Leonardo Boff is a well-known Brazilian theologian whose books include Ecology and Liberation; Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor; and The Prayer of Saint Francis. In this thoughtful and passionate theological work, he takes a line-by-line look at two of the linchpin prayers in the Christian devotional repertoire. Both prayers are built solidly on the incarnation: "The Christian faith is not just interested in those realities described as spiritual and supernatural. It also places a value on the material and the historical. All of these pertain to one and the same schema of incarnation by which the divine penetrates the human and the human enters the divine."
In his consideration of the prayer that Jesus taught, Boff comments on the first part as speaking on God's behalf: keeping his name holy, his kingdom, and his will. The second part centers on human interests: our daily bread, forgiveness, ever-present temptation, and ever-threatening evil. In his treatment of the Hail Mary prayer, Boff assesses the connection between Mary, the mother of Jesus, as partner and bearer of the Holy Spirit. He believes it is high time that the Christian community took more seriously the way God works through women to birth in us a nurturing sensibility.
In one of the most powerful passages, Boff gives an unforgettable interpretation of ways in which the God's name is given respect:
"We are not sanctifying the name of God when we erect church buildings, when we elaborate mystical treatises, or when we guarantee his official presence in society by means of religious symbols. His holy name is sanctified only to the extent that these expressions are related to a pure heart, a thirst for justice, and a reaching out for perfection. It is in these realities that God dwells; these are his true temple, where there are no idols. Origin said well, in commenting on this supplication of the Lord's Prayer: 'They who do not strive to harmonize their conception of God with that which is just take the name of the Lord God in vain.' Thus ethics constitutes the most reliable criterion for discerning whether the God we claim to sanctify is true or false.
"We sanctify the name of God when by our own life, by our own actions of solidarity, we help to build more pacific and more just human relationships, cutting off access to violence and one person's exploitation of another. God is always offended when violence is done to a human being, made in his image and likeness. And God is always sanctified when human dignity is restored to the dispossessed and the victims of violence."
The author takes this train of thought even further when he suggests that what he calls "the new sanctification of the world" involves standing by those who are oppressed and working for true equality. Boff challenges Christians to bear with those who are dehumanized by "defamation, imprisonment, torture, and the degradation of hard labor." Justice has always been an important ingredient in the liberation theology of Leonardo Boff. Here this emphasis is sounded with convincing power.