I'm a big fan of Fr. Larry Richards. I have listened many times to a couple of wonderful CDs by Fr. Richards: Confession and The Mass Explained. I am currently reading Fr. Richards' book, Be A Man: Becoming the Man God Created You to Be. It's a wonderful book so far. He talks about Jesus telling us to call God not merely our Father but "Abba," a child's term for "father" in Aramaic. In his darkest hour, in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays: "Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what thou wilt" (Mark 14:36). St. Paul reiterates this intimate relationship in two different places. First in Romans: "When we cry, 'Abba! Father!' it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him" (Romans 8:15-17). Then in Galatians: "And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!' So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir" (Galatians 4:6-7). Fr. Richards reminds us that in the Jewish culture of the first century (and among the Orthodox Jewish faithful today), one could not say aloud the name of God out of reverence for him. However, Jesus told people to call God by the same kind of name a small child would call his or her father. As Fr. Richards puts it, calling God Abba is "not something you decide to do. It's something that the Spirit of the Living God, which was given to you the day you were baptized, cries out to you for you to do" (p. 44).
My second-grade daughter has taken to calling me "poppy" or "popster," depending on her mood. I don't know where she heard these terms; from a cartoon most likely. But she has been calling me these for a while now, and it is very sweet when she does it. If she doesn't physically give me hug when she says it, the way she says it sounds like a vocal hug. As I was reading Fr. Richards, I thought of how my daughter addresses me as "poppy" or "popster," and thought of Jesus telling us how to talk with God. As I seek to take my prayer life to another level, I realize that I need to go down to go up, to become more simple to become more profound. I need to get to the point that Bob Dylan speaks of his in song, "My Back Pages," where he says: "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now."