To whom will I have respect,
but (save?) to the humble and meek
and the man that trembles at my words.
“‘For all those things My hand has made
and all those things have been’,
said the Lord:
‘but to this man will I look,
even to him that is poor,
of a contrite spirit,
and trembles at My Word’“.
Isaiah 66: 2
“Awake, O sleeper
and Christ shall shine upon You”.
We know from the life of Saint Arsenius the Great
that after entering upon a life of solitude and prayer
he constantly asked himself,
“Arsenios, to what purpose have You gone out?”
Surely, we attend church for our own spiritual profit.
One might say, yes. But what is our goal?
We know from many sources
– one of which is the Conversation of Saint Seraphim of Sarov with Moltivilov –
that the reason that we labour at any of the virtues and the ultimate purpose of Christian life is for us to become partakers of the Grace of the Holy Spirit.
But as we know from this same discourse,
one can labour at the virtues to no purpose as the foolish virgins did,
receiving no oil for their lamps, that is,
receiving no Grace for their labours.
It follows that,
yes, we can labour to attend church
and gain nothing.
As Saint Seraphim explains in the same Conversation
and the Lord says:
“Not every one that said unto Me: Lord, Lord shall be saved,
but he that does the will of My Father“.
– that is,
he who does the work of God
does it with reverence,
‘for cursed be he that does the work of God negligently’”
Jer.31: 10, LXX
For this reason the Saints sought to cultivate a reverent fear of God.
Saint David of Thessalonica prayed and fasted for three years while enduring the ascetical feat of dwelling in an almond tree,
in his wisdom he all the while entreated God for this Gift of reverent fear.
As it is recorded in the Life of the Saint,
“When the three years had passed,
a holy angel appeared unto him saying,
the Lord has heard your supplication
and grants unto you this favour for which you have asked many times,
that is, that you be humble-minded and modest,
and that you fear Him and worship Him with proper reverence’.
We know from his life that this “Mother Virtue”
[to borrow a term from Saint John Climacus]
gave birth to many spiritual “daughter virtues”
and Saint David was manifested
to all as a clairvoyant wonderworker“.
from Orthodox Word 1970 May/June, vol. 6 No. 3, pg.123
If one reads the church Service books, one can see
that this reverence and fear of God
is an intrinsic part of the Church’s understanding.
As it is proclaimed in the Great Ektenia:
“For this Holy House, and for them that with faith,
reverence, and fear of God enter herein,
let us pray to the Lord“.
[why nobody in Church is bowing?
– indeed, when you only come to Church to hear nice old Greek or Russian words on a nice sound,
you will never understand the background; you even don’t know
you have to bow!!!]
the priests secret prayer reads as follows:
“We give thanks unto You, O invisible King,
Who by Your measureless power hast created all things,
and in the multitude of Your Mercy has out of nothing
brought all things into being.
Do You Yourself, O Master,
look from Heaven upon them
that have bowed down their heads to You:
for they have bowed them not to flesh and blood,
but to You, the dread God . . . . .”
In the holy Liturgy we encounter our awesome and terrible God,
Who created all things by His measureless Power
and Who came in Meekness and Humility
in order to gather us
as a hen does her chicks.
A strange and unheard of paradox
which is beyond the mind of man.
[so next Sunday you bow all your heads ???]
Saint Pachomius the Great explains the awesomeness of the New Covenant
and the fearful world – transcending Divine Liturgy.
As a monk describes the words of Saint Pachomius in his life,
“. . . . . He explained the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies,
applying the explanation to the two peoples,
‘For the first people’, he said is the outer Tabernacle,
whose service consisted in animal sacrifices, visible loaves,
the lamp stand and the lamps, and some other things.
But the calling of the Nations is the Holy of Holies,
that is, the fulfilment of the Law.
And everything in the Holy of Holies
is more glorious than the outer Tabernacle.
For instead of animal sacrifices it has a censer of incense;
instead of a table, the Ark of the Covenant with the spiritual loaves,
the book of the Law and all that is to be found there,
and instead of the light of the lamp stand,
the Mercy Seat where God appears as a consuming fire,
that is, God the Incarnate Word
Who was made propitiation for us by appearing in the flesh“.
In every Divine and Sacred Liturgy
fearful and awesome things are accomplished,
God appears as a consuming fire
to sanctify the gifts and overshadows all of the faithful.
Let us not draw nigh carelessly.
It is our Father’s house and
He calls us all to the banquet,
but let us with fear of God, faith,
and love draw nigh.
Treasures of Orthodoxy:
“The fear of the Lord is
the beginning of Wisdom;
and there is good understanding
to all that practice it:
and piety toward God
is the beginning of discernment;
but the ungodly will set
at nought wisdom and instruction“.
Fear is the paternal rod which guides our way until we reach the spiritual Paradise of good things.
When we have attained there to,
it leaves us and turns back.
Saint Isaac the Syrian, ascetical Homily Forty-Six
What children should be given to read
“It is my opinion that a young mind should first of all
be occupied with sacred history and readings of the Lives of Saints
of your choice,
which will unnoticeably sow the seeds of the fear of God
and Christian life.
You especially need to make them understand, with God’s help,
how important it is to keep God’s commandments
and what disastrous consequences follow breaking them.
All of this will lead them away from the example set by our first parents,
who ate the forbidden fruit and were therefore exiled from Paradise.
You can put Krylov’s fables away until later
[Иван Андреевич Крылов 1769 – 1844, Russian translator and imitator of existing fables],
for now teaching your child some prayers by heart,
like the Symbol of Faith and certain Psalms, for example:
“He that dwells in the help of the Most High” [Psalm 90];
“The Lord is my Light” [Psalm 26], and the like.
The main thing is that the child himself
be occupied according to his strength
and directed toward fear of God.
Everything good and kind comes from this.
while, to the contrary, idleness and not being instilled with the fear of God
are often the cause of all evil and misfortune.
When the fear of God is not instilled,
children will not bring forth the desired fruits of good morals
and a well-ordered life, no matter what you occupy them with.
When the fear of God is instilled,
all occupations are good and profitable”.
Elder Ambrose of Optina – Амвросий Оптинский [1812-1891]
“And they put the ark of the Lord on a new wagon,
and took it out of the house of Aminadab who lived on the hill:
and Oza and his brethren the sons of Aminadab drove the wagon with the ark,
and his brethren went before the ark.
And David and the children of Israel were playing before the Lord
on well-tuned instruments mightily,
with songs, with harps, with lutes, with drums,
with cymbals, and with pipes.
And they come as far as the threshing floor of Nachor;
and Oza reached forth his hand to the ark of God to keep it steady,
and took hold of it; for the ox shook it out of its place.
And the Lord was very angry with Oza;
and God smote him there:
and he died there by the ark of the Lord
Certainly, the idea of conforming one’s actions,
one’s approach to living and thinking,
and even the eye of one’s noetic heart
to live chiefly to glorify God
runs completely contrary to what “the World” values today,
especially in its prevailing secular outlooks of modernism and relativism,
which challenge and question the very concept and existence of objective Truth.
This is why the True heart of the Christian Gospel appears
“as foolishness to those who live
and think and have their being in and of the world,
outside of a yearning for God”.
cf. 1Cor.1: 18-25
Indeed, Saint John the Theologian, beloved apostle of the Lord,
reminds us that our love, if truly selfless,
is something the world not only often fails to understand,
but indeed, because it is selfless, is something the world often despises:
“Wonder not, brethren,
if the world hates you.
We know that we have passed from death to life,
because we love the brethren.
He that loveth not, abideth in death”.
1John 3: 13-14