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JF we contemplate the beauty pre
sented by the Lord's Prayer in the perfect symmetry of its parts, it may well be likened to a temple raised on a twofold order of pillars, whose portal and lordly vestibule pierce the clouds, and ascend above them ; whilst its interior and hidden halls, resting
on their lowly columns, cast a gloomy shade, and spread around a holy sadness. We need but compare, with Alphonsus Tostus, the first three with the following petitions, and we shall see a marked distinction both in their import and in their expression.
For whilst the first relate solely to the majesty and sovereignty of God, to His holy will, and His eternal law, and are therefore expressed in general and impersonal forms, as wishes and fervent aspirations-(“hallowed be Thy name—Thy kingdom come—Thy will be done;') the last are confined to our wants, our frailties, and necessities, and consequently are expressed in our names :
give us this day our daily bread — forgive us our trespasses - lead us not into temptation-deliver us from evil.”
A second great distinction is also observable ; for whereas the perfect accomplishment of the first three petitions is only attainable in a future world, that of the last three is to be fulfilled on this earth. For should we hallow God's name in this earthly world, by acknowledging in faith and in spirit His Trinity, His truth, and His goodness, and by paying Him our homage both in word and in action, yet are we unable to honour Him with the whole power of our being, whilst yet surrounded by the darksome elements which conceal His majesty from our eyes, and which will not be removed until we enter into another life, in which “we shall behold Him as He is.” (1 John iii.) And although the kingdom of God is even now founded on earth, and our citizenship therein assured on condition of fidelity, yet no one is to be esteemed happy, until he shall have entered into the regions of brightness. As, in fine, whilst struggling with the opposition that in us reigns of the earthly with the heavenly man, we cannot maintain a perfect harmony with the will of God; so the third petition cannot be entirely accomplished, until the free and thoughtful mind is released from the dominion of error, and is no longer subject to a faithless will.
Of the last four petitions, on the contrary, we need only a passing consideration to perceive that their fulfilment is to be obtained exclusively on this earth. For this daily bread, in whatever sense it be understood, can be required only in our state of growth and mortality, and not in a future life, wherein no change is known. It is in this life that we must implore the remission of our sins, since this grace is bestowed only on mortal man,-on man abiding still in the region of
natural and earthly life ; for, freed from this his bondage, no longer can he share in the satisfying merits of his Saviour. And again, support against temptation on earth alone can be required, since the soul, when released, is freed from all trial and from all temptation, as the patient Job-has in these words expressed : “On earth man's life is a perpetual warfare” (contest or temptation). For deliverance, in fine, from evil, we can pray only in this life; since with the blessed no evil is further possible, and for the damned no redemption can exist.
Thus from the last petition of the first class do we descend to the first of the second, as to earth from heavenly heights, to the vale of tears from blissful gladness. For when, in the third petition, we have expressed our desire that the Divine will should be accomplished on earth as it is in heaven, among us mortal men as with the spirits above ; we then, in the fourth petition, proceed to acknowledge, if not utterly dejected, with a sense at least of our poverty, that we are far below the glorified spirits ; that not heaven but earth is yet our home; that our spiritual being is in closest union with the natural, the sinful life ; and that hence, in this mortal world, we can neither be, nor think, nor act, nor fulfil the will of God, unless our material life, with its constant changes, receive that external support and aid which are necessary for its preservation. The petition, " Thy will be done,” is therefore necessarily and immediately followed by this : “Give us this day our daily bread.”
With humility do we pronounce this prayer, as in it are we minded of our fallen state. For when nature, which had been created to serve, revolted from its subjection to the spirit, and arose in lordlike opposition, the life of man became a chain of sorrow and of hard necessity, which retained it in perpetual dependance upon the powers and elements of external nature, and in one constant conflict with its hostile and destructive attacks. Thus many things designated both in the east and in the west by the common term of bread, such as home, employment, and clothing, are included in this petition. But not so the many, the numberless inventions of human avarice and luxury; for hearken to St. Gregory of Nyssa : “ We pray, Give us bread ; but not luxurious extravagance and ornaments of gold and shining stones, not wide possessions and brilliant honours, not fine silken veils, not diversions of pleasure, or any thing whereby the soul is withdrawn from real and heavenly things : our prayer is solely, Give us bread.'
These are certainly hard words ; this bread is indeed dry, and very bitter! “The necessaries of human life,” says the son of Sirach, “ are water, fire, iron, salt, milk, white-bread, honey, the grape of the vine, oil, and clothing.” (Ecclus. xxxix.) Thus, the wise son of Sirach has opened for us a wider region, and has allowed us inhabitants of the west to interpret this bread of the east in conformity with their interpretation; but let us first hearken to another and a most enlightened man, whose views of these things claim earnest attention.
Journeying towards Rome in company with his companion Masseo, already was the seraphic St. Francis wearied and sinking beneath the mid-day sun, when he perceived a fresh and pure stream gushing from beneath an aged rock. Here they both sat down, and placing on a level stone a few pieces of black and hard
od purce they be of blac
bread which they had received on their journey, they commenced their frugal meal. St. Francis was much elated, and could not restrain the joy of his heart. • Brother Masseo,' he exclaimed, rejoice and exult with me, and give thanks to the Lord for the great treasure He has bestowed.' Masseo, much amazed, asked to what treasure he alluded; for he could see nothing but the want of the greatest necessaries -a dinner without table, without chairs, without wine, without even the most ordinary dishes. O Masseo,' replied the muchcontemned but joyful pattern of self-denial, behold an inestimable goodness. God's providence has supplied all which here seems to be wanting; for see, He has sent us this bread from friendly hands, this stream He has called forth for the refreshment of our thirst; and, moreover, in these well-formed stones He has prepared for us a table and seats. O blessed poverty ! O greatest of all treasures ! This was the companion of Christ on the cross; it was buried with Him in the grave; it ascended with Him into heaven !'
Thus did he speak, who, in his simplicity, would at one time call voluntary poverty his sister, at another his mistress.
And who should not envy him? But by whom is he envied? Not by the rich ; still less by the unwilling poor. Behold, on one side, this rippling stream ; on the other, seated on his stone, the poor
St. Francis, with his childlike sublimity, and his sublime and childlike joyfulness : in bitter contrast, behold the crowds of the children of men, lusting for power, sor. rowful in poverty, refined and refining, adorned and adorning, oppressed by numberless wants, for which no systematic foresight is sufficiently comprehensive, no