Approach in the Fear of God…

Yesterdays post on Communion seems to have brought in many visitors and several comments. Just so you know this is a stream of consciousness post and I have no conclusions. When I was in seminary we were taught that we must use precise language when speaking about Theology. I do not consider myself a theologian. I am more of pastoral/historical type of priest than anything else. So please forgive my simplistic view of things. (if my words make you upset then I welcome you to not return to MY blog.)

I began my seminary time in a Roman Catholic seminary and I can remember in a class on Sacramental Theology the priest using the term tripartite structure of the sacraments. My first thought was what a cool word. Then I got really sad and wondered when, if ever, I would use that term in parish ministry. Well I guess I just did… Anyway sometimes we get lost in all of the stuff. I am not saying that these things are not important but in a world that is hurting it seems more powerful to me to bring Jesus to the people.

So what is this fear of God? In one of the replies I mentioned that I think this is a bad translation of this word and it should be awe. But that is very clumsy to try and sing so I use the more harsh word fear. According to Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” We usually stop with the fear of the Lord part but I like the end of that verse. So should we fear God? God is love and I don’t think we should fear love. God loves us unconditionally like a father loves his children. Not having any children I am not acquainted with giving this type of love but I have been the recipient of this type. So where does all this leave us?

I do not think we should Fear God in the sense that we have made this line out to be. God does not want us to fear Him, after all He sent His only Son to us to show us the way. That is not something to be feared, this was not done to make us afraid but to show us His love. People approached Jesus, and if we believe our Trinitarian Theology then Jesus is God, in a such a way and He showed them love and concern for what they were seeking. He may have spoken sternly to them but he never told them to go away.

I think we should be concerned, rather than fear, the day that we all will be judged for what we have done. And perhaps that is what we are trying to get at here with the word fear. I do not know enough Greek to know what the word is in Greek, perhaps one of you reading this will know and can leave a comment. But in English this is a strong word. We are approaching the Lord, the King, the Creator, when we come to communion and there should be a certain sense of reverence for what we are about to do. In days of old one used to kneel to receive Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Maybe that is what we should be thinking about. What is our state of mind when we are walking down the isle to receive communion. Are we thinking about what we are going to do after church? Are we thinking about the Red Sox game or the Patriots game that is on latter in the day? What should we be thinking of? I am not saying that we should approach on our knees as worms or anything of the sort. We are to approach with a sens of reverence, awe, and such not fear in the English sense of the word.

Next time I will try to unpack the next part of that statement with faith… and the third part with love… What do these pericopies say to us?


  1. Dear Fr. Peter:

    Father bless!

    Forgive me but I disagree that anyone should be permitted to approach the Chalice with the expectation that they be permitted to receive especially if they are a person who does not believe that what they receive is the Divine Body and Blood of our Lord. I was taught that to not have proper preparation (prayer and the above understanding and belief) is to receive communion in condemnation. Of course, my understanding of what I was taught could very well be quite wrong!

    None the less, I truly appreciate your struggle because it gives very clear evidence of your truly pastoral heart and God’s loving Grace in you. Why else would there be a struggle? You love all of God’s creation.

    Lord have mercy.

  2. Philippa,

    Thanks for your comments. My comment back to you would be how am I as a priest supposed to know or judge what is in another persons heart? I am not advocating that people who are not baptized should be able to receieve but anyone who is baptized should be able to draw near! When we take communion we welcome Jesus in to become part of us. Why would we not want everyone to share in that?

  3. funny but i think of the last supper and how sin free or worthy were these apostiles who ate with Jesus. i think sometimes religon and theology makes things way to complicated and puts way to much thought into things.anne

  4. Fr. Peter…Father bless!

    You asked, “how am I as a priest supposed to know or judge what is in another persons heart?”

    I would think it would be possible to judge another’s heart by God’s Grace given to you as a priest, and by your relationship with the person and by what you hear in confession.

    And this is exactly why I am grateful to God that I am NOT a man NOR a priest!

    You are in my prayers dear Father. (I’ll bet you are a great priest and pastor and your parishioners LOVE you!!)

  5. Anne I believe you are correct in your thinking. The church has made rules to keep people out not to keep them in.

    Philippa you assume that people are coming to confession! Ask any priest and you will find that the numbers of people that come to confession has dropped off, and if they do go most go to a different priest in the area and not to me. Thats something else we need to work on.

  6. Fr. Peter:
    Thank you father for clearing up a long-standing question about approaching the Lord in fear and in love. According to what I have read in the scripture, I can only agree that the word should be “awe”.
    We have been taught that we are all unworthy to receive the body of Christ. In obedience, we are receiving Him and His Love just as a child would run to the open arms of a loving parent. (Love is a need and a decision). Otherwise, WHO WOULD APPROACH?
    Several thoughts come to mind.
    We read(1John4:18)”There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.”
    Why does He love us(sins and with all imperfection?)He created us intimately.
    (Psalm 139:1)”O Lord you have searched me and known me.”(3)”And are acquainted with all my ways.” (13) “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;”
    (16)”Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.” How precious also are Your thought to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!”
    We are unique and special, even awesome, just as we are. Created to be in oneness with His love. Since He does not force us to be His, because of free will, He longs for us to Love and come to Him. We draw near, hoping for love, not rejection. Forgiveness is THE CHIEF SIGN OF Love.(Psalm 139:3 “You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways”.
    Only He can heal our brokenness. He alone is without sin? Yet, only He loves us unconditionally. Perfect Love is “lacking fear”. Remember the cowardly lion afraid of approaching the wizzard seeking courage? It takes obedience AND FAITH to approach God.
    (psalm 34:4)”And delivered me from all my fears”.
    (7)”The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, AND DELIVERS THEM.”
    Fear does not come from God, but from the evil one, (who reminds us constantly of our unworthiness,). Can one be delivered from fear, just as one can be delivered from all evil, by our Great and Awesome God? It says so in the “Our Father”.
    We should have no fear because we TRUST IN an awesome GOD and His LOVE FOR US.- LAD

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