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THINGS I HAVE LEARNED....St. Dorotheos Of Gaza's Teaching On The Fear Of God

We often have trouble trying to figure out what fear of God means, and how that works when we know such love from him. St. Dorotheos is wonderful on this subject ! St. Dorotheos explained that there are two kinds of fear of God. The first kind he calls "preliminary" and the second he calls " perfect." The first is typical of novices. The latter is typical of those souls who are more mature (not meaning just older !) The first is not concerned by what is good, Dorotheos says, but about torments coming with breaking commandments. The second has embraced love and Christ's New Law . Concerned about what is good, such a soul obeys God out of love. And fear? The saint tells us such souls fear causing God to "depart" (the withdrawal of grace). It is a whole different kind of fear. Remember Johnny Cash and, "Because your'e mine I walk the line!" Love fears losing the beloved, and that fear keeps them attached. So, this perfect love casts out the fear of judgment and it is love - and love of holiness - that keeps us so tightly bound to God. It is, it seems to me, all about relationship - not subjection. In St. Dorotheos ' own words:

"Such a one fears and keeps God's will, not out of fear of punishment, not to avoid judgment, but rather as we have said, since he has savored the sweetness of abiding with God, he is afraid he might fall away from it. He is afraid of being turned away."

A good example is for a soul of the second type, enjoying good spiritual order within, and experiencing that sweetness, to break faith with God by condemning his neighbor. The inner effects hit, prayer is empty, God has, "Left the building." That wall that took so long to breach between you and God, goes back up, and only repentance will bring it down again....not just including it with the next confession, but heartfelt, tearful sorrow for having cut off both God and neighbor. How very serious God is about the Law of Christ! And how blessed we are to have spiritual guides like Dorotheos, whose knowledge of these things is experiential !

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