All biblical quotations are from the New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE).
The early twentieth century French philosopher and theologian Simone Weil wrote a short essay whose title in English translation is “Concerning the Our Father.” That piece is the inspiration for my present work, which is a series of meditations on the Lord’s Prayer for Good Friday. Weil approaches the Prayer line by line, writing a separate reflection for each; I follow a similar format.
At the Savior’s command and formed by divine teaching, we dare to say:
Jesus, the Christ, taught us the prayer that we are about to recite. The Lord’s Prayer could neither be bolder nor more fitting. In prayer, the line between boldness and audacity is thin; the sole reason why the following prayer is not blasphemous is that we recite it at God’s command. We ought to tremble during each recitation – perhaps more on Good Friday than on any other day.
Our Father, Who art in Heaven,
The Son of God, One of the Three Persons of God Himself, taught us to call God “Father.” The Son is the image of the Father. Christ died for His Bride, the Church, making the Crucifixion a spousal act. The image of fatherhood that God gives to us is the Via Crucis, “The Way of the Cross.” Remembering that husbandry and fatherhood go hand-in-hand vocationally, we read the following imperative from St. Paul: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her” (Ephesians 5:25). At the Incarnation, God Who is in Heaven shockingly entered His own material creation as One Person (God the Son) in Two Natures (human and divine). At Calvary, God the Son became our timeless model of what a God-fearing husband and father must be willing to do for his wife and children.
Hallowed be Thy name,
To hallow or sanctify something is to make it holy or to honor it as holy. According to the Septuagint, ἁγιάζω, “to make holy,” the same verb that we find here, is what God did to the Seventh Day of Creation: “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation” (Genesis 2:3). As in that verse about the Sabbath, ἁγιάζω often carries the connotation of setting something aside for God. Truly hallowing God’s Name involves setting everything aside for Him. Only God could set everything aside for Himself, making Holy Saturday, when everything had been set aside, the perfect Sabbath.
The Crucifixion was the ultimate setting aside. With each whip that God the Son received on His back, God’s Name was hallowed. With each stumble that Christ had on the road to Calvary, God’s Name was hallowed. With each precious tear that St. Mary shed as her Son was being tortured, God’s Name was hallowed. With each nail that was cruelly pounded into Jesus’s real human hands, God’s Name was hallowed. With the Savior’s existential roar “Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani?,” God’s Name was hallowed (Matthew 27:45). With Christ’s last breath, God’s Name was hallowed.
Thy kingdom come,
One paradox of Christianity is that it took the Cross to build the Kingdom. The words “[may] Thy kingdom come” never have been and never will be as fulfilled as when Christ breathed His last. The crown of thorns was the crown freely donned by the King of the Universe. The name of the Church’s first martyr is Στέφανος (Stephanos, St. Stephen), which means “crowned.” The early Christians associated martyrdom with Christ’s crowning. Per the example of Christ, which has been followed by martyrs through the ages, only by sacrificing everything for the sake of the Kingdom can the Christian show that she means “Thy kingdom come.” In this way, “Hallowed be Thy name” and “Thy kingdom come” may be understood as one prayer.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Besides the Cross, St. Mary’s Fiat (“May it be done to me according to your word,” Luke 1:38) is our only other flawless example of “not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). The fact that the Mother of God lovingly watched her Son die the most gruesome of deaths is her Fiat’s punctuation mark (specifically, an exclamation point). Although she was probably muted by agony, the Mother’s witness of the Crucifixion was history’s most bellowing Amen.
Give us this day our daily bread,
In pre-New Testament writings, the Greek adjective “ἐπιούσιος,” which English speakers know as “daily,” is unattested. Its first appearance is precisely on our Savior’s tongue when He teaches us His Prayer (Matthew 6:11 and Luke 11:3). Perhaps ἐπιούσιος means “sufficient for what is coming.” What is coming for us all is eternal judgment, and the Crucifixion is what makes the knowledge that we will face the Supreme Judge bearable for us as lowly sinners. Without the Cross, we would only face hellfire. With the Cross, we have hope bona fide (in good faith) for the eternal fire of divine love.
and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
“Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). These are the words of Him Who knew that He was dying for our sake. The Cross is atonement, and atonement is forgiveness. “Not seven times but seventy-seven times” must we forgive those who have sinned against us (Matthew 18:22). We have infinitely less to forgive than the Lord, and yet He forgives us infinitely more readily than we forgive each other. Roman soldiers crucified Him, but God’s own people called for the Crucifixion. We who try to be the people of God today should not presume that we would have done otherwise, for Christ scandalizes us as much as He scandalized the people of 33 A.D. The fact that He scandalizes us is our immediate proof that we need His gift of salvation. When we imagine ourselves shouting “Crucify him! Crucify him!” (Luke 23:21), we collapse.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Concupiscence is the wretched tendency away from God that we all share due to original sin. Each one of Christ’s steps on the road to Golgotha was a step for humanity away from sin and toward the Father. The path that He made with His footprints is the only path that does not lead one “into temptation” but into eternal life. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Taking up the cross means being unashamedly Christian. It means praying fervently, serving the poor, giving fraternal correction, protesting wrongdoing, etc. – in short, imitating Christ as a matter of eternal life or death. In some cases, like those of Sts. Peter, Andrew, Philip, Jude, and Simon, taking up the cross means literally being crucified.
“Ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ,” “from evil,” is a curious phrase. The Greek could also mean “from the Evil One.” The classic image of St. Mary stomping on the serpent of Genesis 3 exists for a reason, and St. Joseph is rightly called the “Terror of Demons.” While raising the Savior, the Holy Parents cuffed Satan until the Son would crush him. Although the great cosmic forces of Sin and Death seemed to triumph on the Cross, they were exploded via the Resurrection. When St. Veronica wiped clean the Savior’s face, she revealed the good of that seemingly bad “Good Friday”: the Good One Who expels the evil one. On this Good Friday, we contemplate the Good One’s self-offering that rendered deliverance from both evil and the evil one possible. We thank Him for eternity’s most altruistic act in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.