Our Father Who Art In Heaven
All while I growing up, I was “taught” that the name of God was Heaven. And this made a lot of sense to me. For how could God, who is everything, be anywhere, even in a place called Heaven?
And I came to shorten that first line into, Our Father Who Art Heaven.
I was gobsmacked when as an adult I learned that ancient Hebrews also had that approach to God: that his name is Heaven. It was such a relief, in a way, to know that my “knowledge” did not exist in a vacuum, but was shared throughout history.
And, being an English major (sometimes first and foremost), the concept of limiting God to being the object of a preposition (well, actually, he’s the subject of a prepositional phrase, but I like the looks of object better at this point), is something that people do to distance themselves from God.
There are a lot of those techniques buried, like landmines, all around us.
A preposition can be defined as that word that links a noun (in this case, God) to other words in the sentence.
So, Our Father Who Art In Heaven, actually links God to Heaven.
Links. Connect. Unite. Join.
As though the two concepts are separate.
And that’s what we do: we not only separate God from us, we attempt to separate him from himself.
The preposition in can define a location (in the hallway), or it can define a time (in an hour). So, really, are we saying Heaven is a place (take a left at the end of the Milky Way, then another left after the ninth star you pass, watch out for the black hole right before it, though. . . . ), or are we describing Heaven as a time (it’s the time after the death of our body, or it’s the time after the Final Judgment)?
Is God in that place called Heaven, or is he in that time called Heaven? Or both?
Any time, each and every time, that we impose the concept of separateness onto God, we are imposing our own sense of relativism onto God’s absolute nature.
And, yes, we are fundamentally incapable of understanding the absolute.
In a way, that’s what religion is for. And prayer, especially contemplative prayer.
It is our goal, ideally, to bring ourselves to an understanding, if not an experience of oneness with God.
There was a time when I was faced with studying a certain aspect of God, of applying, literally, some of what I had supposedly learned over the years.
An exam, so to speak.
I was to take a leaf (any leaf) in my hand and know that that was God. That that was the essence that shaped my visions, that slowly, ever so slowly, turned my mind, heart, and soul towards the merest beginning of an understanding of God.
The leaf was what I was to go to with my complaints, my successes, my questions.
And, no, it was not a lesson that God was indifferent to me, that there was no means of real communication between us (ah, there’s that problem with prepositions again). Instead, it was a long, hard lesson in letting go of even my tendency toward anthropomorphism.
It was a lesson in grasping the true nature of life on Earth: that we are all connected with everything else. In essence. In reality. In God.
It is we that focus on our perceived differences.
But the bottom-line of the lesson is that God is not distinct. We may be. We may have curly hair or straight. Two feet or four. Small intestines or no.
We may yell or chirp. Or we may spend our entire existence in silence.
But we are all God.
I think that God gave us Jesus Christ just for this reason: so that we could indulge ourselves in exploring our connectedness, our tangible relationship with God. In perceiving how Jesus is distinct, different from us, we can come also to appreciate that those ways that make us like him. We could apply all the prepositions we want on him: pushing him away from us and pulling him back closer so that we stand together throughout all eternity.
It’s a gift beyond measure.