Monday, September 29, 2014

Questioning the Our Father

Our Lord gave us the Our Father, the most beautiful and perfect expression of prayer possible in any human language. It begins by addressing God as "Our Father." Can we believe that this expression was arbitrary or ruled by cultural biases? Isn't such a doubt precisely that—a lack of faith in the divinity and hence the transcendence of Christ, the God-Man who unites all mankind and culture in Himself perfectly, transcending every divide, even the divides of sin and death? Is it possible that the Man who came to give us life to the full should stifle the potential growth of the spiritual life of so many because He chose a culturally-relative term rooted in Patriarchy?

Rather, if we take seriously that Jesus is God, that His self-consciousness included the divinity in all of its clarity and comprehension, and if we take seriously that God's perfections are the eminent expression of all transcendental qualities in the created order (or rather that the created order shares in and reflects these qualities that find their perfect source and expression in God's nature), then ultimately the implication of calling God our Father is that paternity finds its perfect expression in God the Father, and all fatherhood is a model of God's Fatherhood (à la Platonic philosophy).

Since the Bible uses maternal expressions, pronouns, and descriptors for God, we must also hold that maternity somehow finds its perfect expression in the inner life of the Blessed Trinity, the giver and the receiver, the male and female, the yin and the yang (to be a bit bold). Fr. Norris Clarke, S.J., explored this dimension of being's self-fecundity: all being is in itself, from another, and towards another (esse in, esse ab, esse ad).

We need to examine and understand seriously the implications of calling God our Father and that God Himself has told us to do so: the implications for the Church as a Bride of Christ, creation as a "palace for the Bride" as St. John of the Cross so beautifully put it, for each individual in relation to God, for the life of the Trinity. God bridges the infinite gap between fallen creation and Himself, and therefore He determines its parameters. Isn't it, then, a lack of faith that makes one question the validity of calling God a Father? It betrays an uncritical commitment to a specific modern, Western ideology that comes, actually and shockingly, at the expense of and to the detriment of faith.

The final reflection is that God is the universal cause who reveals Himself in the particulars of history. We are scandalized at the particularity of the Israelites—so-called chosen by God. We are scandalized by the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. We are scandalized by the origins of the Church and that it is headed on earth by a man who resides in Italy. We are scandalized that God would speak to us in our own language, adopting and purifying our own expressions so as to return them to their true referent in Himself. This is the scandal of particularity through which God has willed to reveal Himself. Shouldn't we accept it out of unquestioning faith?

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