For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory
Fr. Alexander Schmemann
Number 8 of 8 commentaries on The Lord’s Prayer broadcast on Raido Liberty by Fr. Alexander Schmemann to listeners in the former Soviet Unidon. (Translated by Alexis Vinogradov)
With this conversation we end our brief, and far from adequate, explanation of the Lord’s Prayer. We saw that behind each word, behind each petition, there lies a world of spiritual realities, spiritual connections which regularly escape our attention, which have vanished in the turmoil of our daily lives. From this point of view, the prayer, “Our Father;’ is more than a prayer; it is an epiphany and revelation of that spiritual world for which we are created, that hierarchy of values which enables us to arrange everything in its place within our lives. Each petition opens a whole layer of personal awareness, a whole revelation about our selves.
“Our Father, who art in heaven! Hallowed be thy Name.” This means that my own life is referred to the highest, divine, absolute existence, and only within this reference does it find its meaning, its light, and its direction.
“Thy kingdom come.” This means that my life is predestined to be filled with this kingdom of goodness, love, and joy; that my life should be permeated and illumined by the power of this kingdom which is opened and granted to us by God.
“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” That I may judge and measure my life according to this will, that in it I may find an immutable moral law, that before it I may humble my self-will, my egoism, my passions, my mindlessness.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” That I might receive my entire life, all of its joys and also all of its sadness, all of its beauty yet also suffering, as a gift from the hand of God, with thanksgiving and awe. That I may live only by the most satisfying, the essential and highest, and not by those things by which the priceless gift of life is frittered away.
“And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” That I may always be filled with the spirit of forgiveness, the desire to build my whole existence on love, that all my failings, all my debts, all the sins of my life may be covered by the bright forgiveness of God.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” That in offering myself up to God’s mystical and radiant will, with his help, I may overcome all temptation, and mainly the most terrible of all-the. blindness which obscures and prevents the world and life from seeing the presence of God, and which steals life from God, rendering it blind and evil; that I would not yield to the force and charm of an evil person, that within me I would not harbor the ambiguity and perversion of evil which always masquerades as good, always taking the form of the angel of light.
And the Lord’s Prayer ends with and is crowned with the solemn exclamation: “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever”: three key words and biblical meanings, three main symbols of the Christian faith. The kingdom: “The kingdom of God is near” (Mt 4: 17), “the kingdom of heaven is in the midst of you” (Lk 17 :21), “Thy kingdom come”-is near, has come, is revealed-how?-in the life, in the words, in the teaching, in the death, and finally, in the resurrection of Jesus Christ; in that life which is filled with such light and such power, in these words which lead us so high, in this teaching which answers all our questions, and finally, in that end with which everything started anew and which for us became the beginning of new life.
When we speak of the kingdom of God, moreover, we are not speaking about something abstract, not about some afterlife, not about something which will happen after death. We are speaking above all about something which was announced, promised, and given by Christ to those who believe in him and love him; and we call this the kingdom, because there has never been anything better, more beautiful, resplendent and joyful revealed, promised and given to people. This is the meaning of “For thine is the kingdom … “
” … and the power:” we continue further. What possible kind of power can one attribute to this person who died alone on the cross, never defending himself, and having “no place to lay his head” (Mt 8:20)? But just compare him to the strongest power on earth. Whatever power a man acquires, with whatever forces he surrounds himself, however he subjects others to himself, there comes the inevitable moment when all of it turns to dust and nothing remains of that power. But this one, this “weak” and “powerless” one, lives, and nothing, no power, can erase his memory from the consciousness of mankind. People leave him; they forget about him and then return again. They are seduced by other words, by other promises, but in the end, sooner or later, there remains only that small, very simple book and the words within it. From it radiates that image of the person who says: “For judgment 1 came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind” (Jn 9:39); who also said: ”A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another” (Jn 13:34); and who said, finally: “1 have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). So, this is why we say to him: “For thine is the kingdom, and the power”-and finally, “glory.”
How illusory, brief, and fragile is any glory in this world. It seems that what Christ sought least of all was glory. But if there is any profound and indestructible glory, it is only the one that ignites and burns wherever he is the glory of goodness, the glory of faith, the glory of hope. He is first of all the one who suddenly becomes light-bearing, who himself radiates a light unknown on earth. And gazing upon him we understand the poet who exclaimed: “He speaks with the glory of the stars, and with the beauty of the first created day!”
We understand not with our intellect, but with our whole being, that which man seeks and thirsts for so passionately in all his turmoil and strife: he longs to be on fire with this light, he desires that everything would shine with this heavenly beauty, that everything would be filled with this divine glory.
“For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.” Thus ends the Lord’s Prayer. And while we remember this prayer, while we keep repeating it, our life is opened towards the kingdom, is filled with power, shines with glory, in the face of which darkness, hatred, and evil lie powerless.