Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Psychotherapy - About God


Should we have a "fear of Christ"?  
by Elder Porphyrios the "Hut-burner"

From the publication "Bios and Sayings" of the Sacred Monastery Chrysopege, Chania, Crete, 2003




"When you love Christ, in spite of all your weaknesses and your awareness of them, you still have the certainty that you have overcome Death, because you are in the communion of Christ's love.

We should perceive Christ as being our friend.  He is our friend. Christ Himself reassures us of this, when He says: "You are my friends..." (John 15:14).  We should regard Him as a friend, and approach Him as one.  Do we stumble and fall?  Do we sin? We should run to Him, with familiarity, with love and trust - not with the fear that He will punish us, but with the courage that the feeling of one's friendship will give us.  We should say to Him: "Lord, I did it; I fell, please forgive me."  But at the same time, we should be aware that He loves us, that He accepts us tenderly, with love, and that He is forgiving.  Sin should not keep us away from Christ.  When we believe that He loves us and that we love Him, we will not feel like strangers and separated from Him - not even when we sin. We have secured His love, and no matter how we behave, we know that He loves us.

The Gospel of course says - with symbolic words - that the unrighteous will find himself there, where there is the "grinding and gnashing of teeth", because that's how it is, when we are afar from God.  And even among the Neptic Fathers of the Church, there are many who speak of the fear of death and of "hell". They say: "Always maintain a remembrance of death".  Words such as these - when examined in depth - do cause a fear of death.  In his attempt to avoid sin, man indulges in thoughts such as these, so that his soul might be overwhelmed by the fear of death, hell and the devil.

All these things have their special significance, their time and their circumstance.  The notion of fear is beneficial for the first stages. It is for beginners, for those in whom the old person still dwells.  The beginner, who has not yet become more refined, controls himself from evil, through fear.  And fear is necessary, seeing that we are material and grovelling beings.  But this is only a phase - an inferior degree of relationship with the divine. It is an inclination towards a transaction, in the attempt to either gain Paradise or escape going to hell.  If examined carefully, this indicates a certain self-interest, a certain self-seeking end.  I don't like this manner. When a person progresses and enters into God's love, what need does he have of fear?  Whatever he does, he does out of love - and that has a far greater value.  For someone to become a good person out of a fear of God and not out of love, does not have as much value.

Those who desire to become Christians must first become poets. If one's soul is battered and rendered incapable of Christ's love, then Christ will interrupt that relationship, because Christ does not desire "coarse" souls near Him.

Let no-one see you, no-one perceive the actions of your worship of the divine. Everything should be secret, mystical, in the manner of the ascetics. Remember when I told you about the little nightingale? It sings its song in the deep forest. In the silence of the night. Is it concerned if someone is listening to it, or praising it?  Such a superb warbling - in the wilderness!  Have you seen how its throat puffs out?  Well, that's what happens to those who are in love with Christ. If they love Him, their throats also "puff out", they are beside themselves, their tongues utter ceaselessly.... They find themselves a cave, a ravine, and they live with God mystically, with "unspeakable sighs". So, disregard all passions; do not concern yourselves with the devil.  Turn towards Christ.

Divine grace teaches us what our obligation is. To attract grace, it requires love and yearning. God's grace requires divine love-eros.  Love suffices, to "get us in shape" for prayer.  Christ will come without ado and will attend to our soul, provided He finds certain little things in there that please Him: a benevolent predisposition, humility and love.  Without those, we cannot say "Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me".  The slightest complaint against our fellow-man will affect our soul and we will not be able to pray. When the Holy Spirit finds the soul in such a condition He does not dare approach.

We should ask that God's Will be done; that is the most beneficial and the safest thing for us and for all those who we have in our prayers. Christ will provide us with everything, bounteously. When there is even the slightest nuance of egotism, nothing is possible.  When God doesn't give us something that we persistently ask for, He has His reasons. God has His own "secrets". If you do not practice obedience (to a priest-spiritual father), the prayer "Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me" does not come to you, and there is the danger of impending delusion.

The prayer (Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me) must not be seen as a burdensome chore. Pressuring ourselves can bring on a reaction inside us and do us harm.  Many have become ill with the prayer, because they pressured themselves to pray. You can of course pray like that also - as a chore - but it is not healthy.

There is no need to concentrate in a special way in order to say the prayer. When you have divine eros, there is no need to resort to trying. Wherever you may be: seated on a stool or a chair, in a car, everywhere, on the street, in school, at the office, at work, you can say the prayer "Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me" - softly, without pressure, without tensing yourself...

The important thing in praying is not its duration, but the intensity.  You should pray, even if only for five minutes, but those minutes should be given to God with love and yearning.  One can pray throughout the whole night, and yet, that five-minute prayer could be far superior.  This is a mystery of course, but that's how it is....


Translation:  KN 

Article published in English on: 12-12-2010.

Last update: 12-12-2010.