15 January 2009

Hugh of Balma: The First Petition in the Lord's Prayer

This is the second post on Hugh of Balma’s anagogical or mystical explanation of the Lord’s Prayer. Let us take a look at the First Petition in this prayer given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Hallowed be Thy Name” is the first petition after “having gained good will” with the three commendations of God which begin this prayer. There are seven petitions total in this prayer: “the first four are requests to obtain something good, while the other three are requests for the removal of something bad.” The first petition of “hallowed be Thy Name” is for the purpose of “possessing the Beloved without contrary delay.” In the mystical sense “holy” means “apart from earth.” Thus “hallowed be Thy Name” means, “let Your wonderful Name be made apart from earth in me.” It’s quite beautiful to want the mystery, the wonder, the awe, the beauty and the love of Almighty God and His heaven to be evident within you – to exercise in this world the beauty of other worldliness.

Hugh of Balma adds: “The soul who lives wickedly, imbued with earthly desires and disfiguring worldly delights, is unable to see in love the serene tranquility of a heart full of joy or to sense anything else.” Such a soul is “being pulled by earthly horses” and is “carnal and not divine,” being compared scripturally to Egypt and what is written by the prophet: “Egypt is man, and not God” (Isaiah 31:3).

“On the other hand, the spirit of a lover can attain something of experiential, divine rejoicing when, fired up… reaches out” quite aware that disentanglement “from earthly affections” has yet to occur but knows that without God the strength to disentangle will be insufficient. Since a soul cannot “firmly possess two opposite things at once, being pulled down lower by the weight of corruptible flesh,” the soul must beg “the Beloved more insistently that He remove it.” Once the Beloved has fulfilled this pleading, “spiritual joy” will lay “bare the bitterness of former joys, and the inner ray of light, even if not revealed in perfect fullness, clearly exposes the… fraud and ugliness” of fleshly or worldly desires. What follows is that the soul will be “lightened by love’s fire and” will be “raised on High on the wings of affection.” Eventually, in astonishment the soul will be able to echo what is written in Sacred Scripture: “Truly You are a hidden God” (Isaiah 45:15). May God’s Name always be deemed as holy. “When the soul’s petition is heard and removed” from carnal desires, “marvelously the bride is presented to the Bridegroom, leaving them alone with each other.”