Reviving the Practice of Reverence

Here we are at the end of the year. It is a good time for reflection and assessing what we need to do to end the year with a better understanding of how we can love God more.

Let’s consider the need for reverence in our lives. There is a need for great reverence in our relationships with Jesus Christ. Lord have mercy that there is so little reverence these days. It has become like scarce water in a desert. It has dried up! It is so difficult to find and so precious! Simply to praise God in peace the soul needs a reverent atmosphere. It is a very necessary gift in the spiritual life. We cannot live a proper relationship with Jesus without reverence. Reverence must be observed because it is right and proper, always and everywhere to conduct ourselves with respect before God.

Reverence is observed with an outward sign of respect for God, but it comes from an attitude deep within the heart. When we respect God, beholding Him with awe, we naturally reflect a beautiful internal attitude in our very actions.

Some people say that “we should not be fearful of God because He is our friend.” I agree that we should approach God with a confident familiarity. But another distinction is necessary to add for the sake of clarity. There is a particular kind of fear of God which is not only healthy for the soul but absolutely necessary. Don’t forget that “fear of the Lord” is a gift of the Holy Spirit! This gift gives the soul a deep respect for God, a desire to avoid sin and a desire to flee from all attachments to created beings. It helps a person be attentive and ready to respond to the urgings of God.

This type of fear does not hinder us from approaching God, but assists us in approaching God in the proper way. It reminds us of the greatness of the God to whom we are speaking and the smallness of ourselves. From this profound awareness of the true awesomeness of the Almighty God comes reverence. Approaching God without such a fear and reverence is like approaching a friend without any respect for that friend.

Reverence is much deeper than the proper liturgical actions we should expect to find observed in the sanctuary of any Church. Reverence is rather a genuine reflection of the spiritual life. Those who are reverent know God well and their proper place before Him. Those who are not reverent have a superficial idea of God and a poor idea of how they are related to Him. How we conduct ourselves speaks of our reverence and our relationship with God. We show reverence when we truly believe (and act accordingly) that we are in the presence of the Almighty Omnipotent God.

Here are a few ways in which we can make some of these ideas practical: Dress well when going to Mass; do not forget to genuflect when entering the Church pew and when exiting the Church pew; approach Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament with great reverence and speak with Him; make an act of thanksgiving after receiving Holy Communion; (out of greater reverence) receive Communion on the tongue rather than in the hand, since the traditional method of Communion distribution on the tongue should be preserved and encouraged while Communion in the hand “should not be imposed in a way that would exclude the traditional usage” (Memoriale Domini, Instruction of the Congregation for Divine Worship).

My friends, these practices and others are highly recommended by our Catholic Church, even regardless of abuses witnessed in local churches. I recommend the reading of the following Church documents where you will find such practices encouraged: Dominicae Cenae, Inaestimablile Donum, and Sanctus Pontifex, also refer to the 1983 Code of Canon Law and the Notitiae (Instruction for Sacrament and Divine Worship) Vol. XI (1975). Know the practices of reverence the Church officially encourages. It is best to read the official documents of the Church to know these things rather than to depend on others' private ideas about things.

Resolve in this coming year to nurture the holy fear of the Lord in your heart and to train your body in reverent behavior for our dear Lord deserves no less.

Fr. Sullivan, M.J., is a priest with the Miles Jesu order. Miles Jesu is an Institute of Consecrated Life dedicated to promoting reverence to the Blessed Sacrament, devotion to our Lady and faithfulness to the official teachings of the Church. For information on Miles Jesu and its Seminary Program, please call 1-800-654-7945 or visit their website.

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