ON (Our Father, Word by Word)

April 25, 2011 | 10 comments

Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed Be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done On…

Of all the heresies I might have fallen into if it weren’t for the Magesterium of the Church, I’ve often thought that Gnosticism would be at the top of the list. I naturally have little use for the physical world. I try to move as little as possible, and would be content to just sit motionless and do intellectual or spiritual exercises all day (I once saw a science fiction movie about a man who was nothing more than a brain kept alive in a jar, and my gut reaction was, “Not a bad life!”) So the idea that the material world is useless and maybe even a little evil is an easy sell for me.

Especially once I came to believe in God, it sounded reasonable enough to say that the spiritual world is all that matters, that we can completely disregard all non-spiritual realities. After all, it is our souls that are of the realm of God! It is the spiritual realm that is our final and true home!

But then we have this little part of the Our Father, where we specify that our requests are to take place on earth. The Lord’s Prayer is incredibly efficient in its use of words, so it’s interesting that Jesus takes the time to add the “on earth as it is in heaven” part. Wouldn’t it be sufficient to say, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done” and leave it at that?

When I meditate on this word “on, ” it reminds me of the truth, counterintuitive to people like me, that the material world is not to be disregarded or disdained. God is an incarnational God. The second person of the Blessed Trinity became flesh, and walked on the earth. The Sacraments use elements of the material world as conduits of grace. Our souls are of God, but they are also inextricably entwined with the material world. On the Last Day our bodies, that part of us tied to the material world, will be resurrected.

So yes, we humans are spiritual creatures, part of the divine drama of the spiritual realm. But it is a drama that takes place in the material world, on earth.


  1. MelanieB

    I love this! I love how you can take an innocuous little preposition like “on” and use it to ponder the gnostic heresy.

  2. Kimberlie

    As always, you inspire me. Thank you.

  3. Anthony

    Excellent insight and reflection … thanks for sharing.

  4. Leah @ Unequally Yoked

    I’m not even Christian, but my friends all accuse me of being a gnostic. From my atheist point of view, the body is a mostly useful tool, but it’s accumulated a lot of junk in the process of evolution. There’s no particular reason to respect my nature, especially when I remember I’ve got a lot of flaws and it’s my nature that reinforces them. I’ve got a bit more on this idea here.

  5. Bridget

    On Earth… we walk, live, breath, and die ON Earth.
    We draw closer to God and His saints, and are comforted by the physical presence of each other Here.
    I felt so connected to the saints whose graves/tombs/incorrupt bodies we visited recently while on a family pilgrimage in Italy. Seeing them, praying at their burial sites… connected us on Earth.
    May we all also share eternity together!
    Happy Easter!

  6. Maggie Dee

    That is one of the things that I love about my new Catholic faith. It’s so, for a lack of better word, earthy. All the spiritual elements are represented with tangible items. The baptismal font, the incense, candles, chalice, bread, wine, music, etc. I just love all of it.

    Our Lord created a beautiful, beautiful world. It’s here on this earth, where we learn how to love.

  7. Matthew Berg

    The conclusion that our bodies contain a “lot of junk” strikes me a premature given our imperfect understanding of human biology. Consider that the pituitary was once classified as vestigial, which we now know to be categorically false.

    Other organs are classified as vestigial despite having demonstrated or suspected functions (e.g. the appendix). Proponents of secular evolutionary theory seem to classify them as having degraded from a broader functionality or having evolved to a new role entirely, but that line of reasoning strikes me as assuming the hypothesis.

    That said, I do not consider myself educated enough on the arguments to hold firm opinions on the specific mechanisms of evolution, nor do I ascribe to a faith on the matter. But it strikes me as assuming and unscientific to make broad proclamations in our relative ignorance, and fairly unimaginative to look at similar organ systems and see only one possible conclusion.

  8. Lynn

    You wouldn’t be a very good Mommy if you were just a brain in a jar.

  9. The Ranter

    Lots of stuff I wanted to say about ‘on’! Thanks Jennifer!

  10. lovely

    You were true that only our spiritual world that matters cause our soul is solely our true home. Thanks for sharing this article.

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