THE LORD’S PRAYER
“Audemus dicere ‘Pater Noster.”*—canon of the mass.
There is a bolder way,
There is a wilder enterprise than this
All-human iteration day by day.
Courage, mankind! Restore Him what is His.
Out of His mouth were given
These phrases. O replace them whence they came.
He, only, knows our inconceivable “Heaven,”
Our hidden “Father,” and the unspoken “Name”;
Our “trespasses,” our “bread,”
The “will” inexorable yet implored;
The miracle-words that are and are not said,
Charged with the unknown purpose of their Lord.
“Forgive,” “give,” “lead us not”—
Speak them by Him, O man the unaware,
Speak by that dear tongue, though thou know not what,
Shuddering through the paradox of prayer.
Alice Meynell, from A Father of Women and other poems, Burns & Oates, London, 1917
* We dare to say ‘Our Father’. The words would have been recited in Latin in 1917.
A warning against taking ourselves and our assumed virtues without a good pinch of salt. We only begin to see what the Lord’s Prayer means when we put the words back onto his tongue, avoiding our short-sighted, self-serving distortions.