Our Father Who Art on Earth

Our Father Who Art on Earth: The Our Father for Believers and Unbelievers

JOSÉ TOLENTINO MENDONÇA
Foreword by ENZO BIANCHI
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: ATF (Australia) Ltd.
Pages: 169
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt163t94z
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  • Book Info
    Our Father Who Art on Earth
    Book Description:

    In Our Father Who Art On Earth José Tolentino Mendonça draws on the expertise of biblical texts, but also to the data of anthropology and literature, to dare to ‘open-up’ the Our Father to believers and non-believers, and point out new keys to a spiritual reading of this text that is the heart of Christianity. The result is absolutely unusual. The reader is summoned to an inner journey that they will not forget.

    eISBN: 978-1-921511-32-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    Enzo Bianchi

    In this book, José Tolentino Mendonça faces a brave and difficult challenge: that of addressing both believers and unbelievers in the words of the Our Father, the Christian prayer par excellence, the prayer described by Tertullian as an ‘epitome of the whole gospel’. The author finds in the Our Father a light for the human being as such, a set of footprints indicating a pathway open to men and women as human beings, preceding even their beliefs and confessional allegiances.

    The idea that makes this undertaking possible is that this prayer expresses the humanity of human beings, so much so...

  4. Brief Prologue
    (pp. xvii-xviii)

    There is a song by Jacques Prévert that begins: ‘Our Father who art in heaven. Stay there, and we’ll stay on earth.’ Where is God? And where are we? Irony is, at times, the fragile form we have for hiding this kind of nowhere in which we live our lives, between fire and ashes, between helplessness and presence, between cry and prayer. But it also happens that the impasse not only gives back the measure of the distance but, mysteriously, reveals to us the unexpected closeness. The earth, this earth which is daily kneaded with convulsion and desire, is what...

  5. I The Cry
    (pp. 1-10)

    When springtime comes, nature seems to overcome the stillness of winter and to multiply the almost imperceptible signs of its rebirth. There is a sap that is revitalising the landscape of the world. Even in the wastelands, in the empty yards and uninhabited properties, in the least cultivated gardens, spring is appearing with amazing energy. At the same time, this rebirth of the world sometimes seems to us incomparably simpler than our own. We ourselves tend to feel buried and lifeless. We think that too much time has already passed, that at some point in our journey we got lost...

  6. II Is God in Paris?
    (pp. 11-22)

    I do not know who first taught us to pray and how we cope with prayer today. Almost certainly, we all have different ways of praying. For some of us, our way of praying is perhaps embedded in our earliest childhood memories. We learnt how to pray when we were enfolded in that primordial world peopled by key figures such as our parents or a grandmother, with its rhythms, its smells, the comforting background of conversations without beginning or end . . . Others of us, however, may have come to prayer on our own, as adults, as it were...

  7. III The Evaporation of the Father
    (pp. 23-32)

    ‘What is left of the Father?’ The Italian psychoanalyst Massimo Recalcati asks this question and his reply is: ‘Not much.’ In order to describe the times we live in, he quotes one of Jacques Lacan’s expressions: ‘the evaporation of the father.’ At times for a reason but certainly for no good reason, our culture has, in fact, perpetrated a systematic demolition of the father figure. The father has ceased to be a value marker by which to assess a meaning, a point of reference that enables us to define the frontier between good and evil, between life and death. To...

  8. IV A Father who Becomes Our Father
    (pp. 33-42)

    Marcel Proust wrote:

    There are certain spirits which we can compare to sick people whom a kind of laziness or frivolity prevents from penetrating spontaneously into the deeper regions of themselves, where the true life of the spirit begins. Only when they have been led to these depths will they be capable of discovering and exploring true riches. But unless they make this effort, they will continue to live on the surface in a perpetual forgetfulness of themselves, in a kind of passivity which makes of them the plaything of all pleasures, reducing them to the stature of those who...

  9. V Where Are You?
    (pp. 43-52)

    It is important for us to remember, if only in order to understand fully what we have been saying, that God is not merely a model living inside us. He is not merely an internalimago, a presence in our interior life. God is an absolute presence in Himself. He does not merely exist within us as our point of reference, but exists ineffably in Himself. The scholastic theologians teach that while we ourselves are existences, God is essence. This is a definition which is perhaps easy to perceive with the intellect but extremely difficult to take in completely. If...

  10. VI To Give a Name without Losing What Cannot Be Said
    (pp. 53-68)

    It is good for us believers to listen to what unbelievers have to say about God and the spiritual life. Speaking for myself, I can say that they teach us many things! The problem is that we run the risk of making things too easy, taking things for granted, reproducing things uncritically. I have a friend who says he is an atheist and every time we meet he asks me: ‘Have you thought about God?’ And when I ask him the same question, he replies: ‘I’d have you know that I think about nothing else.’ One of the symptoms of...

  11. VII Learning to Live According to God’s Will
    (pp. 69-80)

    St Augustine says something which is both curious and certain about the petition ‘Thy Kingdom come’. ‘When we say: “Thy kingdom come”, which shall certainly come whether we wish it or not, we do by these words stir up our own desires for that kingdom.’ It is true. Essentially, Christianity is an initiation into desire. A school of desire. Simone Weil’s commentary on these words points in the same direction: ‘ The Kingdom of God means the complete filling of the entire soul . . . with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit bloweth where he listeth. We can only invite...

  12. VIII We Still Have a Childhood to Live
    (pp. 81-92)

    The first time the expression ‘Let there be’ appears in the Bible is on the very first page (Gen 1:3-31). And these words are spoken by God himself. He continues: ‘Let there be light’, and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God said: ‘Let there be an evening and a morning’ and there was the first day. God said: ‘Let there be light in the firmament of the heavens’ And it was so. And so on.

    Behind each created thing there is God’s ‘Let there be’, his ‘Yes’. There is nothing, from the grass...

  13. IX Our Lives Are Fed on a Life Shared
    (pp. 93-102)

    In a hyper-technological and sophisticated world such as ours, it is astonishing to realise the symbolic power that simple things continue to possess. Think about bread, for instance. Its appeal and meaning appear in many cultures and across many generations. Bread has become an extraordinary and universal symbol. It was so for our grand-parents, it is so for ourselves. I remember when I was small that, if some bread fell off the table, we used to pick it up and kiss it, even if we could not eat it. Beyond the weight of what it symbolised, bread was, in itself,...

  14. X God Has Faith in Us
    (pp. 103-112)

    I remember a film of Nanni Moretti’s, I think it wasThe Son’s Room,in which one of the characters, who is living through a period of deep mourning, begins putting the teacups away in a cupboard. As she does so, she realises that one of the cups is cracked down one side. She tries to hide the crack, placing the cup so that only the uncracked side is visible. But she knows that that particular cup lacks something. That cup is the symbol of her life, of all our lives, consisting of losses, gaps, disintegrations which we cannot hide....

  15. XI A Unilateral Decision to Love
    (pp. 113-122)

    The parallel which this phrase of theOur Fatherestablishes with the preceding one is not in terms of a business deal according to which if God forgives us, then we will forgive others. This would be a kind of swap: we will only give if God gives to us. There is, in fact, a parallelism between this invocation of theOur Fatherand the preceding one. But only in the sense that we accept that it is God who is the source and master of all forgiveness and it is in his image and likeness that we are learning...

  16. XII The Fourth Temptation
    (pp. 123-134)

    In one of her remarks well seasoned with humour, St Teresa of Avila tells us that it is foolish to suppose that ‘ souls with whom God communicates in what would seem to be a privileged way are, however, reassured by this to such an extent that they need no longer fear or weep for their sins’. In fact we are called to live the gift of God right to the end, in frailty, in weakness, in trust and in temptation. The problems that beset us may vary in kind, in frequency, or in intensity, but they will certainly be...

  17. XIII The Wound Bears Fruit
    (pp. 135-146)

    As we pray theOur Father, we realise that Jesus’ intention was to provide a model. He does not simply pray, but he teaches his disciples to pray. He produces a kind of paradigm of Christian prayer.

    When we look at this prayer, we perceive that there is no debate or argument in it. One does not argue in theOur Father,one simply addresses everything to the Father. The vocative syntagma with which the prayer begins, ‘Our Father’ is clearly the key word. It is true that one then goes on to speak of the Father’s will, of his...

  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 147-150)