Hallowed Be Thy Name

This line of our Lord’s prayer expresses a desire, and the desire is that God’s Name be hallowed. We might say, equivalently, “may thy Name be hallowed,” or “O, that thy Name were hallowed!” But what is this a desire for?
    God’s Name is his gift to us of his presence, his accessibility, in the sense that when you know someone’s name you have a claim upon that person. We all experience this when we’re in a crowd and we hear our name being called out. Our instinct is to stop, to turn and look, to see who it is. Someone who knows my name has the means to connect herself to me. If I hear “Hey you!” while I’m walking, I’ll probably keep on going. But if I hear “Hey Victor!” I’ll turn and look.
    God would not give his Name to Jacob, but he did give Jacob a new name. That new name was “Israel,” which means “he who wrestles with God,” which indeed Jacob had done through the night. Later, when God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush, he did give Moses his Name. It is so precious that Jews will avoid pronouncing it, writing “yhwh” but saying “the Lord” instead. His Name is mysterious—it seems to suggest that God is being itself. It means something like “I will be who I will be” or even “I am who I am.”
    The point is, God’s Name is one way he gives himself to us. When we know his Name, he is available to us. We can call upon him, speak to him, pray to him. And of course, God’s ultimate Name is Jesus, through whom every human being can call upon God.
    What then is “hallowed”? It’s an old word that means “holy” (which means, set apart). It is sometimes used to speak of holy people, i.e. saints. The night before All Saints’ Day is Hallowe’en, the Eve of Hallows. So we could refer to All Saints’ Eve and we could refer to All Hallows’ Day.
    To long for God’s Name (his personal revelation and availability) to be “hallowed” is to long for that very revelation and availability to be treated with respect, to be set apart, to be valued and honored.
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    I told you a few weeks ago that these days it takes me ten minutes and more to say the Lord’s Prayer. I get to this line and (since I’m looking at trees and such) I join in this longing by thinking, May the trees hallow thy Name! May all these people I pass, and these birds that I hear, and all else that is in creation—may we all lift ourselves unto thee, may we all long to be in thy presence, may we all rejoice in thy closeness, may the entire universe gives its praise to thee: our Father who art in heaven!
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    Out & About. Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie will be discussed at my next “Good Books & Good Talk” seminar: at Church of the Incarnation, Dallas, at 6 p.m. on Sunday, May 19, and if you read it, I hope you can join us. The movie is interesting, but differs from the book; we will discuss the book.
    What Theologians Read. When I read of the death of Dan Jenkins was the same moment that I learned of his existence. When I, by birth an Oklahoman, read that he wrote a novel about country music and Ft. Worth, and that the novel was called Baja Oklahoma, I thought this was worth checking out. It is, even if it contains words we no longer want to read aloud. Its deadpan humor is amazingly well accomplished—especially as it aims, through wicked exaggeration, at the culture of the 1970s. Although I do not expect to use it for a book seminar, it is rather fun to think of my new home state as Baja Oklahoma.

 

The Rev. Canon Dr. Victor Lee Austin is the Theologian-in-Residence for the diocese and is the author of several books including, "Losing Susan: Brain Disease, the Priest's Wife, and the God who Gives and Takes Away."