Thursday, December 20, 2012

The fear of God leads to the love of God (Part 1)

St. John the Evangelist says the following in his General Epistle: “Perfect love casts fear away” (1 Jn. 4:18). What does the Apostle want to
tell us? Which love is he talking about, and which fear is he referring to?
The Prophet David says, “Fear the Lord, all His saints” (Ps. 33:10).
Thousands of similar verses are found throughout the Holy Scriptures. If
even the saints—who love the Lord so much—are also afraid of Him, how
is it possible for “perfect love to cast away fear,” as the Evangelist states?
The holy Apostle wants to show us that there are two types of fear: one
that is introductory, and another that is perfect. One is characteristic of
people who are just beginning the spiritual life; whereas the other is
characteristic of the saints who have attained perfection, and who have
reached the level of holy love.
What I want to say is this: Someone may keep God’s
commandments because he is afraid of being punished. As we have
already stated, such a person is still a beginner. This person does not
struggle on account of virtue itself but because he fears being punished.
Another person does the will of God because he loves God, and because
he especially loves to be pleasing to God. Such a person knows the value
of virtue and realizes what it means to be with God. This is the person who
possesses true love, which the Evangelist refers to as “perfect” love, and
this love in turn leads him to perfect fear. This person is afraid and keeps
God’s commandments not because he may be punished, not because he
may be condemned to Hell, but, as we have said, because he has tasted
how sweet it truly is to be united with God, and he fears losing and being
deprived of this sweetness. This perfect fear, which arises from such love,
casts away the introductory fear. This is why the Apostle says, “Perfect
love casts fear away.” We must realize, however, that it is impossible for
someone to arrive at this perfect fear if he does not first pass through the
introductory fear.

Abba Dorotheos
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