Our Father, Who art in the heavens…
Though the tendency of our fallen nature is to desire the new and exciting, in spiritual life we usually find that "going back to the basics" is the best way to calm ourselves, find happiness, and renew our relationship with God. And, in this respect, it is hard to think of a more basic part of our Christian life than our daily and frequent recitation of the Our Father, the prayer which Christ Himself taught His disciples. Let us consider just a tiny part of the meaning of this prayer:
The very first words of this truly divine prayer assert the most fundamental Truth of our Faith: That God is, and that He is our Father, both by nature (for He created us) and by grace (for He adopted us as His children through our union with Christ in Baptism). A Christian need never have an "identity crisis": we know our identity, and it is the most beautiful and lofty imaginable, to be God's children. This also implies duties, however, for as a child should seek out and follow the will of his parents, so we must diligently seek out and follow the will of God.
Later in the prayer, we ask for our "daily bread". The word in Greek, επιουσιον(epiousion), which can be translated "super- essential," has rich meaning: 1. It means "basic" or "substantial," i.e., the bread (food, sustenance, living) we need just to live day to day (thus the translation "daily.") In other words, we ask God for what we really need today, not just what we want or what we fear we will need in the future; and we trust Him to provide for us. 2. It means the Word of God as we hear it in Holy Scripture and the prayers and teachings of the Church. And, finally, 3. It means the truly super-essential bread, Our Lord's Body and Blood in Holy Communion, which is the Food which we need the most.
It is significant that the Our Father is said at the Divine Liturgy immediately before Holy Communion. For, as said above, in the Lord's Prayer we are asking for that super-essential Bread which is the Body of Christ. Also, we are making the most important preparation for eating that Bread: "And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." Without forgiveness, Holy Communion is not for our salvation, but rather the opposite. Before we receive Communion, we must be reconciled to those with whom we are at enmity. We do this both by Confession, to be reconciled to God and the Church, and through personal forgiveness, to be reconciled to our neighbor. One benefit of frequent Communion is that it forces us to ask and give forgiveness often,and not let enmity and estrangement grow for months and years.
Let us daily recite the prayer which Christ taught us, as frequently as possible, struggling for attention to the words, so that they may become truly a part of our souls and transform us into true children of our Father, Who is in heaven.
True Children and Servants
According to our being, that is, according to our formation and creation, God is and is called the Father of all men, both of believers and of unbelievers. We, then, are obligated to love all men, since they are honored and fashioned by the hands of God. Only evil and impiety should we hate, and not anything fashioned by God. And according to well-being, namely, according to the re-formation of Baptism, we Orthodox Christians must love one another even more, because we are doubly united, according to nature and according to grace.
All men are divided into three groups: genuine servants, illegitimate servants, and evil servants who are enemies of and opposed to God. Genuine servants are those who believe correctly and do the will of God with fear and joy. Illegitimate servants are those who believe in Christ and have received Holy Baptism, but do not do His commandments. The others, however, who are also servants (being creations of God), are evil, enemies of and opposed to God, even if they are very weak and cannot do anything against Him. …And if we force ourselves daily as the Lord says - "The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force" (Mt. 11:12) - that is, the kingdom of heaven is the return for ascetical force, and as many as force themselves, will gain it with the help of God - we will keep the image of God in us whole and pure.
- from Concerning Frequent Communion, by St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain
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