REVERENCE - rev·er·ence; (rĕv′ər-əns)
1. A feeling of profound awe and respect and often love.
2. An act showing respect, especially a bow or curtsy: (v.) The acolyte reverenced the cross before lighting the candles.
3. Used as a form of address for certain members of the Christian clergy: Your Reverence.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
We don’t often hear the word reverence used anymore. It’s been so long since the word has been regularly used that, as a people, I believe we have come to forget or ignore that it’s a thing. A virtue. A part of what makes us human.
Since the first time a human suspected that thunder and lightning came from A Great and Powerful Something/Someone, we, as a species, have found ways to worship what we don’t know when it shows itself as mysterious, awe-inspiring, and powerful.
Now that we have many ways of explaining the forces of nature (and just about anything else you can name) and have created powerful forces of our own (e.g., nuclear bombs and missiles), we’ve become blasé and a bit jaded in the reverence department. What’s come to the fore are sensational substitutes, puffed-up imposters, counterfeit versions of what we call reverence.
A book I would highly recommend on this subject was written in 2001 entitled Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue by Paul Woodruff. His definition of reverence goes like this: “…reverence is the capacity for a range of feelings and emotions that are linked: it is a sense that there is something larger than a human being, accompanied by capacities for awe, respect, and shame; it is often expressed in, and reinforced by, ceremony (p. 63).”
When was the last time any of us felt reverence in our lives? When we were struck by a deep sense of wordless praise, soul-filled wonder, or even deep shame for not living up to our most cherished beliefs in regard to God? What are the things that we do individually – and together – in our faith lives that come from a place of reverence? What do we do on a day-to-day basis that express reverence toward others, the ones that the Bible assures are also made in God’s image?
One of the Spirituality and Practice items I received recently in an email contained the following:
“On a more subtle level, we need to recognize that we express a lack of reverence toward others when we communicate using harsh words, or by displaying offensive gestures and facial expressions. Whenever we make judgments about people — labeling them selfish, ignorant, arrogant, and so forth — we relate to those people as if they were fixed objects and 'kill off' our connection to their individuality and inherently divine nature."
— Swallowing the River Ganges by Matthew Flickstein
To Practice This Thought:
Guard your words, your gestures, and your facial expressions to make sure they reflect only respect for others.
It is said that when we try to snuff out a negative emotion or way of thinking, it is not enough to try to push those things away. We must substitute something in its place.
With the help of God and as people of faith, it is inescapable that we restore reverence in our lives, so that we can give God the proper place of prominence in our lives and right relationship with the One we worship. In so doing, we reclaim our place as beloved children of God who, then in turn, extend that selfsame reverence to our brothers and sisters.
In the remainder of your week, show respect – and reverence – to all you meet. Let’s start the ripple effect of reverence in our homes and community. Who knows? It just might catch on…