Author’s Note: I have been a part of a Lenten Group practicing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius this year for Lent and as a part of my Sabbatical. Today’s “Sabbatical Musings” arise from one of the Examen sessions on Reverence.
What is reverence? For me, it is something akin to tender care and positive regard – seeing the Divine in another person, place, or even thing. It can be “dearly loved” feelings coupled with appropriate action or external demonstration of one’s internal feelings of regard.
1). St. Ignatius asks, “How, when, and for what do others reverence me?” I found this a very difficult question. I can better come to terms with it if the question asked is more along the lines of “When am I held in reverence by others?” I discovered that what made the original question difficult was along the lines of a frame of reference (perhaps informed by my contemporary context instead of that of St. Ignatius’ time). To me, the original question borders on “hero worship.” I think this is a slippery slope to idolatrous thinking toward that which is not Divine. When person to person, I am uncomfortable with “hero worship” mentality because reverence, to me, is more in light of recognizing the Divine in another – which is more appropriate than “worship” of a faulty, limited human begin.
Unconditional love is much more comforting to me to think about than being “reverenced.” If my children love me and I am a perfect father to them, this I could understand. Yet I know I’m not a perfect father – so that leaves me with profound gratitude that my children do still love me unreservedly.
As far as I can tell, my mother loves me in that way – and I her – even though on another level I know she is challenged with problems of her own. I wonder how love and reverence connect here.
2). St. Ignatius asks us, “How, when, and for what do I reverence myself?” Again, a difficult question for all the same reasons as above. I take care of my body – listening to it’s changing needs as i age and addressing concerns that arise. In that sense, I revere myself, by taking care of myself and holding my body in positive regard.
3). Finally, St. Ignatius asks, “How, when, and for what does the Lord reverence me?” Again, for me and my understanding of “reverence,” the language is very uncomfortable here. the Lord reverence ME? How very inappropriate….perhaps. On a very esoteric level, I suppose the Lord might reverence me in the similar way that the Psalmist writes, ‘ I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” If I could somehow anthropomorphize God, I can imagine that God walks among all creation even as I walk through the woods or along the shore of the ocean: in appreciation. As God walks among people, each is seen as wonderfully made.
Reflection: how do I feel about being reverenced? It makes me want to live even more into an intentional and reciprocal reverent modality with all creation and all people around me. I struggle, though, with being able to do that with those unlike me – those who are in most need of it! The houseless, other “races” of humanity, other ethnic cultural peoples than my own tribe. I have so far to go before I can love all – even if at one step removed I can revere and appreciate all; but that one step between is such a huge step.
It is the difference between tribe and other, familial and stranger, faith and faith, east and west, creature and Created.
Yet God took that step and stepped into humanity. Jesus did walk among us, God incarnate. And we are made in God’s image even as he was. Lord I believe, help my unbelief! Lord I want to love, help my unloving! Selah