Hugh Latimer (1485-1555): Prayer and the Common Good

This quote is snatched from the blissful Love’s Redeeming Work: The Anglican Quest for Holiness, 17-18.  Taken from a sermon on the Lord’s Prayer, using the Vulgate as the base text.

“He saith not ‘my,’ but ‘our.’ Wherefore saith ‘our?’ This word ‘our’ teacheth us to consider that the Father of heaven is a common Father; as well my neighbor’s Father as mine; as well the poor man’s Father as the rich: so that he is not a peculiar Father, but a Father to the whole church and congregation, to all the faithful. Be they never so poor, so vile, so foul and despised, yet he is their Father as well as mine: and therefore I should not despise them…Here may we perceive what communion is between us; so that when I pray, I pray not for myself alone, but for all the rest: again, when they pray, they pray not for themselves only, but for me: for Christ hath so framed this prayer, that I must needs include my neighbour in it…

I desire God to comfort all men living, but specially domesticos fidei…Yet we ought to prayer with all our hearts for the other, which believe not, that God will turn their hearts and renew them with his Spirit; yea, our prayers reach so farthat our very capital enemy ought not to be omitted.

Now to make an end: we are monished here of charity, and taught that God is not only a private Father, but a common Father unto the whole world, unto all faithful;…Where we may learn humility and lowliness: specially great and rich men shall learn here not to be lofty or to despise the poor. For when ye despise the  poor miserable man, whom despise ye? Ye despise him which calleth God his Father as well as you; and peradventure more acceptable and more regarded in his sight than you be….But there be a great many which little regard this: they think themselves better than other men be, and so despise and contemn the poor; insomuch that they will not hear poor men’s causes, nor defend them from wrong and oppression of the rich and mighty. Such proud men despise the Lord’s prayer: they should be as careful for their brethren as for themselves. And such humility, such love and carefulness towareds our neighbours, we learn by this word ‘Our.'”

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4 Comments

  1. Despite the contextual issues of Latimer’s leaving out the fact that Jesus was speaking this to and on behalf of the disciples who had asked Him how to pray (thus accounting for Jesus’ “our” statement), systematically, this is a great exposition from which the natural flow of conversation might beg who “our” is referring to outside of the understanding of socioeconomic class.
    Essentially, since Christianity had yet to exist, does this “our” statement span to those of other faiths who worship in a monotheistic setting with a God of a different name? Afterall, a rose by any other name…. blah blah blah. Is “our” truely “our” or is it only in the context of “us”?

    Reply

    1. Hey Forrest – So, in a way ‘Christianity had yet to exist,’ but the ‘church’ had existed as Israel and the renewal/refounding of it in those around Jesus means that there is a continuity, if also a new universal openness to her (beyond the law), and a circle of divine action that is always in excess of her – ergo, it’s never only ‘about us.’ But for Latimer, being as he is in a Christian commonwealth, it’s put in terms of his own social situation. There’s a little bit in there about praying for those who do not yet believe, and also for our ‘capital enemies,’ but I don’t think that other faiths are on his radar in any significant way. At least not here.

      All of that is to say, I’m not sure we can rely too heavily on this sermon for a comprehensive theology of comparative religion!

      Cheers.

      Reply

  2. I would offer that Father is operative more so than the Our.

    1) Father as in all creatures created in His image is a shared “Our” with all humanity.
    2) As adopted sons through His only begotten the “Our” is us of Christianity
    3) This then leads to the obligations of being a son of Our Father – Mal 2:10 -Have we not all one father? Hath not one God created us? Why then doth every one of us despise his brother?”

    I thought Latimer did fairly well in this.

    Reply

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