Friday, May 17, 2013

Post from the Past: Lead us not...

This is the conclusion of a series I first published on Nunblog in 2005. Original post here.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

The usual interpretations of “temptation” can be individualistic, short-sighted and superficial, referring simply to the urge to violate a precept. But the word can be translated “trial” or “test.”  The same set of circumstances could be a temptation leading to evil or an occasion of purifying, strengthening trial. Whether we are faced with a “temptation” or a “trial” can be known only by the outcome and not in its midst. Contrary to the consumer culture with its emphasis on “having arrived,” this petition of the Lord’s prayer places us squarely “en route” in a “status viatoris.”

Even more than the plea for daily bread, this petition asserts our utter dependence on God “We are God’s children now” (cf. 1 Jn. 3:2), but even that is still a work in progress.  Do we accept this state of things? The challenge is “not to run or attempt to run from the inescapable fact of the contingency of our being” (Ulanov, Primary Speech, p. 62). Face to face with fear, even ultimate fear, we may try to short-circuit it in many ways. What if “temptation” refers to our attempts to circumvent life’s incompleteness—our refusal of the greatness of our filial condition in the vain attempt to make ourselves complete, self-enclosed, secure in intransitiveness, rather than to live in the incompleteness of an ongoing gift of self that is the creaturely form of Trinitarian life? We are tempted to take an off-ramp from the via humanitatis, which is a way of pilgrims. As Teresa of Jesus noted, concerning the security of one “who fears the Lord,” “I say ‘security,’ but that is the wrong word, for there is no security in this life” (Interior CastleThird Mansion, Chapter 1). Earlier, she had written, “We here, so far as outward things are concerned are free; may it please the Lord to make us free as regards inward things as well and to deliver us from evil” (First Mansion).

It is here that the Lord’s Prayer completes itself, having begun with the invocation of God’s transcendent and holy name and the plea for the fullness of God’s kingdom. Before all that would substitute that kingdom and in which we could seek to ensconce ourselves, secure and unmovable, we pray: “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”


Amen is the genuine, filial expression of security: not in ourselves, not in our accomplishments, but standing confidently on the “one in whom I have believed” (2 Tim. 1:12). And the Lord, the “Amen, the faithful and true witness” (cf. Rev. 3:14) responds, “I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord” (cf. Ez. 36:36).

Earlier posts in this series:
Our Father, Who Art in Heaven
Hallowed be Thy Name
Thy Kingdom Come
Thy Will be Done on Earth...
Give Us this Day
Forgive Us our Trespasses...

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