November 19 - St. Theophan the Recluse - Greater Fear Against Lesser Fear
Friday, 22nd week after Pentecost
Epistle reading: Colossians 4:10-18
Gospel reading: Luke 12:2-12

Greater Fear Against Lesser Fear

“Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him” [Lk. 12:4-5]. The greatest fear we have in our life is the fear of death. But the Lord says that the fear of God ought to be yet greater.

When life circumstances require us to choose between being killed or offending God — we’d better die than transgress His commandments. Indeed, if we offend God, then, after our physical death (which we cannot avoid anyway) we will face yet another death, a death incomparably more horrible than the most horrific death of the body. Should we have always kept this in our mind, the fear of God would have never waned in us and we would have never done anything contrary to His will.

Assume for instance that a certain passion assails you. Right at the moment of the attack, your conscience, fueled by the fear of God, demands that you mount resistance to the passion. But the passion could be so strong that your refusal to submit to it, to fulfill its craving, could seem to you like losing your life, like killing your body. So, when you experience these sorts of fearful feelings, summon the fear of God and of His Last Judgment for help: this greater fear of the more dreadful death will disperse the lesser fear, helping you stand firmly in the demands of duty and conscience. This is precisely how the words of Scripture come true: “Remember thy end, and thou wilt never sin” [Sirach 7:36].