This is simply and basically an act of worship. Because he is our Father in heaven we offer him homage, worship, praise and adoration. To say ‘Holy is your Name’ is to root our prayer in the first and essential act of worship. Why this is so–a bit more later. But first notice that we say that His name is Holy. Why would this be? For several reasons. First of all, for the ancient people a person’s name expressed his identity, and if his identity, then his destiny and his source of being. The name is the person, so in saying His name is Holy we are saying that the essence of His being is Holy. In other words, God is not just holy. He is holiness itself. It’s his name. It’s who He is, not just the way he behaves.
Then we remember what his name actually is and we recall from the burning bush that His name is ‘I AM’. That is to say, He is Being itself. He is the ontological ground of all things. He WAS HE IS HE IS TO COME, and the essence of this ontological reality is goodness above all goodness which is what we call Holy. In the face of this we cry with the angel hosts, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts”. The Trisagion for the Trinity. The Sanctus Three time for He who is Three times Holy.
Enough of names and holiness. We say simply ‘Hallowed be Thy Name’ or “Your name is Holy” because in proclaiming this praise we are at the same time responding in the only way we can respond in the face of the Holy and that is with worship. Why do we worship? Is it because we must grovel to please the Mighty One? Are we timorous wee beasties–mice before the Eternal Tiger? Are we shivering travellers like Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Lion in the face of the Great and Terrible Oz? I think not.
No. We worship because as holiness is of His essence, so obeisance is of ours. We worship the Creator because we are creatures and it is in this simple action that we become who we are and we move toward what we were created to be. In worship I am the child of the Father. In worship I adore the one I was created to adore. In worship I am suddenly in a right relationship with the Creator, and so I am oriented aright toward other people and indeed to the whole world.
Does this sound demeaning to my human dignity? Now I am worried because there was one who held his head high and said, “Non Serviam”. No, in fact, as I worship my true human dignity is fulfilled and magnified, for we become like the thing we worship and to quote the Fathers, “God became Man so that man could become like God.” Therefore when I worship I am Adam restored…man moving toward perfection and I am reminded that the only way to make real progress toward my destiny is on my knees.