On the Fear of God

Dorotheos of Gaza: Discourses and Sayings. Chapter 4 Fear of God

Perfect love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18

Fear the Lord all you who love him. Psalm 34:9

Dorotheos seeks to answer and explain what sort of love and what sort of fear the scriptures are talking about. This chapter is far reaching and deals with much more than this brief entry will reflect. It is excellent!

He explains how the saints who loved the Lord so much can say that we need to fear him. He asks the question that we might ask, “if we are to love and fear the Lord how can ‘love cast out fear”?

St. John wishes to show us that there are two kinds of fear:

  • Preliminary: this is found in beginners who are devout but who have a fear of condemnation
  • Perfected: found in those who have arrived at true love. These form a desire for God because they love God and know what is acceptable to God. These fear and keep God’s will, nor from a fear of punishment, not to avoid condemnation, but as we have said, because he has tasted the sweetness of being with God; he fears he may fall away from it; he fears to be turned away from it. (page 109)

And for those of us who would wish otherwise, Dorotheos says that it is impossible to come to perfected fear except through preliminary fear. Dorotheos is, like St. Paul before him, a call to maturity in Christ in this message. We are to be those who do the “father’s will not for fear of being beaten nor to receive a reward from him, but because we know that we are loved.” (page 110)

Dorotheos enters into an explanation of what banishes us from the fear of God:

The Fathers tell us that a man gains possessions of the fear of God by keeping the thought of death before his mind and remembering eternal punishment, by examining himself each evening about he has passed the day and each morning about how he has passed the night; by never giving reign to his tongue and by keeping in close and continual touch with a man possessed with the fear of God, as his spiritual director. We chase away from us  the fear of the Lord by the fact that we do just the opposite; we do not keep before us the thought of death, or punishment, nor do we attend to our own condition, or examine how we spend our time, but we live differently and are occupied with different things, pandering to our liberty, giving way to ourselves, self-indulgence – this is the worst of all, this is perfect ruin. What chases away the fear of the Lord as effectively as indulging our fancies? Hence when Abba Agathon was asked about self-indulgence he said that there was nothing more dangerous because it chases out of the soul the fear of God.

Time and space do not permit me to relay all that Dorotheos says about self-indulgence, cultivating respect for our brethren, nor how Dorotheos persevered prolonged  provocation from his brother monks. But I hope that you have his book and will read through the entire chapter.

He ends the chapter with this simple, hopeful line, “God himself, the lover of men, will grant us this fear of him, for it is written, ‘Fear God and keep his precepts, because this is required of all men.'”

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1 Comment

Filed under Flames of Wisdom, Poems, Books and Reviews

One response to “On the Fear of God

  1. Margaret

    The relationship between self-indulgence and fear of God is very interesting and important. Last evening I did battle with keeping a small resolution and found myself arguing what harm a little deviation from this resolution is in the big picture of things. Here I think is the answer. I look forward to getting a copy of Dorotheos and reading more of this topic.

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