THE FEAR OF GOD
— From the Mystical Revelations of
Maria Valtorta —
— INTRODUCTORY NOTE —
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom...
And by fear of the Lord a man avoids evil.
— Proverbs 9:10, 16:6
If a man is not steadfast in the fear of the Lord,
house will be quickly overthrown.
In this segment, from Maria Valtorta's Lezioni Sull'Epistola Di Paolo Ai Romani ["Lessonson the Epistle of Paul to the Romans"] presented here and specially translated for this web site, the Spirit of God comments on Romans 3:1-20 of St. Paul's Epistle. He offers His own authoritative views—especially relevant for us today—on these two principal elements of man's ancient and ever repeated history: sin, and the fear of God. May it be, for all who read it, a source of inspiration and courage to remain with—or return to—their loving God.
[Valtorta: "Says the Most Holy Author":]
The Holy Spirit :
"There is no fear of God before their eyes," says the Apostle [Rom 3:18]. And with this brief sentence, he explains all the depravity of the uncircumcised spirit.
I speak to Catholics and of Catholics, because they have received the seven marvelous gifts of the Paraclete, and therefore should know at least the strength, the peace, the light which comes both from these gifts and from the truth of their nature. [But] the majority of Catholics do not know exactly what the fear of God is, nor how it is practiced.
Here, there are three categories. That of the scrupulous, that of the quietists or indifferent, and that of the just. But before speaking of these, I will speak of the gift.
What is the fear of God? Dread of Him, as if He were an inexorable executioner who takes pleasure in punishing? An inquisitor who does not fail to note the smallest imperfections in order to send one to eternal tortures? No. God is charity, and one should have no dread of Him. Certainly His divine Eye sees all the actions of men, even the smallest. Certainly His justice is perfect. But because it is perfect, He knows how to evaluate the good will of men, and the circumstances in which a man finds himself. Those circumstances are often the many temptations to sin by pride—and therefore disobedience—anger, gluttony, lust, envy, indifference.
God harshly punished Adam and Eve. But to His chastisement He immediately joined mercy: the promise of a Redeemer Who would take them out of the resulting prison of their fault: they, their children and [all] those who were to come from the children of their children [Gen 3:14-15]. Adam and Eve were full of innocence and grace, endowed with integrity, and with a knowledge proportionate to both their exalted state, and to their still more exalted end: to pass from the earthly Paradise to the Heavenly One, and to enjoy their God for eternity. God could well have given them eternal condemnation, since they had enjoyed all that served to sanctify themselves and to be perfect against any temptation, and they had it without having the tinder, urges, of sin within them.
You men, you have this tinder, these urges. Baptism and the Sacraments cancel the stain of your origin [Original Sin] in you. They restore Grace to you, and infuse into you the principal virtues; they cancel sins consummated after [you attain] the use of reason; theyfortify you with the very strength of Christ feeding you with Himself; they support you with your grace of state. But the heritage of Original Sin, with its tinder, its urges, remains. And on this inheritance, on this remnant of contagion received from your First Parent, Satan labors with easier success than on Adam and Eve.
One of the axioms of Divine Justice is this: "From him who received more, more will be asked" [Lk 12:47-48]. Adam and Eve had received all, and they had no inherited defect. They had only the perfection of having gone out, [already] formed, from the hands of God, from the Thought of God.3 For with His Thought alone, God commanded the clay to form itself according to His design, and the molecules of the clay—inert and dumb matter—obeyed [Gen 1:26-31]. For everything obeys the command of God, except Satan, and manwho is more or less a rebel. Therefore all should have been asked and exacted from Adam and Eve, [who had] gone out, formed from the Thought of God and animated by His Breath. And because of sin, all should have been taken away, and an unending chastisement given.
Adam and Eve knew God. They conversed with Him in the evening breeze [Gen
3:8]. He, besides being their Author, was their Master, and
they were the first "voices,"4
destined to reveal to future [generations] the truths they learned from God. And
yet, though they had known Perfection [Himself], they were curious about the
Horror [Satan], and listened to that Horror, not following the Word of God. They
bitterly offended their Father Creator. They offended His Son, theWord Who
instructed them about Good and Evil, about the created things, animals and
plants. And they offended Love because, being ungrateful, and through a slippery
Seducer who tempted them to a fruit—only one—they forgot all that Charity had
given them so they would be happy [Gen 3:1-13].
But God did not threaten them with Hell. Could He not perhaps have struck them down, there at the foot of the tree of the Test, which for them had become the tree of Lust? Willingly they had changed it into a tree of lust, and it would have been just for them to perish: they were a truly evil plant [although] born of perfect Seed:the Divine Thought. They had become wicked, because of being poisoned by that infernal slobber. Could not God have ordered the Archangel to strike them with his flaming sword, there at the threshold of the earthly Paradise, so that their unclean remains would not have contaminated the Earth? And from that boundary [of Paradise] they would have hurtled into the Abyss, from which he—whom they had preferred to God—had come forth.
God could have done so. And He would have been fully in the right. But Mercy, and Love, tempered the condemnation with the promise of the Redemption, and therefore of an eternal reward.
There are those who die in their scruples, and thus offend the Fatherhood of God, His Love His Essence: believing Him to be a terrible God, intolerant of any weakness in His little children, intransigent, and measuring His little ones by His own infinite Perfection. All [such scrupulous souls] should reflect on this. Who would ever be saved if God were such as they conceive Him? If Divine Perfection were to be the measure of human perfection, who among the sons of Adam would dwell in Heaven? One alone: Mary.
But if it was said: "Be perfect as My Father and yours" [Mt 5:48], it is not of course to dismay you, but to spur you on to do as much as you can. You will be judged—I do not tire of repeating it—not by the perfection obtained in perfect measure using the measure of that Divine Perfection: but by the love with which you sought to act.
In the command of love it is said: "Love with all yourself" [Dt 6:5; Mt 22:37]. This "yourself" changes from person to person. There is he who loves like a seraph, and he who knows how to love only as a baby, very embryonically. But given that the majority knows how to love [only] like babies—very embryonically—while only exceptional creatures know how to love seraphically, see how the Master has proposed, as a model, a small boy [Mt 18:1-11]. Not Himself. Not His Mother. Not His supposed father. No. A small boy. To His apostles, To Peter, head of the Church, He proposed, as a model, a small boy.
Love, then, with the perfection of a child: who believes without scientific studies to explain the mysteries;who—without paralyzing fear, which is a fruit of too much careful reasoning—hopes to go into the beautiful Paradise; who serenely loves God, considering Him a good papa, a good brother, a good and protecting friend; and who does his little bit of good to please Jesus. Love thus, and you will be perfect in your perfect measure, perfect in your relative goodness, as God is good in His infinite goodness.
Fear of God, therefore, is not terror of God. Let those sick with scruples remember this. For they offend God in His love and paralyze themselves with perpetual trembling. Let them remember that an act that is not good becomes more or less a sin according to whether one is convinced that it is a sin, or is uncertain that it is, or does not believe that it is a sin at all. Therefore, if one performs even an action that is not truly sinful but is convinced that it is, he does something unjust, because his desire is to do something unjust. While if one does something unjust, not knowing that it is unjust, truly not knowing it, God does not attribute that thing to him as a fault.
So, too, when special circumstances oblige a man to accomplish actions that the Decalogue [Ex 20:1-17] or other Gospel laws forbid (e.g., executioners who must accomplish justice, soldiers who must fight and kill, conspirators who, in order not to send their companions to the scaffold and do harm to higher interests, swear that they alone are guilty and so die to save others), God will judge—with justice—such imposed homicide or heroic perjury. It suffices that the end of the action is right, and is accomplished with justice.
Fear is not terror. But also, fear of God is not quietism. The opposite of the scrupulous are the quietists. They are those who, through an excess of confidence—but disordered confidence—have no concern about doing good, because they are sure that God is so good as to be always quite satisfied. And with all their studies, seated in their somnolent staticness, they seek to remain there [in that attitude], closing their mind to the truths that it displeases them to know: that is the truths which speak of chastisement, of purgatory, of hell, of the duty of doing penance,5 and of working to perfect themselves.
They are souls that are drowsy and proud . Yes, because quietists are proud. Proud in believing that they are perfect to the point of being sure of never sinning. Proud because, although they may perform acts of piety and penitence, these are external acts, performed in order that they may have the name and praise of being "saints". They are without charity because they are egotists. On their altar is their me. It is not God. They are liars, and they often pretend to be contemplatives and favorites of God with extraordinary gifts. But it is not God Who favors them; rather it is Satan who seduces them, to mislead them ever more. They believe they are poor in spirit because they have no holy concern to accomplish good actions to merit Heaven. But poor in spirit they are not:rather they are full of the most stingy and profound jealousy and greed, and they are apathetic. They are intemperate because they do not deny [themselves] any material thing. And if someone says to them: "What you are doing is not permitted," they answer: "God wills it to test us. But we, we know how to withdraw from what is illicit with the same facility with which we enter it, because we are established in God." They are true heretics, and God abhors them.
Finally, there are the just. They have a sweet, reverential fear of God. They fear to give any pain to God, and therefore they seek with all their strength to make every action good, and to do it in the best way possible for them. If they fall into imperfection or sin, they ardently repent, and go to lay it at the feet of God; and they have an ardent will to make reparation. An involuntary fault does not paralyze them. They know that God is a Father, and has compassion on them. They wash, repair, rebuild what the multiform and treacherously attacking Waylayer has dirtied, spoiled, pulled down; and they do this with their love which they call down ever more strongly from Divine Love: "Pour Your love into my heart." These have the true fear of God.
What, then, is the true fear of God, always alive in their spirit? The fear of God is love, it is humility, it is obedience, strength, sweetness, meekness, temperance, activity, purity, wisdom, ascension. And the true Model of perfect fear of God was given by Christ: Who loved God with a love which cheerfully and willingly yielded to His Father's every desire, even to the obedience of the Cross [Phil 2:8]; Who was humble even to lowering Himself at the feet of His traitor and kissing them [Jn 13:1-20]; Who was strong against all traps, sweet as a child, temperate as an ascetic, meek as a lamb, pure as an angel, and more than an angel; and Who was wise, being the Man Who was one with God, and being a contemplative who ascended with His rapt spirit to a perfect adoration, which made Heaven exult. Because, finally, there rose to Heaven from the Earth, from Man, an adoration which satisfied the fire of God.
Mary, too, was a perfect example of the fear of God. But she was so, because of the merits of Her Son. And therefore it is again necessary to say that He Who in eternity possessed the perfect fear of God, was the Word of God through Whom all was accomplished [Col 1:15-20]—even that marvel of Heaven and Earth: the Immaculate Virgin, Daughter, Mother, Spouse of God.
A single little verse that has been more commented upon than so many others. But such is its importance, that Wisdom lingers over it.
Possess the perfect fear of God, then, and you will possess perfect love. And therefore you will possess God and be possessed by Him. Eternally.
— NOTES —
we, still in their loins..." —This is the mystic principle of "corporate
personality" or "corporate identity" in which the individual embodies and thus
represents the whole group, or, in this case, the whole race. It is a working
principle throughout the Scriptures, and is exemplified, e.g., in the Letter
to the Hebrews, where it is said that Levi paid tithes to Melchizedec
while still in the loins of Abraham [Heb. 7:9-10]. So we lived in the loins of
our First Parents, Adam and Eve. And they continue to live down the ages in us,
their children. But in like manner, when we turn from sin and return to true
fear of God, then we live "in the loins" of Christ, and He in us.
2. Maria Valtorta, Lezioni Sull'Epistola Di Paolo Ai Romani (Edizioni Pisani / Centro Editoriale Valtortiano srl, Via Po 95, I 03036 Isola del
Liri Fr, Italia, 1986), pp. 68-73.
3. "...the clay, inert and dumb matter, obeyed" —not a very supportive endorsement of Darwinian evolution! —Trans.
4. "...the first 'voices'... —an allusion to all the subsequent "voices" of the prophets of Israel and the New Testament, as well as to later visionaries and prophets of authentic so-called "private revelations", with particular allusion here to Valtorta.
5. "...of chastisement, of purgatory, of hell, of the duty of doing penance..." —With the widespread embarrassment and avoidance of these topics in homilies and catechetical instruction today, and the frequent tendency in funeral euolgies to "canonize" the departed and declare them "now in Heaven", we seem to be in a new phase of quietism redivivus! —Trans.