Hallowed Be Thy Name,
Thy Kingdom Come
St. Teresa of Avila
Doctor of the Church
This excerpt from Saint Teresa of Avila’s book Way of Perfection (Obras de la gloriosa madre Sta. Teresa de Jesus, Vol 1, Madrid, 1752; 30, 1-4, pp. 526-528) comments on the Lord’s Prayer, specifically, on the petitions “Hallowed be thy Name” and “Thy Kingdom Come.” It appears in the Roman Office of Readings for Wednesday of the 13th week in Ordinary time with the accompanying biblical reading taken from 2 Samuel 4:2- 5:7, the crowning of David as king of all Israel and his conquest of Jerusalem.
What person, however careless, who had to address someone of importance, would not spend time in thinking how to approach him so as to please him and not be considered tedious? He would also think what he was going to ask for and what use he would make of it, especially if his petition were for some particular thing, as our good Jesus tells us our petitions must be. This point seems to me very important. Could you not, my Lord, have ended this prayer in a single sentence, by saying: “Give us, Father, whatever is good for us”? For, in addressing One Who knows everything, there would seem to be no need to say any more.
Eternal Wisdom! Between you and your Father this was quite sufficient. This is how you made your request of him in the garden of Gethsemane. You showed him what you wished for and what you feared, but left it all in his hands. But you know us, my Lord, and you know that we have not given ourselves up to the will of your Father as completely as you did. For us, it is best to pray for specific things, so that as each of them comes to mind we can pause to consider whether it is something good that we are asking for; so that if it is not, we should refrain from asking for it. Otherwise (being what we are, free will and all) we will not accept what God chooses to give us even if it is far better than what we asked for, simply because it is not exactly what we asked for. We are the sort of people who cannot feel rich unless we feel the weight of the actual coins in our hand.
Now the good Jesus bids us say these words, in which we pray that the Kingdom may come in us: Hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come. See how great our Master’s wisdom is! I am thinking of what it is we are asking for when we ask for the Kingdom: it is important that we should understand this. His Majesty saw that because of our weakness we could not hallow or praise or magnify or glorify the holy name of the Eternal Father in a way adequate to its greatness. We could not, that is, do it by ourselves, if His Majesty did not help us by giving us his kingdom here on earth. And so the good Jesus places these two petitions – Hallowed be thy name and Thy kingdom come next to each other, so that we can understand what we are asking for and why it is important to beg for it and to do all we can to please the one who is able to give it to us. Let me explain how I understand it.
Now, then. The greatest joy in the kingdom of heaven (the greatest among many) seems to me to be that we will no longer be tied up with earthly concerns but will have rest and glory within us – rejoicing that gives joy to everyone, peace that lasts for ever – satisfaction in ourselves, a satisfaction that comes from seeing how everyone is praising the Lord and blessing and hallowing his name, while no-one offends him. Everyone loves him. Each soul has no wish other than to love him: it cannot stop loving him because it knows him truly.
If only we knew him like that even here on earth, we would love him in the same way – not with that degree of perfection, of course, but in a very different way from the way we love him now.