In our Greco-Judeo-Christian society, few texts have been read, recited, prayed, and commented on as much as the Our Father.
Coming from a patriarchal society, it could not but transpose an imaginary that feeds fantasies, especially under the vigilant eye of clerics preserving their patriarchal dignity for centuries.
The paternal figure of the God invoked has thus nourished in many believers the image of a being, albeit transcendent – « Our Father who art in heaven » – with an arbitrary will, an image to which they have submitted and submit in many ways.
European churches are emptying. Shouldn’t they reassure the « faithful » by presenting them with a benevolent God ? Is this why, in 2013, the Catholic bishops of French-speaking countries established a new liturgical translation of Our Father ? The French text has not changed much, except for the demand « and lead us not into temptation » which has become « and do not let us go into temptation ».
Presumably, the envisaged peaceful relationship with the Father was troubled and disturbing by his tempting trait. What was needed was a reassuring image of a Father, free from any peril he might have fomented and advocated. But is the new image so reassuring ? If the promoters of the textual modification wanted the God invoked to be no longer suspected of being a Father who would abuse the good faith of his children or play with their lives, they have only reinforced this image. Indeed, the signifier « do not let us » supports a truth in its other side : « you leave us » or « you can leave us ».
The new translation has not solved anything. It has erased the figure of a crushing, enslaving Father who can put his children under a mortifying yoke, and introduced that of a guardian of order who, according to his mood, guides in one direction or another. In short, an abusive father who has gone from being an enjoying, sadistic father to a father with arbitrary regulations.
Both versions can only entail an infantilisation of believers turned towards a master-signifier, the heavenly Father, a version of an « eternal God taken to the letter, not of his jouissance that is always veiled and unfathomable, but of his desire as involved in the larger scheme of things – this is the core where, petrifying his anxiety, the pervert instates himself as such. » Lacan also speaks of « a flight from the father’s desire, for which the subject substitutes the father’s demand ».
It is not easy for a son or a daughter to know how to deal with the « father » in his challenging, humanising function. The Church has come to sugar-coat this questioning – a very patriarchal practice – which freezes and worsens the images that the « faithful » make of their God. « If God made us in his image, we have returned him the favour. »
 Cf. Bailly A., Dictionnaire grec-français, Paris, Hachette, 1980. The Greek signifier translated by « temptation » was referred to an attraction towards evil whereas it could be translated by « test » or « experience ». The translator has therefore inflected the existential perspective in a moral sense. On the other hand, the Greek signifier translated by « to submit » could be translated as « to bring », « to introduce ». Whatever its translation, this signifier refers to a tyrannical master.
 The French « ne nous laisse » can be rendered as « do not let us » and also « do not leave us ». [TN]
 Lacan J., On the Names-of-the-Father, Transl., B. Fink, Polity, 2013, p. 77.
 Ibid., p. 78.
 Voltaire, Notebooks.
Translation : Florencia F.C. Shanahan
Proofreading : Ana-Marija Kroker
Picture : ©Elena Madera