My Dear Parishioners,
“Reverence in all its Forms.”
We are indeed missing something in our culture which is so very important. Actually this is engrained in the many traditions and rituals of the East - it is reverence. In many parts of Asia strangers and business people will greet one another with a reverent bow. Children will bow to their parents and elders. Martial Arts even begins with a bow.
But essentially, reverence begins with humility - humility toward the other. The bow represents this humility, lowering oneself in respect and reverence toward another person. It indicates not only that we are choosing not to hold our pride over others, but that the other may have something to offer us - some wisdom, some experience or insight of worth.
This word reverence comes from the Latin word reverentia, which means ‘to stand in awe of’. Our liturgy has not forgotten the power of reverence as we stand in awe of God. We reverence the altar, the very place where God Incarnate meets us. We bow before receiving Holy Communion. We bow, kneel, genuflect and prostrate ourselves at key moments in liturgical prayer, emphasizing that we stand in awe of the One who created us. St. Ignatius said in his Principle and Foundation that we were created to praise, reverence and serve God. Further, he underscores this reverence in prayer.
A step or two before the place where I have to contemplate or mediate. I will put myself standing for the space of an OUR FATHER my intellect raised on high, considering how God our Lord is looking at me. etc.; and will make an act of reverence or humility.
In other words, before your prayer, stand before your prayer space, imagine God gazing upon you and make a gesture of reverence - a bow, a sign of the cross, or a nod of the head. An act of reverence before God says what a reverential bow before another person says: I want to be open to what you have to offer. Without such an openness to what God has to offer, prayer is useless; the spiritual life is useless as it becomes void without reverence and humility.
Bowing before another is usually rejected by Western secular culture. After President Obama bowed before the Saudi King, many were outraged and the Internet has since kept a list of Obama’s bows. But bowing is a humble sign of respect (which should be encouraged regardless of one’s position of power). Many of us will find that we ourselves do it when greeting someone for the first time, ever so briefly tilting our head downwards as we shake
their hand. We do it but we are afraid of it. We’re afraid of relinquishing our power or status. Yet that is what we must always do before God. Blessed are the meek and the poor in spirit. We must cast off our attitudes of not needing others and instead reverence them for how God reaches us through them. We must reverence them therefore, we must reverence them as God’s who has dignity.
Can we take the beauty of reverence beyond liturgy and prayer into our relationships with one another? Can we stand in awe of the blessings one has to share with us? I am sure that as Christians we can!
Now a word from our Scripture passages appointed for today:
Firstly, in Psalm 96, the Psalmist affirms the saving power of the Lord: “For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.” Our God is to be revered above all gods”. Also his words express the joy of those who worshipped in the temple and proclaimed the glory of the Lord: “Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of God’s salvation from day to day.”
Secondly from the letter to the Galatians 1: 1 - 12 - On the grounds that he was personally committed by Christ, Paul’s authority as an Apostle is challenged. The “Judaizers” who advocated keeping Jewish practices for Christian converts, accused Paul of watering down the Gospel to accommodate the Gentiles. In this letter, St. Paul warns his people of these errors, stressing the new freedom granted in Christ. He comes quickly to the point and maintains a balance between law and grace.
Thirdly from the Holy Gospel: Luke 7:1-10 - Jesus though physically absent here cures a servant, simply by his words. In Matthew’s Gospel the centurion comes to Jesus himself; here, he sends two delegations, one of the elders and one consisting of his friends. Luke’s typical sensitivity makes the sick servant ‘very dear’ to the centurion, and in fact lies in critical condition. But what a wonderful touch of Jesus’ humanity that he marvels at the man’s faith! The reader should be like a story teller, drawing the hearers into the story at each stage
The conclusion should therefore be read as a happy ending, since the friends return to the centurion’s house believing, even as he was.
With all good wishes and prayers Archdeacon Emeritus