ABBAbandonment Issues


The Readings for the 15th Wednesday, Tempus per Annum (C2)
Memorial of St Henry, King

No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

Matthew 11:27b

TO WHOM DO YOU PRAY? I’ve been wrestling with this a lot lately. So much Christian prayer is addressed just to “God” or “Lord” that no deeper thought needs to be added. In the Byzantine/Orthodox tradition, a lot of prayer is directed to “Christ, Our God”. There are also a lot of prayers directed to the Holy Trinity. In both East and West there is a devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. (This is also active in the Protestant Tradition.) For East and West, though, the Liturgy/the Mass is directed to God the Father. And I’ve been wondering what I do with the rest of my prayers.

Of course, the Our Father is directed to God the Father.

But generally, when not reaching out to Jesus or the Saints, I think I find myself praying to the more nebulous “God” or “Lord”. These are respectable titles, of course, but they are only titles. Jesus and Saint Paul urges us to pray to the Father. The Pauline formula urging us to cry “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). Although Abba is “Daddy” in Hebrew, in Aramaic it is the more-formal “Father“. So, which one was Paul thinking in when he wrote the Greek? I don’t know. The name isn’t the issue for me, though. It’s the relationship.

I have never known my natural father, Arnold Bailey. In as much of the family story as I know, he departed before my younger brother was born when I was less than 1 year old. Although my Mom’s father, Kenny, stepped in and Mom remarried later to my Stepfather, it’s been the absence of my “birth father” that’s always been present, if that makes sense; the presence of absence. My Stepfather is amazing. My late Grandfather was wonderful. Some theories regarding healthy families and child formation suggest that a baby boy needs to bond with his father before the age of 2 in order to have a healthy understanding of male relationships. While this speaks to the importance of a stable family, it also leaves me talking to my therapist about why I have no mental conception of “Father” at all. And thus, I theorize, why I’ve no mental conception of God the Father beyond theological abstraction.

This first started percolating in my brain as a result of a comment made by the professor in our Christology Class. She had said that we are to be sons (of God) in (God) the Son, resting in him and participating in his contemplation of the Father. This is really just an extension of the Mass in which we participate in the Son’s worship of the Father. (In this sense, contemplation and worship are the same things really, mostly overlapping like a Venn diagram.)

How, I wondered, am I resting in the Son and contemplating the Father? And even in my confusion, I was assured that it was right and this is where we are as Christians. So much so that I understood instantly: like John rests in the bosom of the Messiah at the Last Supper, so we too are resting. Jesus calls us friends and CS Lewis says friends do not gaze at each other, but rather stand side by side, gazing at the same thing. So we rest in the bosom of the Son – like John the beloved – gazing at the same thing in the same direction as the Son, that is towards the Father.

This is what Jesus means by “anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal” the Father: it is us. He has called us to himself exactly for this purpose. This is why the Church as Mother struggles with her children: she has fewer and fewer men as Fathers. We live in a culture filled with “Daddy Issues”. At base our issues around sexuality and gender are exactly this, but also our issues with authority, abuse, and power: these are all best addressed in terms of our relationship with God the Father who, alone, can heal them.

Resting in the Son, sharing our one human nature with him, we share also in the eternal dance of the Trinity. We gaze upon the Father in love and awe. We join in the aspiration of the Holy Spirit. We die to self and to false conceptions of self (for we still have sin) yet we are raised to walk in Newness of Life. We hold open our hands to pour out this love on all who come to us in the world.

So it is revealed that Who I Pray To, even though too abstract and risky for me to name, has been waiting for my weakness to call out, bearing with me in his love, and only too wonderfully happy to welcome me (again) when I came to myself and ran to him.

As St Francis (along with so many others) said, “Henceforth, I will have God as my Father.” And so the thing I thought I didn’t have… by virtue of my relationship in Jesus… I had all along.

Author: Huw Raphael

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He is almost 59. He feeds the homeless as a parochial almoner and is studying to be a Roman Catholic Deacon. He is learning modern Israeli Hebrew and enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.

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