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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Predestination of the...: Chapter 6

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 6 [III.]—The Third Petition. How Heaven and Earth are Understood in the Lord’s Prayer.

The third petition is, “Thy will be done in heaven and in earth;” or, as it is read in many codices, and is more frequently made use of by petitioners, “As in heaven, so also in earth,” which many people understand, “As the holy angels, so also may we do thy will.” That teacher and martyr will have heaven and earth, however, to be understood as spirit and flesh, and says that we pray that we may do the will of God with the full concord of both. He saw in these words also another meaning, congruous to the soundest faith, of which meaning I have already spoken above,—to wit, that for unbelievers, who are as yet earth, bearing in their first birth only the earthly man, believers are understood to pray, who, being clothed with the heavenly man, are not unreasonably called by the name of heaven; where he plainly shows that the beginning of faith also is God’s gift, since the holy Church prays not only for believers, that faith may be increased or may continue in them, but, moreover, for unbelievers, that they may begin to have what they have not had at all, and against which, besides, they were indulging hostile feelings. Now, however, I am arguing not concerning the beginning of faith, of which I have already spoken much in the former book, but of that perseverance which must be had even to the end,—which assuredly even the saints, who do the will of God, seek when they say in prayer, “Thy will be done.” For, since it is already done in them, why do they still ask that it may be done, except that they may persevere in that which they have begun to be? Nevertheless, it may here be said that the saints do not ask that the will of God may be done in heaven, but that it may be done in earth as in heaven,—that is to say, that earth may imitate heaven, that is, that man may imitate the angel, or that an unbeliever may imitate a believer; and thus that the saints are asking that that may be which is not yet, not that that which is may continue. For, by whatever holiness men may be distinguished, they are not yet equal to the angels of God; not yet, therefore, is the will of God done in them as it is in heaven. And if this be so, in that portion indeed in which we ask that men from unbelievers may become believers, it is not perseverance, but beginning, that seems to be asked for; but in that in which we ask that men may be made equal to the angels of God in doing God’s will,—where the saints pray for this, they are found to be praying for perseverance; since no one attains to that highest blessedness which is in the kingdom, unless he shall persevere unto the end in that holiness which he has received on earth.

Next: Chapter 7

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