Adoration, Awe and then Service

Friday, May 4, 2012 — Week of 4 Easter

Monnica, Mother of Augustine of Hippo

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 961)

Psalms 40, 54 (morning) // 51 (evening)

Exodus 34:18-35

1 Thessalonians 3:1-13

Matthew 5:27-37

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

One’s first duty is adoration, and one’s second duty is awe and only one’s third duty is service. And that for those three things and nothing else, addressed to God and no one else, you and I and countless human creatures evolved… We observe then that two of the three things for which our souls were made are matters of attitude, or relation: adoration and awe. Unless these two are right, the last of the triad, service, won’t be right. *

I read that exquisite quote in the wee hours of the morning when I couldn’t sleep last night. I couldn’t sleep last night because I was thinking about all of the things I need to do, most of them matters of “service.” Today’s gospel reading from Matthew ends, “Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’;” But I’ve said “Yes, Yes” too often instead of accepting my limitations and saying “No, No.” So, as I should be asleep, resting — I’m thinking, planning, organizing, worrying. How will I keep too many promises?

Our Exodus reading today insists that we keep sabbath and set aside times of holiday. “Six days shall you work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even in plowing time and in harvest time you shall rest.” Rest trumps even the urgency of the intense season.

Adoration first. Awe second. And only after the soul’s attitude and relation is set by adoration and awe, comes service.

As if she were reading my mind, Michelle Heyne followed that quote from Evelyn Underhill with another quote, this one from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. It reminds me of what I know. I find that when I take my anxieties and relax, ask God to guide me in my actions, the work happens efficiently, sometimes almost effortlessly, and things work out that I was worried about. Teilhard says it better:

All around us, to right and left, in front and behind, above and below, we have only to go a little beyond the frontier of sensible appearances in order to see the divine welling up and showing through. But it is not only close to us, in front of us, that the divine presence has revealed itself. It has sprung up universally, and we find ourselves so surrounded and transfixed by it, that there is no room left to fall down and adore it, even within ourselves.

* (From Evelyn Underhill, Concerning the Inner Life, as quoted by Michelle Heyne in her fine little book In Your Holy Spirit – available from

Past Posts