What We Should Remember to Fear the Lord

Blessed is the one who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.    (Psalm 1)

St Peter of Damaskos (12th Century) reflects on what it takes to just keep the first of the Ten Commandments: fear the Lord.  Perhaps surprisingly, Peter doesn’t call to mind threats from God about punishment for sin.  Rather, he feels we need to call to mind all of the blessings which God bestows upon us, including God’s willlingness to suffer for us and for our salvation on the cross.  For Peter of Damascus what we should fear the most regarding God is sinning against the One who created us and who continually nurtures us and endeavors to save us.

“If, then, we wish to keep the first commandment – that is, to possess fear of the Lord – we should meditate deeply upon the contingencies of life already described and upon God’s measureless and unfathomable blessings. We should consider how much He has done and continues to do for our sake through things visible and invisible, through commandments and dogmas, threats and promises; how He guards, nourishes and provides for us, giving us life and saving us from enemies seen and unseen; how through the prayers and intercessions of His saints He cures the diseases caused by our own disarray; how He is always long-suffering over our sins, our irreverence, our delinquency-over all those things that we have done, are doing, and will do, from which His grace has saved us; how He is patient over our actions, words and thoughts that have provoked His anger, and how He not only suffers us, but even bestows greater blessings on us, acting directly, or through the angels, the Scriptures, through righteous men and prophets, apostles and martyrs, teachers and holy fathers.

Moreover, we should not only recall the sufferings and struggles of the saints and martyrs, but should also reflect with wonder on the self-abasement of our Lord Jesus Christ, the way He lived in the world, His pure Passion, the Cross, His death, burial, resurrection and ascension, the advent of the Holy Spirit, the indescribable miracles that are always occurring every day, paradise, the crowns of glory, the adoption to sonship that He has accorded us, and all the things contained in Holy Scripture and so much else.

If we bring all this to mind, we will be amazed at God’s compassion, and with trembling will marvel at His forbearance and patience. We will grieve because of what our nature has lost – angel-like dispassion, paradise and all the blessings which we have forfeited – and because of the evils into which we have fallen: demons, passions and sins. In this way our soul will be filled with contrition, thinking of all the ills that have been caused by our wickedness and the trickery of the demons.”

(THE PHILOKALIA, Kindle Loc. 26185-206)

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