Girolamo Savonarola O.P
A SERMON ON THE LORD'S PRAYER
January 11, 1495
This translation of a detailed sermon by the Dominican Reformer, Girolamo Savonarola is composed of at least five rounds of comments on the seven petitions of the Our Father. The links below outline this structure.
- For more on Savonaroa see:
- Benedict Croell, O.P. "Girolamo Savonarola: Preacher and Prophet: History & Theology of Preaching
- and The Case for Savonarola Gets a New Hearing" by Barry James: International Herald Tribune
Religion is a virtue by which due reverence is given to God as the universal principle and Governor of all things. The expression of this reverence is exterior and interior. The exterior is ordered to the interior; therefore the sacraments of the Church, external praises and all other ceremonies with everything that pertains to them are ordered to the building up of the internal affairs of the mind.
For this reason the principal concern of the religious life of all Christians ought to be the honoring of God by interior acts, although the exterior acts should not be neglected, especially those to which they are obliged.
The interior acts are: reading, meditation, prayer and contemplation, which are acts of the intellect. By these acts hope is aroused, as well as charity, devotion and the other acts which pertain to the affective side of man's nature. Thus man is made perfect in the knowledge and love of God.
Since the intellect precedes the affective faculties and we cannot in any way love that which we do not know, it is necessary that he who would come to divine love (in which the sum and total of the spiritual life consists) must assiduously concern himself to the best of his ability with the interior acts of the intellect. To this end God has given us his sacred Scriptures so that attaining through them some understanding of his goodness we may arouse our affective faculties to that love of God and neighbor without which, even if someone does well, all else is nothing.
Now, whoever would gain understanding of the divine Scriptures ought first to read them frequently and make himself familiar with them in order to understand the meaning principally intended by the author, the meaning called literal. Meditating afterwards on these Scriptures, he will examine the spiritual and mystical meanings which, in any case, he can find more open to him from other passages of the Scriptures.
But, since to know and not to act is nothing, when he shall have come to some spiritual understanding, let him then pray to God to guide him by His grace to love and to action. By doing this he will make daily progress and will be finally raised to contemplation.
But in order that what we have said may be more readily understood and to open the way to the ability to understand the Scriptures, we shall take as an example the Lord's prayer, that is, the Our Father, which is so well known to everyone, and scrutinize each part in four ways, that is, by reading, meditating, praying, and contemplating. That which we shall have said of this passage we intend to be understood of any other passage, each in its own way.
He who sets himself to read the sacred Scriptures without supernatural light fetters and deceives himself, for he will read and not understand, and to read and not to understand is to waste time. The reason for this is that the natural sciences can be understood by the natural light of reason present in every man, but divinely-inspired knowledge cannot be understood other than by divine light.
It follows from this that many in reading and not understanding the Scriptures disprize them. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says: "For us the vision of all the prophets is as the words of a sealed book." And this is because a blind man is no judge of colors. God had willed that such men at least respond humbly to that which follows the aforesaid words of Isaiah, that is: "The just, in giving this book to someone who knows how to read will say: 'Read this.' And he will answer: 'I cannot read, for it is sealed.' And this book will be given to an illiterate and he will be told: 'Read.' And he will reply: 'I do not know the letters."' This means that no one, learned or unlearned, can understand the Scriptures without that light on which they immediately depend.
Therefore, let no one set himself to this task if he has not purged himself for, since they treat of the most exalted matters, they demand full attention of the mind.
Let him, then, who would rise with profit from the reading of the Scriptures first cleanse himself of sin and set aside the cares of the world. Then alone in his chamber, let him sit down to read with true and humble faith, first praying that he might be suffused with divine light. By means of the efficacy of prayer he is enabled to come to a perfect understanding of Scripture and to feel in himself that which he reads. That is, through the good life he lives, searching their secrets, his intelligence proceeds not only through commentaries but even more swiftly by the light given by God and from the sources of his own experience.
But let him not read cursorily but rather let him consider carefully all the words and believe faithfully that all he reads is truth itself as it proceeds from One who cannot err. Therefore, let us read the words of the Lord's Prayer so that we can come to a true understanding of it, as He who composed such a prayer grants it to us,
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--Our Father -- By a special privilege, God is called the father of mankind. First, by special creation, having created him to His image and likeness . Moreover, by his particular governing, since He governs him not as a slave, but as master of the other creatures, and with this special providence he rules each of His elect, whom He calls to cooperate in almost everything. Thirdly, He is especially called Father of mankind through His special adoption, because through the blood of Christ, His only begotten Son, he has adopted as his son and made him heir to eternal life.
--Who art in heaven -- If by "heaven" we understand the material firmament which we see with our eyes, God is said to be "in heaven" but not because he is there as in a place. Since he is everywhere, God cannot be understood to be "in heaven" circumscriptively, or definitively as though surrounded by a place, or in any determined manner. Rather, God is said to be in heaven because, while he works all in everything and we know this through his effects, nevertheless in the heavens he produces the noblest effects and through the heavens we come more perfectly to a knowledge of his nature. Thus, just as the heavens are the highest material things and the causes of whatever is generated here below, and are incorruptible and luminous bodies, so the divine nature in its sublimity exceeds all things; through its causality it conserves all; remaining unchanging in its eternity, it moves everything and enlightens every man who comes into this world.
But if by "heaven" we understand the angels, the blessed, or even saintly men, according to the Psalm: the heavens show forth the glory of God, God is said to be in "heaven" because he dwells in the blessed by his glory and in the saints still in the present life by his grace.
Thus if by "heaven" we wish to understand the eternal goods promised to the just, according to our Savior's words Your reward is great in heaven, he is said to be "in heaven," that is, in the eternal goods, just as the father of who gives good things to his children is said to dwell in them inasmuch as he prepared the gifts with the intention them to his children.
--Hallowed be thy name -- If God is considered absolutely, that is, in Himself and without respect to any other thing, his first and principal name is He Who is.
But if he is considered as cause, according to Denis, this name means "Good" or (better) "Well-given." Since the end is the cause of causes and since "good" and "end" are one and the same thing, these two words are interchangeable. Since God is the first cause, especially to him belongs the name "good" or (better) this name is "well-given" to him. Whence, according to that saying of the Savior, no one is good but God, for he is essentially good.
Even though this first petition is understood of any name of God whatsoever, nevertheless our intention ought to refer especially to this good name, that is, we ought especially to desire and to ask that his goodness be diffused in the hearts of men, since in this way men are sanctified and in them thus sanctified this name of God is continually "hallowed," that is, esteemed as holy and venerable.
We ask, therefore, that the name of God first be hallowed in us, that is, to know and to love with all our hearts the goodness of God; and not as the philosophers who, even though they have known God, do not love and thank him, for they do not know his goodness. For this reason they will not be able to understand the great goodness of God, that he was willing to abase himself so greatly as to have become man and to have obeyed until death, even to the death of the Cross. When men learn this truth through the preaching of the Apostles, they will at once abandon their sins and be hallowed in perfect goodness, desiring that this name of God be hallowed by knowledge and love first in themselves and then in other men scattered throughout the world.
We say, therefore, hallowed be thy name: may it be hallowed first in us, that is, that it be known, loved and honored by us. Then that by preaching, exhortation, blessings and the working of miracles that name may be diffused throughout the world and esteemed holy by all men. Further, that they may celebrate it not only with voice and tongue, but still more with good and perfect deeds so that "their light may so shine before men" who, upon "seeing their good works, may glorify our Father who is in heaven."
--Thy kingdom come -- This petition can be understood first of the rule of God, which he exercises most excellently over every man. And because at the present time the impious and the sinners appear to be free of God's power, as if God did not rule over them because he does not punish them, and with regard to the just it does not appear that God provides for them since he permits them to endure many evils -- for all these reasons, I say, it is asked that God might come. That is: May his rule be manifest in the punishment of the wicked and the reward of the good, so that his holy name may no longer -- continually and all the day long -- be blasphemed, and no longer may it be said: "God does not provide for me," or "God is not just," as the impious in their blasphemy say every day.
One can also understand by "kingdom" the happiness He promises to his holy ones who desire him most ardently, praying and saying: thy kingdom come. On the whole, the clause is better and more truly understood of both kingdoms.
-- Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven -- Since in the empyrean heaven and in eternal beatitude, through the great abundance of perfect and consummate grace, the will of God is done by all the blessed, it is asked that also on earth, that is in the men who dwell therein, through the abundance of grace, the will of God be done as it is in heaven. Not, indeed, in equal manner, for there is a great difference between the wayfarers and the blessed, but proportionately to our state. We ask, that is, to serve God with an upright and sincere heart in the likeness of the blessed.
--Give us this day our daily bread -- Because man is composed of two substances, body and soul, and since both natures are frail, he has need of spiritual and corporeal food. One asks, then, for the soul spiritual food, which is the word of God, according to those words: "Not by bread alone does man live, but in every word which proceeds from the mouth of God." Moreover, by this is understood the sacrament of the Eucharist, as in that saying of Christ: "My flesh is food indeed, my blood is drink indeed." But another evangelist says. "Give us this day our supersubstantial bread." One asks material bread as well for the body, by which is meant all other food and all that pertains to the necessities of the body, such as clothing, housing, and other similar things. But only bread is named so that we may understand that one should ask only for the necessary material goods.
--And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors -- He who takes anything becomes a debtor of him from whom he has taken it and that which he has taken is said to be his debt. Since we are not our own, but God's, and since everything we have is his, for this reason we ought always to honor Him. Since every sin is a certain dishonoring of God, when we sin we take from God the honor we ought to render him. We are his debtors and our debts are the very sins which we pray to be forgiven, when we propose to abandon them and henceforth pledge ourselves to honor God in our works. To arouse Him to pardon us let us grant pardon for every debt and offense to our debtors, that is, to those who have offended us.
If anyone does not pardon the offenses of his debtors, he cannot hope for pardon from God. Nevertheless, the man, who is hard of heart and does not wish to pardon his enemies ought not, for all that, to omit this part of the prayer. Let him pray in the person of the Church, and thus he will not be wrong in saying it, since the Church pardons the offenses of his debtors. Otherwise, every time that one did not wish to say this part of the prayer because he did not wish to pardon the offenses of his enemies, he would sin mortally. This is not because he does not wish to say the prayer, but because he does not wish to say it because he refuses to grant pardon.
--And lead us not into temptation -- God tempts in one way, the devil in another. For God tempts in order to induce men to good things not to evil ones, as St. James the Apostle says: "God is not a tempter to anything wrong." God indeed tempts, that is, tries the just, not because he does not know them, but in order that men may know them and come to imitate them. He tempted Abraham and Job in this way" (James 1:13-14).
But the devil tempts, that is, tries men in order to lead them to wrongdoing. He tries them, I say, either by exterior things or by the flesh so that by means of their feelings he might lead them to sin. It is said: lead us not into temptation, that is, not to permit us to be induced by the devil the world or the flesh is consent to sin. For in the Scriptures many times God is said to do that which he does not do, properly speaking, but permits to be done. As in the Exodus, he says of Himself: "I shall harden, I have hardened the heart of Pharaoh." And to Pharaoh he says: "I have stirred you up to these actions precisely to show you my strength and to make known my name to all the earth." Thus it says here "Do not lead us into temptation" not because He induces men to consent to temptation, but because he sometimes lets them enter into it, thereby seeking and, indeed, deserving guilt for their sins.
--But deliver us from evil -- Although tribulations are necessary for us, since without them the virtues can neither be conserved nor increased, nevertheless we desire to be free of them; not indeed in such a way that they do not occur, but rather that the kindness of God might console us so that they do not suffocate or overwhelm us, since no one can persevere in good works under tribulations without the special help of almighty God.
Some, however, understand this petition to be the same as the preceding one because in the former one we beseech God that he not let us fall into consent to sin; then, as though restricting and perfectly concluding this request, adding: but deliver us from evil, that is, from the devil or from Hell, wherein lie the greatest misery -- that which is truly evil -- as though to say "evil par excellence."
-- Through Jesus Christ our Lord -- This clause is not unfittingly added by the faithful when they say the prayer privately and by themselves rather than publicly. In public one ought to follow the manner of the Church, which, if not in this, nevertheless in her other public prayers almost always adds this clause, and most reasonably. Since all our merit is founded on the merit of the passion of Christ, by means of which all gifts are given us, most fittingly ought we to petition everything through him, as through him we are giving thanks to God for everything.
--Amen -- This word is interpreted and explained in three ways, that is, "truth," "faithfully," and "So be it." At the end of this prayer one rightly answers Amen as if to say: It is the truth that God is our Father and that he is in heaven. And, we make these petitions to him faithfully, that is, persevering in his faith and seeking him in righteousness. May that be done unto us by Him which we have sought of Him.
Since God is the author of the Scared Scriptures, no one should doubt that their words are of such weight and of so much importance that no one can ever attain to a complete understanding of them. If we examine with such diligent care the words of outstanding men in order to grasp their opinion, how much the more carefully ought we to weigh the word of God the wisdom of which is measureless.
Once we have gained some understanding through reading, we should meditate on the holy words and, with the Apostles, strip the ears of grain with our hands so that, with the straw and husks removed, we come to the kernels. By grinding the grain with our teeth to extract the marrow, we make of it a sweet loaf. In this way everyone who faithfully, humbly and with a sincere heart meditates often upon the Scriptures and turns them over in his mind will profit marvelously in understanding and love, nor will he ever leave them without fruit. Yet more, in one and the same sentence God sometimes grants new meanings when we turn them over frequently, ruminating upon them.
Therefore, after we have read the Lord's prayer, meditating upon its words once more let each one turn inward, withdrawing from the tumult of the world, speaking thus;
-- Our Father -- My soul, if God is our Father by special creation, by his special governance and by supernatural adoption he should certainly be loved by us with a special affection, for every effect loves its cause, the particular good loves the universal good which raises it above itself.
If God is our Father, he wishes to be honored not only with words but still more with the heart and with good deeds. If he is our Father it is necessary to imitate him, for the child should imitate a good and just father. Whence our Savior says "Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect'"
Since he is our Father, one ought to obey him and thus to observe all his commandments. If he is Father, we ought patiently to bear his punishments and corrections, for what sort of a child is it whom his father does not chastise? God chastises not from hate, but from love, to make us, his children, perfect.
If he is our Father, that is, the father of especially of the elect, then we are all brethren; we love one another mutually, but we truly love in the manner in which each one truly desires salvation for his brother because we are the children of one Father, heirs together of eternal life.
Let us love one another justly, that is, in such a way that we more and more desire the greater goods for our brethren; that is, spiritual goods rather than temporal ones, grace and glory rather than riches and honors; good rather than sad things, perfect rather than imperfect ones.
Let us love them in holiness so that in them and in their works we seek the glory of God, the salvation of souls.
Let us love them diligently, that is, with such efficacy that we will bring to, and indeed succeed in bringing good things to them by deeds as well as word and thus help them in their necessities.
Let us love vehemently, that is, with such deep affection that there remains in us no single root of bitterness, rancor or malevolence.
Let us love them fully, that is, by extending our charity even to our enemies, for we are all brethren.
Let us love perseveringly, for he who perseveres unto the end will be saved.
So, in these two words: Father and our we consider the two precepts of charity on which depend the whole law and the prophets, as it is written: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, with all thy soul with all thy mind and all thy strength and thy neighbor as thyself."
-- Who are in heaven -- Where your Father is, O my soul, there is your inheritance! Consider therefore that since He is in heaven, you have no inheritance on earth. Rather you are a pilgrim and journey to seek the fatherland as your inheritance. As a pilgrim, then, on this earth, seek no earthly goods, but let the necessary suffice you and, as pilgrims think always of their return home, so you too should keep your thoughts on heaven, journeying in the presence of Him of whom it is said in the Scripture: "Seek his face always."
-- Hallowed be thy name -- If good children, O my soul, honor good earthly fathers, how much the more ought we to honor our eternal Father from whom proceeds and depends every good thing!
But because we do not see him and because we know the invisible by way of visible things, this phrase teaches us to honor God in His visible sacraments. Hence we do not honor creatures of themselves, but God himself, Creator and Father, signified by these created things. Now, among things that signify, the principal one is the name, which is a word having a conventional meaning. Hence, among the other things by which we honor God, particular mention is made of the name, by which are understood all other things which signify God to us. Therefore, we ought to hallow and honor God not only with the heart by purifying our conscience of every stain and earthly attachment, but also with the tongue, preaching, praising and blessing Him.
Likewise we should honor him with good deeds by observing his precepts and doing good not only in the sight of God but of all men.
We should honor him with signs, kneeling and adoring him, the Cross and his image; so, too, his mother and all the saints, the prelates and priests of the Church, the king, the princes, judges and anyone who signifies His sovereignty.
We ought likewise to honor the sacred Scripture and this in every written word as in voice, and we ought not to adulterate the words of Scripture with vain and empty scribblings. Let us not trample it under foot nor make jokes with it. Let us not pronounce it in vain, nor turn its words to ridicule, joking phrases, puns, fraud and derision. May the worthy word of God be proffered with grave reverence and heard in that way, and most of all the venerable name of Jesus, as Saint Paul says: "At the name of Jesus every knee shall bend of all those in heaven and on earth and under the earth."
--Thy kingdom come -- The lovers of this world, O my soul, desire earthly riches; they seek with all zeal kingdoms which are destined to perish; they do everything possible to become friends of kings and princes to whom they offer love and whom they desire to prosper.
But we say to God: Thy kingdom come. How great is that kingdom! Saint Augustine says that in it there is no fear of poverty, nor debility of illness; no one there is offended; no one suffers envy, no cupidity burns in the heart, no hunger for food, no lust for honor or power strikes anyone; here there is no fear of the devil nor wile of demons; the fear of hell is far away; there is no death of body or soul, but joyous life through the gift of immortality.
In that kingdom there will be no discord but everything will be in harmonious concord, everything tranquil and in continuous splendor.
But above all there is the association with the hierarchies and the joy of the company of all the supernatural celestial powers; the vision of the regiments of saints more splendidly radiant than the stars; of the patriarchs refulgent with the splendid merit of faith; of the prophets making festival in the glory they once hoped for; of the apostles seated as judges over the twelve tribes of Israel; of the martyrs resplendent in the blood-red crowns of their victory; and the contemplation of the choirs of virgins crowned with white garlands.
What shall we say of the King seated in the midst of such a court? Words fail. For if we should have had to undergo every day varied torments and had even to suffer for a time the very pains of hell in order to see Christ when he shall come in glory, and be numbered among his saints, would it not be right and fitting to bear every ill one could name to become sharers of such great goods and of such great glory? Wherefore we cry out to the Lord with all our heart: Thy kingdom come, rejecting all earthly kingdoms and all their pomps as filth and dung.
--Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven -- My soul, since the will of God cannot be other than right and since that same rectitude is found in his rule for all things and their operations, he who does the will of God cannot err. In heaven the blessed never err, because they do the will of God, going straight ahead and following it in truth and equity. Corporeal creatures, as well, who do not have free will, are moved according to the will of God. For this reason, error is never or rarely found in natural things.
But the damned in hell, because the free will which they possess beyond all doubt, has been stripped of grace, are always in error and go askew in their actions. Whence they are always miserable, desiring those things which they can in no way have.
Impious men are like them as long as they live in the way spoken of by Isaiah: "The impious are in a stormy sea which cannot rest and are caught up in its waves together with turmoil and mud. 'There is no peace for the impious,' says the Lord God." Therefore, the more a person strays from the rectitude of God, the more he becomes twisted, restless and nigh to the misery of the damned. Our rectitude is the will of God.
To become like the blessed spirits and sharers in eternal happiness, beseeching the Lord not only in words but with the very marrow of our hearts, let us say with burning desire: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, cleansing our hearts to become holy, for this is the wily of God, our sanctification That we may obey all his commandments in ourselves in all things good or difficult, let us strive to conform to his will and let us say with Job: "The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away; let it be done as the Lord pleases; blessed be the name of the Lord.
--Give us this day our daily bread -- O my soul, since you are more precious than the body, we ought first to seek the word of God, which is your food, and then the body of Christ, which is the food of your body.
But all those who read or hear the word of God and seek the body of Christ, seek it at the hands of God. Whence those who learn (or, rather, hear) the Scriptures only for the sake of knowledge or the esteem of men and not for sanctification and good works, do not seek the bread of the word of God from God's hands but from their own. So, too, he who goes to Communion while living in sin does not seek the bread of heaven from the hands of God.
Let us say, then, to our heavenly Father: Give us, that is, with your own hands, today our daily bread, word of Gods so that we do not stumble on the way. Since we are in need each day, our father feeds and nourishes us every day, enlightening and inflaming our hearts with his divine love so that we may taste and see that the Lord is sweet. For if he does not illumine and kindle our hearts, we seek in vain our bread, that is, the Word of God, the body of Christ.
We say our daily bread and we ought to say every day give us today, for every day -- every hour, if possible -- we ought to eat the word of God, reading, meditating on it, contemplating it, singing psalms in our heart to God, thanking him in our hearts always for Jesus Christ our Savior.
We ought also likewise to seek every day (at least spiritually) the most sacred bread of the body of Christ, prayerfully hearing mass and celebrating with the priest. One should also wish often to receive sacramentally this mystic bread, according to the devotion of his heart and the counsel of his spiritual director. Whence St. Augustine says: "I neither praise nor condemn daily communion, but I do encourage everyone to receive every Sunday."
Since it is God who gives seed to the sower and bread to the hungry, we ought also to hope for and ask of Him bread and other things necessary for bodily life. We ought, however, to hope and ask for them in such a way that we do not use them for self-indulgence and sin. For this reason He teaches us not to ask for the superfluous but only for the necessary by saying bread, which means that which is necessary for the state of life of each one. But since man ought not to be idle (according to the words of the Apostle: Let him not eat who does not toil), the prayer says: our daily bread, that is, not the bread of others. Thus we are not like thieves, for we eat our own bread gained by our toil, for it is written: "In the sweat of your brow you shall eat your bread."
To quell the anxiety of those who are too solicitous for the future the prayer says: daily, that is, "day by day" or from time to time." This is to the end that we provide ourselves with food and drink without looking to the far distant future and to every possible event. Let us consider only that which is likely to happen and leave the rest to God, believing that he who feeds the birds of the air and splendidly clothes the flowers and grass of the field that are here today and tomorrow are cast into the oven to burn, will provide much the more for us at all times.
Buy because God could take away everything in an instant, as in an hour he made the saintly Job a poor man, we ought to say every day Give us this day our daily bread, recognizing as from God everything we use every day to feed and clothe ourselves. This is why monks and many devout laymen say before they eat, "The eyes of all hope in thee, O Lord"; and "You give them food at an opportune time"; and "Bless us, O lord, and these thy gifts which we have received from your bounty"; and other benedictions. Thus, after dinner and after supper, giving thanks to God for the gifts received from him they say: "We return thee thanks, almighty God, for all thy benefits. . . and "Blessed be God in all his gifts. . . ." and other acts of thanksgiving.
-- Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors -- Since for the remission of sins not only pardon but free will is required, if we wish to receive pardon from God it is necessary on our part that we do what we can, so that we are not like those men who tempt God by asking pardon for their sins while persisting in them. First, then, prostrating ourselves before God with a contrite and humble heart, let us ask that he forgive our sins. And because no one knows if he is worthy of love or hate (since the knowledge of this is reserved until the day of judgment) everyone ought to pray every day for his past sins and say Forgive us our debts.
One ought to will to beseech God every day for forgiveness of past and mortal sins, but also for present and venial ones, for all of us offend him in many ways, and if we should say that we have no sin, we would deceive ourselves and the truth would not be in us, for human frailty cannot live without venial s in.
Everyone ought to pray not only for his own sins but also for those of his neighbors, the number of which is infinite. Thus St. James commands us: "Pray for one another that you may be saved." And because he who does not pardon (or, rather, wish to pardon) even the lesser sins of others, that is, the offenses committed against him by other man, is unworthy that his own greater sin;, that is, offenses he has committed against God, be granted pardon; therefore, if we wish this petition to be heard, let us first forgive every offense from our neighbors. Thus we shall be able to say: Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
-- And lead us not into temptation -- My soul! Since it is impossible for man In his corrupt nature to save himself from sin without the grace of God, it is necessary for him who would live without sin to turn to God and to ask him for that grace by means of which he can live without the stain of mortal sin.
And because even the man in the state of grace has need of God's special aid that he may be able to persevere in grace by reason of his natural frailty and the many other impediments that continually occur, it is necessary for him to turn daily to God with continuous prayers, for many have been given graces who still did not receive the grace of persevering to the end.
Since God is the One who works every action in every man, who carries all things by the word of his power, who moves the will and the execution of its conclusion according to his own good will, and is He in whom we live and move and have our being -- for all these reasons it is impossible that we do anything of merit and much more so that we persevere in any good work without the special gift of God, for every good thing given to us and every perfect gift comes from above and descends from the Father of Lights.
Now, these gifts and this perseverance in them is acquired through continuous prayer. Wherefore the Lord exhorts us to be constant in prayer, even to the point of importunity. "It is necessary," he says, "to pray always and to fail not." Further: The world, the flesh and the devil assail us from all sides; the flesh indeed as a familiar, constant and seductive enemy; the world as a fraudulent and traitorous one; the devil as cruel, strong, acute and industrious; but it is necessary for us continually to go on.
Because no wisdom nor strength of ours suffices for this task, we must turn to the Lord by saying: And lead us not into temptation, as if we had said quite openly: Our frailty in the midst of so many and such strong enemies cannot resist temptation, we beseech you Who created all things by your word and can do all things not to lead us into temptation, that is, do not leave us, for your leaving us would be leading us into temptation. If you abandon us, we should at once fall into sin. Do not let us fall into sin, O Lord, but help those who hope in you.
-- But deliver us from evil -- Since, as the Apostle says, "Whoever wishes to live piously in Christ Jesus will suffer persecutions," and "It is necessary to enter the kingdom of God with much tribulation" and since, on the other hand, our frailty is so great that we easily fail in any tribulation if the hand of God does not aid and uphold us, it is necessary that my soul, considering its frailty, desire daily to be freed from tribulation. Even David himself said "Free me from my necessities, O Lord," that is, from the tribulations necessary for me. Thus we say here But deliver us from evil, that is, from afflictions and adversities, so that these do not come upon us so heavily that we cannot bear them. Free us also from those that we can sustain with your help, consoling us with your spiritual grace, strengthening our virtues and bringing calm after the storm. Turn our tribulations into blessings, so that you may always appear glorious in your saints, whom, after the test, you crown in heaven where you live for ever and ever. Amen.
-- Through Jesus Christ, our Lord -- O my soul, in the third lamentation of Jeremiah, the Prophet, our Lord says of his passion "Remember my poverty and my exile, and wormwood and gall." The religious man answers prayerfully: "I shall remember them and from that memory my soul shall be moved to its depths. Considering all this in my heart, I shall achieve great trust in God."
The memory of the passion of Christ begets in our hearts the great hope of obtaining everything from God for, as the Apostle says, He has not spared His own Son but has given him to us all. Would he not have given us everything with Him?
Therefore, let not the multitude of sins so affright us, nor the enmity of the world, the persecutions of the wicked, the temptations of the devil, nor any difficulty whatsoever that we do not live well in holiness. No, we should not even fear when we think how far beyond us is heaven's glory, for God, the almighty Father, can command all things by means of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
-- Amen -- All this is truer than you imagine, O my soul! The example of the holy Patriarchs shows us this. What have they not obtained by means of the passion of Christ? Did these not show forth in His name the Holy Spirit in the form of fire? Did they not give sight to the blind; did they not raise the dead? Did they not purge the world of error by the power of His name, adorn it with virtue and perform without difficulty innumerable other works? So, we answer: Amen, that is, it is true and so should it be. We faithfully confess and pray that it be done unto us that we might attain through Jesus Christ our Lord from God, the Father, all that His Son taught us to ask in His name in this prayer.
Among the prayers set forth by the Holy Spirit, this appears as the supreme and most powerful, for it has in itself many outstanding qualities that, taken altogether, it would not be easy to find in any other prayer. Thus:
1. It is reassuring, for with this prayer we approach God with great confidence, well-knowing that we cannot err in what we ask for, since it was composed by the wisest man -- indeed by that very eternal Wisdom that cannot err. Moreover, it has this security because it was composed by our advocate, Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of the Father and Whom we approach more confidently through this prayer; and also because we know that the same Advocate, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, hears us willingly.
2. The excellence of the prayer lies in its directness. Nothing that is not good is asked of God, inasmuch as the prayer asks nothing that ought not to be desired by all men -- as is clear from what has already been said and will be even clearer from what will shortly be set forth.
3. It is excellent because it is well-ordered, since that ought fittingly to be asked of God which can fittingly and without sin be desired by us. Now, our desire tends principally and per se to the good, and secondarily flees from evil. For this reason in this prayer we first fittingly ask for good things and then ask to be freed from evil. Among the good things, those of God ought to be put before our own goods, for we ought to love God more than ourselves.
Therefore, in this prayer we first ask for God's good by saying: hallowed be thy name. In the following petition we ask for good things for ourselves. But because the soul is more to be prized than the body, we ask first for the good of the soul and then of the body. And because the goods of the soul are twofold, the end and the means thereto, among the goods that we request we ask first for the end by saying: Thy kingdom come, then the means: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven; last of all, we ask for the goods of the body in saying: give us this day our daily bread.
4. With regard to the evil things from which the appetite should fly, first those things should be avoided which are contrary to divine goodness, and then those which are contrary to our good. The evils contrary to the divine goodness are the evils of guilt, but the evils contrary to our good are those of punishment. Now among the evils of guilt some are past, some are yet to come. First, then, we ask to be freed of the evils of guilt in saying: and forgive us our debts. Next, to be confirmed in good, that is, so we do not commit sin later, by saying: and lead us not into temptation. Last of all, we ask to be freed of the evil of punishment when we say: But deliver us from evil. It is clear that this prayer is well -- yes, very well-ordered.
5. This prayer is excellent because it is short. It is full to overflowing, yet its brevity prevents boredom. Its fullness is such that all that one should ask of God is summed up succinctly in it. Nothing can or ought to be sought from God which is not truly included in these petitions or in not truly contained in one or another of them -- as is clear from what we have just said.
6. This prayer excels all others in that it is most welcome to God, since he has made it His own and ordained that we pray in these words to God, the Almighty Father. Thus the prayer in its very beginning offers a word most pleasing to Him when it says: Our Father. By this it teaches us to say neither Our Lord, nor Our God, but at its very outset it offers at once a word both of love and of awe to show us that His love for us is so great that he does not disdain to call us sinners His children, and thus to show us clearly with what confidence we ought to approach Him and to seek that which he commands that we seek of Him. He would not have commanded us to ask Him for this if He did not wish to give it to us, nor would he have wished to be called our Father if He had not wished to cherish us as children.
One should desire, then, to say this prayer with great attention and sincerity and daily to meditate on its words, for it contains the sweetness of the gifts of God and through it we garner marvelous fruits. But it is better to recite it once with attention and meditation and a spiritual savoring than to repeat it a thousand times with a wandering mind. Although various persons full of the spirit of God may meditate on it in diverse ways, for everyone does not have the same method of prayer, nevertheless they all are tending to the same end.
But in order to open the way somewhat to beginners in prayer to consider and to pray in the words of this great prayer we shall add briefly a method of praying, running through its words. With this method the way will be opened in innumerable other methods which the Holy Spirit teaches to the pure of heart.
In view of all these considerations we say: Let him who would say this prayer well withdraw to a quiet place, banish all feedings, purge his imagination of all fantasies, recollect his spirit, and place himself in the presence of God (for he is everywhere in His sight). Then, praying with heart and voice, let him say:
-- Our Father -- We call you Father, my God, for you alone are blessed and powerful, the King of kings and Lord of lords. You alone live forever in inaccessible light. No one has seen nor can see you, yet you have created all things seen and unseen. You have no need of them, yet you share your happiness with them. You are perfectly happy in yourself and through yourself and nothing outside yourself can add to or take away from your happiness.
Father, you can do everything. You have made all things and they would return to nothingness if your hand did not sustain them. You are all-knowing; all is naked and open to your eyes. Since goodness is diffusive and communicative of itself, you are so good that the plenitude of your goodness, while remaining wholly in yourself, bursts forth, spreading through all things so widely that your providence cares for the whole creation. You are wholly in the whole universe and wholly in its least part. You are great, O God, surpassing all understanding, so there is no other God than God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit: truly three Persons, but not three essences; not three gods, nor three lords. You are one Lord, one God, one essence and majesty.
Who am I then, O Lord God, who have been created from nothing? Dust and ashes! I cannot make white even one hair of my head. As one dead, I live in the darkness of ignorance, filled with sins and I have many more of them than hairs on my head. Yes, who am I, O Lord God? I am a worm and dung before Thee, who does great, marvelous and inscrutable things without number. Who am I that I should dare to call you Father, and myself your child? Certainly I could not have had such boldness if you had not decreed it.
O lover of human beings, how great is your kind love that you want to be called Father by us sinners! How good a Father you are to make the sun rise on the good and the evil, the rain fall on the just and the unjust! You also love us so deeply that you have given us your only-begotten Son so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but enjoy life eternal.
Forgive me, O Lord, if I dare to call you my Father, for I do not do so through any temerity or presumption, but because of your great goodness! Certainly we approach you with great confidence since you command us to call you Father, when we come to you and beg you in the beginning of our prayer. Well then! What sort of a child is that whom his father does not love? And what sort of favor is it that the child would not obtain from his father?
Considering your ineffable mercy, I am confident of receiving not only that which I need for my own salvation but also that which I desire for the salvation of my neighbors. I know this to be true because you have commanded us to say not My Father, but Our Father, so that I might ask not only for myself, but with supreme confidence also for my brethren I come to you then, my Lord, confident not only for myself, but also for my mother, my father, my relatives, my associates, friends -- nay, even my enemies -- with hope in your loving kindness to grant not small but great, even the greatest gifts.
--Who art in heaven -- I know well, Lord God, our almighty Father, that you are in every place by your essence, since you have created all things immediately and are present to all, and that you conserve them lest they fall into nothingness. You are in every place through your presence, since you see all and there is nothing that can be hidden from your eye, for "darkness is not hidden from you and the night will be bright as the day," and
thus, darkness is to you as the light. You are also everywhere by your power, for your power penetrates every creature; you work in and powerfully govern everything,
It is not necessary that I search for you elsewhere than in my heart, for "whither should I fly from your Spirit?" If I rise to heaven, you are there; if I descend into Hell, you are present; if I take wing to the far reaches of the sea, even there your hand will be near me and your right hand will guard me.
Why, then, should I say, Lord my God, that you are in heaven? Are you not also on earth? It is because you are in heaven otherwise than you are on earth, since the angels and the blessed (who are the heaven of heavens) are there, in whom you are in so wonderful a manner that it does not seem that you could be in any other creature, for other creatures are as nothing when compared to the heavenly hierarchies,
Heaven is also saintly human persons because, raised as they are above earthly concerns, pure, simple, enlightened, incorruptible, they converse constantly in heaven. You are in these holy ones by your grace which is of such value that without it a man who possesses all earthly things still is nothing Thus you are in heaven in this sense by your ineffable goodness and loving kindness.
Lord God, our Father, you command that we say who are in heaven in order to raise our mind to the celestial realms, lessening the tug of earthly attachments. Since we should desire nothing on earth because you are said to be in heaven and not on earth, then heaven is your throne and the earth the footstool beneath your feet.
With full confidence we will ask you not for small things but great ones, for you are a great Father, wealthy above all since you have heavenly riches which eye has not seen nor ear heard nor has it entered into the heart of man what you have prepared for those who love you.
-- Hallowed be Thy name -- May your name be known, loved, exalted, praised, celebrated and preached in all the earth, so that as your name is, so may be its praise. For you alone exist of yourself, you alone are powerful, you alone are merciful, good and blessed forever and ever.
No creature is praiseworthy in your sight, none glorious, none good, none holy, for in comparison with you the whole world is nothing and the stars are not worlds in your sight. You are light and in you there is no darkness, and in your sight every other light is darkness. You are goodness and in your presence all other goodness is sin. So great is your majesty that all who uphold the world bow before it and nothing can resist it.
We pray to you, good Father, holy Father, that your name be hallowed, that is, that it be held celebrated and sacred; that the name of your majesty, wisdom, goodness, justice, and mercy be cherished and loved by all men; that "at the name of Jesus the knee of everyone in heaven and on earth or under the earth shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that you are God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, one true God invisible, immutable, incomparable; and that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of the Father."
For what reason, Lord God, do we praise men? Because the name of some is celebrated? Because men praise dust and ashes? Because we deify men and call them blessed? And what great thing have they ever done before you? My Lord, have you not done everything in them. And why then do we praise the saw and the hammer rather than the carpenter? Wherefore you alone should be praised and your name hallowed in all the earth, for you are marvelous in your works and marvelous in your saints. Hallowed be Thy name, I say, throughout the world, for ignorance of your name is the occasion of all evil. How can anyone know your majesty and not fear you? Who can know your wisdom and not revere it? Who knows your goodness and will not love you? Who believes that your Son was crucified for us and does not take up his cross and follow Him?
So broadcast, then, holy Father, the knowledge and love of your name in all the nations of men. I speak of men who perish, that they might return to you, might love you and that you might be glorified in them. Thus, may you be acknowledged and alone appear glorious and praiseworthy forever and ever. Amen.
-- Thy kingdom come -- Show us your face and thus your kingdom will come among us. Who sees your face possesses all things, "for this is eternal life: that men might know Thee, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." What does he lack who has God, who has all things? What does he not possess who possesses Him who possesses all things? What does he not see who sees Him who sees all? Whence who sees you, Lord God, reigns with you and possesses eternally your kingdom and all it contains. May your kingdom come -- and may it come quickly.
We are pilgrims in this valley of tears in which the sorrows of death have surrounded us and the perils of Hell have found us. We cannot avoid sin and bear up under infinite attacks without ever resting. No one anywhere can be happy, be he rich or poor, wise or ignorant, for everywhere there is fatigue and great affliction of spirit. Wherefore, let us see clearly, our Father, that you have not placed our inheritance in this valley, and that we ought to seek our kingdom elsewhere.
Since we are pilgrims as were all our forefathers, O father, we beseech you to give us quickly the kingdom prepared for us from the beginning of the world so that, freed from this miserable darkness, we might reign with you and your saints forever.
-- Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven -- Because no one can possess your kingdom if he is not upright (as it is written: "the light for the upright is known in darkness"), and he cannot be upright if he does not do your will, Lord God; and no one can do your will save by your gift, for no one comes to you unless you draw him. May your will be done through these events, that is: May your will be given to us so that through your grace we may do your will on earth as it is done in heaven by your blessed ones unto your glory.
Father, think of us your children, do unto us as you will, for it is by reason of your gift that your faithful serve you worthily and laudably.
Cleanse our hearts, most blessed light, that we may completely cast out our self-love and throw away our self-will, so that your will may be done in us and that our own may perish. May it be done so perfectly in us that nothing of our own may remain but may your will possess us throughout.
Cleanse our minds, Father, so that we may love no earthly things, that we may tame our flesh that we may shut out from ourselves the glory of the world, that we may know perfectly that you work all in everything, and that we are nothing can do nothing, know nothing; so that we may be little in our own sight, let us love you perfectly with all our soul, with all our mind, with all our heart, with all strength, and over neighbors as ourselves. Thus we shall observe your commandments and do your will, for on these two precepts depend the Law and the prophets.
-- Give us this day our daily bread -- Because we are not capable of planning anything for ourselves by ourselves, Lord and Father, it is necessary that you provide for your little children all things temporal and spiritual. So that we may acquire your grace and love, that what we have acquired may increase and that we may preserve the increase until the end, give us today the bread of your word and of your sacraments. Open our eyes that we may understand the writings of the holy prophets and your evangelists, for you have the keys of all the Scriptures and you close and no one opens; you open and no one closes. Stir up our devotion so that we may approach humbly and devoutly the marvelous sacrament of the body and blood of your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ and thus increase in health and in the strength given by this food so that, moving from strength to strength, we may come at last to the kingdom of heaven.
Prepare for us, then, O best of Fathers, such food; prepare as well our tongue, palate and taste. Prepare these things daily for us lest we faint on the way for we are frail indeed and, if we were not nourished daily, we should quickly die. Give us today our supersubstantial bread; give us also corporeal bread and all other things necessary for the life of the body as long as we are pilgrims on this earthly journey.
We seek no riches, nor honors, nor temporal kingdoms, but that alone which is necessary for the present life, so that our heart does not swell with pride in prosperity, nor need we be solicitous with anguish of spirit, thinking on the morrow. Give us, then, neither riches nor want but only what is necessary for our nourishment, and give us our daily bread by the labor of our hands, for we do not wish to take our bread from you, as idle and shiftless men. It is written of the upright person: "He has not eaten the bread of idleness"; and: "He who toils not, eats not"; and: "Because you eat the labor of your hands, you are blessed and your work will go well."
-- Forgive us our debts -- Truly we are debtors in many ways, since who is there who could count the sins we have committed and which we commit every day? Who could bear them? Indeed, all our justice is like a soiled and stinking rag since our wicked thoughts are without number. What shall I say of our words, since even perfect men cannot bridle their tongues? Moreover, our wicked works are measureless since we seldom do any thing really well. Indeed, if we examine the matter carefully, we are not doers but destroyers of your works. Thus, our omissions are as many as the sands of the sea.
With what impudence then, Lord God, would we ever have dared to appear before your face if you had not given us confidence through the death of your only-begotten Son, Who has loved us and washed away our sins in His blood? O how great is your goodness! Certainly that goodness ineffably overcomes our sins, and desires mercy and not sacrifice, for true sacrifice to God is a troubled spirit and a humble and contrite heart. O God, you will not despise us, for if "you, O Lord, mark iniquities, Lord, who can stand it?"
But we have great confidence, for before you is propitiation, that is, our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who is the propitiation for our sins. Look, then, God our protector, look again and again on the face of Jesus Christ and because of His love, forgive us our sins.
-- As we forgive our debtors -- We truly pardon them, for it is reasonable that, if you, Father, should forgive our sins against you, we should also forgive the lesser sins that our neighbors have committed against us. Forgive us, then, as we forgive them; whom we forgive in such a way that we not only do no evil against them, but are more ready to do well to them, when and where they have need. May you, too, forgive us, Father, not seeking revenge for our sins, but rather mercifully canceling them and granting us every good that we need so that, as it is written: "We receive from the hand of the Lord twofold for all our sins."
-- And lead us not into temptation -- Since it is written: "He who perseveres unto the end shall be saved," he who does not persevere shall not. And in the book of Ezechiel you have said: "If the just man shall have abandoned his justice and shall have worked all the abominations that the impious man wishes to work, shall he live? All the justice that he shall have done will no more be remembered. In the lie with which he has lied and in his sin he shall die." But who could persevere unto the end without you, Lord God, since all the world is full of snares, and since we walk in darkness and have enemies who sleep neither by day or night?
We beseech you, Father, to complete what you have begun. May your mercy attend us, following us and drawing us on all the days of our life, so that we may dwell in the house of the Lord in endless length of days. Take not your countenance from us, nor requite us according to our iniquities. Help us, O Lord, and continue the work you have begun in us so that we may possess our soul in patience. If, then, you do forgive our sins, forgive them in such a way that you do not lead us not into temptation; into temptation, that is, that we could not withstand. Let us not be faced with such temptation that, falling prey to it, we would die spiritually.
-- But deliver us from evil -- Even though we know that we must undergo many trials for the sake of your holy name and even though we yearn, for the sake of your glory, to be with your son, our Lord Jesus Christ crucified, nevertheless we beseech you to free us from those evils and affliction that we bear daily, so that they do not plague our conscience. For without your grace, who could persevere sinless through so many tribulations? Is it not true that it is you who have given victory to your saints? Have not all of them sung the psalm of David: "If the Lord were not with us. let Israel now say; if the Lord were not with us when men rose up against us, perhaps we would have been swallowed alive. When their fury dashed against us, perhaps the waters would have engulfed us." And finally they conclude: "Our help is in the name of the Lord Who made heaven and earth."
So, Father, deliver us from evil, that is, from present tribulations and afflictions. Not, indeed, that they should not come upon us, but least they draw us into sin. Thus, we shall follow our Lord Jesus Christ bearing our cross after Him Who was tempted on every side because of His likeness to other men, but sinned not. "He drank from the torrent in the way. and therefore will hold up His head."
-- Through our Lord Jesus Christ -- Whom you have given us so that through Him you might give us everything. As you have made everything through Him, so because of Him you have thought worthy of esteem everything in heaven and on earth. Most loving Father, as you deigned to create us, through Him, in your own image and likeness, so now deign to recreate us in that salvation, uncontaminated, incorruptible, unstainable, preserved in heaven for those who are written in the book of life.
-- Amen -- Be it done unto us, Lord, as we desire, so that we do not depart empty-handed from the prayer of your beloved Son, Who lives and reigns with You in the Unity of the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen.
Few there are who arrive at true contemplation, for this requires great purity and tranquility of spirit. Whence the Lord says: "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God." And elsewhere it is said: "He shall sit alone and shall remain silent, for he has raised himself above himself." Now, man does not come to this purity and tranquility of spirit suddenly, for no one reaches the heights at once. When a person begins to live well he is not at once capable of contemplation, but must go down step by step to true purity of heart and tranquility of spirit; like Jacob, if he would wed Rachel, he must first wed Leah.
Now these laborious steps, O earnest soul, are found in this prayer of our Lord, if one considers its subtleties, taking notice that in all undertakings what is first in intention is last in execution. Just as dwelling in a tranquil house is what the builder first intends, but the last thing which he achieves, so that which is the last in intention is the first to be put into execution. Thus, when we wish to build a house we first consider our repose, then the private rooms and the other rooms of the house, then the principal parts such as the roof and foundation and, finally, the stones and timber, which last things are, nevertheless, the first to be put into action.
So it is in the steps of the spiritual life. The first thing intended is the sanctification of the name of God; then the kingdom of God and, one by one, the other things spoken of above, that is, the other petitions of this prayer of the Lord. But in putting these petitions into action, it is necessary for us to begin with the last petition and, working step by step, rise to those which are first. Thus, if in the last clause: but deliver us from evil, by evil we understand the devil (as some, not unfittingly, expound it), we should say that the first step in the spiritual life is to be freed from the power of the devil by true contrition, confession, and satisfaction.
The second is to be fixed in our good resolution so that we are willing to endure any ill rather than return, like dogs, to our vomit. Therefore, as we flee the occasions of sin, let us pray: and lead us not into temptation. Since, moreover, no one lives without sin, he who would say that he is sinless, would deceive himself.
The third step is that we forgive our enemies' offenses and, regretting our past mortal sins and our daily venial ones, let us confess often and strive to purge our conscience of every spot, stain or wrinkle as far as possible in saying every day: and forgive us our debts, etc.
The fourth step is to remove from oneself every earthly affection and to embrace the simplicity of the holy fathers in food and clothing for, as the Apostle says: We bring nothing with us into this world, and there is no doubt that we shall bear nothing hence. So if we have enough to feed and clothe ourselves, let us be content with these things alone; thus we are freed from the superfluous solicitudes of this world and are able to turn to the study of the divine Scripture and to delight in other spiritual exercises, to receive Communion frequently and in all things dedicate ourselves to the worship of God as we say: Give us this day our daily bread.
But because, as St. Bernard says, by living well and doing well, and bearing every ill and thus persevering until death, we leap to the fifth step, which is this: that in all the afflictions that may occur, we conform our will to God's will. Let us thus bear all things not merely patiently but willingly and happily for the love of God as we say: Thy will be done, etc.
Because the evils which menace us force us to go to God, after what has already been said, we rise to the sixth step of continual conversation in heaven and with the ardent desire to enter the kingdom of the blessed, we say, not only with our lips but within the very depths of the heart: Thy kingdom come.
Finally, mature in divine love, in arriving at the seventh step and thinking no more of ourselves but solely of God and of His glory and His love, we say: Hallowed be Thy name. At this level the soul, burning with a consuming love, rapt ever higher and flooded with divine light, contemplates marvelously with an unwavering gaze the goodness of God and the heavenly hierarchies, and, not with the voice, but with ardent emotion, cries out to God: Father; it praises Him and thus holds Him in close embrace, saying: Our Father Who art in heaven.
If you are already a lover, fired with desire, a mature Christian, now follow my directions. Others can look on from afar longingly, but cannot yet feel and taste.
So, even though the joys that saintly men savor and taste in contemplation can neither be spoken nor written, nevertheless because the inexperienced burn with a desire, not so much to know. as to try something of contemplation, we shall add something more to our observations on this prayer of our Lord by showing as best we can what sort of (but not how much) delight fills the hearts of saintly men through their contemplation. In any event. those contemplations differ in many ways in diverse individuals, and even in the same person. We shall add, then, an example of the sort of contemplation a mature Christian might some time have, which nevertheless will be the smallest particle of his contemplation, as a droplet of water is thrown out from a vast river.
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-- Our Father -- When the mature Christian, bathed in the supreme Light, reflects on these words, he is so rapt by divine things that nothing for him could be more delightful than to gaze on the divine goodness. That goodness is so benevolent towards him and all men that it willed to have them as its children not only by creation but also by true adoption. For the Father looks on his Son -- true God of true God, conceived by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin, born of her, made under the Law to ransom those who were under the Law and for his sake has adopted us too as his children. Hence Jesus is not ashamed to call men His brethren when He says. I shall tell my name to my brothers; and he said to Mary Magdalen: Go to my brethren and tell them that I go to my Father and their Father, My God and their God. Thus we are brothers and children of the same Father. However, He is the firstborn among many brothers, as the Apostle says.
Can one think of anything more delightful? When saints consider this they are borne out of themselves by a marvelous love; while contemplating it, they see themselves brothers of the Son of God by His grace, sons of almighty God the Father by His mercy and repositories of the Holy Spirit by his more precious gifts.
From this delight and ineffable sweetness follows another rejoicing of the spirit when they contemplate that phrase, Our Father, for they see that not only men but all the heavenly Powers as well as their brothers. From this fact they understand the loving kindness of God for man, since they see that He had deigned by His grace and in virtue of the passion of his Son, to make lowly man a brother of the angels and the highest orders of the spiritual world. The reason for their joy grows even greater when they say:
-- Who are in heaven -- for they think how good the Lord is Who gives himself so familiarly and so lovingly to the blessed in heaven that they become one with Him, and they themselves become one heart, one soul in the Lord.
Similarly in the just who still live in this mortal flesh He exists so intimately by grace, which is given to them benignly and familiarly in such a way that they are sometime stupefied, marveling how it can be that dust and ashes could dare to speak familiarly with Him Whose greatness has no limit, Whom all the supernatural powers adore with the greatest reverence.
Thus the just man bathed in radiant light does not meditate on these matters we have mentioned, but grasps them all at once in a wonderful way From this he draws such deep delight that all that is pleasant or can be pleasant in this world he regards as nothing. There follows in him an abundant increase of grace so that, in the steps which we have described, he profits more by beginning from these higher levels and descending to the lower ones than he did before when he began at the lower ones and rose to the higher. But that this may be better understood, we shall say something about each of these steps.
-- Hallowed be Thy name -- Name is a spoken word which has significance. Name, then, implies two things spoken word and signifying. But, even though name properly so-called exists only in the spoken word, nevertheless we say that to it there corresponds in the mind this sort of name, that is, a mental concept (which is called the mental word) signifying something. So, then, when a concept of "heaven" is formed in the mind that concept (or word) represents heaven to us.
The just man, therefore, raised by contemplation to divine heights and flooded by divine light the more perfectly forms the word or concept of God proportionately as he is filled with supernatural light. From this it follows that saintly men raised by contemplation to celestial heights on occasion see in one glance more and greater things than other men could ever see, unless they had been explained to them in many words and many ways.
Thus, the just man who has risen to the seventh step is filled with divine light when he contemplates divine things, and so this first petition is at once fulfilled in him, for thus is rooted in him that concept or word which we call the mental name and which represents the divine majesty, wisdom, goodness and many other matters which man cannot speak. Marvelous delights flood upon him when these things are understood, and thus the name of God is hallowed in him, that is, is acclaimed by him as celebrated and most excellent; from this in contemplating the infinite nature of God he knows himself to be nothing; and gazing at the infinite power of God he knows himself to be weak. Considering as well His wonderful wisdom, he knows himself to be a miserable sinner. Thus, he does not exalt himself by any boast of glory, but in all things exalts God, saying with the Virgin Mother: "My soul magnifies the Lord!"
-- Thy Kingdom come -- Through the hallowing of the name of God, which the just acquires in his contemplation, this second petition is at once fulfilled in him, for he already begins to taste how sweet the Lord is, and to become a sharer in divine beatitude. Whence it follows that mature Christians discount all the kingdoms of the world, as though already possessing in this life the eternal kingdom. One of these spoke for all when he said: "I sought understanding and it was given to me; and I cried out and the spirit of wisdom came upon me, placed before thrones and kingdoms, and I said that riches are as nothing in comparison to these."
But because that which is imperfect desires its own perfection, since even saints are not perfectly happy in this life, the desire for eternal felicity increases in them when they are made sharers in it, as it is written; "Who eats Me will still hunger and who drinks Me will still thirst." Although this second petition is fulfilled in them in some measure, nevertheless from this the desire to be perfect arises. For which reason they never cease to say: Thy kingdom come.
-- Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven -- From their sharing in eternal felicity in this life there follows in the just this third petition, that is, uprightness of will, which consists in the conformity of our will with the divine will, since such conformity comes directly from beatitude, Moreover, the more closely one approaches beatitude, the more upright his will becomes.
Beyond this: just men filled with the divine light see clearly in their contemplations that we are the more enabled to grasp eternal felicity as we are more conformed to the divine will. Since they deeply desire to reach their goal, they strive with all their strength to be conformed to the divine will in all things, in such a way that no deviation from it can be found in them; that is, that the divine will be done in them as it is in those who are in heaven.
Through the abundance of the divine light even their flesh is subject to the Spirit in such a way that it no longer has urgings against that Spirit; for in them this petition is fulfilled also as far as this sentence, that is, that the will of God is done on earth (that is, in their flesh) as it is in heaven (that is, in their spirit), as the prophet said; "My heart and my flesh have exulted in my God."
-- Give us this day our daily bread --This fourth petition follows immediately from what has already been said. The just are raised by contemplation to such exalted levels that they regard all earthly things as nothing. But if they choose at once a simple life, content with the least things and few of them (and the more they profit from contemplation so much the more do they day by day embrace the simple life), they can delight in nothing other than celestial food, that is, in the Scriptures, in the divine office and in the sacraments, in which they are engaged all the day and yet are not sated. Avoiding the crowded cities, they eagerly seek the green pastures of eternal life, crying aloud every day to the Lord: Give us this day our daily bread.
-- And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors -- This fifth petition also is fulfilled in them, because, by fleeing the occasions of sin (avarice, thoughts of pride, and pomps of this world), by occupying themselves every day in the divine Scriptures and the eternal sacraments, by fleeing idle company (especially of the wicked), and seeking that of the angels and the blessed because they use these means, I say, they are always purging themselves more and more of even the least sins and no more (or very rarely) do they fall into other sins. And because they are making progress, they are ever more being transformed into the likeness of God, who makes the sun to shine on the good and the wicked and the rain to fall on the just and the unjust; thus it is most easy for them to love their enemies, to do well to those who hate them and to pray for those who persecute them and speak evil of them. Because of this they are more readily purified by God and restored to their baptismal innocence
-- And lead us not into temptation -- This sixth petition is also answered in them, for from purification there follows enlightenment, from enlightenment fervor, and from fervor strength, since the mind purified from sin and gaining maturity is both divested of earthly affairs and perfectly illuminated by God through His grace. Thus enlightened it is inflamed with divine love when it gazes on the goodness of God, since the object of love is the known good; the more the love itself is inflamed, the more directly it pursues its object. Hence the more the mind of the just one burns with the divine fire the more firmly it is fixed on the good. Whence, unwilling ever to be separated from God, it begs not be led into temptation. Whence it is written: "The just, like the bold lion, shall be without terror."
-- But deliver us from evil -- Finally, this last petition is fulfilled in them in that they are so freed from the power of the devil that Evil One no longer dares to approach them, seeing that he no longer has any part in them. Thus, there is also given to them the power to root out demons and to trample on scorpions, as it is written: "On the asp and the basilisk you shall walk and you shall tread underfoot the lion and the dragon." They are also freed from present evils, not because evils will not befall them, but because they will not disturb them, as it is written: "Nothing that befalls them shall sadden the just." Whence the Apostles went out happy from the trial before the council because they had been worthy to undergo insults for the name of Jesus.
-- Through Jesus Christ our Lord -- Since that which is imperfect is explained in terms of that which is perfect, as we see that in natural things causes are more perfect than effects, and from them are derived every perfection of the effects, since our Lord Jesus Christ is the most perfect and first among all, from Him, as from the head, there comes every perfection of sanctity in other men as His members, and all the merits of men receive their perfection from the merits of the passion of Christ. Otherwise, through themselves alone, they would be imperfect.
By means of Him, then, all the saints and just men have achieved the petitions set forth above, and they will attain what they have to attain in the future. And for this reason they are the happier in that through Him they have acquired greater glory. Whence the Apostle exclaims: "May God guard me lest I should glory in anything other than the cross of my Lord Jesus Christ.."
-- Amen -- All that we have said is true, and may we see this faithfully and God grant that it be fulfilled in us. And indeed it will be fulfilled if with a humble and contrite heart, persevering in prayer, we shall ask of God those things he has taught us to seek, as our Lord and Savior says: "Ask and it shall be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you. So everyone who ask, receives; who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks shall be opened eternal life." May the Triune God lead us to this. Blessed be He forever and ever. Amen.
At the end of his sermon of January 11, 1495, Savonarola, after having prayed especially for the confraternity, turned to the people and said:
Let us kneel down and pray to God:
OUR FATHER O Lord, O. our Creator, who loves us not only as a master loves his servants, but as a father his children. WHO ART IN HEAVEN Who is said to live in heaven because from there your omnipotence shines forth the more; and now governs and rules all the earth; we recommend to you this city and these people, asking you to help them and convert them to your will. HALLOWED BE THY NAME Give us grace, Lord, that we may always sanctify and bless your name and praise You; and grant that those who have spoken ill of You in the past, may in the future praise and bless You, Lord, and your name. THY KINGDOM COME Grant, Lord, that these people may come to your reign; convert them to your life and lift them to the glory of your reign. THY WILL BE DONE Grant, O lord, that this people may do your will. Give them grace that every work of theirs and every act of government be ordained according to your Will. ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN Lord, we thank you for giving your grace to this city, Which serves, obeys, and loves you with the fervor, love, and charity with which you are loved and obeyed in heaven. GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD Give us, Lord, the celestial bread of your Son, that He may be with us today and always, and that His help may never leave us. AND FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US Forgive this people, Lord, the sins which have offended you. Lord, Lord, forgive them, You who forgave the thief on the Cross. Grant grace to those who have given up their rancors and who have forgiven their enemies; by your grace all their faults will be remitted. AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION Lord, I pray you, take away every temptation, and every evil instigation of the devil, who tries to destroy the common good. BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL And deliver us, O Lord, from the sorrow and tribulation that this city and this people would merit. This I ask of you, my Lord, and my God, who live and reign forever and ever. AMEN.
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