Interesting quote from “Prayers of the Cosmos: Reflections on the Original Meaning of Jesus’ Words”

Hi – I’m reading “Prayers of the Cosmos: Reflections on the Original Meaning of Jesus’ Words” by Neil Douglas-Klotz, Matthew Fox and wanted to share this quote with you.

  1. Remembrance: The Birth of New Creation and Liberty

Wela tahln l’nesyuna
Ela patzan min bisha

(KJV version: And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil)

Don’t let surface things delude us,
But free us from what holds us back
(from our true purpose).

Don’t let us enter forgetfulness,
the temptation of false

(To the fraud of inner vacillation —
like a flag tossed in the wind —
alert us.)

But break the hold of unripeness,
the inner stagnation that
prevents good fruit.

(From the evil of injustice —
the green fruit and the rotten —
grant us liberty.)

Deceived neither by the outer
nor the inner — free us to
walk your path with joy.

Keep us from hoarding false wealth,
and from the inner shame of
help not given in time.

Don’t let surface things delude us,
But free us from what holds us back.

Textual Notes

These are probably the least understood and, because of the Greek version, the most mistranslated lines in the prayer. In the Aramaic version, no one outside “leads us into temptation” — least of all God. Wela tahlan could be translated “don’t let us enter,” “don’t let us be seduced by the appearance of,” or “don’t let us heap up what’s false or illusory in.” Nesyuna could be translated as “temptation,” in the Aramaic sense of something that leads to inner vacillation or agitation, diverting us from the purpose of our lives. The old roots call up the picture of a flag waving in the wind – blown here and there — like a mind rendered uncertain by the seductions of materialism (including spiritual materialism). It is the picture of forgetfulness: a losing of oneself in appearances, a failure to look deeper when the situation calls for it.

Having involved ourselves in the work of justice (bread) and compassion (forgiveness) in the preceding lines, we come again to see our limitations as well as all the pain and suffering that we cause ourselves and the rest of creation. The prayer here reminds us not to forget our origins in creation and the divine Breath, nor to “burn out” over all that needs to be done. This line goes together with the next to push us toward a new breakthrough into joy.

Ela patzan min bisha was translated “but deliver us from evil.” Bisha does mean “evil” or “error” but in the Hebraic and Aramaic sense of “unripeness” or inappropriate action. The roots point toward a sense of what delays or diverts us from advancing, as well as a sense of inner shame for not producing good fruit — the right action at the right time. Patzan could also be translated “loosen the hold of,” “give liberty from”, or “break the seal that binds us to.” This line finishes the statement of the previous one: don’t let us be deluded by the surface of life, but neither let us become so inward and self-absorbed that we cannot act simply and humanly at the right time. The prayer reminds us that sometimes our ideals — including those of holiness, peace, and unity — carry us into the future or the past and make it difficult to be in the present where help is needed now.

Body Prayers

The sounds of these last two lines allow one’s breathing to become more refined again after the denseness of the line on forgiveness. The prayer does not say there will never be forgetfulness (temptation) or unripeness (evil). It does not deny limitation, nor the unripe acts against humanity and nature that are our responsibility to correct. But it reminds us to take them in the light of God’s whole picture. We can release all our limiting concepts, including those about the prayer we have been meditating upon. We can release our concepts of both unity and separateness. In the end, these too are just doors, fingers pointing toward the unspeakable and mysterious Reality.

  1. Find a place that allows you to walk unhindered and unencumbered — either in nature or freely indoors in a circle. As you walk, with each step become more present just to your own footfalls, now. Walk simply being present. Wherever you find a part of yourself that resists, be present with and accept that part also. Continue to include and embrace whatever thoughts and feelings come up. As you walk, feel yourself fully and completely accepted in the presence of God.
  2. Buddhists present the tradition of Maitreya Buddha, the bodhisattva or messenger who has agreed to forego personal salvation and enlightenment until all other beings have attained them. Something like the picture of Maitreya Buddha is presented by these two lines of the prayer. That part of ourselves that feels as though it will be the last to wake up to the presence of the divine also serves a purpose in God’s universe. Forgetfulness and unripeness may be the keys to our own perfection and draw us together as a planet, as we realize how fragile life can be. A walking meditation from the Buddhist tradition asks us to take time to walk as though we were stepping on the heads of all beings – not gingerly or holding ourselves away from the earth but with compassion and openheartedness.

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