Settimo Cielodi Sandro Magister
21 nov 18
“And Do Not Abandon Us To Temptation.” A Critical Commentary
The “old” version was not even put to a vote, so that it was impossible to defend it. Because according to Francis it is only the devil who tempts, and it is not admissible that God too could “lead” us – literally, “bring [us] inside,” as in the Latin “inducas” and in the original Greek of the Gospel, “eisenènkes” – into temptation.
The English version of the “Our Father” in use in the United States has remained faithful to the original evangelical text: “And lead us not into temptation.” While agreeing with the wishes of Pope Francis are both the new translation in use in France and other French speaking countries – “Et ne nous laisse pas entrer en tentation” – and the one in use in various Spanish-speaking countries, including Argentina: “Y no nos dejes caer en la tentación.”
But to be strictly logical, if God cannot “lead” us into temptation, it is not clear why he should instead be allowed to “abandon us” to it. For two millennia, the Church has never dreamed of changing that difficult word of the Gospel, but has instead interpreted and explained it in its authentic meaning.
This is the launching point of the reflection that follows.
Silvio Brachetta, the author, is a diplomat at the Institute of Religious Sciences in Trieste, and has dedicated himself in particular to the study of the theology of Saint Bonaventure of Bagnoregio. He writes for the diocesan weekly “Vita Nuova.”
A brief reflection on the “new” Our Father
by Silvio Brachetta
It is not clear why a God who “leads” us, brings us inside temptation, should be worse than a God who “abandons” us to it. It is a mystery of modern exegesis, but also of human presumption, at least according to the desert father Saint Anthony:
“One day some of the elders made a visit to Fr. Anthony; with them was Fr. Joseph. Now the elder, to put them to the test, proposed to them a word from the Scripture and began from the youngest to ask them its meaning. Each of them spoke according to his capacity. But to each of them the elder said: ‘You have not found it.’ Last he asked Fr. Joseph: ‘And you, what do you say of this word?’ He replied: ‘I do not know.’ Fr. Anthony then said: Fr. Joseph has indeed found the way, because he has said: ‘I do not know’” (Apophthegmata Patrum, 80d; PJ XV, 4).
In the Sacred Scriptures there are things that are easy to understand, things that are difficult, and things that cannot be understood: does anyone remember this? No, all forgotten. The literal meaning rules and guides the other meanings of the Scriptures: does anyone remember this? No, all forgotten. The exegesis of texts cannot betray the exegesis of the fathers and doctors of the Church: does anyone remember this? No, all forgotten.
As for what God does, it should be clear how the God who in the “Our Father” leads into temptation is the same God who has Jesus say: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Mk 15:34). There is no doubt – and in the magisterium of the Church there has never been any doubt – that the Greek “eisenènkes” of the “Our Father” expresses movement to a place and that the Aramaic “sabactàni” of Mk 15:34 signifies abandonment.
It is also true that the interpretation of these evangelical passages on the part of Saint Thomas or Saint Augustine may leave the reader dissatisfied, because the doctors know well that “fides at ratio” are in harmony but by no means coincident. Saint Thomas and Saint Augustine examine the mystery, but they do so in humility: at times they are able to satisfy fully and wisely a certain inquiry, but other times they can respond to or satisfy partially those who seek an explanation.
Contemporary theological activity is often indecent, because it intends to force those inviolable doors of mystery, which Hildegard of Bingen strongly advises not to violate (cf. “The book of the divine works”). Whence so much arrogance? How in the world has the modern theologian become incapable of saying “I do not know” in the face of questions on which God has decreed that the mystery should remain? Even the pagans were often more humble than many of our contemporaries. “I am all that was, is, and will be; and no mortal or god shall ever lift my garment,” says the Sibyl of Plutarch (“On Fate”).
It is as ancient as the world, the art of forcing or falsifying a text, when the word is incomprehensible or does not meet the expectations of our caprice. But likewise ancient as the world is the art of humility, the art of the faithful scribe, who hands on the voice of God by recopying the Scriptures and seeking to be precise, syllable after syllable, on what has been received from the fathers.
The truth has been confessed by the saints time and again: the God who “brings us inside” temptation is good, just like the God who “abandons” us to it. And he is good because he hears the prayer of the penitent, who insistently asks: “lead us not, do not abandon us.” God, therefore, does not lead and does not abandon those children who convert and pray to him, but he abandons the impious, who blasphemes him.
The mystery endures, and the reality of “perdition” – the Hebrew “abbadon” of Revelation (9:11) – cannot be crossed out with a forger’s pen. There exists, therefore, the “angel of the abyss” (ibid), because God permits him to exist, just as he permits hell and the possibility of damnation. Behind the negation of the evangelical “ne nos inducas” is the presumptuous rejection of a scandal: the scandal of the eternal perdition of the impious and the very fact that Christ could be a “stumbling block” himself, in fact a “scandal.”
(English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.)