ST. Maximos on the Lord’s Prayer: FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS AS WE FORGIVE OUR DEBTORS

pp. 299-302

Having united our will with God’s will in the Lord’s prayer (Thy will be done), we ask Him to “give us today our daily bread.”

It is significant to note that the prayer emphasizes, not only the food we are requesting, but the fact that we ask for it for one day: “today.”   By praying “for bread for one day at a time,” we are freed from anxiety about future needs and from preoccupation with bread, itself. In essence, we want to eat to live rather than live to eat. We acknowledge our mortal nature and need for physical sustenance while, at the same time, seeking inner freedom from passions and material attachments: 

…so that we may keep our souls unenslaved and absolutely free from domination by any kind of visible things loved for the sake of the body

The line between seeking sustenance for the present day and becoming solely driven by material things, like food, is thin and can be easily blurred and crossed if we let up on our alertness.

This is why St. Maximos calls for discipline and exactness. Even requesting bread for a second day is enough to begin the downhill spiral of enslavement to material things:

 …and let us be exact in the way we observe this prayer

 The highest level of quest, however, is the quest for the gnostic bread of our souls rather than the literal bread for our bodies:

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness

We are now ready to enter into a closer union with God, by transitioning from requests for sustenance to requests for forgiveness.

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors

Yet this is not a passive request but a restatement of our synergistic relationship with God.

God bestows blessings, St. Maximos tells us, but we can only retain them by exercising our own, free will. Likewise, we ask God to forgive us as a corollary of our own willingness to forgive those who sinned against us.

The fullness and unity of our human nature can only be achieved through forgiveness. Without it, we are divided, tearing ourselves away from our shared humanity with others and living in a fragmented universe of “we” and “they.”

Forgiveness takes enormous effort. It requires that we overcome the desire to dwell on, and relitigate, perceived injustices against us. It requires that we set aside our narrative for how people should behave and think.

He must not allow the memory of things that afflict him to be stamped on his intellect lest he inwardly sunders human nature by separating himself from some other man, although he is a man himself. When a man’s will is in union with the principle of nature in this way, God and nature are naturally reconciled; but, failing such a union, our nature remains self-divided in its will and cannot receive God’s gift of Himself.

In forgiveness “man’s will is in union with the principle of nature.”

This is when we will attain peace and receive the gnostic bread of the soul—the kingdom of God.

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