I can still remember driving US 41 south of Vincennes, Indiana as I traveled to Evansville, Indiana. There was one spot in the road where I had seen an abandoned two-story house, one like I saw in horror films with large windows perched hill on a hill. I bring up fear here in the sense of terror, an emotion was so strong with me that, as I drove by this spot, I would not dare to look up at that house for fear I would see a figure looking back at me. It was the closest I ever come to being terrified. But that is not all. This fear gripped my imagination so much that as much as I struggled not to look, there was also the fear that, if I did not look, I might not see someone in the window.
I thought of this example of fear as I did my most recent Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5). St. Benedict’s Rule also came to mind in my meditation (with contemplation there are no words or images), especially his Chapter 7 on humility. St. Benedict gives a Ladder by which we might ascend to humility, steps to take. The first step is fear of the Lord. He writes:
The first step, then, of humility is if one set the fear of God always before his eyes andhttps://www.solesmes.com/sites/default/files/upload/pdf/rule_of_st_benedict.pdf
altogether avoid forgetfulness, and be always mindful of everything that God has ordered and
always ponder over life eternal, which is prepared for those that fear God; and how hell will
consume, for their sins, such as despise God; and if he keeps himself at all times from sins and
faults, alike of thought, of the tongue, of the eye, of the hand, of the foot, or of self-will; and
moreover, hasten to cut away the desires of the flesh.
During this time of Lenten recollection about who I am, who God is, and what that means, I think the “fear of the Lord” is most appropriate. Fear in this context is not being afraid, but more respect and acknowledment that God is not me. Jesus became human nature just to show us that, with the limitations of physical space, time, energy, and matter, we can never really know God as He is, but only as we humans are with our languages where we try to communicate with each other and find meaning. Jesus came to give us a language which we could even be adopted sons and daughters of the Father, that of love, the center of who God is. God invited us, through Christ, to place Himself as our center which would compel us to love one another as He loved us, but also to be adopted by divine nature. In the first instances of humans interacting with God, Adam and Eve, our prototype ancestors, failed to recognize that they are not God but there to know, love, and serve God in their lifetime and be happy with God forever (Baltimore Catechism, Question 6).
Fear of the Lord is wanting to look at what it means to God but being unable to grasp its meaning fully. What we have is to use only what we have, our human reasoning, our freedom to chose what we reasoned, with the five senses we have with the seventy or eight years we have to discover what it means to be human, not what it means to be God.
God knew we humans could not even begin to grasp what it means to be God, so He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to tells us, but more importantly to show us what to do to walk through the minefield of human imperfect and not hurt ourselves. Our Blessed Mother, Mary, the first disciple, point us in the right direction when she tells those at the Wedding Feast of Cana, to “do what he tells you.” Humility is the only way to relate to Jesus, and Jesus is the only way to relate to the Father.
LAY CISTERCIAN CONVERSIO MORAE
A key component of conversion is moving from the false self to the true self in Christ. We can’t even do that unless we have in us the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5). The great kenosis or emptying of self by God of His divinity to make room for his humanity (apologies for the very poor analogy) can only be appreciated by this charism of God, humility. The only way that even makes sense to me, and it may or may not be correct, is to feel how it would be for God to be so powerful and intimidating that His divinity would crowd out the possibility of Jesus ever making a free choice, consistent with being made in the image and likeness of God. Yet, God was fully present in Christ and yet allowed the humanity to experience all the effects of Original Sin without sin. The fear was real fear, the pain was real human pain, the doubts were real doubts, the templations to replace God with the Devil were real, the pain of Lazarus’ death was real, the anger of those who bind others with rules that they themselves mock, is real. All of it, so that I can say “Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father through the Holy Spirit.”
I have given up trying to define this fear of the Lord, but rather now try to relate those human exeriences about fear, humility, emptying of self to increase God, as I am, where I am. That is another way for me to seek God every day.
My Faith is a process of daily converting my false self which only seeks my own satisfaction rather than including God as my center. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but only the beginning.