Our Father

Our Father

In Brief

Most of the phrases from the Pater noster, the Lord's Prayer, pop up in Ulysses. The intent is never devotional. Like a song that has been heard too many times, this staple of the Christian liturgy seems capable of inspiring only parody or mockery in Dubliners.

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Some references to the prayer are overtly hostile. In Telemachus Mulligan notes that "The aunt always keeps plainlooking servants for Malachi. Lead him not into temptation." In Lotus Eaters Bloom looks about him in the church and thinks, "Blind faith. Safe in the arms of kingdom come." And when Bloom is immolated by the Inquisition in Circe, Brother Buzz delivers him to the executioners while sanctimoniously intoning, "Forgive him his trespasses."

Bloom often quotes phrases from the prayer in the same childlike, whimsical spirit that he brings to nursery rhymes and advertising jingles. In Calypso he thinks of Boland's breadvan "delivering with trays our daily but she prefers yesterday's loaves turnovers crisp crowns hot." In Eumaeus the smell of James Rourke's bakery brings back the phrase "our daily bread, of all commodities of the public the primary and most indispensable." Later in the chapter he transforms the cliché into "give us this day our daily press." These recollections of an overused phrase are quite lame, but Bloom is in better form in Calypso when he notes the perverse fact that watering something will bring on a rainstorm: "Watering cart. To provoke the rain. On earth as it is in heaven."

The "Our father who art in heaven" that begins the prayer regularly makes characters think of absent patriarchs that are all too human. In Hades Bloom remembers his suicidal father's request that he should take good care of his dog Athos, a "last wish" presumably honored by his son: "Thy will be done." Stephen imagines Shakespeare as a bitter ghost who demands that his murderous will be done by his son on earth: "Our Father who art in purgatory. Khaki Hamlets don't hesitate to shoot." Boody Dedalus, starving at home with her sisters, speaks of "Our father who art not in heaven." Simon's name is not hallowed in his own house. He is in some bar or other, supplying no daily bread for his children.

JH 2017
The Lord's Prayer on a Catholic prayer card. Source: www.catholicprint.co.uk.