January 26, May 27, September 26
Chapter 7: On Humility
The first degree of humility, then,
is that a person keep the fear of God before his eyes
and beware of ever forgetting it.
Let him be ever mindful of all that God has commanded;
let his thoughts constantly recur
to the hell-fire which will burn for their sins
those who despise God,
and to the life everlasting which is prepared
for those who fear Him.
Let him keep himself at every moment from sins and vices,
whether of the mind, the tongue, the hands, the feet,
or the self-will,
and check also the desires of the flesh.
“Fear of God” is one of those phrases that has not stood the test of time. At least, IMO. I suspect “fear” has morphed from a word that back in ancient days was full of positive connotations into a word that in our modern era has only negative meanings. “God is love,” I’ve heard people say. “What is there to fear?”
“Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom” or so it says in either Proverbs or Ecclesiastes. But what does this mean? Obviously, it’s a concept important to St. Benedict. What does “fear of God” look like or mean to you?
For me, this concept is played out near the end of the Book of Job. If ever a person had a right to complain, it’s Job, robbed of family, everything that gave meaning to his life in order to serve as a plaything of the devil. There’s Job, sitting on his ash heap, hurling question after question at God. What does Job discover? Not specific answers to his questions but rather The Answer. Confronted with the living God, all Job’s questions melt away because God is Answer, to be in God’s presence is Answer. Job’s response is adoration, confession, worship.
“Fear of God”, it seems to me, must be a short-hand expression to sum up such complicated concepts such as awe of God, recognition of ourselves as creatures, recognition of God as Creator, realization that worms that we are, He loves us which ought to make us re-think calling ourselves worms.