Dear Brother and Sister in Christ, my Friends
Will Pope Francis change the prayer of the ‘Our Father’?
This is the question which I was asked dozen times last week. So, I treat this as the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to explain in my today’s thought for this weekend. I hope it will be helpful to look at this important subject in objective way.
This subject was triggered by the statement of Pope Francis in the programme about the Lord’s Prayer which was broadcasted by Italian TV2000. The Pope expressed the opinion that the Italian translation of the sixth request contained in this prayer should be changed. Today it sounds like the English version: ‘do not lead us into temptation’. Pope Francis mentioned that the French bishops changed their translation to the version: ‘Do not let that we will fall into temptation’.
Hence meaning that ‘I am falling down, and not He is pushing me to temptation to see later how I fell down, because no father acts like that’ – explained the Pope. ‘The father helps you to get up straight away. The one who leads you into temptation is Satan, because it is his prime objective’. Of course, it is not God who tempts us. The letter of Saint James says: ‘Let no one say when he is tempted, “I’m tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He himself tempts no one’. (James 1, 13) This matter is clear.
However, it is difficult to speak of a mistake in the translation of the ‘Our Father’ prayer which has gone unnoticed for over two thousand years. The popular translations of the Bible translates these words as ‘and lead us not into temptation’ (Matthew 6, 13 & Luke 11, 4). And the phrase ‘and lead us not into temptation’ is fixed in both Latin and many other languages which are the faithful translations of the original Greek text of the Gospel. This paradoxical phrase portrays the biblical Jewish way of thinking about God as the sole perpetrator of everything. The point is that nothing happens in the world without God’s knowledge and His consent. The Greek word ‘petrasmos‘ translated as ‘temptation’ also means – experience; test and not just a temptation. In the Gospel according to Saint Mark we read a sentence that sounds as shocking as the prayer from the ‘Our Father’: ‘The Spirit immediately drove him out into wilderness. And He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan’. (Mark 1, 12-13a). The temptation comes from the devil, but it is the Spirit (or God) who led Jesus to the place of struggle with this temptation.
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. Amen.”
The words ‘lead us not into temptation’ show that it is not only permissible, but it is even necessary to ask God himself to reject the temptations and experiences. In this request, one can see a certain analogy with the call of Jesus in Gethsemane to the Father: ‘take this cup away from me’. God does not want to torment us. He is the one who wants to lead us through darkness towards the light, but a moment of trial may be necessary. The ‘Our Father’ Prayer is not a deserter’s prayer in the face of trial but a prayer of a humble man; someone who understands that experiences must come and also understands more that he is weak.
However, is it not possible to accept such a translation, which will be more understandable for modern people who do not know the biblical mentality? There are some reasons for that; but there are also right reasons against what we should consider. The Lord’s Prayer is entirely embedded in the Jewish mentality and grows from the Old Testament. It can be properly understood if we know the context. Who understands today: ‘Hallowed be Thy name’? This is legible only in the light of the theology of God’s name. It is worth preserving respect for the biblical text and for Tradition which has preserved the words of this prayer (the pattern for western languages was the Latin translation).
Adapting sacred texts to today’s mentality conceals greater danger than the use of seemingly proper correction. Years of post-Vatican II Council experiments in the liturgy have issued many bitter fruits. The impression was that everything can be changed in the Church according to our needs. Meanwhile, the logic of the Lord’s Prayer is different. It is God who takes precedence and we must correct our thinking according to His word, not the other way around. This is the beautiful gift of our mind and our intelligence that allows us to think, to find reasons and a deeper logic of the sanctities given to us.
Therefore, it is worth considering this matter in humility and truth.
With love, friendship and prayers – Fr Marcin