The first petition of the Lord’s Prayer asks for God’s name to be hallowed – to be reverenced as holy. Pope Benedict, in explaining this, takes us back to the burning bush; to Moses’ encounter with God in the Sinai desert.
Moses, commanded to go back to Egypt and demand the release of the people of Israel, asks the name of the God who gives this command.
“But the God who calls Moses is truly God, and God in the strict and true sense is not plural. God is by essence one. For this reason he cannot enter into the world of the gods as one among many; he cannot have one name among others.” (Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI)
God gives Moses a name that is also a non-name, “I am who I am,” ‘a refusal and a pledge’ Pope Benedict says. God puts Himself within the reach of human invocation.
“He enters into relationship with us and enables us to be in relationship with him. Yet this means that in some sense he hands himself over to our human world. He has made himself accessible and, therefore, vulnerable as well… The process that was brought to completion in the Incarnation had begun with the giving of the divine name.”
The name of God can be co-opted for our purposes and so the image of God can also be distorted… when we consider all the ways in which God’s name has been so shamefully misused, we almost despair of uttering it ourselves. But to keep it silent would be an outright refusal of the love with which God comes to us… All we can do is plead with him not to allow the light of his name to be destroyed in this world.
St Augustine makes a similar point – adding that we keep God’s name holy for our sake, not for his:
Thus, when we say: Hallowed be your name, we are reminding ourselves to desire that his name, which in fact is always holy, should also be considered holy among men. I mean that it should not be held in contempt. But this is a help for men, not for God.
The prayer that is worthy of him who calls God Father is the prayer which asks nothing before the glory of His Father, but to account all things secondary to the work of praising Him.
For “hallowed” is glorified. For His own glory He has complete, and ever continuing the same, but He commands him who prays to seek that He may be glorified also by our life.
Which very thing He had said before likewise, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
Yea, and the seraphim too, giving glory, said on this wise, “Holy, holy, holy” (Is. 6:3; Rev. 4:8). So that “hallowed” means this, viz. “glorified.”
In other words, “vouchsafe,” says he, “that we may live so purely, that through us all may glorify Thee”.
Which thing again appertains unto perfect self-control, to present to all a life so irreprehensible, that every one of the beholders may offer to the Lord the praise due to Him for this.