When I see fathers play with their children, I am reminded of what one of my professors used to say about, Abba. Seeing their father on his knees playing horsy, a Jewish child would say, Abba. Often, they would lift their small children up in the air above their heads. For children who knew and trusted their fathers, there were always shrieks of joy. Abba expresses trust, not fear, in the presence of strength.

Abba: it is a word a small child would spontaneously use to attract the attention of his father whom he was getting to know and trust. There were others words similar to our mama for a mother, all expressing affection, dependence and trust. The child whom she bore in her womb and whom she nursed at her breasts had already established a strong bond of love and trust with her. But the father does not quite have such a relationship; he tries to establish one with the child after the birth. Holding the child, playing with the child and even throwing it up over his head, creates this bond. A child, boy or girl, experiencing being safe with one who is so powerful yet tender, is the basis for the experience of God as Abba.

There are only three instances where the word is used in the New Testament. Saint Paul in speaking of our relationship to our Father in heaven, says that we relate to him as his own children, not as slaves. Not out of fear, but out of joyful freedom, we cry out Abba, Father (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6). Jesus must have used the word very often, and the Church must have used it in its teaching, because Saint Paul uses this Aramaic word without explanation to his Greek readers.

While the Gospels use the word Father many times, we have only one place where Jesus actually uses the Aramaic word ?Abba, Father. It is in Mark 14:36. Jesus, fully adult, frightened, even terrified cries out: Abba. It is the cry of childlike trust and intimacy. Afraid of his impending death and knowing the power of his Father he cries out, Abba, Father, for you everything is possible. Take this cup away from me.

He abandons himself to his loving Abba and he lets go: But let it be as you, not I, would have it. He dies. His heart stops beating. From his side pours water and blood symbols of the Church that is being born and of her sacraments of his Body and Blood.

Abba hears his cry. He raises Jesus from the dead. He is risen. We rejoice.

Through the sacraments of the church, we are immersed in his death-resurrection. We have died and we are raised again in him. Like little children, we rejoice in the wonderful presence of Abba, our Father.

In this Eastertide, I pray for you all. May the joy of the Risen Lord be in your hearts, deepening your sense of trust in Abba, Father, who raised Jesus and will raise us as well! Alleluia!

+ Marcel Gervais
Archbishop of Ottawa