I learned numerous tips from monastics – nuns and monks alike – with regards to reverence of small and great matters pertaining to our Orthodox faith. Although I have not always been vigilant when it comes to exhibiting this great virtue, I have nonetheless remained convinced of the utmost importance of this virtue in all faucets of our lives.
According to Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain reverence is “the fear of God and spiritual sensitivity”. He said that reverent people “behave carefully and modestly, because they intensely feel the presence of God.”
Reverence is a great virtue, a necessary Christian virtue. It is essential in our daily Christian struggle. Reverence with regard to little things is the foundation for acquiring and maintaining reverence toward greater, holier things. When we let our reverence for the little things subside, when we neglect to show reverence toward the little things, then we can be sure that we will very quickly begin neglecting the great things of our faith.
Some of the little ways in which I was taught we can exhibit reverence are:
-Being careful not to place icons or holy books in inappropriate places like piled on the floor or on seats or beds (except on pillows).
-Not hanging icons in washrooms
-Being sure to dispose of damaged or paper icons (even those from Church bulletins) by burning them
-Not disposing of blessed items in the garbage but being sure to burn anything brought home from the church which was blessed (ie. palms, pussy willows, flowers, bay leaves, etc.)
-Only pouring holy water in soil that people won’t walk on
-Not spitting or brushing one’s teeth for a set number of hours after receiving Holy Communion
-Fasting for a set number of hours from food and drink before eating antidoron (blessed bread)
-Never allowing a cross to be upside down, or placed on a floor or seat
-Being careful not to place paper icons or crosses, or any other holy object, in one’s back pocket
-Not eating or drinking anything apart from blessed food and drink in the church (ie. Holy Communion, holy bread, holy water, etc.)
-Dressing modestly for church services and while on the grounds of monasteries
-Struggling to be ever-mindful of the presence of holy saints and angels
-Making the sign of the cross before starting a task
-Saying a prayer before and after meals
“‘The grace of God,’ the elder [Paisios] observed, ‘comes to reverent people, and it makes the soul beautiful.’ But he observed with sadness that contemporary people pay little attention to such things. ’If a person’s not reverent,’ he said, ’If he scorns divine things, then divine grace abandons him, and he’s overcome by temptations, and becomes like the demons. Divine grace won’t come to an irreverent person – it comes to people who honour it.’” (Elder Paisios of the Mount Athos, by Hiermonk Isaac, pg. 420)
If only we would exhibit reverence toward the little things, perhaps we would acquire it with regards to the greater: “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much” (Lk. 16:10).