Gift of Holy Fear

Novena to the Holy Spirit (Introduction+Nine Days)

Day Two – Saturday of the 6th week of Easter

Well I can see already, that had I used the 'reverse ordering' of the gifts, I would have 'wisdom' in place prior to discussing 'fear of the Lord'. If we read any amount of commentary on this gift [see links below] we quickly encounter a discussion as to what exactly does it mean to 'fear the Lord'. Does it mean 'dread of God if we sin' as Adam and Eve experience after the fall ('fear and trembling')? Or does it mean a 'filial respect' for God who loves us more than we love ourselves?

I suppose if we're completely truthful we would discover that many of us have approached God in a variety of fashions. Some have started with curiosity, a sense of obligation, or perhaps turned to Him in a state of desperation. Others have rushed forth in a flurry of anger and resentment as their first real contact with the Lord. Whatever was the initial impulse that drove us toward our Creator, it must be respected, because somehow the Holy Spirit was involved.

As time goes on, if the relationship deepens then we could say that we are experiencing the gift called, "Fear of the Lord". That's sort of a 'circular' explanation, but I find it's true. What I mean to say is that in order to go further along our relation must conform to what is spiritually real, otherwise we fool ourselves. The gift of 'Fear of the Lord' is ultimately a gift that correctly aligns this relation between the Creator and the creature. It's a precursor to anything we might call 'wisdom or knowledge'. In that sense it is rightfully called the first of the gifts. It's also the beginning of true and authentic blessing, love and mercy. But this 'gift' also returns as the 'last of the gifts' to form a shield and guard us: here we are fully aware of what it means to cause offense to the 'Source of all Holiness.'

The Lord will bless those who fear him, the little no less than the great [Psalm 115: 13]. Salvation, glory, and power to our God: his judgments are honest and true [Rev 19:1-2]. "Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy" (Rev. 15:4).

When we've arrived at a clearer 'understanding' of the nature of God, through the 'gift of fear as respect for God's holiness with honor and awe'; only then we will more rightly 'understand' why sin is an offense. Thus we will quickly desire to move away from causing offense and injury to our relationship with God: this is the 'gift of fear as dread in offending him'. Actually, this 'gift' with both meanings, connects with itself as a clasp on a necklace, to form a beautiful adornment. Better still, all of the 'gifts of the Holy Spirit' are displayed as gems on the same necklace.

Reflection questions: Do you recall what your first impulse was toward God? How has 'your image' of the Lord changed over time?

Come Holy Spirit; fill the hearts of your faithful people. Enkindle in us the fire of your divine love.

***Useful links about this gift:

Pope John Paul II – Fear of the Lord – Angelus Address.

Article from Taize Community – Fear of the Lord.

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