Homily 4, ‘Your will be done, as in heaven also upon the earth. Give us the bread for the day to come today.’

Morwenna Ludlow (University of Exeter)

 ‘Your will be done, as in heaven also upon the earth. Give us the bread for the day to come today.’

His discussion seems to fall into five sections:

  1. Introduction: ‘a scientific account of the state of health’;
  2. ‘Your will be done’: sin as the ill-health of the soul and the words of the prayer as a remedy;
  3. ‘As in heaven, also upon the earth’: ‘a more profound doctrine’ – angelic and human beings;
  4. ‘Give us… our daily bread’:
  5. a petition for necessities, not vain luxuries;
  6. temptation: a reflection on the serpent of Genesis and the behaviour of real snakes;

iii. prayer for food which comes from just labours;

  1. ‘Today’: reflection on the present and the future, on bodily and spiritual needs.

This homily is a series of linked reflections on the question of the true good for human nature and how one should pray for it. Thematically it falls into two halves: broadly speaking, ‘your will be done’ indicates the good of the soul, and ‘give us our daily bread’ indicates what is necessary for the good of the body. But in each case Gregory shows a concern for human nature as a whole.

The first half is marked by Gregory’s use of medical language to draw an analogy between bodily and spiritual health. God’s will is done, when the good physician effects the good working or harmony of the soul, not least through the words of the prayer. ‘On earth as in heaven’ reminds the reader that humans are part of a cosmic order, in which they will participate fully at the restoration of all things.

In the second half Gregory reflects on true and false goods for the body. His variation on the theme of worldly vanities is enlivened by comparing the entry of evil into the soul with the behaviour of snakes. He concludes with some warnings about acquiring ‘bread’ by just labour and hopes and fears for the future.

Besides my comments on the two halves, I will also pay attention to some over-arching themes. In both halves, but especially in the first, there is a slight tension, conceptually speaking, between good- functioning understood as harmony or a more dynamic understanding of good-functioning as the unimpeded action of a good will. Secondly, Gregory has some interesting reflections on work and labour which link with other homilies in this series.