To Cross the Foetid Sea: Repentance is the ship, Fear is the governor, Love is the divine port.
From Mystic Treatises by Saint Isaac of Nineveh
Faith is the gate to the mysteries. What the bodily eye is for the things of the senses, the same is faith in connection with the treasures hidden to the eyes of the mind. We possess two psychic eyes, as the Fathers say, just as we possess two bodily eyes. But both have not the same purpose as to sight.
With one we see the hidden glory of God which is concealed in the things of nature, His power and His wisdom, and His eternal care for us which by His particular providence is directed unto us. With the same eye we also see the spiritual classes of our fellow-beings. With the other we see the glory of His holy nature. When our Lord desires to give us initiation to the spiritual mysteries, He opens in our mind the ocean of faith.
As a grace beyond a grace has repentance been given to man.
Repentance is being born anew in God. That of which we have received the pledge by baptism, we receive as a gift by repentance. Repentance is the gate of mercy, which is opened to all who seek it. Through this gate we go in to Divine Mercy. Apart from this entrance it is not possible to find mercy. Because all have sinned, according to the words of Scripture, and are justified freely by grace. (Rom. 3, 23) Repentance is a second grace; it is born in the heart from faith and fear. Fear* is the paternal rod which guides us up to the spiritual Eden. When we have arrived there, it leaves us and returns. Eden is the divine love wherein is the paradise of all goods, where the blessed Paul was sustained by supernatural food. When he had eaten from the tree of life which is there, he exclaimed: “eye has not seen nor ear heard neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for them that love Him.” (I Cor. 2, 9) Adam was bereft of this tree by the promise of the Devil. The tree of life is the divine love which Adam lost by his fall, after which he worked and wearied himself. Those who are bereft of divine love are still eating the bread that is won by the sweat of their labour, even though they work righteousness, as was commanded to the head of our race when he lost it by his fall. Until we find love, we work in the earth with her thorns. Among thorns we sow and reap, even if we sow the seed of righteousness. Perpetually we are pricked by them, even if we are justified, and live with sweat on our faces.
When, however, we have found love, we eat the heavenly bread and we are sustained without labour and without weariness. Love is sufficient to feed man instead of food and drink. This is the wine that gladdens the heart of man. Blessed is he who has drunk from this wine.
As it is not possible to cross the ocean without a boat or a ship, so no one can cross towards love, without fear. This foetid sea, which lies between us and the intelligible paradise, we cross in the boat of repentance, which has fear for a rudder. If the rudder of fear does not govern this ship of repentance, in which we cross the sea of this world towards God, we shall be drowned in the foetid sea. Repentance is the ship, fear is the governor, love is the divine port.
When we have reached love, we have reached God and our way is ended and we have passed unto the island which lieth beyond the world, where is the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; to whom be glory and dominion. That He make us worthy to fear and to love him. Amen.
The True Meaning and Intention of the word “Fear”
* It is of paramount importance to fully and correctly understand the true meaning of the English word “fear”. In order to achieve this proper understanding, one must look into the ancient usage, wherein the word “fear” is used in its original and intended spiritual context.
In Sanskrit, the word “fear” is used in the most positive aspect: bhāya—illuminates, to illuminate (Madhya 8:114)
Definition in Buddhist Cannons: Fear: Bhaya - in the Nikāyas and in the Abhidhamma there are also consistent instructions about implementing fear in meditative practices and considering it as a valuable ally in the pursuit of nibbāna By means of a lexicographical study of selected passages and especially of two compounds (bhayūparata and abhayūparata), this demonstrates that fear may have the crucial function of stimulating the meditator: through reiterated admonishments and reflections that evoke a feeling of fear as to “what the mind is capable of”, the meditator gets weary of unwholesome patterns and is prompted to put effort in his/her own practice.
Evidence proves that this set of instructions is ultimately consistent with the several teachings that emphasize the importance of counteracting fear and fostering fearlessness, which is described as a quality of liberation as well as an attitude to be cultivated. In fact, a close analysis of the dynamics involved in bhaya (fear) and abhaya (fearlessness) as graphically depicted in the Nikāyas and in the Abhidhamma texts, reveals that stirring fear and letting go of fear are two essential steps of the same process.
Definition in Christian usage in Greek for “fear”: theosebés: θεοσέβεια, θεοσεβείας, ἡ (θεοσεβής), reverence toward God, godliness.
Original Word: θεοσεβής, ές
Short Definition: devout, pious
Full Definition: devout, pious, godliness, God-fearing.
The main Hebrew and Greek words translated fear in the Bible can have several shades of meaning, but in the context of the fear of the Lord, they convey a positive reverence. The Hebrew verb yare can mean “to fear, to respect, to reverence” and the Hebrew noun yirah “usually refers to the fear of God and is viewed as a positive quality. This fear acknowledges God’s good intentions (Ex. 20:20). … This fear is produced by God’s Word (Ps. 119:38; Prov. 2:5) and makes a person receptive to wisdom and knowledge (Prov. 1:7; 9:10)” (Warren Baker and Eugene Carpenter, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament, 2003, pp. 470-471).
The Greek noun phobos can mean “reverential fear” of God, “not a mere ‘fear’ of His power and righteous retribution, but a wholesome dread of displeasing Him” (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, “Fear, Fearful, Fearfulness”). This is the type of positive, productive fear Luke describes in the early New Testament Church:
“Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied” (Acts 9:31).
One resource includes this helpful summary: “The fear of God is an attitude of respect, a response of reverence and wonder. It is the only appropriate response to our Creator.” (Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible, 1997, note on Psalm 128:1).