On divine awe

Divine awe has nothing to do with trepidation – by which I mean, not the tremulousness induced by joy, but the trepidation induced by wrath or chastisement or the feeling of desertion by God.

On the contrary, divine awe is accompanied by a tremulous sense of jubilation arising from the prayer of fire that we offer when filled with awe.

This awe is not the fear provoked by wrath or punishment,┬ábut it is inspired by wisdom, and is also deserted as ‘the beginning of wisdom’ (Ps. 111:10).

Awe may be divided into three kinds, even though the fathers speak only of two: the awe of beginners, that of the perfect, and that provoked by wrath, which should properly be called trepidation, agitation or contrition.

-St Gregory of Sinai

St Gregory of Sinai (1260-1346) was a monk at St Catherine’s Monastery on Mt Sinai in Egypt who was instrumental in preserving the tradition of hesychia on Mount Athos and bringing it to Bulgaria.

The Monastery of Saint Catherine, named in honor of the third century Great Martyr of Alexandria, is one of the holiest sites for Orthodox Christians. It is located at the foot of Mount Sinai, Egypt. On this site the Prophet and Hebrew patriarch Moses, traditionally viewed by Christians, Jews and Muslims as the author of the Pentateuch, received the first Ten Commandments from God. Erected by order of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (r. 527-565), the monastery also encloses the Chapel of the Burning Bush.

The Holy Spirit and the waves of God’s righteousness

There are several signs that the energy of the Holy Spirit is beginning to be active in those who genuinely aspire for this to happen and are not just putting God to the test – for, according to the Wisdom of Solomon, ‘It is found by those who do not put it to the test, and manifests itself to those who do not distrust it’ (cf. Wisd.1:2).

In some it appears as awe arising in the heart, in others as a tremulous sense of jubilation, in others as joy, in others as joy mingled with awe, or as tremulousness mingled with joy, and sometimes it manifests itself as tears and awe. For the soul is joyous at God’s visitation and mercy, but at the same time is in awe and trepidation at His presence because it is guilty of so many sins.

Again, in some the soul, at the outset, experiences an unutterable sense of contrition and an indescribable pain, like the woman in Scripture who labors to give birth (cf. Rev. 12:2). For the living and active Logos – that is to say, Jesus – penetrates, as the apostle says, to the point at which soul separates from body, joints from marrow (cf. Heb. 4:12), so as to expel by force every trace of passion from both soul and body.

In others it is manifest as an unconquerable love and peace, shown towards all, or as a joyousness that the fathers have often called exultation – a spiritual force and an impulsion of the living heart that is also described as a vibration and sighing of the Spirit who makes wordless intercession for us to God (cf. Rom. 8:26).

Isaiah has also called this the ‘waves’ of God’s righteousness (cf. Isa. 48:18), while the great Ephrem calls it ‘spurring’. The Lord Himself describes it as ‘a spring of water welling up for eternal life’ (John 4:14) – He refers to the Spirit as water – a source that leaps up in the heart and erupts through the ebullience of its power.

-St Gregory of Sinai

St Gregory of Sinai (1260-1346) was a monk at St Catherine’s Monastery on Mt Sinai in Egypt who was instrumental in preserving the tradition of hesychia on Mount Athos and bringing it to Bulgaria.

The Monastery of Saint Catherine, named in honor of the third century Great Martyr of Alexandria, is one of the holiest sites for Orthodox Christians. It is located at the foot of Mount Sinai, Egypt. On this site the Prophet and Hebrew patriarch Moses, traditionally viewed by Christians, Jews and Muslims as the author of the Pentateuch, received the first Ten Commandments from God. Erected by order of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (r. 527-565), the monastery also encloses the Chapel of the Burning Bush.