The 'Our Father'
The Well of the Trinity
Reflection on the ‘Our Father’
With a last wave of his hand the old fisherman pushed the boat away from the quay, then he called out to me in his native Gaelic: “May God give you to drink from the Well of the Trinity”. The blessing fell on me like dew and conjured up the well – an image that had much meaning for me.
In the Bible wells are places where many people meet their destiny – from the young dreamer Joseph who was thrown into a well in treachery on through the other well scenes. It was at the well of his unlce Laban that Jacob found the young Rachael and fell in love with her. In the Song of Songs the bride is compared to a ‘garden fountain, a well of living water” (S 4:15). But it was of the well of Sycar where Jesus met the Samaritan woman that I thought when the old fisherman gave me the ‘Well of the Trinity blessing’. Seated by the well, ‘wearied by his journey’ Jesus told about the inner well at the source of our being. “The water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up with eternal life” Jn 4.
Searching for that inner spring is one way of going deeply into prayer. It helps if one thinks of going down the steps of a well to reach the water. In one of H.V. Morton’s books on the Holy Land he describes an ancient well covered with masonry. This well has 24 steps leading down into the cool dearkness to where the pure water gushes out of the rock, clean and cold. The image suggests the well of the Trinity and the call within, that St Ignatius of Antioch was aware of when he spoke of “a murmur of living water that whispers within me ‘Come to the Father'”.
In the Lord’s Prayer there is a very concise set of steps that lead to the Father. The ‘Our Father’ starts with our Father in Heaven and goes on to the last cry ‘deliver us from evil’. If one takes it, beginning with the ‘deliver us’ cry as the first step, it is quite amazing how each petition leads in step by step to the Father.
- Deliver us from evil – Deliver me now for this little bit of quiet time – deliver me from the evil one and all his craftiness, from myself and my waywardness. I desire to go in and find my God but there are distractions. It is a bit like Alice falling down her well into Wonderland. She fell very gently and she found interesting cupboards on the way which she could open. In one she found a jar marked ‘orange marmalade’, but it was empty! Good example of the sort of trifles I need to be delivered from as I try to be quiet and still.
- Lead us not into tempation – God does not lead us into temptation. He stretches us and gives us fences we can barely get over sometimes. So I pray now “Lord I cast all my cares on to you, so that they will not press upon me in this time I want to spend with you”. As well as ‘lead us not’ I pray here positively: “lead me deep in to your Presence. Lead us by your paths to the place where your dwell.”
- Forgive us our trespasses – This is a difficult step. It is a dangerous thing to say ‘forgive us as we forgive’. I ask God to let my forgiveness of others be a head-line for His forgiveness of me. If the words had been ‘forgive us NOT as we forgive’ we would have some chance and it would be a lot less risky. “If He were ever to imitate the way we ourselves behave it would be all over with us!” (St Ignatius). As the petition stands it calls for a forgiveness on my part like that of Jesus on the Cross, which makes excuses for his executioners. I cannot go one step deeper into the Well of the Trinity till I come to terms with this command: ‘Forgive’. “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering and go -!”. Stephen’s prayer as he was being stoned to death gives us an insight into the sort of forgiveness that the Lord expects. Stephen cried out “Lord lay not this sin to their charge”. I think this is the very refinement of forgiveness. To ask God not to hold it against someone who has wronged us. It is easy enough to say “Lord I forgive then” hoping in my heart that the Lord will even things up with them and straighten them out! But to say and mean “Lord do not hold it against them” is hard. If I say it with honesty it is one of the best ways of forgetting as well as forgiving. Having negotiated this difficult step I feel the need of refreshment, so I can sit down like Elijah under his broom tree and cry out for the bread of heaven!
- Give us this day our daily bread – This cry for nourishment and relief is a spiritual communion. I beg that like Elijah the Lord will feed me also, so that I can “walk in the strength of that food to the mountain of God” – in this case to the fountain of God. Here too I think of Mary who first gave us the Bread of Life in Bethlehem – the house of bread – and who still “mothers each new greace that does now reach our race”. (Hopkins). If our smallest needs are not too small to take to her, then prayer, our deepest and greatest need, is very close to her heart. We can be sure that her greatest desire is to have us drink from the Well of the Trinity.
The last three steps are quiet and peaceful and have a Trinitarian dimension.
- Thy Will – Holy Spirit
- Thy Kingdom – Jesus
- Thy Name – Father
- Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven – It is through the Holy Sprit that the will of the Father is done on earth as it is in heaven – so I call on the Holy Spirit to bring me to fulfil the Father’s will in the promised land of my being. The dream of the children of Israel was to possess the Land of Promise. It was the Spirit yearning within them that made them “see visions and dream dreams”. So he yearns in me to bring me to the possession of my inner land. His help is very near and sure as I try to respond to the “drawing of this love and the voice of this calling”. (Cloud of Unknowing).
- Thy kingdom come – We associate the inner kingdom in a special way with our Lord Jesus remembering His word “the Kingdom of God is within you”. His great desire is to lead us to the Father, especially in the kingdom of our own hearts. In the Gospel He tells us to go into the secret place to pray in the Father’s presence. So in this effort to find the inner spring Jesus gives us His full strength and help. Julian of Norwich has a beautiful picture of Jesus – sitting in full possession of the soul He loves, and who loves Him. She writes: ” I saw the soul as wide as it were an endless citadel and also as it were a blessed kingdom. In the midst of that city sits Our Lord Jesus. He sits there erect in the soul in peace and rest. And it is to that peace and rest He calls me.
- Hallowed be Thy Name – This last step in our deep well leads to the Father. Hallowed be your Name:
YahwehHe Who IsFather
God has many names. Islam calls Him by ninety names. The Mighty, the Invisible, the Glorified, the Majestic, all full of fear and reverence and wonder. It was the only Son who has taught us to call Him ‘Father”. “Father who art in heaven”. In the heaven of my soul – the wonder of it! My Father!
It is Jesus who gives us the image of the ‘secret place’. He also gives us the image of the spring of water within welling up with eternal life.(Jn 4:7).
He gives us the ‘Our Father’ as a way to that place. But when I get there (if I don’t get hung up like Alice on some interesting digression!) there are no more images. He says “Be still and know that I am God”. Here “what is most needed is to be silent before the great God with the desire and with the tongue, for the language He best hears is the silent language of love.” (St John of the Cross).