver thee from one
particular tribulation which thou dislikest, but only from evil —
"The Lord keep thee from all evil" [Psalm cxx. 7.] — otherwise thou art
in danger of acting like those who foolishly confuse evil
with good and good with evil: "Woe to you who call evil
good and good evil." Remember, too, that the greatest good
to be gathered from the evils of this world is to accustom
oneself to know how to bear them with tranquillity: "Tribulation
worketh patience." If, therefore, God grants thee this
good together with the evil thou art suffering, seek for no
other, this alone is enough to justify the saying that thou art
free from all evil.

III. Consider thirdly, that since petitions so sublime are
made in this holy prayer of our Lord to the Eternal Father,
it might have seemed proper to end it in the manner so
customary with the Church, "through our Lord Jesus Christ
Thy Son," instead of by the simple "Amen," which cannot
impart the same force as the other conclusion, which would
bring in the thought and the merit of Jesus, to make the
prayer more acceptable to God. But Jesus Himself, the
author of the prayer, ordered otherwise, and would have it
concluded only by an "Amen." Neither should this surprise
thee: first, because if (as many doctors hold) He was in the
habit of frequently reciting this prayer aloud, together with
the Apostles, it appears not quite in harmony with this
custom to name Himself as interceding for those things
which He was asking of His dear Father for Himself also,
although not for Himself in His own character, but as Head
of the mystical body which He deigned to form with His
disciples. A second reason is that the Father at once
recognizes the words, the style, the sense, and the language
of His Son, so that it was superfluous for us to mention the
Son in those petitions which are made to the Father, not only
by His command, but also in His words. Thou mightest
inquire also with what object Christ concluded His prayer
with the word "Amen;" but this, too, has a devout meaning. "Amen"
is a Hebrew word so rich in meanings that it has
never been translated into Latin, from the impossibility of
finding an equivalent in that language. Nevertheless, we
may briefly say that when it stands at the beginning of a
phrase it has the force of an affirmation; thus, when our
Lord was about to speak of a truth of great importance,
He was often in the habit of saying, "Amen, I say unto
you," which was not an oath, as has been vulgarly believed,
but an affirmation. When it is not at the beginning, but the
end, then it has two meanings: one that of confirming,
approving, or accepting what has been said, and the other
that of desiring it in addition. And so, when the curses
fulminated against transgressors and the blessings invoked
upon observers of the Divine precepts were formerly read
out, the assembled people were to answer "Amen" to each
of them. When the "Amen" was given in answer to the
curses, the intention was to confirm, approve, and accept
them unanimously; when it was in answer to the blessings
there was the further intention of desiring them: and so we
read in the Psalm, "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting," and then it is added, "And
let all the people say Amen, amen." [Psalm cv. 48.] The meaning was to
express a surpassingly eager and vehement desire of this, such
as was expressed by the great Bishop St. Cyprian, who, on
hearing sentence of death loudly pronounced against him,
replied as loudly, "Amen;" an "Amen," indeed, of immense
value! When, therefore, we say "Amen" at the end of the
Pater noster, what is it that we intend to say? It is "So be
it." "The Lord fulfil all our petitions." [Psalm xix. 7.] Lastly, then, this
word avails for the recollection of our minds, so that if we
happen to have wandered or been distracted while offering
any of these seven petitions to God, we may supply for our
faults by this word, which should be understood as added to
each one in particular, although, to avoid frequent repetition,
we are content to put it at the end only, as a signature or seal
to the whole; and yet how little thou thinkest of this "Amen "!

IV. Consider fourthly, that this "Amen" is of use even
to utterly ignorant persons. For although there ought not to
be any one in the Church so rude and untaught as not to
know quite well what it is that is prayed for in all the petitions
of the Pater noster, nevertheless, such persons are constantly
to be met with. And therefore every such person who knows,
even in a confused way, that everything which the Church asks
of God is perfectly right, does, by this "Amen," unite his
intention to that of the others whose minds are wiser and
loftier than his. And if he does this with lively faith he
obtains what is asked equally with others, just as the peasant
does who presents to the King a petition, the force of which
he does not understand, but who declares that he earnestly
desires that its contents, so far as they have been explained
to him by practised and well-informed persons, may be granted.
And this is the point concerning which St. Paul gave orders
when he said that the public prayers in the church were not
to be said, at least not all of them, in a low voice or in an
unknown tongue, in order that the ministers (who are in the
place of the ignorant) might be certain when to direct them
to answer "Amen." "Else, if thou shalt bless with the spirit,
how shall he that holdeth the place of the unlearned say Amen
to thy blessing? because he knoweth not what thou sayest." [I Cor. xiv. 16.]
Besides, thou oughtest not to think that the prayers which are
approved by the Church are of no use to thee, even when thou
dost not understand them. It is enough for thee to know
how to say "Amen" with her ministers, so long as thou sayest
it from thy heart. They are not useless in inclining God to
hear them, for although thou dost not understand the value
of the jewels which thou offerest Him, as an expert lapidary
would do, yet He understands it, and therefore He will accept
them, as He accepts the prayers of little children: "Out of
the mouth of infants and of sucklings hast Thou perfected
praise." [Psalm viii. 3.] Neither are they useless in terrifying the devils, just
as the words of an incantation spoken with the right intention
by an enchanter avail to terrify serpents, even when he does
not perfectly understand their meaning.

Thus, therefore, shall you pray: Our Father, &c.

I. Consider first, that although whoever is satisfied with
saying "Amen" with the ignorant in the Pater noster does
not lose the good of this Divine prayer, nevertheless it is
quite a different kind of fruit which is gathered by one who
understands it well, and not only recites it in the usual way,
which is merely to run through the petitions with the tongue,
but who lets his mind pause over each one of them, as bees
do on flowers, dwelling on them, meditating on them, and
endeavouring, as it were, to extract from them their sweetest
honey. Therefore, as the word pray has a two-fold meaning,
the more restricted one of asking by supplication — "Pray for
them that persecute you" [ St. Matt. v. 44.] — and the wider one, which we call
making our prayer — "He went up into a mountain alone to
pray" [St. Matt. xiv. 23.] — it is reasonable to think that when Christ here said
to His disciples, "Thus, therefore, shall you pray," He did
not intend to say to them merely, "You shall ask thus," but
also, "When you ask you shall meditate thus." As then in
the somewhat extended explanation of the Pater noster which
has been given, thou hast already seen the intention, the
teaching, and the method of this beautiful prayer, not only
in general but in detail, it will be easy for thee to feed thy
soul upon it daily, and to use its petitions at one time as the
remedy of thy ills, at another as means of strength and consolation,
as though they were so many beautiful ejaculatory
prayers, collected into a quiver, which every one may send
to God according to the strength of his arm. There are three
classes of persons in the ways of God, beginners, proficients,
and those who are perfect. Beginners, who have just abandoned
sin, when they say, "Our Father Who art in Heaven," should
say the word "Father" with sentiments of great confusion,
combined with great confidence; proficients, with those of
confidence and love; the perfect, with those of love and
admiration. And in the same way every one should gather
for his profit from all the petitions, the few best adapted for
him, just as is done with regard to their pasture by different
animals, those that have just begun to eat grass, those that
are older, and those which are most experienced. Of which
class art thou? To whichever thou mayest belong, it will be
useful for thee to know the method which should be practised
by each according to his state.

II. Consider secondly, that if thou belongest to the state
of beginners, thou oughtest to see what is the vice which has
most power over thee, and to make choice accordingly of that
petition which most conduces to its speedy overthrow. If
pride is thy predominant vice, declare frequently to God that
it is to His Name, not to thine, that glory is due; pray
therefore that His Name may be glorified: "Hallowed be
Thy Name." If it is avarice, protest to Him that thou wilt
no more value those goods on which the kingdom of
worldlings is founded, but only long for those which belong
to His: "Thy Kingdom come." If it is envy that torments
thee, say to God that the cause of it is that thou dost not
understand that the will of God should be to every one the
sublime law in which he rests; pray that His will may be
accomplished: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in
Heaven." Be content that that Divine will should honour,
enrich, advance whomsoever it chooses; thou, as a poor
beggar, deserving nothing, wilt only ask of God what He
gives as alms. If it is gluttony that troubles thee, declare to
Him that thou art not worthy even of mere daily bread,
because thou hast so often made thy belly thy God, by
taking food for the sake of satisfying thy appetite, but that
it is as a favour that thou askest Him for this bread — "Give
us this day our daily bread" — and that therefore thou no
longer askest for it to please a false god, but only that thou
mayest have strength to serve the true God. If thou art
passionate, and it seems to thee a hard thing to restrain thy
anger, say often to God, "Forgive us our debts, as we also
forgive our debtors," for thou wilt triumph over it by the
repetition of this prayer and protestation. If thou hast contracted
irregular habits through the vice of luxury, which
make thee afraid of relapsing easily, go on in the same way
saying continually to God, "And lead us not into temptation,"
because this is a temptation which seldom besets any without
fault of their own. And if, lastly, thy negligence in spiritual
exercises exposes thee to be overcome by sloth, beg of God
frequently to preserve thee from evil, that is, from this sloth,
which is called the source of all evil: "But deliver us from
evil." Thou hast, indeed, good reason to strive for a complete
deliverance from this evil, which is the parent of many others:
"Idleness hath taught much evil." [Ecclus. xxxiii. 29.]

III. Consider thirdly, that if thou belongest rather to the
state of proficients, thou shouldst see what is the virtue to
which thou thinkest thyself most attracted or most adapted,
and without neglecting the others, cultivate that, making use
of it, as it were, as a foundation on which they are to rest, as
richly embroidered hanging forms a ground for gold, rubies,
or pearls. If thou art conscious of possessing a lively faith,
thou shouldst desire that this light of faith which God has
given thee may increase, and shed itself over others, so that
all may vie in seeking God's honour only: "Hallowed be
Thy Name." If the hope of future glory makes thee very
courageous to do and to suffer great things for God, say to
Him that it is not an earthly but only a heavenly reward that
thou desirest: "Thy Kingdom come." If charity has set up
its standard in thy heart, and desires to reign absolutely, so
that self-love may altogether die, and the love of God
altogether live in thee, say to Him as often as thou canst,
"Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven." If thou
delightest to act with the prudence which aims, both in
temporal and spiritual needs, at being neither too careless
as to the present nor too anxious as to the future, accustom
thyself to say frequently, "Give us this day our daily bread."
If thou lovest to see justice equally practised, and would
not have it exercised strictly in the houses of others and
indulgently in thine own, as many do, occupy thyself in
saying, "Forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors."
If thou rejoicest that thy irregular appetites, more particularly
those which arise from the rebellion of the flesh, should be
under the restraint of temperance, take pleasure in repeating,
"And lead us not into temptation." And if it is thy delight
to bear adversities with fortitude, or even to court them for
the love of God, ask Him to keep thee from evil — "But
deliver us from evil" — not, indeed, from the evil of much
suffering, which is an evil thou knowest how to bear, but
from that only which is really evil in it, namely, that of
suffering with impatience.

IV. Consider fourthly, that if thou art so happy as even
to have advanced some distance in the higher state of the
perfect, it is impossible but that when thou thinkest of God,
the Supreme Good, thou shouldst be enkindled to wish Him
every possible good. But what good can we wish Him Who
is the Supreme Good? Not knowing, therefore, how to give
vent to thy love, thou wilt at least desire that all may join
with thee in loving Him, and since there are so many
ungrateful men who never even think of praising Him,
though they receive so many great graces from Him continually,
thou wilt call upon even the inanimate creation, the
woods, seas, and mountains, to supply for them, praising Him
and crying, "Hallowed be Thy Name." But the more thou
desirest to praise God, the more thou wilt see that He is
beyond all praise. And therefore there will arise in thy
heart a very earnest desire of going to that Heaven where
alone He is worthily praised: "Thy Kingdom come." But
what will it avail thee to be so enamoured of this prospect,
like him who said, "I desire to be dissolved," when the time
has not yet come? Thou hast still to remain an exile upon
this earth, where every one offends thy God, instead of going
where every one is ceaselessly employed in praising Him.
There can be but one consolation for thee, to say to God,
"Thy will be done." But still this will, indeed, enable thee
to live, but it cannot prevent thee from languishing with desire.
And in this liquefaction of the will, in order to incorporate
and plunge it for ever in that of God, like the wills of the
blessed in Heaven — "On earth as it is in Heaven"— thy
spirit will so faint within thee, that thou wilt be compelled
from time to time to beg some support from Him: "Give
us this day our daily bread." It is true that thy greatest
support will not be from the tokens of love which God will
give thee by visiting thee when thou retirest for prayer, nor
from lights and illuminations, nor from that "bread of tears" [Psalm Ixxix. 6.]
with which He may feed thee: it will come from that only
which thou art allowed to receive at the holy altar. Therefore,
as the Heaven of the blessed is where they have the King of
glory present with them, so, too, will thine be where the King
of glory is present — invisibly indeed, but personally. And
although thou wilt find Him there every day, yet every day
thou wilt desire to return to Him, so abundantly will He there
pour into thy soul His gifts and His sweetness. But the more
these gifts and this sweetness grow in thee, so much the more
does thy obligation of loving Him grow. And this is thy
greatest suffering, the knowledge of thy shortcomings in discharging
this obligation. The only way of relieving thyself
then will be to say to God, "Forgive us our debts as we also
forgive our debtors," so that if there should be no one who
injures or hates thee, thou mayest almost desire that it were
so, could such a desire be lawful, in order to be able by
returning him good for evil, to do him what God, to thy shame
and confusion, is continually doing to thee. Yet this sorrow
would be more endurable if, loving God so little, thou wert at
least certain that the time would never come when thou
wouldst displease Him, even slightly, again. But who can
give thee such an assurance? There will come into thy mind
all the cunning arts of which Satan makes use, and thou wilt
think how easily he may deceive thee also — nay, is it certain
that he has not already deceived thee by making thee believe
that thou lovest God when thou dost not love Him? Then
thou wilt have doubts about all that is good in thee, interior
recollection, lights, illuminations, and even the union of thy
soul with God, and thou wilt think that He speaks to
thy heart to make thee aware of the delusion in which thou
art living, saying with a voice of deep reproach, "And canst
thou profess to love Me?" This will strike thee with sorrow
so deep that thou wilt be ready to lose all confidence, and all
that thou canst do is to entreat of Him not to suffer thee to
be lost in so terrible a storm: "And lead us not into temptation."
Yet here there is a light which will shine upon thee
like the star so dear to mariners. It is the thought that it
must be thy joy upon earth only to suffer for God. Say to
Him, then, that thou art willing that He should send thee
whatever temptations He sees right for thee, tribulations and
labours and interior trials if He please, though thou findest
these the heaviest of all, if only amidst all these trials He will
deliver thee from the only evil in the world which it is unlawful
to desire even for love of Him, namely, to be separated from
Him for an instant: "But deliver us from evil." And in this
confidence thy heart will be at rest, so that seeing thyself, as
it were, safe in port, thou wilt be constrained to say, "Amen."

Sacred and Immaculate Hearts

Sacred and Immaculate Hearts

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Pillar of Scourging of Our Lord JESUS

Pillar of Scourging of Our Lord JESUS

Shroud of Turin

Shroud of Turin