Wednesday, 26 August 2009

prayer of Yeshua

Do we need yet another version of the Lord's Prayer, I hear you ask? Well I think everyone should write their own version; it may not be the world's greatest prayer, but it is deeply embedded in our culture, and most people can still recite it even after years and years of not doing so. Also, it was itself a version of the classic Jewish prayer the Kaddish, so why not create new versions of it?

So, here's my version.

O Genderless Engenderer,
Flame of life at the heart of all things,
Holy, holy, holy are your names.
Your republic of informed hearts is always within us and around us.
Your mysterious way unfolds before us
as matter and spirit dance together to create life.
May the finite tell its stories to the infinite
and may the infinite lend its everlasting peace to the finite.
May our hearts be open to forgiveness given and received,
and may we move accurately in harmony with all
and remain present in the now.
The republic of heaven on earth is all and each of us
reverberating with glory and power
in infinite space-time.

UPDATE: I have removed the link to the Nazarene Way website, because there are issues with the "translations" there. The Aramaic blog explains all.


Paul Oakley said...

I think it's cautious and politically correct enough for the contemporary age. But if it is intended as a reframing of the Our Father and all its parts, there are just a few things:

"Holy holy holy" is a formulation that, though it occurs in Isaiah chapter 6, has been seen in orthodox Christianity - and all the more so since Reginald Heber's lyrics written for Trinity Sunday later put to John Bacchus Dykes' tune "Nicea" (1861) - as a formulation used specifically in worship of the Trinity. Jesus' prayer was to a unitarian God - that is the God of Israel: "Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad" (Hear, o Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is One.)

Also, you have left out, so far as I can decipher, reframing of one key element of this iconic prayer:

"Give us this day our daily bread."

There is a physicality, a corporeality, to that petition that is direct and important. Not just things of this world are requested but sustenance for the physical body - specifically, sustenance that fits into a comforting cultural niche. Body and culture. This is very physical and very specific to the individual.

Though I am suggesting additional attention be paid to these two elements of the prayer, I like the way you've defamiliarized the most familiar of Christian prayers, making it something new in a vocabulary that is post-monarchic. "Genderless Engenderer" is especially nice!

As the Our Father is a liturgical prayer, the test, ultimately, is how this reinterpretation works in unison worship. Does it speak in ways that cause people to adopt the words as their own? It can do without this for the occasional use, but for longer adoption, it needs to be something that the people can see as their own words provided for their failing tongues.

Yewtree said...

Thanks for the feedback.

Well, I hope it is not too politically correct - not my intention at all. It's intended to reflect process theology, queer theology, with a nod to Philip Pullman (the republic of heaven), Bruno Bettelheim (informed hearts), and Laurens van der Post (moving accurately).

I take your point about the physicality of daily bread, and was worried about that myself, but the bit that stands in for "Give us this day our daily bread" is this:
"May the finite tell its stories to the infinite, and may the infinite lend its everlasting peace to the finite."

I did think about explaining which bits fitted where, and what inspired each section, but I thought it was quite fun to let people figure it out for themselves, as you seem to have had fun doing.

I had forgotten that "Holy, holy, holy" is from Isaiah - I expect I picked it up when I was exploring Orthodoxy; in fact nearly wrote, "unto ages of ages" (another bit of Orthodox liturgy) instead of "in infinite space-time".

Yewtree said...

Regarding Trinity versus Unity of God: some people regard the three hypostases as different ways for God to relate to the world: as Julian of Norwich so succinctly put it, "He makes it, he loves it, he keeps it."

He makes it = God the Father
He loves it = Christ
He keeps it = Holy Spirit upholding the world

And yes, I like the Shema.

Paul Oakley said...

Ah, political correctness! My statement was an observation not an accusation. :)

(I think it pretty nigh impossible nowadays to do something that is not either largely politically correct or intentionally transgressive/ offensive.)

As for the trinitarian issue, orthodox Christianity has always argued that there is no conflict between the Shema and the Trinity, that a Trinity of persons is still only One God. Of course, Jews and unitarians disagree...

It is that disagreement that is the reason for my caution re word choice here. In Isaiah, there is no hint of trinitarianism in the tripling of the holies. But in orthodox Christianity there is.

Ultimately, the decision must be based on what best speaks to the people with whom you will use this prayer.

I tend toward the more unambiguously unitarian signifiers as more representative of original intent as well as of contemporary suitability. But that's me.

And I can see that pairing the holies with the plural "names" mitigates the trinitarian history of the thrice-holy language. That is, it is the Hebrew Bible more than the Greek Testament that uses multiple names for God: El and many compounds thereof, Elohim, Adonai, Abhir, Kadosh, Tsaddiq, Zur, the Tetragrammaton and many compounds thereof, and many other names... To say nothing of the way "names" open up this prayer beyond the limitations on meaning within both the Jewish and Christian traditions.

There is a hymn by Brian Wren (words) and Carlton R Young (music) from 1989 titled "Bring Many Names," which without adhering to the images of God from any particular religion presents God in the many guises of humanity: mother, father, senior citizen, child - but also transcendent.

If the primary users of your new version of the Our Father do not see orthodoxy in the triple holy, wonderful!

KittKatt said...

This is gorgeous! I affirm your idea that everyone should write their own version of the Lord's Prayer. I put mine in my novel "At the Cross." Actually, my version continues to grow and change with my prayer life.

I especially love "Genderless Engenderer."

This reminds me of the Aramaic translations of Neil Douglas-Klotz, author of "The Hidden Gospel: Decoding the Spiritual Message of the Aramaic Jesus" and other wonderful books. I expect that you have already read his work, but if not I believe that you would enjoy it.

Yewtree said...

We-e-ell... the Orthodox argue that we must interpret the "Old Testament" in the light of the Gospels.

I deeply deeply disagree with them. So Isaiah just meant thrice holy, and wasn't implying anything about the Trinity. The Tanakh is the Jewish scriptures, appropriated by Christians who did their best to strip it of its cultural specificity.

In the UK, the full name of the movement is "the Unitarians and Free Christians" and some of the latter apparently do use the symbolism of the Trinity.

I have written previously about what is wrong with the idea of the Trinity (i.e. the idea that Jesus is the only gateway to the Godhead - clearly wrong; and the idea that revelation and not reason is the way to understand the Divine - dangerous).

I have also written a poem/prayer about the multifaceted nature of the Divine. I am a polymorphist when it comes to the Divine nature - one substance, many forms.

Paul Oakley said...

I agree with you, Yewtree. Mostly. :)

One point of clarification (just in case I was fuzzy, as I sometimes am): when I used the word "unitarian" (uncapitalized) I was referring to anti-trinitarianism rather than to anything specifically related to contemporary Unitarianism or Unitarian Universalism.

Similarly, my use of "orthodox" (uncapitalized) and forms thereof.

And one point of modest disagreement:

You wrote: The Tanakh is the Jewish scriptures, appropriated by Christians who did their best to strip it of its cultural specificity.

While I completely agree that orthodox Christianity interpreted Tanakh to mean something it was never intended by its authors to mean, I do not agree that Christianity "appropriated" these scriptures. The earliest Christians were Jews, recent converts to Judaism, and Gentiles who worshiped with Jews in synagogues. The scriptures of those Jewish communities were part of the package of earliest Christianity.

Furthermore, the original authors of the Tanakh would not recognize much of contemporary Judaism as their religion.

The interpretations of Christian orthodoxy applied to Hebrew scripture can reasonably be argued to be misrepresentations of earliest Christian understandings of sacred text. But they came by the text just as honestly as contemporary Judaism did.

Yewtree said...

Er yes, perhaps "appropriated" was a bit strong. I was thinking of the tendency after 70 CE to strip Christianity away from its Jewish roots (see Wikipedia entry about the Nazarenes and the Ebionites).

Yes I use orthodoxy for "mainstream" and Orthodoxy for the Eastern Orthodox Churches; and unitarian for non-trinitarian and Unitarian for the denomination.

You're probably right about shifting interpretations of the text. I just get snarky about people trying to twist Tanakh texts to infer that they imply the Trinity; and I hate the term Old Testament, as it smacks of dispensationalism.

Paul Oakley said...

Agreed 100%! And the name "New Testament" equally implies that same dispensationalism, since there is no new without a corresponding old.

"Hebrew Bible" avoids issues of ownership and appropriation, IMO, neutrally stating only language of origin. And for similar neutral treatment for the Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypse compendium, I frequently use "Greek Testament."

Yewtree said...

Good idea!

Thora Appelgren said...

i love it. it reminds me of my personal favorite version of the lord's prayer, loosely translated from the aramaic-

Radiant One-
You shine within us, outside us,
even darkness shines
when we remember.

Focus your light within us-
make it useful, as the rays of a beacon show the way.

Create your reign of unity now
in our firey hearts
and willing minds.

Your one desire then acts with ours;
as in all light, so in all forms.

Grant us what we need each day
in bread and insight.

Loose the cords of mistakes binding us,
as we release the strands we hold of others' guilt.

Decieved neither by the outer nor the innner,
free us to walk your path with joy.

Out of You, the vital force producing,
sustaining all life,
every virtue...may it be the ground from which all our actions grow.

Yewtree said...

Thanks Thora, glad you like it (and nice to know you're still reading my blog).

Yes I was thinking of the Aramaic versions when I wrote it.

In the version you have posted above, I would want to change unity to "unity and diversity", though.

Thora Appelgren said...

as in "create your reign of unity and diversity now"?
hmm... on the one hand, i can see, theologically, where that could be preferable. on the other hand, the idea of a reign of unity doesn't bother me, depending on what it's a unity of, i suppose. a unity of love? great. a unity of enlightenment? sure. unity as conformity? well, not so much.
however, poetically i have to disagree. adding diversity makes it clumsy. ;)
when i was in jerusalem last december i got to hear this prayer sung in the aramaic at a little syrian church. it was an incomparable experience.

Yewtree said...

Yeah, it wouldn't fit in that line; but if I mention unity, I also try to emphasise diversity. That's why I like the Unitarian Flower Communion.

Thora Appelgren said...

unitarian flower communion?

Yewtree said...

About the Flower Communion by Paul Oakley

About the Flower Communion by Andrew Brown

It's very specifically Unitarian, and very moving.

Paul Oakley said...

Your exercise on the got me thinking, Yewtree. And so, here is my first draft of my version of the Our Father:

Cosmos, beloved parent distant and serene
We inscribe your mystic name on all reality
Cosmos, beloved parent nearer than our breath
We inscribe our earthen names on your heart

Cosmos stands secure against chaos
We receive nourishment of food and culture though we create neither
We receive mercy only as we make a society where we extend mercy
May we overcome the elements of our nature that hurt ourselves and others

We stand in awe before unfathomable Cosmic greatness
Cosmos stands secure against chaos through all time

So may it be

Yewtree said...

I like it very much, except for one thing. Chaos is good (in the modern sense of chaos, as in chaos theory, which demonstrates the fractal forms of all life and growth).

How about, "the emergence of life prevents the cosmos decaying into entropy"?

Paul Oakley said...

I was thinking of chaos of the primordial kind and the psychological kind - standing in opposition to the possibility of cosmos and life - not as the fractal kind. But I'll revise.

About life and entropy, though... I believe the physical function of life is to speed the path toward entropy rather than to halt it.


Cosmos, beloved parent distant and serene
We inscribe your mystic name on all reality
Cosmos, beloved parent nearer than our breath
We inscribe our earthen names on your heart
Cosmos stands on the foundation of chaos

We receive nourishment of food and culture though we create neither
We receive mercy only as we make a society where we extend mercy
May we overcome the elements of our nature that hurt ourselves and others

We stand in awe before unfathomable Cosmic greatness
Cosmos stands on the ground of chaos through all time

So may it be

Yewtree said...

Fabulous! I particularly like "We receive mercy only as we make a society where we extend mercy". How true. Are you going to post it on your blog?

As a result of your first feedback, I am thinking about putting the word 'nourish' in my replacement lines for the daily bread bit.

Paul Oakley said...

Make that fifth line:

Cosmos rises from the sea of chaos

Yewtree said...

Ooohhh, like the dependent arising in Buddhism. Also the primordial sea in Kabbalah. Excellent.

Paul Oakley said...

I've posted it on my blog now (with a link back here too, of course).

Thora Appelgren said...

thanks very much for the links- they were fascinating. i'll have to ask my unitarian friend if she has been to one of these services, and if so, what she thought of it.

anyway, here's my stab at the re-write- hope you like it!

Manifestation of Transcendent Joy,
we glory in the existence of all creation.
may your spirit touch all hearts,
moving all persons past self into divine mystery,
that the pure joy of unfettered Love may surpass all other cares.
Uncover our eyes, that we may see the abundance which surrounds us.
Loose our hands and tongues from the words and actions which bind us in knots of pain.
Spark our wisdom, that we may move toward you, and help us to see all things as they truly are.
May we walk in beauty, harmony, and peace in all the worlds.
In the name of the Lover, the Beloved, and the Love Overflowing.

Yewtree said...

I like it, Thora!

Is that ontological or epistemological transcendence?

I personally don't use the word creation (because I don't believe in a creator) but if it speaks to you...

I also really like your "lover, beloved and love overflowing" in the last line.

Thora Appelgren said...

i suppose i do believe in a creator, though perhaps not the traditional idea of one, but even if you don't, everything around us was created. whether by self or by natural process or by deity, its atoms moved into formation in some way which could be called "creation".
"in the name of the lover, the beloved, and the love overflowing" is the common dismissal at my church- i attend a very liberal episcopalian church that has rewritten most of their liturgy to address what they feel are the concerns and theologies of the congregation, and that's one of the pieces they created. i've always found it very appealing. glad you like it too. :)

Yewtree said...

I know what you mean about creation - but I call it emergence.

Yes I remembered that you are a liberal Episcopalian. Good stuff.

Paul Oakley said...

I am comfortable with the words creation and creature even though I do not believe in a Creator. Like Thora, I am comfortable with "creative process" of a purely natural kind. Perhaps it is linguistic atavism of a sort to continue to use "creature" in the absence of a Creator, but it implies no an belief in ontological transcendence.

Thora, I would love to see your church's rewritten liturgy. Is there a print or online resource of this new liturgy?

Thora Appelgren said...

this is the link to our church website-
if you look under "our life together", you will find a link to one liturgy that good shepherd created, and the circumstances under which it came about. (if you've got time, under that same section, i *highly* recommend any of the sermons or podcasts by bill countryman- he is a scholar and preacher without peer).
what i was referring to more though was our weekly eucharist, which is not, apparently, online. most of the changes are rather small, but it was felt that we needed a service that spoke to the concerns of the community, so, for example, we use inclusive language (never referring to God as "he", calling god "father and mother of us all", not using the words "lord" or "king" or "master"). also, our prayers of the people emphasize social justice concerns, environmental issues, and equality for all (about half our church, and more than half our clergy is gay or lesbian). the idea is not necessarily political correctness (though we get accused of that! :) but rather the idea that we needed to find new ways of communicating the divine in a way that more people can connect to it, rather than be alienated by it.
i'd also recommend clicking the link under "who we are" that talks about progressive christianity. i think it gives a good summary of what the church is about.

Paul Oakley said...

Thanks, Thora.

Yewtree said...

Apparently "daily bread" is a mis-translation; it should be something more like "Give us this day our super-substantial bread" according to this.

KittKatt said...

Thanks again for letting me share this prayer as the grand finale for my post on Reimagining God the Father at the Jesus in Love Blog. The prayer that Jesus taught is the heart of my personal prayer life, so I really appreciate your sensitive and beautiful expression of it.

Yewtree said...

Dear Kitt, it was a pleasure, and thanks for sharing about your payer life.