The renewal of reverence
God takes reverence seriously: “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground” (Ex 3:5). Muslims take off their shoes in the mosque. Jewish men don a yarmulke at synagogue. We, Catholics, have the privilege of being in the very presence of the Son of God, Jesus himself in the tabernacle. Do we acknowledge God’s true presence when we enter the church?
Proximity has bred familiarity: “This people … honors me with their lips alone, though their hearts are far from me, … fear of me has become mere precept of human teaching” (Mt 15:8-9 and Mk 7:6-7 quoting Is 29:13).
“Fear of the Lord” meant both reverence and awe at the omnipotence of our God. In the Old Testament, at Sinai, the people “bowed down with their faces to the ground … and worshiped” (2 Chron 7:3). When Elijah called down the Lord’s fire, “all the people fell prostrate” (1 Kgs 18:38-39). When the Book of the Law was read, “all the people … knelt down and bowed (Neh 8: 5-6,3).
In the New Testament, at the manger Magi prostrate themselves (Mt 2:11); Peter falls down, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Lk 5:8); the Centurion protests: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof” (Mt 8:8); the cured woman approaches in fear and trembling (Mk 5:25- 33); the man born blind worshiped him” (Jn 9:38); Thomas exclaims: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).
If we met the pope, we would be on our best behavior. How much more for Jesus, present in the tabernacle, our savior, and our Lord?
We must bow down in humility before the God who is in our midst. The Mass is not just another pious devotion. The Divine Liturgy is our High Priest’s Last Supper, our New Covenant, our Communion, the “source and summit of our Christian life” (Lumen Gentium, no. 11).
When we attend Eucharist, we are participants in the heavenly banquet. There “the Angels praise your majesty, Dominions adore and Powers tremble before you. Heaven and the Virtues of heaven and the blessed Seraphim worship together with exultation.” We bow and pray: “may our voices, we pray, join with theirs in humble praise” (Preface for Lent IV).
Instilling renewed reverence requires work: encountering Christ personally; proclaiming His love to others; and bringing them to the Eucharist.
First, we need to accept the popes’ calls to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ (Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel], to the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction (Pope Benedict XVI, God is Love, 1).
Secondly, we must let that encounter motivate us “to be actively engaged in evangelization; every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus (Joy of the Gospel, 120).
Finally, we need to bring others to encounter Jesus in the Eucharist. The goal of all mission: “to bring Christ to others … the gift of His very person. Anyone who has not shared the truth of love with his brothers and sisters has not yet given enough” (Pope Benedict XVI, The Eucharist as The Source And Summit Of The Church’s Life And Mission, 86).
We must learn again to “worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our maker (Ps 95:6) and … work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12).
— Paul D. Turnley, Christ Our Savior Parish, Manchester Center
—Originally published in the Oct. 28-Nov. 3, 2023, edition of The Inland See.