Every time we celebrate the Mass, the celebrant introduces the Lord’s Prayer by saying “at the Savior’s command and informed by Divine teaching, we dare to say…” The word “dare” seems to imply that there is something dangerous or risky about this. There is. Some historical context will help us understand this a bit more.
In the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden. There was a familiarity, a closeness, that existed in humanity’s relationship with God. But after original sin, that relationship was ruptured and Adam and Eve were banned from the garden that was then guarded by an angel who presumably would defend it with lethal force.
In the book of Exodus, when God begins his relationship with Moses by appearing in the burning bush, He tells Moses to remove his sandals because he is on holy ground. Later, after receiving the Ten Commandments on the mountain, Moses asks God that he might look upon His Divine Glory. God replies by telling Moses that no one can look at God’s countenance and live. Even some of the Israelites who were transporting the Ark of the Covenant and accidentally touched it were struck dead. The capacity for us to “walk with God” had been lost.
We also know that the name of God was so sacred that no one dared to say it aloud. Only the High Priest on the Day of Atonement would whisper the name Yhwh in the Holy of Holies inside the Temple. This was considered so dangerous that they would literally tie a rope around the High Priest’s waist so that if he was struck dead they could pull his body out of the sanctuary.
Then comes Jesus.
By becoming man, Jesus reconciles humanity and divinity. In His very person, at every moment, humanity and divinity coexist once more. When Jesus first introduced the Our Father, it was a radical prayer. Calling God “Father” was a stonable offense according to Jewish law. To claim God as our Father means that we are claiming not just to believe in God, but that we belong to God in a very intimate way; in a way that even Adam and Eve never experienced. Adam and Eve knew God as their creator, but Jesus knew God as His Abba. Jesus in turn reveals to us that through Him, we also now have a compassionate Father who sees and loves in us what He sees and loves in His son.
The Church could just as easily say “remove the sandals from your feet,” or “tie a rope around your waist” for what we are about to say could be deadly! But because it was Jesus who commanded us, because it was the Son of God Himself who gave us the prayer, we can now dare to say with filial boldness, “Our Father.”