The Catechism of St. Thomas Aquinas – THE FIRST PETITION: “Hallowed Be Thy Name.”

This is the first petition, and in it we ask that God’s name be manifested and declared in us. The name of God, first of all, is wonderful because it works wonders in all creatures. Thus said Our Lord: “In My name they shall cast out devils, they shall speak new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they shall drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them.”[1]

GOD’S NAME IS LOVABLE

This name is lovable: “There is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved.”[2] We all should desire to be saved. We have an example in Blessed Ignatius, who had such great love for the name of Christ that, when Trajan ordered him to deny it, he affirmed that it could not be dragged from his mouth. Then, the emperor threatened to have him beheaded, and thus take the name of Christ out of the mouth of the Saint. But

Ignatius replied: “Even though you take it from my mouth, you will never snatch it from my heart. I have this name written in my heart and there I never cease to invoke it.” Trajan heard this and wished to put it to the test. He had the servant of God beheaded and then commanded that his heart be taken out, and there upon the heart was found the name of Christ inscribed in letters of gold. This name had been engraved on the heart as a seal.

GOD’S NAME IS VENERABLE

The name of God is venerable: “In the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.”[3] “Those that are in heaven” refers to the Angels and the blessed; “those that are on earth” to people living in this world, who do so for love of heaven which they wish to gain; “those under the earth” to the damned, who do so out of fear.

GOD’S NAME IS INEFFABLE

This name is ineffable, for in the telling of it every tongue is wholly inadequate. Accordingly, it is sometimes compared to created things as, for instance, it is likened to a rock because of its firmness: “Upon this rock I will build My Church.”[4] It is likened to a fire because of its purifying power; for as fire purifies metal, so does God purify the hearts of sinners: “My God is a consuming fire.”[5] It is compared to light because of its power of enlightening; for as light illumines the darkness, so does the name of God overcome the darkness of the mind: “O my God, enlighten my darkness.”[6]

MEANING OF HALLOWED

We pray that this name may be manifested in us, that it be known and revered as holy. Now “holy” (or hallowed) may have a threefold meaning. First, it is the same as firm. Thus, those who are firmly established in eternal happiness are all the blessed in heaven, the Saints. In this sense, none is a “Saint” on earth because here all is continually changeable. As St. Augustine says: “I sank away from Thee, O Lord, and I wandered too much astray from Thee who art my firm support.”[7]

Secondly, “holy” may be understood as “unearthly.” The holy ones who are in heaven have naught earthly about them: “I count (all things) . . . but as dung, that I may gain Christ.”[8] Earth may signify sinners. This would arise as reference to production. For if the earth is not cultivated, it will produce thorns and thistles. Similarly, if the soul of the sinner is not cultivated by grace, it will produce only thistles and thorns of sins: “Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee.”[9] Again, earth may signify sinners as regards its darkness. The earth is dark and opaque; and so also is the sinner dark and obstructive to light: “Darkness was on the face of the deep.”[10] And, finally, earth is a dry element which will fall to pieces unless it is mixed with the moisture of water. So God placed earth just above water: “Who established the earth above the waters.”[11] So also the soul of the sinner is dry and without moisture as it is said: “My soul is as earth without water unto Thee.”[12]

“Holy” may, finally, be understood as “laved in blood,” since the Saints in heaven are called Saints because they have been washed in blood: “These are they who are come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”[13] And again: “He hath washed us from our sins in His blood.”[14]

(For “Questions for Discussion” see Chapter 6.)

ENDNOTES

1. Mark, xiv. 17-18.

2. Acts. iv. 12.

3. Phil., ii. 10.

4. Matt., xvi. 18.

5. Deut., iv. 24.

6. Ps. xvii. 29.

7. “Confessions,” II, x.

8. Phil., iii. 8.

9. Gen., iii. 18.

10. Gen., i. 2.

11. Ps. cxxxv. 6.

12. Ps. cxlii. 6.

13. Apoc., vii. 14.

14. “Ibid.,” i. 5.

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