The Ladder Hidden in the Lord’s Prayer (Addendum 2 to Chapter 2)
It will help our understanding of Shakespeare’s hidden discussion of the Psalm Structures to see that there is also a Ladder hidden in the central prayer of Christianity, the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father). [Some of this Addendum is based on a wonderful essay, The Lord’s Prayer, by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, of the Russian Orthodox Church, in his book Living Prayer.]
Here is a way of presenting this prayer:
Who art in heaven
Hallowed by thy name
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
Forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us
Lead us not into temptation
Deliver us from evil
The first word(s)—Our Father—is a word that states the best thing imaginable: It says several different stunning realities at once. First, it makes us all sisters and brothers of each other, and brothers and sisters of Jesus. Second, it states that God is a loving (and perfect) parent to all people. Third, it says that we are all of one family. This is remarkably wonderful news.
The fact that we are family is underscored by nine (9) first-person plural pronouns in the prayer: Our, us, we. There are no first-person singular pronouns: Mine, me, I.
The final word represents the worst situations that we can find ourselves in: evil. Thus, the first word and the last word are polar opposites in every way; this polarity echoes the Ladder hidden in the Psalms, if we recall that the top of the Ladder is a party in heaven (Psalm 150), and the bottom of the Ladder is physical illness in hell (Psalm 6) and societal corruption on earth (Psalm 12).
One of the functions of the Ladder in the Lord’s Prayer is to give us a path, a Ladder, upon which we may climb-journey from “hell” to a full participation of the family of God, who is “Our Father.” Recall also that the rediscovering of our being created in the image and likeness of God is an important motif in the New Testament. Paul speaks of our becoming more and more the adopted children of God. Then he speaks clearly of our being the children of God.
As mentioned in the first Addendum to this chapter, The Growing Pregnant Womb, Eastern and Western Christianity both celebrate a tradition in which we are in a constant growth towards the Divine and into the Divine, including our ability to share in more Divine gifts and energies. The Eastern Traditions of Christianity celebrate this much more openly.
Now we will travel from the bottom of the Ladder, and from the worst situations, including the worst “evil,” to the top of the Ladder, where we celebrate God, and the fact that God has called us into Creation as beings and members of one family—a joyful unity, promised and delivered by “Our Father.”
The bottom of the Ladder:
DELIVER US FROM EVIL
When Jesus first uttered the Lord’s Prayer, as he reached this last line, all of his hearers would have made an automatic and instantaneous connection to Moses and the Exodus. Moses was the “deliverer,” and the first Passover, and the entire Exodus, were the “deliverance” par excellence. To this day, the first Passover and the Exodus are formative literary events in the conscience of the Jewish people.
With this background, the word “evil” can point towards the physical and spiritual slavery of the Hebrews in Egypt. One of the effects of outward slavery is the greater likelihood of internal slippage, vice, and degradation—when the bad Pharaoh came along, not only were the Hebrews slaves, but they also forgot the name of God! They didn’t know God. They had forgotten God, even God’s name.
God saved them anyway, even though they did not deserve it. God saved them, the Bible says, because of God’s promise. Well and good. The situation may be a bit more complex, as God, of course, loves all people, each and every one of us. The calling forth of the ancient Hebrews into a new stage of societal relationship with God was a big thing back then. (Other developments in the long unfurling march of Salvation History have occurred since then, of course.)
The forty years of the Exodus voyage represent, also, a single human life. The breaking of the waters of the Red Sea is an image of birth, and the young nation of Israel was born, and separated from her mother, Egypt. The Red Sea is like the breaking water of birth, and the blood that attends birth—recall also the blood on the doorways (lintels), of the Passover celebration. The forty years of desert journeying was about the length, maybe, of an average life back then. Actually, very many people back then didn’t even make it to 40 years of age. Forty years of tough desert going represents human life, and an individual’s span of life. Then, at the end of the journey, the River Jordan stops. This echoes the water miracle at the beginning of the journey. When we die, the blood, lymph, and other liquid courses within us simply stop.
The river stopped and parted, and the Israelites entered Canaan. When our blood stops, and we die, we fly to heaven (see Psalm 90).
The Israelites began as ignorant slaves, suddenly liberated. God revealed God’s name to Moses in the Burning Bush. They were beginning to be healed from their spiritual ignorance, their situation of spiritual slavery, a situation of “evil.”
LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION
Things instantly got difficult for the Israelites in the desert. They were not simply given everything by God. Rather, God expected them to grow, to mature. God wanted them to become free individuals and to develop in the best ways.
They had to learn community. And community can be tough to learn. Every Christian religious community, for example, has their own difficulties. But this is normal grist for the mill of the development of the community’s members.
The Israelites had to learn how to get along with others. They had to learn how to be neighbors to each other. They had to learn that, yes, they are their brother’s keeper.
(Christianity and Islam, of course, and Buddhism and Hinduism, teach that all human beings, and all sentient beings, are precious.)
Community, when one is initially learning how to live it, can be tough. The Israelites, very soon after their liberation, suddenly wished that they were back in their initial situation of slavery and ignorance. There was complaining. There was thirst and hunger. There was dissatisfaction and anger and animosity between people and groups in the camp.
Opportunities for regression and error abounded. Moses had to lead them through these thickets of temptation, through these thickets of anger and fighting, towards something like a cohesive community.
The forty years in the desert were not easy in this regard.
AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US
There was much forgiving and peacemaking that had to occur in the desert of the Exodus, and in our world today.
Grievous errors were made, and are still being made.
Yet there is much that is positive in forgiveness, as we learn more powerfully about the God who is Love. Forgiveness is the earthen mirror of love.
FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES
We forgive. God forgives.
Aristotle defined friendship as being when 2 people like to engage the same activity together.
We forgive. God forgives.
When we forgive, we become more like God. This is an absolutely central part of our journey of Deosis, of our journey to God, and to receiving more of God’s Divine gifts and energies. Every adult human should be able to write a teacher’s manual on forgiveness. There are many things involved with the realm of forgiveness.
Finally, “forgive” is the only active verb assigned to us people in the prayer. God does all the rest.
GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD
Each day for forty years in the desert, the Ladder worked also in the downward direction as God supplied manna to the Israelites.
Psalm 78, a Ladder Psalm, even speaks of a heavenly door that opens so that food of the angels, this manna, may be showered down on us.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus says that he is the bread come down from heaven (see John 6:35, 38, 41, 48, 51, 54, 58). This, of course, reminds us of the Eucharist, which is Jesus. His divinized body of love. Deep sharing. He knew how to forgive.
The word for “daily” is epiousion. This can also mean “beyond substance,” epi (beyond) ousion (substance). This, of course, is also a discussion of the Eucharist, among other things.
Also, this is the first (climbing upwards) of two adjacent lines that are the center of the prayer:
On earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily (epiousion) bread
Jesus appears in both these lines. For Christians, he is the “daily bread,” the bread “beyond substance,” the Eucharist.
He is also the coming together of heaven and earth. He is the Divine Human, the person who is fully of the earth and fully of heaven.
Now, let’s reflect for a moment about our combined human future on planet Earth.
As we grow in love, in forgiveness, in communion, in mutual respect and understanding, we discover that this is the only way into a potentially tremendously bright human future. The goal is not the superiority, the victory, of one religion or lack thereof. No, that would be ludicrous and result in the end of the world, far too prematurely.
No, that cannot be the goal. (Even the Roman Catholic Church said at Vatican II Council that “salvation is possible outside the Church,” the first time the Church had said that since the Reformation.)
Today, we have the “capacity” to destroy our earth with nuclear weapons. As we keep pouring billions and trillions of dollars into more advanced weapons and into defense and armies, we are increasing the chances of a horrible event(s) of devastation. And our technology is getting more and more advanced. In 50 years, a single disgruntled 18-year-old person (or soldier) will be able to destroy a vast area with a single weapon.
We have to make a decisive move for global peace, or we will fry ourselves. It should be obvious. A world without armies and without grotesque weapons is a safer world for all. As Apple says, we all need to learn how to “think different.” Or we will lose our Garden, causing our own annihilation.
In non-Christian terms (that Christians can also use), these two lines speak of a more advanced and united humanity. Of us transforming our earth into a heavenly paradise. Of all persons being considered as divine. Of a humanity that is not defensive, but that is united in love. A humanity that is not defensive is one that is growing in love. The entire trajectory of the Bible (and of Shakespeare’s Sonnets) is about this: in fact, the developing of a loving Humanity is the basic purpose of the Bible (and the Sonnets).
A united Humanity that does away with the defense industry will be able to turn our attention to helping Humanity grow to a level of development where every single human person has their “daily bread”—that is, all their human needs met. And this humanity is a humanity that can then reach the stars.
Our human minds will be liberated cosmically as we humans drop defense and defensive modes of thinking, and learn to love. All people.
Speaking of the stars:
These two lines here at the center of the prayer serve a very important “bridge” function.
Below these two central lines, the second half of the prayer is all about the struggles of life on earth—and of our historical “past.” The first part of the prayer, above these two central lines, is about our personal relationship with God, and with heaven, with our attaining of heaven, and with our individual and communal positive growth and focus.
The two halves of the prayer speak to both our communal and our individual development. The lower half is about the troubles of our evolution: all the long, senseless agonies of the slow, drawn out, awkward, turning away from animal attitudes, to that of tribal people, to human community and government, to individual humans, to a re-centered powerful community of articulated individual human beings (which the positive aspects of this current generation is engaging), to a more angelic humanity in our very near future (and this too may have begun already among some of our family), to a future cosmic humanity, a more-divinized-humanity.
ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN
God could have made earth like heaven. He didn’t. He gave it to us as work to do. Part of our custodial work to do here in the Garden is to make the world into a Paradise, into heaven.
The Qur’an has this as a resounding theme: See 5:48; 11:118; 16:93; 42:8; 43:33; 49:13. After seeing these, it is interesting to return to an earlier text, 2:213.
The Qur’an is very much interested in the theme of human evolution. But the above Ayat (verses, or “signs”) point to something related, integral, to this evolution. Our humanity has comes from many different places, times, and influences. The glory, and the difficulty, of our evolution is learning how to live together in love. If we don’t learn this, we’re toast. If we learn this, our children will lead our planet into a Paradise. Our future children will be like advanced Beings in a New Creation.
Earth becomes Heaven. For all. For all souls past and future.
THY WILL BE DONE
Bruno Barnhart, once speaking of a future Humanity (which has already begun), that he already knew a great deal about, said quietly, “It’s like one mind, and it’s like a billion minds.”
We are all individuals. We are all spoken words of God. An ancient Rabbi once said that if we really knew how to read the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures), each human being could find their life story, not in vague outline, but in precise detail therein.
We are one, yet we are individual. We are individuals, but we belong together. And, paradoxically, the more we love all, the more we become our most liberated and realized individual person.
Our wills, including our desires: What Bruno said about our mind(s) could be applied to our will(s): It’s like one will, and it’s like billions of wills.
We can design our own ice-cream sundaes in heaven.
This amazing development of our individual selves and of our communal participation is forecasted in the first verse of John’s Gospel:
John shows the way to developing the spectrum of humanity, of our soul.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Let’s consider this verse, this sentence, in its three parts.
“In the beginning was the Word.” A person is generated or created, and this person learns to become an individual, to stand on one’s own two feet. The sheer wonder and joy of a person becoming a more full human person.
“And the Word was with God.” The person is capable of being in relationship with an Other. Multiple beings can be together in community, and this is to be celebrated as a wondrous thing.
“And the Word was God.” The person can merge fully in unity with an Other. Nonduality. The dissolving, the dissolution of our boundaries, of our ego boundaries. Profound Union. We don’t know where the Other begins or where we end, it doesn’t matter. Utter ecstasy. Mind-blowing, breathtaking.
All three of these states at once.
We should be striving for that stage, when our will dances in harmony with God’s will.
THY KINGDOM COME
The Gospels talk of the kingdom of God, the Reign of God, as does Surah 1 of the Qur’an.
This is something to be desired and worked towards by all people.
A monarchy seems to be led by one person. What Christians call “The Body of Christ,” and what others call “The World Soul,” is happiest when each individual person is at a maximum and growing state of consciousness, awareness, and individuality. That makes for better community.
HALLOWED BE THY NAME
We hallow God, and God’s name.
God wants to hallow us—and for us to hallow each other.
WHO ART IN HEAVEN
Once some people did something that God rejoiced at, says an ancient midrash (Scripture commentary). So God created 70 new heavens.
God could help our Mother Earth to heal quickly. If we cooperate.
When God wants to teach and to share, he wants to really share.
70 new heavens.
But if we want to run a marathon, or dance all night, we have to build up our strength, our endurance.
The story from Luke of the “Prodigal Son” has been humorously renamed the story of the “Prodigal Father,” because of the father’s astonishing mercy. In fact, it could almost be called the story of the “Prodigal Mother,” because the father is so compassionate, and has learned something from the mother, the Feminine.
Back to the Center
How do we make this possible? This paradise on earth that God wants to lead us into? This paradise, which, for our children, will be truly paradise? (Maybe the most painful part of human life in the future will be learning our human history, and seeing our ludicrous mistakes and regressions.)
The pivot, the lynchpin, of this ascent into the top portion of the prayer, into Paradise, is the two central lines. And our incarnating of them.
Will we put down our defensiveness, including our defense industries, defense ministries, our fears and greeds, and ensure that all people have their daily bread?
Will we consider our human community to be the place where heaven happens? Will we learn to see community “on earth, as it is in heaven?” Will we accept the Divine, and the gifts and energies of the Divine?
Will we realize heaven? Or do we not desire it?