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The Sacramental Teaching of the Lord's Prayer
by the Rev. Edward A. Larrabee, S.T.B.

Milwaukee: The Young Churchman, 1889.


"Thy Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven."

In what was said under the first petition we saw how in the Sacrament of Baptism, the Image of God, clouded and blurred by sin, is impressed anew upon the soul.

To the darkened intellect, the perverted affections and the enfeebled will, those three natural faculties which in man's innocence perfectly reflected the Divine Nature, the sanctifying grace of Baptism restores the threefold virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity. But while by the infusion of these virtues the original Image is cleansed and restored, another Sacrament is needed in order to confer again that gift of the Holy Ghost, in Whose abiding presence man's likeness to God consists.

This is the gift received in Holy Confirmation, and thus Confirmation is the complement of Holy Baptism, as completing our restoration, both to the Image and Likeness of God. S. Paul includes both Sacraments when he speaks of the faithful at Colosse as they who "have put off the old man, and have put on the new man," (the effect of Baptism) "which is renewed in knowledge" (the grace of Confirmation) "after the Image of Him that created him" (Col. iii. 9, 10).

As then in the petition next before this we saw the work of God the Holy Ghost in the Church at large, which since the day of Pentecost, He does not cease to rule and govern with His life-giving Presence, so in this we are brought face to face with the work of the same Spirit in the individual soul. And surely that work is beautifully epitomized in the petition "Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven."

The first three petitions of the Lord's Prayer place us in turn before each Person of the Adorable Trinity. In the first we address Our Father, Whose Name is revealed in the Incarnation of His adorable Son; in the second we are face to face with the mission and work of God the Son, for the coming of Whose Kingdom we pray; while in the third we cannot but turn to God the Holy Ghost, Whose special office it is to reveal the will of God, and by Whom God both "grants what He commands and commands what He wills."

Or, if we look to the Image of God in ourselves, as it has been re-created in Holy Baptism, the answer to the first petition will be manifest, especially in the intellect enlightened by Faith to know and to hallow God's Name; that to the second in the affections, purified through Hope, to wait for the Kingdom whose coming we hasten by our prayer; and that to the third in the will, animated by that Love which the Spirit of God diffuses in our hearts to emulate those blessed Spirits in Heaven, who "fulfil His commandment and hearken unto the voice of His Word."

We see then in the petition we are now considering that our wills have a sort of figurative correspondence with the Person of God the Holy Ghost, in the same sense in which the faculties of our created spirits are an image of the Eternal Trinity. And if we look (with all reverence) deeper into the mystery of the Holy Trinity, the figurative correspondence becomes more striking. In the mystery of the Holy Trinity the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father, through the Son, Eternally Begotten of the Father, is the Bond of Union between the Father and the Son, completing and closing the mystery of the Godhead. And in the earthly counterpart which reflects this mystery, the intellect and the affections have not fulfilled the purpose for which they are given until what the mind conceives and the heart loves issues in the exercise of the will, which may thus be said to proceed from both.

When therefore we pray, "Thy will be done" we are giving utterance to what is the highest possible aspiration of our being, that perfect union with God for which we were in the first place created, and which is the ultimate purpose for which every sacramental gift is bestowed. How shall that union with God ever be effected except through the Almighty Power of that Divine Person Who is Himself the Spirit of Unity? He Who by His overshadowing a pure Virgin, enabled her to conceive a Son, in Whose Person the nature of God and the nature of man are united; He Whose Pentecostal work effected the union between the natural Body of Christ and His mystical Body, the Church; He Who by Baptism has united us to Christ, since, "by one Spirit we are all baptized into One Body" (I. Cor. xii: 13); He only can enable us to live that life of union which consists in collecting all the faculties of our being and bringing them into conformity with His Divine purpose while we pray, "Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven."

What then do we need that we may live as we pray in this petition? We need His abiding, indwelling Presence, and we need it for two purposes: first, that by His illuminating grace "we may perceive and know what things we ought to do," and secondly, that by His spiritual might "we may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil the same."

Where shall we look, that we may receive this gift of the Presence of God the Holy Spirit, if not to that Sacrament which was especially ordained for the very purpose of restoring that priceless gift, which man forfeited in the fall?

In Holy Confirmation the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Ghost are apportioned to the various faculties of our souls, which have previously had the virtues of faith, hope and charity imparted to them in Holy Baptism. We distinguish therefore between virtues and gifts. The virtues are new powers or faculties created in the soul as the result of the first or sanctifying grace received at the Font. They are implanted in the soul as latent faculties needing to be educated, that is drawn forth and developed, by the further operations of the Holy Ghost. As the air, the sunlight, the soil, the rain, are all necessary to the seed, to enable it to germinate and bring forth fruit, so the purpose for which these gifts are bestowed is to elicit the virtues implanted in Baptism, and to foster their growth until they are perfected in the fruits of the Spirit. Accordingly if we examine the seven gifts of Confirmation, we shall see that they have distinct reference to the virtues received in Baptism. To the natural reason Holy Baptism imparted the virtue of Faith, but in order to enable the eye of Faith to see clearly the Holy Spirit bestows upon it in Confirmation the four gifts of Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel and Knowledge. These are to Faith what light is to the eye. Aided by these gifts the reason already endowed with a new faculty of Faith is enabled "to perceive and know" what the will of God is.

But it is not enough to know the will of God in order to do it. We must also love it. "Love is the fulfilling of the law." To the affections, naturally prone to spend themselves on finite and unworthy objects, Holy Baptism imparted a new faculty of Hope, re-directing them to God, their only true Object, and thus setting them on things above. But this virtue of Hope is not left unaided, for it must needs be exposed to two opposite but deadly perils. On the one hand it may easily be perverted into presumption; on the other it may be lost in despair. Against these dangers the Holy Spirit of God imparts His Gifts of Piety and Holy Fear. These Gifts are the safeguards of Hope. Protected by the Spirit of Piety, the child of God finds in the obedience and submission of a loving and dutiful son, that calm trustfulness which can never be shaken, and so his Hope is preserved against despair. While on the other hand, the Spirit of Holy Fear is ever present in that instinct of reverence which is always mindful of the awful majesty of God, and which, while trusting His mercy, is afraid to presume against the severity of His strict justice.

Finally, to the will was imparted in Holy Baptism, the virtue of Love, as a new motive for its action. Yet who does not know, who has not felt in his own experience the impotence even of love? "To will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good, I find not."

"I delight in the law of God after the inward man, but I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin" (Rom. vii. 18, 22).

There remains the gift of Ghostly Strength, the Spirit of Fortitude, the crowning gift of the Spirit of God, as the very name given to the Sacrament of Confirmation seems to imply. All other Gifts of the Spirit wait upon this and find their completion in this, even as the intellect and the affections are included in the will, and as of Faith, Hope and Charity it is written, "the greatest of these is Charity." Left to itself the virtue of Love might fail, but "strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man," Charity "never faileth," but "beareth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."

The correspondence thus traced between this petition and the Sacrament of Confirmation may remind us, that in receiving the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands of the bishop, we receive as it were a kind of ordination. It is impossible to view the reception of the Gifts of the Spirit apart from a call to His active service and a special mission to others. Confirmation has its direct bearing upon all the varied branches of Church work in which it is possible for laymen to engage. We should never forget that it involves the call to devote our strength, our talents, our substance to His service, and that unfaithfulness to opportunities of active work is unfaithfulness to Him Whose gifts we have received. If every layman recognized this, and if, in his work for the Church, he relied intelligently and confidently upon these sevenfold Gifts, who can measure the impulse that would be given to the extension of Christ's Kingdom, and to the fulfilment of the petition, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven?"

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