St. Dorotheos of Gaza (+565), disciple of Sts. Barsanuphius and John, is one of the most revered teachers on spiritual life, speaking from his direct experience with Christ through his ascetic struggle. Many basic questions we have about the fear of God and how to have it are answered here.  

St. Dorotheos writes, “If, now, even the Saints, who so love the Lord, fear Him, why does St. John say that ‘love casteth out fear?’ The Saint wishes to indicate to us that there are two kinds of fear, one initial and the other perfect, and that, while one is characteristic of neophytes, as we say, in the spiritual life, the other is characteristic of the holy, of those who have been made perfect spiritually and have attained to a measure of holy love. Heed what I am saying. One does the Will of God out of fear of punishment. He, as we have said, is a total neophyte. He does not strive on account of goodness itself, but because he fears chastisements. The other does the Will of God because he loves God and since he especially rejoices when his life is pleasing to God. He knows the essence of goodness; he has tasted of what it means for one to be united to God. This is the one who has the true love that St. John calls ‘perfect.’ And this love leads him to perfect fear. For he fears and does the Will of God, not out of fear of chastisements, not out of fear of perhaps going to Hell, but, just as we have said, because he has tasted of the sweetness experienced by those who are united to God and fears that he might be deprived of it. Thus, this perfect fear, which comes forth from love, distances us from initial fear. And for this reason, it is said that: ‘Perfect love casteth out fear.’ Nonetheless, it is impossible for one to arrive otherwise at perfect fear, save by initial fear.”  

“As St. Anthony the Great says, ‘I do not fear God, because I love Him,’ and as the Lord said to Abraham, after the latter offered to sacrifice his son, ‘for now I know that thou fearest God." It is this sort of fear that is meant: fear that comes into the soul from love.’”

“I do not know if I have ever done anything good; but if the Grace of God has always covered me, I know that I have been protected by that fact that I never favored myself over my brother, but always put my brother first.”  

“Of course, indifference is a bad thing. But neither is it, once more, a good thing for one to become so preoccupied with something that happens that he loses his irenic disposition, such that the soul is harmed. Because, in whatever obedience you may undertake, and even if it is urgent and important, I do not wish you to do anything that occasions squabbling and upset, but to be convinced that every task that you fulfill, great or small, as I earlier said, is but an eighth of what is asked of us. Indeed, to maintain your peace, even if thereby you should fail at your obedience, is four eighths, or half, of what has been asked of you. Do you see the difference?”   

For more quotes from the text, please look at the description for our YouTube upload of this podcast.

Text from "Our Holy Father Dorotheos of Gaza: Various Soul-Profiting Instructions to His Disciples" by Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies. Buy the text here: 

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