"Our Father, Who art in heaven..."
The first article of the Lord’s Prayer says an awful lot about the God we believe in and our relationship with him. Right away Jesus connects his prayer with an ecclesiology of sorts. God is not simply his Father, or your Father, or my Father. He is our Father. Ecclesiology by the way means the theological study of the Church – which in this case means not a building but a body, the Body of Christ. The word “church” comes from the Greek word “ecclesia” which means: called out. In other words, those belonging to the Church are those who are called out of this world, which can only give despair and death, and have entered into something (rather, Someone) which will bring them hope and life.
The Church is a mystery, not a social club or a gathering of like minded believers. Both the Apostle’s Creed (written 150 AD) and the Nicene Creed (written 325 AD) affirm this understanding. Moreover, the Church is supernatural – it’s the only way God can truly be “Our Father”. This is not because the Church is great in itself but rather because it is Christ, or rather, Christ’s very body. St. Paul speaks of this in Romans 12:4-5 when he wrote: “For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another.” And in Ephesians: “[God the Father] put all things beneath [Jesus’] feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body…” (Ephesians 1:22-23).
So what does all this Jesus-Church stuff have to do with God as Our Father? Everything.
God can only be our Father because we become members of Christ in the Church. Elsewhere in Romans, St. Paul gives us some words which I quoted in my last post: “The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:16-17). Here St. Paul connects our being in Christ to being “heirs” – a term used to describe a familial inheritance. So by being in Christ, we share in all he has. Heaven is our home and thus God is our Father. It would also logically follow that Mary is our mother – which is attested to by John in Revelation 12:17: “Then the dragon [the Devil] became angry with the woman [Mary] and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God's commandments and bear witness to Jesus [Christians].”
Let’s take one more step. It’s obviously only through a supernatural act that we can somehow become members of another person. Some may say, however, that the very idea of becoming members of another person is total lunacy! The only two Christian doctrines which can make sense of the Church as the Body of Christ are the dogmas of the Trinity and the Incarnation. In other words, if Jesus were only a mere human being there’s no way we could enter into him as members of his body, drawing from him supernatural life. Jesus must be God. This raises two questions: Are there two gods? And what about the Holy Spirit – are there three gods? Since the idea of many gods is repugnant to monotheistic theology, we now understand the teachings of Christ to be a revelation of the Trinity – that three divine Persons totally possess one divine nature. Three Persons, one God. This would also mean that to enter into Christ means we would share also in his life-giving Spirit.
In Review: Jesus Christ is God incarnate – and by being one of us he can bring us to his Father. What’s more, Jesus does not want to simply bring us to the Father but to bring us to the Father through Himself. As Jesus said: “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Lastly, going through Jesus to the Father does not only mean believing in Jesus (though that’s the first step!), it means entering into Jesus and sharing in Jesus’ life. It means entering into the Church. Most importantly, if we don’t enter into Jesus through the Church, God really isn’t our Father, he’d just be our ruler. Only by entering into the Son can we become true sons.
So we’ve seen how God can be our Father. Tomorrow we’ll look at what divine Fatherhood has to do with God reigning in heaven.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
A New Series of Posts on the Lord's Prayer!
"Our Father, Who art in heaven..."