Friday, July 29, 2016

Origen on "on earth as it is in heaven"

I have a strange method when it comes to the theologians I read. Mostly what happens is this: I get a sense or intuition -- perhaps a prompting from the Holy Spirit -- that I ought to read some particular work by some particular theologian, and then I get around to doing it. More often than not after that, I find that my readings are very helpful and useful to me in the near future after that.

Lately I have felt the need and desire to read much from Origen, so I've begun a few of his different works. Most recently I've been reading from his On Prayer, which is very profound and contains numerous deep insights on the nature of Christian prayer. I specifically want to quote a longer passage, translated by me from the Romanian copy I've been reading while I'm out here:
Maybe our Savior does not command, through the words "thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," that we pray for those who live on the earth to become like those who find their home in the heavens. [This because there are creatures in the heavens -- demons, etc. -- who do not obey the will of God.] He wants that all beings which are on the earth, that is, even those most deeply rooted in the earthly, to be similar to those which live in the heavens and which have become heavenly.
The sinner, whoever he might be, is earth and if he does not repent he will remain earth. Heaven is the one who does the will of God and fulfills the saving laws of the Spirit. And if we are still earth because of our sins, let us pray that God's will set us right just as it did with those who became heaven or who are heaven. And if in the eyes of God we are not earth but heaven, let us pray that "as it is heaven, let it be also on earth," that is, that the will of God be fulfilled with the wicked also and that they also become heaven, so that nothing will be left earth but everything will be heaven.
According to this interpretation, if the will of God is fulfilled on earth as it is heaven, the earth will no longer remain earth. Let us give two examples: if the will of God is done in the case of the temperate, then the intemperate will become temperate; if the will of God is done in the case of the unjust same as in the case of the just, then the unjust will become just. Thus if His will is to be done on earth as it is heaven, we will all become heaven; flesh (which profits nothing) and blood (which is related to it) cannot inherit the kingdom of God; yet they will be able to inherit it if they withdraw from earth, dust and blood to heavenly nature (On Prayer 26).
Interpreting "heaven" and "earth" allegorically as referring to those in whom the will of God is fulfilled or not, Origen understands the Lord's prayer as invoking the salvation of the whole creation. For God's will to be done on earth as it is heaven is precisely this: the will of God, which is our sanctification and our giving thanks to him (1 Thess 4:3, 5:18), reaches to every creature which is most far away from God, which is as far from God as the earth is from heaven (cf. Ps 103:11, Isa 55:9). It is a prayer for salvation which knows no end, which will not rest until everything is included within it -- of course, insofar as it assents to this through its own free will.

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