December 9, 2013

"Hallowed Be Thy Name"

By Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos)

At the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer we call upon God our Father Who is in the Heavens, since He is holy by nature, as we discussed last Sunday. Now we come to the first request: to ask that His name be hallowed. We say: “hallowed be Thy name.”

The name of God is the energy of God. It is known from our Orthodox theology that God has essence and energy. Even created things have essence and energy; the sun, for example, is a heavenly body and emits its light, and its fire is something that burns and emits energy, that is, heat and light. But God, since He is uncreated, is both uncreated essence and uncreated energy; with regard to His essence, God is without name and beyond names, but with regard to His energies, He has many names.

Whenever God revealed Himself to men, He revealed one of His energies, like love, peace, righteousness, or love for mankind. In this way He has communion with men. For this reason also I say that the names of God are His energies. Whenever, indeed, anyone mentions the name of God with compunction, humility, repentance, faith, etc., he receives knowledge and experience of the energy of God.

When we pray “hallowed be Thy name,” this does not mean that the name of God is not holy, or that we need to pray that it be made holy.
Rather, this request has two meanings. The first meaning of “hallowed be [Thy name]” is that His name should “be glorified” and that we should glorify it by our own lives. For we blaspheme the name of God in our own lives when we do not respond to our noble calling; and we glorify the name of God when we observe the will of God and live according to His commandments. The second meaning of the request “hallowed be Thy name” is not unrelated to or independent of the previous one. It is “make us holy,” so that God may be glorified through our hallowed lives.

This petition shows what the purpose of man is and for what reason he lives. Man’s purpose is to be united with God and to become holy according to the grace and energy of God. God is holy by nature and people are [called] to become holy by grace. In the language of the Fathers of the Church, this is called deification and those who are made holy by their participation in the grace of God are called deified. For one to become holy, to be deified, means that all one’s spiritual and bodily faculties are transfigured, that God is the center of one’s life.

Unfortunately many Christians who pray this prayer, do not have such lofty goals, but limit their Christian life and conduct to good behavior, to some customs and observances and some religious traditions; they pray for earthly things. But this is by no means enough. Many times in the Bible we find the exhortation: “Be ye holy, for I am holy” (I Peter 1:16). There are people who try to justify themselves by saying: “This life of holiness is not for me,“ “I want to experience the joys of this life, and I do not want to be deprived of what earthly life offers me,” “I’m not a saint because I get angry,” etc.

Because our lives are not consistent with this petition [in the Lord’s prayer] and we do not strive to live according to the will of God, our conduct is anti-Christian. We are full of vices and passions, hatreds and animosities, and we commit injustices and slanders. And that is why other people see us and do not believe in God; hence we cause the name of God to be blasphemed among the nations. Usually, when we pray to God we ask Him to give us health, prosperity, material goods, etc. And it is fitting that we do this. But above all we must pray to God to make us holy. But we must know that this does not happen independent of our will. So it is necessary for us, along with our prayer, to also offer our free will, and thereby glorify the name of God in the world.

Hierotheos (Vlachos), Metropolitan of Naupaktos and Hagios Vlasios, “Hollowed Be Thy Name” (written sermon, Sunday, July 10, 2005), translated from the Greek original in Ekklēsiastikē Paremvasē, June 2005,