Reading word by word, we find the Lord’s Prayer a study in contrasts. With “art” we soar into abstraction — God as pure being, the great I AM — and now with “in” we find ourselves suddenly speaking of the concrete. Our Father who art in heaven…”In” speaks of place.
“Hey, hon, where’s the cat?”
“Oh, she’s in the freezer.”
Talking about God being in heaven sounds as if it puts Him in one place, and thus not in others — the old-man-in-the-sky vision of God which young children sometimes have.
St. Augustine writes of God in Confessions Book 1, Chapter 2:
Can even heaven and earth, which you made and in which you made me, contain you? Or, since nothing that exists could exist without you, does this mean that whatever exists does, in that sense, contain you?
When we say God is “in” heaven, we can think of this in a literal sense, as in Dante’s Divine Comedy in which, reaching the highest sphere of heaven, Dante sees God surrounded by all the saints and at last ends his poem, rendered speechless by the Beatific Vision which is, even to this most imaginative of religious poets, indescribable:
Here powers failed my high imagination:
But by now my desire and will were turned,
Like a balanced wheel rotated evenly,
By the Love that moves the sun and the other stars.
[Paradisio, XXXIII: 142-145]
But perhaps more profitably, we can think of God being “in” heaven in the sense that Augustine speaks of. God is in heaven in that heaven is the full and consuming experience of God. Heaven is not a place, nor is God contained or limited by any thing. He is not “in” heaven the way a cat can be in the freezer. Rather, He is in heaven in that it is through the full communion with God for which we are intended that we truly find God.
Our Father is in heaven. Heaven is that destination for which we were made, that thing for which we yearn, and it is in heaven that we shall find Him.
(Editor’s Note: No cats were harmed in the making of this post.)
What are your thoughts? What else can we learn from “In”?
Darwin is the online pseudonym of a classicist turned marketing analyst. He and his wife blog at DarwinCatholic, and when they remember to step away from the computer they live in a rambling old house in Ohio with their five kids and two cats — neither one of whom, to his knowledge, is currently in the freezer.
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