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Revering the elderly, awe and respect for the holies

Pope Shenouda III | 24 October 2009

Are means to attain the fear of God
If a person gets used to revere the elderly, such as the parents, the teachers, the old relatives, the father priests, the seniors, he will certainly attain the fear of God who is the Greatest of all.
Indeed, for if a person does not revere his father whom he sees, how can he fear God whom he does not see?!
   Jacob the Patriarch, for instance, mentions the fear of Isaac his father (Gen 31: 42), therefore who has such fear, reverence and respect cannot sin before or against him whom he reveres and respects. There is a commandment in the Old Testament which says, "Everyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother. His blood shall be upon him." (Lev 20: 9) The Proverbs likewise says:
   "The eye that mocks his father, and scorns obedience to his mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out." (Prov 30: 17)

   That is why God commanded obedience to the parents, even when a child has grown up and enters into discussion with the parent regarding any matter, this will be with such respect and reverence suitable for a parent. A child even though a grown up should not treat a parent as an equal, but takes into consideration the age and the reverence due to a parent.

   In the past, the young were not allowed to speak in the presence of the old because of the awe due to them.
   This is clear in the story of Job the Righteous whose three friends kept arguing with him, while the fourth, Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite kept silent all the time, and when he found it necessary for him to speak he said, "I am young in years, and you are very old; therefore I was afraid, and dared not declare my opinion to you. I said, 'Age should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom.'" (Job 32: 6, 7)

   St. Bigimi the hermit likewise, speaking about the beginning of his monasticism, said that he lived many years amidst the elderly monks and he never lifted his eyes to look at the face of one of them!

   In our days, in the name of freedom and democracy, respect decreased for the old, and the young dare to argue with them and make slight of their views with no more respect.
   The young now behave boldly before the old, even regarding law and public order, gradually losing fear and disregarding everything. They easily lose the fear of God and disrespect His commandments, arguing concerning them instead of obeying them!! However, whoever is used to respect law and public order cannot do this. Whoever respects even a traffic signal will rather respect God's commandment!

   Also a pupil who is used to respect his teacher, or the soldier who is used to respect his leader, these will easily get used to fear God.
   In the past, in the first century A.D., and before that, a teacher usually sat on a chair in the classroom while teaching the students, while the students used to sit at his feet, as St. Paul the Apostle says that he was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel (Acts 22: 3). This urged them to revere their masters. But in our present days the case is different, but a student should know that he has to stand while speaking to his teacher not sit while the teacher is standing!! We learn this from the Holy Gospel, for we read about Mary the sister of Martha that she "sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word." (Lk 10: 39)

   Awe also is due to the clergymen, because who reveres the minister of God will the more revere the Lord of the minister.
   Likewise who reveres the steward of God (Tit 1: 7) certainly will revere God. We had the example of David the Prophet and how he revered King Saul in spite of the latter's faults and attempts to kill him. David refused to kill Saul when he was in his hands and said to his men, "The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to m master, the Lord's anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord." (1 Sam 24: 6)

   As the anointed of the Lord, David revered him and addressed him by the words, "My lord the king!" And David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed down." (1 Sam 24: 8)
  
   The awe due to God's men appears clear in the awe which the person who confesses feels before the father confessor, being aware that he is the steward of God for listening to his confessions.
   In this way the confessing person feels awe and reverence as if he were sitting before God confessing his sins in the hearing of the father confessor, because against God alone he sinned (Ps 51), and from God he receives absolution on the mouth of the priest.

   Therefore a person who has such awe while confessing, no doubt will have awe towards God. But do not ever think that the relationship in the confession is between you and the father confessor and you feel ashamed before him not before God!

   Reverence is due not only to the father priests, but also to the departed saints.
   For instance we ought to speak about the apostles with respect, and when we quote parts from their epistles we should not mention their names bare, but say "our master St. Peter/Paul … the Apostle".

   The same may be said regarding the church fathers, for sometimes some people say: this is the teaching of Athanasius or of Cyril, whereas those who have awe and respect for those fathers usually say, 'Our Father the Great Saint Pope Athanasius the Apostolic'.

   The church therefore includes in the Passover Prayers a hymn preceding with all respect the sermon of the saint they are reading, and another hymn in the conclusion of the sermon.
   A very beautiful hymn is sung in the beginning of the sermon which the cantor introduces to the congregation, and at the end he says: 'Let us conclude the sermon of our Father Saint so and so which has enlightened our minds and hearts with his useful teachings'.

   Great respect is also due to the icons of the saints.   
   They are consecrated with the Holy Myron (Chrism) so that they may be a blessing to the people, and candles are lighted before them to reveal how that saint was a light to the people. Moreover, the priest offers incense before the icon of the saint with all reverence, besides celebrating the icon in a procession with praise songs and hymns on the Feast of that Saint.

   If we have such respect for those saints, for their biographies, icons, feasts and sermons, how much more should our feelings be in fear and awe towards God who Created them! And as a believer trains himself to revere the saints and respect them, he also should train himself to revere his guarding angel.

   Have reverence to the guarding angel, to his sanctity and to his mission. Be ashamed of sinning in his sight or of uttering an improper word, and say to yourself: 'How can I do such a sin while this holy angel is beside me. He will be disgusted and quit me.' Repeat the words: "Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful." (Ps 1)
   The angels may go to the counsel of the ungodly to reprimand them or to lead them to repentance. But if they continue in their indifference, the angels will be displeased and will turn away leaving them in their diversion with their friends the devils, because there is no fellowship between righteousness and lawlessness, nor communion between light and darkness (2 Cor 6: 14).

   This fear lest the guarding angel turns away is part of one's fear of God.
   You have therefore to maintain this fear, and be on your guard lest the guarding angel leave you because of some sin or filthiness, and remember the words of the Scripture: "The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them." (Ps 34: 7) Indeed, the angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, not around the ungodly or the indifferent. If you sin you are dismissing the angels of the Lord!!

   Do you imagine that the angel of the Lord can stand still looking at an evil unclean scene?! Nay! The angels are holy; they cannot accept this, but turn away totally, or at least say: 'Let us keep away till such a person comes back to himself, or at least stand afar and make attempts to lead him to repentance and intercede for him.' 

   The same applies to the spirits of the saints and the beloved who departed.
   If you fear and feel ashamed that they see you in your sin, do keep away completely from sin and filthiness. This will lead you to the fear of God.

   Awe should not be confined to such high ranks of angels, saints, and fathers, but should extend to all values and traditions.
   Who disregards traditions, order, principles, and recognized habits, will certainly one day disregard God's commandments!

   The generation who disobeys all authority, including that of the father, the teacher, the boss, and the rulers, will one day disobey God Himself.
   Who does not respect the elderly, time will come when he will not respect his seniors, then God Himself. He will lose the fear of God in the heart.

  Let us them train ourselves to respect and revere the elderly that we may attain the fear and awe of God.
   Next week we shall speak –God willing- about attaining the fear of God through respect for the holies.   
 

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