Contemplata aliis Tradere

A meagre contribution to the mission and work of the Order of Preachers: my reflections, thoughts, ideas and the occasional rant on matters mainly theological, philosophical and ecclesiastical, drawn primarily from my reading and experience of life and the world. Striving to be always Catholic, firmly Christian and essentially Dominican, flavoured with dashes of Von Balthasar.

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Location: Oxford, United Kingdom

A son of the English Province of the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans); born in Malaysia but have lived in the USA, Singapore, the UK & the Philippines for varying durations. A pilgrim and way-farer, a searcher for Truth on the journey of Life... "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!" - Hilaire Belloc

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Fear of the Lord

The Psalmist, quoting Proverbs 1:7 says: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Ps 111:10). As we considered the Gift of Wisdom yesterday, it would be good to look at this Gift of the Fear of the Lord (timor Domini) which the Scriptures and Sacred Tradition calls the beginning of wisdom. How are we to understand this?

We can begin by saying what it is not: Pope Benedict XVI in his General Audience of 8 June 2005 taught: "It is not fear and terror that are suggested by this word, but serious and sincere respect which is the fruit of love, a genuine and active attachment to God the Liberator." Hence the 'fear' we speak of is not a servile terror of the servant for a dread and cruel Master; it is not even the fear of terrible punishment which is an imperfect kind of fear. Rather, we speak of the rightful reverence for God that is born of love, and St John says that "perfect love casts out fear" (1 Jn 4:18). The Conferences of the Desert Father John Cassian, explain it thus:

"Whoever then has been established in this perfect love is sure to mount by a higher stage to that still more sublime fear belonging to love, which is the outcome of no dread of punishment or greed of reward, but of the greatest love; whereby a son fears with earnest affection a most indulgent father, or a brother fears his brother, a friend his friend, or a wife her husband, while there is no dread of his blows or reproaches, but only of a slight injury to his love, and while in every word as well as act there is ever care taken by anxious affection lest the warmth of his love should cool in the very slightest degree towards the object of it."

Incidentally, it is also in this context that Ephesians 5:33 speaks of the reverence of a wife for her husband and vice-versa. This reverence is born of love, a concern to please the beloved and fear of hurting the Other. We hear it often enough in romantic movies when one says to the other: "The last thing I ever wanted to do is to hurt you" and of course this said after the hurt, lies, deception has been inflicted! This is often because the person may have acted out of fear, in the more primal sense of the word; true love means true fear of hurting the other and a desire to do that which pleases the other. As fr Richard Conrad OP puts it:

"If we love God, if we are His children and friends, then we have a deep concern to do what pleases Him and avoid what would hinder our journey into Him. And that is the Fear which is the Gift of the Holy Spirit, a Fear which goes with love... [With this Gift] we can sense if it's important to God for us to give up some legitimate pleasure or need - and our anxiety is to give it up and please God."

Moreover, Fr Jordan Aumann OP says that Fear of the Lord corresponds to the theological virtue of Hope "which it perfects by motivating the individual to avoid sin out of reverential fear of God... [it is] filial fear born of love and reverence [that] seeks the purity required for union with God."

Why is Fear of the Lord the beginning of wisdom? Its fruition from Love should be indicative, for as we have seen Wisdom and Charity are inseparably linked. Again, Pope Benedict offers some insight into the matter. The Holy Father said:

"The Christian writer Barsanuphius of Gaza (active in the first half of the sixth century) comments on this verse: 'What is the first stage of wisdom if not the avoidance of all that is hateful to God? And how can one avoid it, other than by first asking for advice before acting, or by saying nothing that should not be said, and in addition, by considering oneself foolish, stupid, contemptible and of no worth whatsoever?'

However, John Cassian (who lived between the fourth and fifth centuries) preferred to explain that 'there is a great difference between love, which lacks nothing and is the treasure of wisdom and knowledge, and imperfect love, called 'the first stage of wisdom'. The latter, which in itself contains the idea of punishment, is excluded from the hearts of the perfect because they have reached the fullness of love'

Thus, on the journey through life towards Christ, our initial servile fear is replaced by perfect awe which is love, a gift of the Holy Spirit."
Hence, as we journey into love, into the Holy Spirit, we begin with Fear of the Lord, which is that anxiety to do only that which pleases Him and to avoid all that offends Him; it is a journey into greater purity of heart and intention. Let us pray:

Novena Prayer to the Holy Spirit

"By bestowing on us Your Holy Spirit, purify and enlighten our hearts, O Lord. May He come into their depths like the gentle dew and make them fruitful."

The stained glass image above of the Binding of Isaac is from the Basilica of Fourviere in Lyon. The holy patriarch Abraham so desired to please God and had such fear of the Lord that he was willing to sacrifice even his only son for the sake of his love of God.


Anonymous allan,op said...

Dear Fra Lawrence,

Your posts/reflections for the past days deeply connect to what we've been experiencing here in dagat dagatan, working with the poor, helping the people that have been demolished by the government last May 19-20, along Sitio Sto.Nino and Sitio Puting Bato, near Macro. These people have been experiencing an "extreme exlusion" from our society. Until now, many of them are without relocation place/home, drenched by the rain, sleeping in the street exposed to elements... Our plea to various government agencies, DPWH, NHA, LGU, Barangay,(Department of Public Works and Highways, National Housing Authority, Local government Unit) fell on deaf ears. About 800 families were displaced. Our parish took care of 56 homeless persons for the past 12 days out of compassion and mercy especially for these homeless children. That the poor are victims of extreme exclusion is indeed a palpable reality here! It is something detestable and yet a reality that we have to bear! A reality that makes me angry because we have done what we are supposed to do and yet nothing seems happening. May compassion keeps us hoping and may hope keeps us serving the least of our brethren. Thanks so much for your reflections. I will use/preach the idea when I meet again the goverment heads for an inter-agency meeting.
P.S. Do check my flickr, i posted some new pictures. Ora pro nobis!

7:47 am  
Blogger Br Lawrence, O.P. said...

Thank you for your comment on this site. I hope other readers will learn also from your comment and pray for our brothers and sisters in Dagat-dagatan, Manila.

Above all, I pray for you Father and those who serve the poor. May the Spirit be your Comforter and Advocate and may He melt the hearts of those who oppress His 'little ones'.

11:00 am  
Blogger Liturgeist said...

Thanks for that, Fra Lawrence! Been musing on just that subject. As usual, you manage to find all the bits of text I can't get hold of and provide convenient links to them... ;-)

11:01 am  

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