11 April 2011

...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 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 unjudgemental 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.

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*Old Bad ICEL cheerfully translated Deus at the start of most Collects as Father. I suspect that this corresponded to the intimacy of the common habit of which Evangelicals are commonly said to be guilty: of starting every ex tempore prayer with the words "Father, we just want to say ...". By the sort of diverting coincidence which is the ultimate proof that a humorous Providence must exist, the Modernists of the next generation came to abhor the vocative Father even when it does translate Pater ... as being patriarchal!

8 comments:

Patricius said...

Why is the verb plural if, in the West, only the Celebrant chants the Lord's Prayer? Or should do anyway...

Little Black Sambo said...

But it's not one of his private prayers; apart from those, isn't all the celebrant's part in the plural?

Daphne Point said...

Our Lord's infant linguistic habits? I thought you contended elsewhere that our Lord was a Greek speaker?

Mrs D Point

Fr John Hunwicke said...

I did. Aramaic was the language of the hearth, the household, and the family; Greek the language of the big masculine world Out There. Compare the situation of e.g. Welsh a generation ago. Bilingualism of this sort is historically quite common.

Maureen Lash said...

Yes, and a common enough phenomenon in many parts of the US of A. Spanish at home, Murcan English at work. So do you think that when Joseph said to ou Lord in the workshop "Pass that claw hammer, laddie" he would have said it in Greek? Another interesting fact, generally overlooked, is that Joseph aside, with his cast iron Judaean pedigree, the Galilaeans were only second or third generation converts to Judaism.

Ian+ said...

Indeed. In our awful BAS (=Book of Alternative Services, aka Below Anglican/Acceptable Standards)the liturgical fidgets in Canada began nearly every collect with something like "God of love" or "God of compassion" in an effort to avoid patriarchal language, as they also did in "It is right to give OUR thanks and praise."

Sadie Vacantist said...

Would Greek have been the lingua franca for the Eastern Med.? Certainly in business and as a carpenter working in a coastal town, very useful.

+David said...

Fr, this is one of your most important posts. Might we prevail on you to expand it into a longer essay? Such a resource might well claw a considerable number of our contemporaries back "from the brink"!