15 April 2018

...audemus dicere PATER NOSTER ...

The words introducing the Lord's prayer were translated by Cranmer, felicitously, as ' ...we are bold to say'. New ICEL with equal accuracy renders '...we dare to say'. But surely we should be 'happy' to say or 'cosy' to say or at least 'confident' to say? Old ICEL, indeed, prayed 'with confidence', and the equally corrupt Common Worship translation totally skives the question of how to render 'audemus'. Yet there is quite an ecumenical convergence here (if one ignore the Modernists and considers just the healthy consensus of the classical Roman and Byzantine Rites): the Byzantines ask God to make us worthy, with parrhesia and without condemnation, to dare (tolmain) to call upon the God of Heaven as Father.

Lying behind the modern squeamishness is a feeling that Christianity should be a religion of intimate warmth. Indeed, there is in the world at large a belief that all men are brothers and that accordingly God, if there is a God, is the indulgent unjudgmental Father of all men. So why should there be anything bold or daring about calling him Father? Rather than being dangerous, it should be next door to a platitude.

But this is not the religion of the New Testament. The Lord's habit of regarding God as his father, Abba, seems to have been distinctive and unusual. The fact that the word is Aramaic suggests that it goes back to the Incarnate Lord's infant linguistic habits. And permission is given to humankind to share this habit in as far and only as far as humans are incorporated into Christ by Baptism and thus en Christo, members of his Body, Sons only in the sense that they are in the One Son. Wayne Meekes (The First Urban Christians) attractively suggested that the Pauline converts actually cried Abba (Gal 4:6) as they emerged dripping from the regenerating, resurrecting, waters of baptism.

Only because we thus share by the theosis of filiation in Christ's Divine Sonship dare we, as the Byzantines happily put it, with parrhesia (standing on our two feet and looking him in the eye) call God Pater.


Kamil M. said...

That reminds me of this unbearable superstition that has been making rounds for decades now consisting in a conviction that Abba means daddy. Really, it means simply "(the) father" in Aramaic and St Paul translates it rightly as Pater, not papas or something similar.

Dr. Eric said...

I have a business consultant who is Jewish and in an offhand remark stated that Daddy and Mommy in Hebrew are Abba and Ima.

Kamil M. said...

That's right. In MODERN HEBREW. Not in ancient Aramaic.

Josh Hood said...

For weekdays in the Liturgy of Addai and Mari in the Assyrian/Chaldean rite, the introduction to the Lord's Prayer is:

"O Lord, instill your peace among us and your serenity in our hearts, and our tongues will proclaim your truth. May your cross be a guardian for our souls; as we make our mouths into new harps and chant with fiery lips, make us worthy, O Lord, that we may pray before you with the confidence that comes from you, this pure and holy prayer which your life-giving mouth taught your true disciples, the sharers in your Mysteries, when you said that whenever they pray, they should give thanks and say thus: Our Father..."

I was a little surprised to consult the Syriac and find that the word rendered "confidence" is in fact our friend parrhesia transliterated into Syriac as pārehsiyā. The Sunday introduction is quite lovely as well:

"And make us worthy, our Lord and our God, to stand before you without blemish always, with pure hearts and unveiled faces. And, in that confidence that you have granted us all in your mercy, we call together upon you and say thus: Our Father..."

Here, "confidence" is a Syriac word that really means "daring," which is much more in line with the traditional Byzantine and Roman phraseology.

I'm also struck in the services of the Byzantine rite, when the saints are called upon to pray for us "because thou hast boldness before God." Sadly, this is usually rendered "confidence" in the churches that use "modern" English. Something is certainly lost in the change!

EricLeveque said...

The placement of the Paternoster liturgically also provides a key, I think, to our daring boldness to call God "Our Father": only after we've been taken up into Christ via the offertory, consecration, sacrifice and offering of Christ on the altar are we able to pray fully the Paternoster. The two predicative participles "moniti" and "formati" stress this link.

Dr. Eric said...

It’s absolutely fascinating how languages change and borrow from each other.