ONE Magazine

The official publication of
Catholic Near East Welfare Association

Celebrating 50 years | God • World • Human Family • Church

Awful New Year

What to do to have an awe-filled life

Here are my resolves for this new year: To do my very best to be an awful person and to behave as awfully as I can.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t plan to be awful in the colloquial sense of the word – that is, to be exceedingly bad or unpleasant, ugly or the like.

To be awful means, literally, to be full of awe. Here’s the primary meaning my dictionary gives to the words:

]  A mixed feeling of reverence, fear and wonder, caused by something majestic, sublime, sacred, etc.

awful [from the Middle English and ]  Inspiring awe; highly impressive.

I don’t know about you, but my life is usually too busy – and not always about things of great importance. As soon as my average workday starts, it becomes an unending litany of doing:

Thank God for the new day. Exercise. Wash, dress, take out the dog. Feed the dog, have breakfast, wash the dishes, put out garbage. Say formal morning prayers. Mass.

Go to the office, read e-mails, process correspondence, answer the phone. Meet with staff and visitors. Plan more to do.

After work, go home, open mail, pay bills, read the paper, eat supper, feed the dog. Perhaps, watch news or a video, make a few phone calls.

Finally, read some Scripture and maybe something serious from the great unread pile in my room. Take out the dog, pray evening prayers, get ready for bed.

My typical day is all about doing things. Except for tiny glimmers of grace that, thanks be to God, tickle my awareness in the midst of all this busyness and doing, there is little awe in my day. How awful not to be awful!

What to do to have a more awful life? First, stop doing! Awe isn’t something I do, it’s something that can happen to me when I stop doing and concentrate on being.

Awe may occur if I can halt my planning, implementing, controlling, managing – if I can sit back and allow awareness of what the Lord has done and is doing to impinge upon my self-centered preoccupations.

What’s the starting point for awe? It’s anything that is of God. It could be my very self – the mystery that I ever came to be, that I live this very day, that I have the gifts, abilities and opportunities that I do.

The mystery of any created, existing thing can be a trigger for awe – a flower blooming, a baby growing, a landscape of beauty, starry skies, the complexity of DNA, an inexplicable new idea, you.

O.K., O.K.! I know what you’re talking about. It’s meditation; it’s contemplation.

It refers to the classical distinction between the active and the passive. It’s about the action of the Spirit.

Whatever you call it doesn’t matter. The point is, I just want to have a really awful new year and I hope and pray from the bottom of my heart that you do, too.

Msgr. Archimandrite Robert L. Stern, Secretary General of CNEWA

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