Mystery in the Lord’s Prayer

In the Lord’s Prayer there is a curious feature in the original Greek. And that is: in the first petition it reads “Our Father in the HEAVENS” [plural], but later it reads “on earth as it is in HEAVEN” [singular]. Why is ‘heaven’ plural in one place and singular in the other?

I searched the literature in vain for an explanation. But I have a provisional answer:

If you look at where ‘heaven’ singular is used in the New Testament, it’s invariably in apposition to the earth. So: “On earth as it is in heaven [singular]”, “heaven [singular] and earth…”, etc.

HEAVENS [plural], however, would appear to refer to the whole enchilada: heaven, earth, hell maybe, and even Hoople, North Dakota1. In Matthew’s gospel it’s invariably “the Kingdom of the Heavens” [ALWAYS PLURAL!] — it’s not the Kingdom up in the sky, separate from earth and our earthly struggles, it’s the kingdom of the WHOLE ENCHILADA.

In this understanding, the “Kingdom of the Heavens” would arguably embrace even Hell (whatever exactly that may be). That’s a new order of ‘inclusiveness’.

In this understanding, because the Kingdom of the Heavens encompasses EVERYTHING, it would also include Hitler. And Torquemada. And my alcoholic and violent step-father. It’s not that the Kingdom of the Heavens condones any of that. But it’s JUST HOW IT IS. How ALL of this IS — the glory AND the horror.

Since He created this Kosmos, I’m sorry, but God HAS to share in the responsibility for how it has turned out. No, it’s not entirely ‘His Fault’. But neither is it entirely ours. We all play a role, and bear a measure of responsibility, for how things are today. Every one of us, including me personally, and even God Herself, has played a role in how things are at this moment.

From this perspective, one can view the Incarnation as a demonstration that “we ALL really ARE in this together” — God AND humanity. That “I, God, am not above going all the way down, and suffering the worst that we human beings can inflict on each other” — like crucifixion. And simultaneously demonstrate that “the Worst thing is never the Last thing” — that God always has the last word.

And so I trust that there is an eternally long range Purpose to all of this. That this really might be “the best of all possible worlds” — if we could but know the really long range Divine Purpose of millions of years from today. That the Suffering will be worth it in the end — as if all that Humanity has endured in its long slog from the ooze to today is like the labor pains of a Mother giving birth to something Beyond Wonderful.

In my hubris I think that ‘the Good’ must be defined in terms of my personal 3-score-and-10. Perhaps I am short-sighted in that. After all, it could take a century to build a European cathedral, so those starting it knew they would never see it completed. But they knew future generations would…

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