Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Cyprian of Carthage and God the Father

Cyprian thinks the pater noster is a compendium of spiritual virtue and heavenly teaching.[1] He explains that the opening words of the dominical invocation suggest that God is Father for the regenerated, those who have experienced a new spiritual birth from above. Such individuals have received the Son and, in turn, he has granted them authority to address God as “Father.”[2] Christians thus, in some sense, renounce their carnal fathers and strictly acknowledge one Father in heaven. Cyprian makes a stark contrast between earthly fathers and the authentic pater invoked in the Lord’s Prayer: “And to the disciple who had made mention of his dead father, He replied, ‘Let the dead bury their dead,’ for he had said that his father was dead, while the Father of believers is living.”[3] These sentiments emphasize the Gospel exhortation in Matthew 23:9. Rather than applying the Lord’s directive to religious authorities, however, Cyprian directs attention toward men who are fathers according to the flesh. That is to say, he exhorts Christians to disavow their biological progenitors (in a sense) and exclusively submit to God as Father.

[1] On the Lord’s Prayer 9. Tertullian makes similar remarks in De Oratione 1.36-37: “Ut re vera in oratione breviarium totius evangelii comprehendatur.”

[2] Ibid. Cf. John 1:11-12.

[3] LP 9.

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