Monday, October 8, 2012

What I think about during Mass - the Our Father

So I'm going to write some things on here about what I think about during Mass (or I'm going to write one or two things and then forget about it).

Today I'm writing about the Our Father.  I think about a lot of things during the Our Father.  For one thing, it does not get old praying the same prayer over and over.  In fact, you see new layers in it, and sometimes it feels like the prayer gets stronger, deeper, and more heartfelt each time I say it.  It's like saying, "I love you."  It doesn't lose its meaning; if anything, it becomes more meaningful every time you say it.

I've always loved the simple beauty in the act of saying the Our Father together on Sundays, because that prayer is echoing around the world as parishes all over the globe say it together in dozens of different languages.  In this prayer, we are united. 

Perhaps because of the Our Father, I've fallen into the habit of praying in first-person plural.  I'm worried about my tests, so I pray that we may all succeed in our attempts to glorify our God.  I'm worried about my family's health, so I pray that we as a Church may receive healing for those we love.  I'm concerned about my friends, so I pray that we as a species can have inner peace and know how best to pass along that peace to each other.  It's an odd thing, but I've grown to love it, and it gets me out of my own head.

A couple of phrases in the Our Father often strike me: "give us this day our daily bread" and "lead us not into temptation, BUT deliver us from evil".

But what's struck me lately is where the Our Father falls in the Liturgy.  It's after the consecration, right after the Great Amen, when Christ is there in our midst on the altar.  It's a precious, beautiful thing to stand with the Church around the world and pray with Christ among us the prayer that Christ himself spoke, with the Son and to the Father:

Our Father
Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

Like the Amen, I often think that the Our Father from our lips represents a submission from us, just like it represented the constant submission of the Son to the Father.  By praying that prayer, the one the Lamb on the altar prayed first, we join ourselves to his obedience and offer ourselves to God.

In response, the Father accepts our prayer as he accepted the Son's obedience.  Because of what Christ did, we "dare to say" the same prayer Jesus did and dare to call God our Father.  Greeting each other as brothers and sisters comes after that. The wedding supper of the Lamb comes after that.  And so the Our Father is not just "filler", and it's just as powerful whether it's sung or spoken.  For me, it's become one of the most beautiful moments of the Mass.


  1. Is it an odd thing to pray in first person plural? To be honest, I feel a little silly when I do anything else. If I start praying about things I'm worried about, I start to feel claustrophobic, so I back out and wonder what the more general condition that's concerning me is. A few more iterations of this, and I wind up asking for healing, for peace, for wisdom and joy for all people. The concept of prayer makes a lot more sense to me that way, and I feel myself being tugged in that direction.

    "Thy kingdom come" is a phrase that typically stands out in my mind. It's an admission that we've messed up, we want to turn back, we want the correct way of God over our petty flawed ways. It's an expression of trust, since that way seems so ineffable and inscrutable. There's a lot of ground covered in those three words.

  2. Maybe it's not odd. It was just a new experience for me as of about two years ago, and it only gets more powerful with time. It's harder to think uncharitable thoughts about the obnoxious person on the bus when I prayed for him this morning.

    Huh, I'd never thought about that, and it's a really good point.