Repentance is the ship, and fear is its rudder,
while love is its divine harbor
St. Isaac the Syrian
He should walk this path with the utmost caution and reverence for everything sacred, and not carelessly. Otherwise, he should take care that God’s sentence not come upon him: cursed is the man who does the works of the Lord carelessly (Jer. 31:10). Reverent carefulness is needed here for this sea, that is, the heart with its thoughts and desires, which should be cleansed through heedfulness, is great and vast, there are sea monsters there without number; that is, many vain, wrong, and impure thoughts that are born from evil spirits. Fear God, says the wise one, and keep His commandments (Eccl. 12:13). And in keeping the commandments you will be strong in all works, and your works will always be good. For if you fear God, you will out of love for Him do everything well. But do not fear the devil; whoever fears God will overcome the devil—the devil has no power against him. But no one can acquire the fear of God until he has been freed from all earthly cares. When the mind is free of cares, then it is moved by the fear of God and drawn toward God’s goodness.
Fear is the beginning of love, and then it all turns into love. Fear of God is not dread of God, but dread of falling away from God and falling into sin and passions.
St. Clement of Alexandria
Just as it is impossible to traverse a great sea without a ship and oars, so can no one attain love without fear. We can traverse the foul-smelling sea between us and mental paradise only on the boat of repentance that has the oars of fear. But if these oars of fear do not guide the ship of repentance by which we traverse the sea of this world to God, we will drown in this foul-smelling sea. Repentance is our ship, fear is its rudder, and love is the divine harbor. Therefore, fear leads us on the ship of repentance, takes us across the foul-smelling sea of life, and guides us to the divine harbor, which is love. And when we attain love, then we have reached God and our path is complete, and we have reached the island of the other world, where is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
The fear of the Lord is the source of life. The fear of the Lord is the firmament of the soul. The fear of the Lord brings us to orderly spiritual thoughts… No one is so exalted as the one who fears the Lord. Whoever fears the Lord is like a light that shows many the path to salvation. Whoever fears the Lord is like a fortified city standing on a hill; and before his face the evil demons tremble.
There is no evil that cannot be destroyed by the fear of God. Like an iron in the fire, though it be spoiled and covered with thick rust it becomes clear and bright, cleansed and completely corrected of its damage, so does the fear of God in a short time cleanse everything and does not allow anything human to harm what is penetrated by it.
If you have truly loved the Lord and apply all effort towards improving the future Kingdom, and have made a vow to labor due to your sinful falls, then remember the judgment and eternal suffering, awaiting with fear your departure from this world.
St. Ephraim the Syrian
There are two kinds of fear: one initial and the other perfect—one fear is characteristic, so to speak, of those who are beginning to be pious, while the other fear is that of perfect saints, who have attained to the measure of perfect love. For example: he who fulfills the will of God because of fear of tortures, is, as was said, still a beginner; for he does not do good for the sake of good itself, but rather out of fear of punishment. Another one fulfills the will of God out of love for God, loving Him just in order to please Him; he knows what the essence of good consists in, he has understood what it means to be with God. He has true love, which the Saint calls perfect. And this love brings him to complete fear, for such a one fears God and fulfills the will of God not out of fear of punishment, not in order to escape tortures, but because having tasted the very sweetness of being with God, he fears falling away, he fears being deprived of it. This perfect fear, which is born from this love, banishes, casts out the original fear; and this is why the Apostle says: Perfect love casteth out fear (1 Jn. 4:18). Nevertheless, it is not possible to attain perfect fear in any way other than by the initial fear.
The fear of God is the most important thing. When it comes, the good householder [the fear of God] arranges everything as it wishes in the soul. Do you have it? If you do, thank God and keep it. But if not, wake it up: for it is contained in our spirit; and if it doesn’t appear then it is due to our heedlessness. From the fear of God comes its first offspring—a contrite spirit, a heart that is broken and humbled. The feeling of contrition does not leave the heart! In order to uphold the fear of God we have to keep the constant remembrance of death and Judgment. As soon as you awaken, summon this remembrance and all day you will be friends with it as your first counselor. Join to this the awareness of the Lord’s presence near you and in you, so that He sees even what is most hidden in you. This awareness—with the remembrance of death—gives people the inseparable fear of God. When this trinity settles in your heart, then you will have prayer from the heart, with continual calling out to the Lord Savior. That is all! If you have this to any degree, then the work of your salvation is in force; and if not you need to raise it up in your heart. For if we don’t have this, all else is nothing…