Feast of St John of Damascus, the Patron Saint of Eighth Day Institute, and St Barbara the Great Martyr
CONSCIOUS OF the sublime dignity of being able to pray in this manner, the spiritual writers insist above all on the moral purity of the person who wishes to address God as Father. “Before we approach God,” Gregory of Nyssa advises, “we should first examine our life, whether we have something of the divine kinship in ourselves and so make bold to use this word Father. For the one who commanded us to say Father does not permit us to speak a lie.” To the modern reader, a surprising aspect of the ancient commentaries on the Lord’s Prayer is the insistence with which they viewed this prayer as a rule of life because prayer is in vain if life is not in harmony with it. The Father-child relationship presupposes a resemblance.
This fact does not deal with the question of whether reflection is able to clarify such a personal relationship with God. The concept of “God-the-Father” conveys a mystery that is inaccessible precisely because this mystery represents a person who is sovereignly free. Yet the Gospel is “the proclamation of Jesus Christ in accordance with that mystery which for ages was kept secret but now is revealed” (Rom. 16.25ff.). The Inaccessible makes Himself known by His grace, through Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit. This is why patristic commentaries on the Lord’s Prayer always have an underlying Trinitarian character, even when it is now explicitly stated.
When Christ revealed the identity of the Father and of God, He set this revelation within another mystery, which the traditional formulations epitomize by two movements: one descending—every good comes to us from the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit; the other, ascending—we ascend to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit.
—Tomas Spidlik, Prayer: The Spirituality of the Christian East, Volume 2