As we turn to reflect on the Gift of Fear of the Lord, we begin by understanding that this gift is order to divinize the theological virtue of Hope. St. Thomas also shares with us that under certain aspects says that relates to temperance under certain aspects.
The gift of fear under the influence of the Holy Spirit:
acquires a special docility for subjecting itself completely to the divine will out of reverence for the excellency and majesty of God. God in himself, as supreme and infinite goodness, cannot be an object of fear; he is an object of love. But so far as he is able to punish us for our sins, he can and ought to be feared. St. Thomas harmonizes fear and hope by saying that in God there are justice and mercy, the first of which arouses fear in us, the second, hope. And thus, for different reasons, God is the object of fear and of hope. (Summa theologiae, II-II, q. 19, a. 1, ad 2.)
Fear is not always a gift of the Holy Spirit nor an adequate response to a particular situation. Fr. Aumann mentions four types of fear including: “mundane fear, servile fear, filial fear and initial fear.”
Mundane fear is the fear that grips us that has no problem offending the Father in order to avoid a physical or worldly evil. This type of fear is disordered and evil because it places the world and ourselves first while turning our backs on God.
Servile fear is the fear that causes us to serve God out of fear due to punishment or retribution for lack of service. While imperfect, it still has its end as serving God and has potential to grow and mature thus at its core it is substantially good.
Filial fear or reverential fear seeks to serve God by fleeing sin and situations that lead to sin out of fear of being separated from God. This is a perfect fear as it causes us to flee from sin without counting the cost of punishment.
Initial fear is the fear that is the hybrid of the previous two. This fear causes us to flee from sin for the love of God but still fears punishment. While better than servile fear it is not as perfect as filial fear.
St. Thomas says that of the four types of fear only filial fear is the gift of fear because it finds its root in the reverence of God as Father and it fears to be separated from Him. It is for this reason that the principle virtue ti perfects is the theological virtue of hope as well as the moral virtue of temperance and its subordinate humility.
The prinicple effects that the gift of fear produces is of great value to the soul seeking holiness:
1. A lively sentiment of the grandeur and majesty of God, which arouses in the soul a profound adoration filled with reverence and humility.
2. A great horror of sin and a lively sorrow for ever having committed sin.
3. An extreme vigilance to avoid the occasion of offending God.
4. Perfect detachment from all created things.
To grow in this gift with the necessary assistance of the Holy Spirit, Fr. Aumann suggests the following:
1. To meditate frequently on the infinite grandeur and majesty of God. Affective prayer or true contemplation is a gift of God and cannot be achieved through discursive prayer. That does not mean though that we cannot dispose ourselves to the gift of contemplative prayer. To offer our minds to the study and reflection of God’s granduer and majesty will only produce a deep sense of humility and filial love.
2. To accustom oneself to converse with God with filial confidence, filled with reverence. We live in a society that does not value its parents and constantly disrespects them. We call them by their name without reverential deference to the authority that God has given them over us. We look for ways around their instructions. Yet, our ability to approach and submit ourselves to the will and love of God is taught to us by how we relate to our parents. Let us repent and relearn. The two cannot be separated. Let us approach the throne of grace with the confidence of a little child and the respect of elders.
3. To meditate frequently on the infinite malice of sin and to arouse a great horror for sin. What more is there to say than to realize that it is our particular sin that crucified our lord. We did not need to live during that time to crucify Him…we are perfectly capable of doing it now. Our standard should be death before sin!
4. To be meek and humble in dealing with our neighbor. Fr. Aumann writes that, “He who has a clear concept of what God is in his infinite majesty and realizes that God has mercifully pardoned him thousands of times, how can he dare to exact with haughtiness and disdain that which is owed to him by his neighbor (Matt. 18:23-35)? We must pardon injuries, and we must treat all our neighbors with exquisite humility and meekness. We n should consider them to be better than we are, at least in the sense that perhaps they have not resisted grace as much as we have, or they would not have sinned if they had received the gifts God has given us.”
5. To beg frequently of the Holy Spirit a reverential fear of God. Psalm 2: 11 says, “Serve the Lord with fear, with trembling kiss his feet, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way” (Ps. 2:11). This gift is most easily attained through humility and the perseverance of prayer. We need to foster every opportunity to grow in humility and find time for prayer.