Today, on the feast of St. Apostles Peter and Paul, we also commemorate St. Paisios of Mt Athos. A great Saint and miracle worker of our days (he rested in God on mount Athos in 1994), he left us many useful books.
St Paisios of Mt Athos about reverence.
It is a deep respect for God, both in thought and action. Reverence for God must determine all aspects of our being.
God is moved with reverence. Reverence is the fear of God, the action of God’s grace in the human soul. A devout person everywhere behaves with attention and modesty, he vividly feels every Holy thing. For example, he is careful not to stand with his back to the icons; where they are sitting, for example, on a sofa or chair, he will not put the gospel, a spiritual book or some Holy object; if he sees an icon, his heart and his eyes are covered with tears. Even if he sees the name of Christ written somewhere, or a piece of newspaper thrown on the ground, where, for example, the name of Christ is printed, or the words “Holy temple of the Holy Trinity”, he picks up this piece, reverently kisses it and he is sad that it was thrown to the ground.
And how many people indifferently, without noticing anything, put their pots on newspapers where icons or some spiritual article are printed, and then throw out the garbage. Do you think such people can truly love the Lord? And do they need God? But without the love of God, there is no salvation. Only those who love the Lord with all their heart are gathered in Paradise.
“Geronde (old father), how can we acquire reverence?”
—The fathers say that in order to acquire reverence, one must live or communicate with people who have it, and observe how they behave. Paisius the Great, said:
“Associate with people who love God and have the fear of God, so that you may also acquire the fear of God.” But imitate, only understanding the meaning of actions, otherwise it will be false worship.
— And why do the Holy fathers only say about reverence that if you want to acquire it, you should communicate with the person who has it? Why don’t they say the same about other virtues?
-“Because reverence is transmitted. The movements, the behavior of a person who is reverent, like a fragrance, is transmitted to another; of course, if there is a good disposition and humility in him. I will tell you that if a man has no reverence, he has nothing spiritual. A reverent person is like a child who has no evil thoughts about his father and mother, because he loves his parents and sees everything they do as good and pure. How much more should one be in awe of God!
There are also those who have only a dry external reverence: they stand on their feet for a whole vigil, but they are not firm in their faith.
“Geronde, what else can help a man acquire reverence?”
- The study of sacred things, as well as the use of the opportunities that are given to us. For example, if I have the opportunity to go to a temple for a short time and pray, and if I don’t use it, then I deprive myself of Grace. But when I want to go in, and I don’t because of some obstacle, I don’t lose Grace, because God sees my good intention.
— Geronde, how does reverent behavior in the temple help us?”
–When you go to the temple, say in your mind: “Where am I going? The temple is the house of God. If, when we come to a worldly house, we wipe our feet, and sit down modestly, how should we behave in the house of God where Christ is sacrificed? Christ has redeemed us from sin; he heals and nourishes us with His all-Holy Body. All these terrible and divine events, when we remember them again, help us to behave with reverence in the temple. But at the divine Liturgy, I notice that even at the most Holy moments there are people whose minds are really far from the Lord!
From lack of reverence, we are possessed by an unclean spirit. Previously, people who were ill took oil from their lamps, anointed them and recovered. Now the lamp is lit just as a formality, just for illumination, and the oil is poured into the sink when the lamp is washed.
Once I was in a house and saw the owner washing a lamp in the sink. “Where does the water go?” “To the sewer,” she says. “I see —” I say — ” what is it, that you take an olive oil from the lamp and anoint your child crosswise when it is ill, and then pour all the oil from the lamp into the sewer? What excuse do you find for this? After all, you don’t pour clean water into a filthy bucket and drink from it, and you don’t put clean underwear in the closet along with dirty ones? And how will God’s blessing come to your house?»
In modern homes, there is no place to throw away some consecrated thing, for example, a piece of paper in which the antidor was wrapped, and previously it was usually buried somewhere in a clean place.
In one house, which I once had to visit, the iconostasis was arranged under the stairs, although there was plenty of space. And in another house, the owner arranged an iconostasis in front of a sewer pipe. “Well —” I asked her,” how did you come up with the idea of making an iconostasis in such a place?” So how will Grace come after that? For this, even what we have is taken away from us.
And here’s another thing to be careful: you have something with crosses on the couch, but you can not sit on the crosses and step on them. Jews make shoes with crosses, often depicted not only on the outside of the sole, but also on the inside — under the heels and soles. And you pay money and trample on crosses!
And what reverence we should have for icons! A devout person is especially in awe of icons. When we say “venerate icons”, we mean that he is in awe of those who are depicted on it. If a person who has a photograph of their father, mother, grandfather, grandmother or brother can’t tear it or step on it, then isn’t this much more true of an icon! When a person with reverence and fervent love kisses the Holy icons, inside himself these saints are depicted. Saints rejoice, being imprinted in human hearts.
”Why, Geronde, is reverence so rare in our times?”
-Because people have stopped living spiritually. They interpret everything through worldly logic and cast out of the divine grace. And before, what awe! Grannies, very simple and reverent, they fell to the ground in front of the mules of the monastery and bowed to them when the monks came down on their mules on business. “These are the mules of the Mother of God,” said the grannies, ” and let us bow to them!” If they showed so much reverence for the mules of the monastery of the Most Holy Mother of God, imagine how much reverence they had for Her!
The whole basis is in awe. Someone only touches the wall against which the icon was leaning, and already accepts the grace, and someone can have the best icon, but not get the benefit, because they do not have reverence. One may benefit from the ordinary cross, and the other, without reverence, will not benefit from the life-giving Cross itself.
You should always remember that where icons hang and stand, you can not even raise your voice, nor swear, you can not smoke near the icons in the house!
The house where the icons are located, the Bible – this is a small Church of God, so you need to behave very reverently. We do not need to test the patience of God, the love of God.
Awe is slowly lost, and all the evil we see comes from it. From inattention and indifference to shrines, people often become possessed. One woman became possessed because she poured Holy water into the sink. She had some Holy water left in the bottle. “Ah,” she said, ” this Holy water is not fresh, and I need a bottle.” She poured out the Holy water, and even washed the bottle, and then began to rage.
The grace of God is gone, because grace cannot remain in a person who is not reverent and is indifferent to God.
– And if, father, someone spills the Holy water by mistake?” – If he put the Holy water in the closet and forgot about it, and accidentally poured it out, then it is half the sin, but if someone else put this Holy water in the closet, and the person who poured it out did not know that it was Holy water, then it is not his fault.
How can the divine Grace approach a person if he does not venerate the Holy place, does not honor it? Grace will only go to those who honor it. “Do not give a Holy thing to dogs,” says the Holy Scripture. Success in faith is impossible if there is no spiritual sensitivity and attention to everything sacred and divine.
You must not give the Lord the worst that you have. Cultivate reverence and modesty as much as you can. This will help you accept the Grace of God. Because, having reverence, spiritual modesty, a person, if he is also humble, accepts divine Grace. If there is no reverence and humility in him, then the Grace of God does not approach him. In the Holy Scriptures it is written: “On whom shall I look, but on the meek and silent and trembling of my words” (Is.66:2).