The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 6:7-15

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 15, 2013

Mat 6:7  And when you are praying, speak not much, as the heathens. For they think that in their much speaking they may be heard.
Mat 6:8  Be not you therefore like to them for your Father knoweth what is needful for you, before you ask him.

And when you are praying, speak not much, as the heathens. The folly of the Gentiles. This has its source rather in want of knowledge of the true God than in malice of will. They uttered many empty, though well chosen, words, being especially careful not to omit any of the proper titles of the gods [3 Kings 18:27]. Their mistake seems to have been a double one: they imagined that God did not know their needs without being told of them, and that they could move him to comply with their requests by means of eloquence. That Jesus did not forbid oral prayer or the repetition of the same words is evident from Lk 6:12; Lk 18:1; 1 Thess 5:17; Col 4:2; Mt 26:44; Acts 1:13; Acts 12:12. St. Aug. beautifully warns us that Jesus does not wish much-speaking, but desires much-praying.

Mat 6:9  Thus therefore shall you pray: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

The form of prayer. Our Lord does not command us to repeat the very words of the following prayer, but he shows us what ought to be the object and the manner of our devotion. Passages of the New Testament [Mt 26:39; Mt 11:25; Jn 17:1; Acts 4:24], our Lord’s approbation of Old Testament prayers [Mt 27:46], and the earliest forms of Christian prayer [Just. Apol. i. 65; c. Tryph. 35] agree in pointing out the liceity of other forms of devotion. Still, owing to its divine authorship, its comprehensive brevity, and its efficacy, the “Our Father” has become the most common form of prayer from the times of Tertullian; the latter writer himself happily styled it “a summary of the gospel.” Cyprian, Jerome, Augustine, Chrysostom, Basil, Gregory of Nyssa have written homilies or commentaries on the Lord’s prayer, and the church has seen fit to incorporate it in the canon of the mass, and to repeat it before the canonical hours of the Office. Lk 11:1–4 gives the same prayer in a briefer form and in a different setting of circumstances. Commentators do not agree as to the exact relation between the form of the Lord’s prayer in the first and that in the third gospel. Those writers who identify the two forms explain the existing discrepancy by admitting that the third gospel gives an explanation of the first [Bede], or that the first anticipates what the third narrates in its proper place [Maldonado, Jansenius, Lapide], or that the third gives an abbreviation of the first [Reischl], or that the third contains the original and true form of the prayer [Weizsäcker, Kamphansen, Weiss, Meyer], though acknowledgment be due to the material superiority of St. Matthew’s form [Keim, Bleek, Neander, Godet, Keil, Meyer], or that the third gospel gives the historical development of the Lord’s prayer [Grimm]. On the other hand, those writers who regard the two forms of the Our Father as distinct explain their position by assuming that the third gospel gives the form adapted for the more advanced disciples [Origen], or that the disciple who asked Jesus how to pray did not belong to the twelve and had not been present at the sermon on the mount [Euthymius], or that such a discrepancy of form between St. Matthew and St. Luke is simply inexplicable if our Lord pronounced the prayer only once [Schegg, Bispping], or that the repetition of the prayer on the part of Jesus is due to the slow comprehension of the apostles [Schanz]. The Lord’s prayer is composed of an invocation and seven petitions:—

Our Father. The invocation. Three points must be noted in the invocation: the address “Father,” the pronoun “our,” and the place “heaven.” The heathen nations often addressed their gods as “father,” and their goddesses as “mother.” The title was not unknown among the Jews, as we see from Deut 32:6; Isa 63:16; Isa 64:8; Sirach 23:1; Sirach 51:14; Wis 2:16; Wis 14:3; Tob 13:4. The difference between the Jews and the Gentiles consisted probably in this, that the former used the address as a token of their own divine election, while the latter intended to confer thereby a special honor on their deities. Since the New Testament is the dispensation of grace and of adopted sonship by eminence, the address “father” is best adapted for all the members of the New Law. Its use naturally fosters charity, excites devotion, engenders a loving presumption of being heard, and takes God’s omnipotence by force. Since the fatherhood of God is no longer restricted to the Jewish nation in a special manner, we must address him as “our father,” so that in these words we profess the supernatural brotherhood of men, and at the same time manifest our mutual charity in a most effective manner. Our pleading thus becomes a prayer of God’s own family, offered by and for its members. The words “who art in heaven” are conformable to the views of the ancients that the godhead inhabits the highest locality [Aristot. De cœlo, i. 3]. Even if the Jews did not derive from this divine attribute alone God’s infinity and omniscience, they placed his throne in the heavens [Isa 66:1; Ps 2:4; Ps 102:20; Job 22:12 ff.; Acts 7:55; 1 Tim 6:16], and the New Testament too constantly connects Jesus with heaven, in his advent and return, in his sending of the Paraclete and his divine approbation [Mt 3:16-17; Mk 16:19; Lk 24:51; Jn 1:32; Jn 12:28; Jn 6:38; Acts 1:9 f.; 2:2]. It is in the same spirit that during the “Our Father” we call to mind not God’s ubiquity, but his special presence in the heavens which “show forth the glory of God” to men on earth, and reveal him face to face to the saints and angels. Our imagination is thus fixed on a definite point, our memory is filled with thoughts of our heavenly home, our intellect is convinced of God’s power and will to hear and help us, and finally our will is inflamed with an ardent desire of the beatitude that awaits us. Most commentators believe that in this address we direct ourselves to the first person of the Holy Trinity alone, according to the words of our Lord [Jn 20:17]: “I ascend to my Father and to your Father.” But a number of writers consider the words “Our Father” as addressed to the Holy Trinity in common [cf. Maldonado, Knabenbauer]; for God is our Father through his works “ad extra,” and the works “ad extra” are common to the three persons of the godhead.

Hallowed by thy name. First petition. By the name of a thing we express the object itself. The name of God, therefore, is God himself in so far as he is known to us by his revelation and manifestation. Schanz is of opinion that the summary of the Old Testament knowledge of God is comprised in the name Jahveh [cf. Ps 5:12; Ps 9:11; Isa 29:23; Ezekiel 36:23], while “Father” expresses the New Testament concept of God. The verb “hallowed be” expresses the Greek “sanctified be.” St. Augustin warns us that we do not pray for an increase of sanctity of God in himself, but among men; in other words we ask that God’s external glory may be furthered. Though the petition appears to regard proximately God’s praise consisting in words and worship, and excluding blasphemy [cf. Isa 52:5; Isa 7:30; Ezekiel 20:39; Ezekiel 22:26; Rom 2:24], it includes in its full meaning the glory of God resulting from our service, and reverence of God by internal or external acts, by thoughts, words, or actions [cf. Lev. 10:3; 22:32; Ez. 37:28; 38:23; Salmeron, Knabenbauer etc.].

Mat 6:10  Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Thy kingdom come. Second petition. The kingdom here mentioned is not merely God’s absolute dominion over all creatures; for this ever was and ever shall be, though we do not pray for it. On the other hand, the “kingdom” has not the specific and restricted meaning in the Our Father which it has in the first gospel, though the Jews at the time of our Lord no doubt prayed for the advent of the kingdom in this sense [Sanh. fol. 28, 2; cf. Mk 15:43; Lk 2:25; Lk 17:20; Lk 22:18; Lk 23:51; 2 Tim 4:8]. The petition of the Lord’s prayer cannot be simply derived from a Jewish or a Persian formula, though there may be a distant connection between them. According to the Christian idea the kingdom is both internal and external, but admits of different degrees of perfection, so that its advent may be understood of an increase of either its extent or its intensity. Both the interior and the exterior kingdom of God will reach its ultimate degree of perfection at the second advent of our Lord, or rather after the last judgment; it is on this account that Tertullian, Chrysostom, Augustine,  Theophylact, Euthymius, etc. understand the second petition of the Lord’s prayer as a desire of the last judgment. Since all these divers manners of increase of the kingdom of God are implied in the second petition of the Lord’s prayer, we must conclude that the actual meaning of the words depends in each case on the intention of the devout faithful who utter the words, though implicitly it is always a prayer for the ultimate consummation and perfection of the divine kingdom, and therefore for the second advent of our Lord with its accompanying circumstances [cf. Knabenbauer Coleridge, etc.].

Thy will be done. Third petition. The will of God is either absolute [beneplaciti] or conditional [signi]. The absolute will of God is always accomplished, even in the wicked, so that our duty in its regard consists in a loving conformity of our will without murmur and complaint. The third petition of the Lord’s prayer is especially concerned with the fulfilment of the conditional will of God. For its fulfilment implies and presupposes the free coöperation of our will. We pray, therefore, either that the kingdom may attain its perfection within us, or that the perfection of the kingdom may be realized on earth. Either men of the present dispensation must obey God as the angels in heaven obey him [Ps 103:21; Dan 7:10; Heb 1:14], or that state of things must come in which all will perfectly fulfil the will of God [cf. Jerome, Chrysostom, Augustine]. In either case there will be perfect peace on earth [Ambrose] and patient endurance of all God ordains [Tertullian]. St. Cyprian explains “earth” and “heaven” of the third petition as meaning body and soul. The third gospel omits this petition of the Lord’s prayer.

Mat 6:11  Give us this day our supersubstantial bread.

Give us this day. Fourth petition. Bread is used of all kinds of food [Gen 18:5; Prov 30:8; Sirach 10:26; Wis 16:20; 2 Thess 3:1–12]. In the present passage it has been interpreted in different ways: a.] It signifies spiritual food alone [Faber Stapulensis Cajetan; cf. Augustine serm. Dni. in monte]. If this were the case, there would be no sufficient reason for limiting our prayer to “this day,” since we do not do so in the third petition; to ask for our bodily sustenance is so far from being against the will of our Lord that it rather testifies our entire dependence on God, our unlimited hope in him, and our conformity with the teaching of the Bible [cf. Gen 28:20; 1 Kings 8:37; Prov 30:8]. b.] Others understand by “bread” both spiritual and bodily nourishment [Tertullian, Cyprian, Jerome, Thomas Aquinas, Dionysius  Salmeron, Suarez, Barradus, Sylveira, Lapide, Coleridge, etc.]. The spiritual bread to which these authors refer the words of the petition is mainly the Holy Eucharist and the Christian doctrine. A comparison of the word “bread” with Jn 4:34; Jn 6:27, together with the sentiment of the faithful founded on the teaching of the Fathers and theologians, renders it certain that “bread” may be extended to our spiritual food, at least by way of accommodation. But since our-spiritual food forms the object of our prayer in the fifth, sixth, and seventh petition, it is more than probable that “bread” in the fourth petition means bodily sustenance. c.] Bread comprises the various needs of our body [Chrysostom, Gregory of Nyssa, Basil, Theophylact, Euthymius, Tostatus, Maldonado, Jansenius, Toletanus, Calmet, Knabenbauer, and most recent writers]. The exception of Cajetan, that the paramount importance of our spiritual life requires the first place for the prayer concerned with its needs, is outweighed by the consideration that our Lord in his petitions follows rather the order of our misery and wretchedness than of intrinsic dignity.

The bread we ask is qualified by the adjective “supersubstantial.” The obscurity of this word has given rise to the following opinions:

a.] The Greek word ἐπιούσιος is derived from ἑποῦσα (ἐπιέναι), according to the analogy of ἑκούσιος, ἐθελούσιος, γερούσιος [Grotius Wetstein, Fischer, Fritzsche, Winer, Meyer, W. Grimm, etc.; cf. Ambrose]. The derivation presents no philological impossibility, and seems to be favored by the Gospel of the Hebrews, which reads, according to the testimony of St. Jerome, “to-morrow’s bread”; since the morrow began among the Hebrews at sunset, this interpretation does not contradict the prohibition of caring for the morrow [cf. Mt 5:34]; at any rate, our Lord forbids anxiety rather than trustful prayer [cf. 1 Pet 5:7]. Moreover, St. Ambrose [l. v. de sacr. iv. 24] and Jansenius, derive from ἐπιούσιος the meaning “daily,” found in the oldest Latin version.

b.] The Greek word ἐπιούσις is derived from ἐποῦσα [L. Meyer, Kamphansen, Keim, Weiss, Achel. Delitzsch] or from the compound ἐπι-οὐσία [Origen, Chrysostom, Basil, Theophylact, Euthymius, Tholuck, Ewald, Bleek, Bisping, Arnoldi, Keim, Weizsäcker, etc.]. According to the former derivation the word means “present” [adest, præsto est], according to the latter it means “[sufficient] for the substance.” The comparative rarity of the noun οὐσία has induced the more modern writers to prefer the former derivation. But in either case, the prayer is concerned with the bread for the present day, and thus is more consistent with Mt 6:34 forbidding care for the morrow, with Lk 11:3 adding. “this day” and “daily” in the petition, with the traditional interpretation explaining the petition as referring to the bread that is immediately needed [cf. Cypran, Augustine, Jerome, Opus Imperfectum, Rupertus, Bede, etc.], and finally with the old Latin version rendering the word by “daily.” On the whole, the traditional interpretation prefers the temporal concept, “bread for the coming day,” to the intentional one, “bread necessary for life.”

Mat 6:12  And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.

And forgive us. Fifth petition. Thus far we have prayed for the acquisition of something good; now we begin to pray for the deliverance from certain evils. Though the Greek word for “debts” does not properly mean “sins,” the figure is most apt and has its parallel in Lk 13:4, where “sinners” are called “debtors.” Lk 11:4 employs in the fifth petition the proper word meaning “sins.” The second clause, beginning with “as we also,” may be regarded as expressing either the condition of the petition or its measure. Mt 6:14-15; Mt 18:24, 28, and especially Lk 11:4 render it probable that our forgiving our enemies is represented as the condition on which God is asked to forgive us; not as if no other condition were needed [cf. Mk 16:16], but this condition is expressly emphasized. Then the words represent our forgiveness also as the measure of God’s forgiveness; it is true that our relation to God bears only an analogy with our relations to our fellow men, that our sins are innumerable while God is absolutely sinless, that our offences against God are greater and more numerous than our neighbor’s offences against us: but not withstanding these dissimilarities, both the forgiveness and the perfection of forgiveness correspond on the part of God to our pardoning our enemies. It does not follow from this that an obstinate enemy ought not to recite the Lord’s prayer, or that he ought to omit the fifth petition; for the prayer may be said in the name of the Church, or if it be said in one’s private capacity, it will obtain us the grace of forgiving our enemies, since we ask God absolutely for his pardon of our sins, and thus indirectly for the grace of pardoning our debtors.

Mat 6:13  And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. Amen.

And lead us not. Sixth petition. Sacred Scripture knows of two kinds of temptation: the one is a trial of our virtue, the other is an allurement to sin. Sirach 34:9; Deut 13:2; Ps 26:2; Ps 139; Gen. 22 refer to the former kind of temptation, but it is not from this that we pray to be delivered in the Lord’s prayer; James 1:12 declares the man blessed who endureth this kind of temptation. But how can we say that God leads us into temptation, while James 1:13 expressly states that “he tempteth no man”? The verb “lead” must be taken as a Hebraism; for in Hebrew the permissive verbs are expressed actively; we pray, therefore, that God may not permit us to be led into temptation, by assisting us in a special manner by his internal and external grace. Finally, the expression “to be led into temptation” has been explained in a double way: the more common view of the Fathers contends that we pray in this petition to be delivered from temptation to evil, while others maintain that “to be led into temptation” means to be overcome in temptation; according to the latter opinion we pray that we may not be overcome in temptation [cf. Tertullian, Cyprian, Augustine, Euthymius]. The petition reminds us, therefore, of our human frailty, which can do nothing by its own strength [cf. Chrysostom, Opus Imperfectum, Maldonado Lapide]. The view of Schanz limits the petition to those temptations that are merely external, or rather to those in which the tempting circumstances are in themselves indifferent; but this opinion is surely not upheld by the mind of the faithful, who pray for delivery from or victory in all temptations.

But deliver us from evil. The seventh petition. “But” is not merely adversative in this petition, removing what precedes, and substituting something different, but it confirms what has been said and forms the transition to something else. The seventh petition is therefore not a mere positive form of the preceding negative request, nor is it a mere explanation thereof, but it embraces entirely new matter. The Greek word rendered “evil” may be regarded as either masculine or neuter: Chrysostom, Gregory of Nyssa, Theophylact, Euthymius, Chromatius, Faber Stapulensis, Maldonado, Bisping, Schanz contend that it ought to be taken as the masculine gender, so that they render, “but deliver us from the evil one.” This is said to be the meaning of the Greek word in Mt 13:19, 38; Jn 17:15; 1 Jn 2:13; 1 Jn 3:12; Eph 6:16; moreover, the transition from the temptation in the sixth petition to the tempter in the seventh forms a beautiful climax, seeing that the devil is the author of all evil. Still, Cyprian, Augustine, Opus Imperfectum, Bede, Paschasius Radbertus Bruno, Thomas Aquinas Albert, Cajetan, Salmeron, Jansenius, Barradus Suarez, Sylveira, Lam. Arnoldi, Reischl, Fillion, Knabenbauer together with Ewald, Tholuck, Kamp-hausen, Keil, Hansel, Weiss, etc. maintain that the Greek word must be regarded as the neuter gender. They urge that neither the text nor the context demands the masculine gender in our case, that the Greek word is repeatedly used by our Lord in the neuter gender [Mt 5:37, 39, 45; Mt 7:11, 17; Mt 12:34, 45; etc.], that our Lord calls the devil only once the evil one without further qualification [Mt 13:39], that on all other occasions where Christ mentions the devil, he does so in clear and unmistakable terms, so that he would have used more definite language on the present occasion, too, had he wished to refer to Satan. All these considerations render it highly probable that “evil,” or rather its Greek equivalent, is the neuter gender. Now the question rises, what evil is meant in the seventh petition? Cajetan, Lapide, etc. believe that we pray to be freed from all moral evil, or at least from the impediments of our spiritual progress. As the fifth petition relates to freedom from sin, and the sixth refers to deliverance from temptation, so the seventh intends to ward off all spiritual danger. Suarez [De Relig. t. 4, 1. 3, c. 8, n. 38] rightly observes that physical evils, too, may become spiritual dangers and impediments, and in this sense we pray also to be delivered from them.

The doxology. The Authorized Version adds after the seventh petition the words: “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever. Amen.” This addition is found in E G K L M S U V Δ Π syriac,  Armenian, Gothic, Slavonic,  Opus Imperfectum, Chrysostom, and in several other authorities; but it is wanting in א B D Z Vulgate, Anglo-Saxon, fr Memphitic, Origen, Cyril, Jerome, Max. Tertullian, Hilary, Chromatius, Augustine, and in a number of other sources; it is on this account that Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort and other recent edd. of the Greek Testament omit the words. Their presence in the foregoing sources can easily be explained as resulting from the practice of concluding the prayer with a doxology. This was first written in the margin, and only later received into the body of the text. Those writers who explain the doxology connect it with the petitions of the Our Father: the “kingdom” refers to the first and second petition; “the power,” to the third; and “the glory” to the following petitions.

Amen. Though the Vulgate adds “amen” to the Lord’s prayer, this word is probably a liturgical addition like the doxology, of which it is a part. Derived from a Hebrew verb [’aman] meaning “to be firm,” or from a Hebrew noun [’amen] signifying, “truth,” “amen” is by the lxx. commonly rendered “so be it” or “may it be so.” In the Old Testament “amen” is not found in the beginning of a sentence; the emphatic “amen, amen,” so placed, is peculiar to St. John. At the beginning of a sentence the word means “truly” or “verily,” and in its emphatic form “most truly,” without, however, implying an oath.

A Brief Excursus: Division of the Our Father. Origen, Chrysostom, Opus Imperfectum, Jansenius [cf. Cyprian] divide the prayer into six petitions, joining the seventh with the sixth; the Protestant reformed theologians appear to follow this division. That the seventh petition is not identical with the sixth has been already shown; besides, it is improbable that our Lord should have employed tautological expressions in such a compendious form of prayer. Catholic theologians are therefore right in adhering to St. Augustin’s division of the prayer into seven petitions; this same division is followed by the Lutheran writers, and among the recent Protestant authors by Bleek, Tholuck, Hilgenfield, Keil. The authorities that adhere to the division into six petitions refer the first three to the honor of God, the last three to our own advantage; in each triad the first is especially addressed to the Father, the second to the Son, the third to the Holy Ghost [cf. Schanz]. Those who adhere to the division into seven petitions vary in their manner of grouping them: Lapide, Maldonado, etc. refer the first three to the honor of God, and the following four to our needs. Albertus, Thomas Aquinas, Jansenius, etc. draw attention to the fact that in the first four petitions we ask for something good, while in the last three we pray for delivery from certain evils. In both parts there is an evident gradation: First, we ask for the honor and glory of God; secondly, for our own greatest good; thirdly, for the necessary means to attain our last end; fourthly, for the necessities of this present life. Similarly, we pray in the second part, first, to be freed from the greatest evil; secondly, from the evil next to the greatest; thirdly, from all evil. St. Thomas also notices that the fifth, sixth, and seventh petitions are directed against the respective impediments opposed to the good mentioned in the second, third, and fourth petitions. Augustin, Paschasius Radbertus, see in the seven petitions an analogy to the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost; Suarez finds in the first three petitions an exercise of faith, hope, and charity; others compare the seven petitions with the beatitudes.

Mat 6:14  For if you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offences.
Mat 6:15  But if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences.

For if you will forgive. Condition of the fifth petition. Our Lord returns to the fifth petition alone, insisting again that the only way to obtain forgiveness is to forgive others. This thought he expresses both positively and negatively; he emphasizes it by twice calling God our Father; the same doctrine is inculcated in Mt 5:24; Mt 18:28, 35; Lk 6:37; Sirach28:1 ff.

One Response to “Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 6:7-15”

  1. […] Father Maas’ Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matt 6:7-15). […]

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