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So I just had this thought. I was talking with Indy last night, and somehow we got onto the topic of how some people seem to think that the more fancy and archaic language they use, the better they’re praying. Using “thee” and “thou” instead of “you” and “your” seems especially popular. That attitude has always seemed a little silly to me. This afternoon the conversation came back to me, and I made a connection between something Indy said to me last night and something I’ve known for a while, and it seemed pretty cool to me. So, for your delectation on this lovely, breezy Monday afternoon, this installment of Bernadette’s Theological Musings: The reason why some of the prayers we memorize and say a lot (the Our Father, the Apostles’ Creed, the Hail Mary if you’re Catholic) use archaic language (thee, thou, hallowed, etc.), is not because the writers/translators of those prayers wanted to be fancy, but because they themselves were archaic. They used the words that ordinary people of their time used every day. When ordinary people of that time used the words “thee” and “thou,” they meant something very specific by them. Those words are parts of speech called the familiar pronoun. Most Romance languages still have them, but English dropped it somewhere along the way. It’s a way of distinguishing in your speech the people you’re close to (your familiars) from the rest of the world. You would say “thee” and “thou” to people in your family, close friends, your sweetheart, etc. Changing from using “you” to using “thee” meant a step up in intimacy. While superiors could use it to inferiors as they liked (it had a somewhat condescending meaning there), inferiors couldn’t use it with their superiors unless or until the superior gave them permission to do so. So when we say “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name,” we’re saying something particular about our relationship with God. We’re saying that He’s someone close to us, like a member of our family. We’re saying that we have an intimate relationship with Him. Also, because God is clearly the superior in the relationship, we must be using it because He asked us to. He is the one who invited us into that deeper relationship with Him. It reminds me of the Bible verse that says, “Oh, what love the Father has bestowed on us, that we may become sons and daughters of God! Yet so we are!” (1 John 3:1) All that from one little part of grammar – there’s something to be said for being a language geek!

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