At this point something wonderful happens in our praying of the Gloria. We leave off with the words of the angels to address God on our own. We extol the sovereignty of the First Person of the Blessed Trinity, calling him "Lord," "King," "Almighty," and "God." But when we say his name – "Father" – we say it all. In Christ we have discovered the deepest truth of ourselves: we are children longing to know our Father who generated us. No golden calf or any other idol for us. By calling upon God as Father, we anticipate the apex of Christ's teaching: the moment he will command us to call God Father (Mt 6:9; Lk 11:2).
Our Need for the Father
In a letter to his son Christopher, J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote: "The link between father and son is not only of the perishable flesh: It must have something of aeternitas about it." That certainty about eternity bonding father and child is what compels us to hail God as Father in the Gloria. The dignity of the human being is that each person is a relationship with the Infinite. We worship God as Father in order to become more fully ourselves. As Pope Benedict XVI explains, "The word ‘Father' makes me sure of one thing: I do not come from myself; I am a child…I am free only when there is a principle of freedom, when there is someone who loves and whose love is strong. Ultimately, then, I have no alternative but to…say ‘Father', and in that way to gain access to freedom by acknowledging the truth about myself." Or, as Pope John Paul II expresses it in his play entitled Radiation of Fatherhood: "One must enter the radiation of fatherhood, since only there does everything become fully real."
The task of a father, writes Monsignor Massimo Camisasca, is "to stay beside his child in order to open his eyes that they might give names to things, and to teach his hands to write and create and his feet to walk forward. A father desires to help the child truly to ‘meet' himself and what is around him. He wants to make him walk on the earth without forgetting the stars."
Yet, fatherhood is experiencing crisis. Pope John Paul II pointed out that "original sin attempts to abolish fatherhood, placing in doubt the truth about God who is Love and leaving man only with a sense of the master-slave relationship." But our Father is a Father "who desired us into being from nothing and who never leaves us on our own" (Camisasca). We pray the Gloria to relive the memory of this seminal truth. For "if you are to be born of your father, you must first penetrate the depths of his will" (John Paul II)
"Show Us the Father!"
That is why we cry out now for what Philip will beg the Lord at the end of Jesus' life: "Show us the Father" (Jn 14:8). That plea gives voice to the deepest yearning of every human heart. "The greatest work of the Son," wrote St. Hilary of Poitiers, "was to bring us to knowledge of the Father." Our exclamation expresses our conviction about what Jesus is born to show us. As the Catechism teaches, "Christ's whole earthly life – his words and deeds, his silences and suffering, indeed his manner of being and speaking – is Revelation of the Father" (561).
"The perfection of God the Father lies in giving himself wholly" (Bishop Emile Guerry). This self-gift to us emboldens us to pray with confidence, "Our Father who art at the depths, who art in heaven, Our Father who art in my profound roots, Thou who art now making me in this instant, who generate my path and guide me to my destiny!" (Luigi Giussani).
And we pray well, maybe we will be lucky enough to end up like St. Joan of Arc: "When I say this word ‘Father' and when I consider that the One who is up above is my Father, I weep and I remain in this state all day while I watch over the cows."
To subscribe to Magnificat or to order complimentary sample copies, please visit http://www.magnificat.com/ or call 866-273-5215. Magnificat is also available in Spanish.
MagnifiKid! is a weekly booklet that prepares and explains Sunday Mass to children ages 6-12.