Our Unchanging Father

Should the Lord’s Prayer (LP) be modernized? It is, of course, translations that we are considering; Common Worship and ICEL each offer (different) new versions of the original Greek, neither, incidentally, bold enough to satisfy modern, scholarly opinion about the meaning of the original.

Rome says a firm No; ordinary people can say the old form even when semiconscious! There is a policy aim here: to maintain continuities and prevent modern committee liturgists from slicing through the collective memories that link different generations. Worship, in Rome’s view, is not something to be constantly and abruptly improved by experts. The Roman pendulum has now swung firmly back to the principle enunciated by Vatican II and then promptly forgotten by those who claimed to be enacting the Council’s wishes; liturgies should evolve organically.

‘For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen’ (the doxology). The CofE and its cultural derivatives in English Protestantism stand alone in treating these words as part of the LP. Modern textual critics have no doubt that they formed no part of the original text of the gospels. And the worshipping tradition of the Church has not usually regarded them as part of LP.

In the Byzantine Rite, the people say LP and the priest then ‘caps’ it with the doxology, in a Trinitarian version (For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and for ever and world without end). In the Roman Rite the doxology was originally unknown; LP was followed by an elaboration of its final clause (deliver us Lord, we beseech thee from all evils) known as the Embolism, and said by the priest alone.

After Vatican II this prayer was abbreviated and eschatologized; and, at its conclusion, the people (not priest and people together) acclaim (ICEL gives a modern translation) the doxology. In BCP the shorter form of the LP is normal, although in services in which LP occurs twice, one of them is in the longer form. CW, curiously, flies in the face both of modern biblical scholarship and of liturgical tradition by wanting us to use the longer form, the one with the doxology, on all occasions.

John Hunwicke is the compiler of the ORDO.

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