Editor's note: Think of these quotations as setting up a wide-ranging, multidimensional definition of reverence and some of the virtues that cluster around this spiritual practice. From coalescing opposites to enabling us to face the raw power of life, reverence draws out the intrinsic worth of every encounter. It shows us that the whole field of experience is alive with possibility.


An "Ah!" in the Presence of Beauty

"Beauty arrests motion. Beauty brings us up short. We catch our breath, stand in surprise, or in awe and wonder or even terror, as Rilke said. This momentary suspension in the face of beauty is true as well for ugliness, for, as Plotinus said, ugliness makes the soul shrink back within itself and turn away.

"The gasp, ah-h, lies at the root of the word 'aesthetic.' This aesthetic response whether to the ugly or the beautiful shows an immediate instinctual awareness regarding the world before aesthetic judgments and before taste. Beauty comes at us in a glance, seizes and lets go; as does horror."
James Hillman in "The Virtues of Caution" in Resurgence Magazine

An Aid to Full Participation in the Universe

"There is only one valid way, thus, to partake of the universe — whether the partaking is of food and water, the love of another, or indeed, a pill. That way is characterized by reverence — a reverence born of a felt sense of participation in the universe, of a kinship with all others and with matter."
Larry Dossey quoted in Serving Fire by Anne Scott

"All spiritual life meets us within natural life. Reverence for life, therefore, is applied to natural life and spiritual life alike. In the parable of Jesus, the shepherd saves not merely the soul of the lost sheep but the whole animal. The stronger the reverence for natural life, the stronger grows also that for spiritual life."
— Albert Schweitzer in Blessing the Animals by Lynn L. Caruso

An Antidote to Taking Things for Granted

"The surest way to suppress our ability to understand the meaning of God and the importance of worship is to take things for granted. Indifference to the divine wonder of living is the root of sin."
— Abraham J. Heschel in God in Search of Man

"A genuine expression of reverence seems to be something they can't afford. I see the results of their repression in the litter they leave behind. These empty cans scattered about my feet speak to me with a power that transcends words. They tell me that those who made this mess are in rebellion against themselves."
— Richard Bode in Beachcombing in Miramar

"Awe produces a state of reverence, a feeling of respect and gratitude for the things that are given. Rituals build upon this feeling of reverence — we revere birth, we give thanks for food, we honor those who marry, we pay homage to the dead. We bow our head in appreciation of the kindness of strangers and everyday generosity."
— Dacher Keltner in Born to Be Good

"Irreverence lies at the root of all sin — and taking-for-granted lies at the root of all irreverence. We begin to take things for granted at the precise moment when we no longer approach life with eyes of a ten-year-old who can look at a small town and still see its rich secrets."
Ronald Rolheiser in Against an Infinite Horizon

"When reverence becomes central to the human experience, the exploitation of all forms of Life by the human species, including the exploitation of humans by humans, will cease."
— Gary Zukov in Soul to Soul Meditations

An Appreciation for All Beings as Part of the Whole

"When we experience ourselves as one small part of nature, we feel reverence. Zen teaches that we should feel reverence for all beings no matter how insignificant they might seem. From the enlightened vantage point, we should appreciate everything equally, from the most basic and small to the most complex and vast. Each has the whole reflected within. The tea ceremony represents this relationship. The tearoom, the utensils, the tea, and every action is treated with reverence for its being."
— C. Alexander and Annellen Simpkins in Simple Zen

"If a man could prove to some bird or animal that he was a worthy friend, it would share with him precious secrets and there would be formed bonds of loyalty never to be broken; the man would protect the rights and life of the animal, and the animal would share with the man his power, skill, and wisdom. In this manner was the great brotherhood of mutual helpfulness formed, adding to the reverence for life other than man."
— Standing Bear in All Our Relatives by Paul Goble

An Awakening of Beauty

"If we stop and take the time to connect with small beauties around us we nurture sacred respect."
— Chandrika Gibson

The Basis for All Activities

"In Ajahn Chah's forest monastery, as in all Buddhist temples, a reverence for life is the basis for all activities. The forest teems with a thousand species of bugs and beasts, from the cicadas whose loud songs joined the monks' chants at twilight to the tropical birds and snakes that moved around us every day. Our practice was to learn to live together with them all."
Jack Kornfield in The Wise Heart

"More and more people are beginning to realize that the survival of our planet depends on our sense of belonging — to all other humans, to dolphins caught in the dragnets, to chickens and pigs and calves raised in animal concentration camps, to redwoods and rainforests, to kelp beds in our oceans, and to the ozone layer. More and more people are becoming aware that every act that affirms this belonging is a moral act of worship, the fulfillment of a precept written in every human heart."
Brother David Steindl-Rast

"Living in a sacred manner means looking upon the ordinary with a mystical eyesight. When seen differently, the common things are soon handled in a different way -- with reverence."
Edward Hays in The Ascent of the Mountain of God

"One of the most important guiding principles in the Sufi way of life is adab, which can be translated as courtesy, respect, appropriate behavior. Adab is not mere formality; it helps to create the context in which we develop our humanness. Every situation and relationship has its own adab: between students on the path, in relation to family members and elders, in relation to one's shaikh."
Kabir Helminski in The Knowing Heart

The Beginning and Foundation of All Ethics

"I can do no other than be reverent before everything that is called life. I can do no other than to have compassion for all that is life. That is the beginning and foundation of all ethics."
— Albert Schweitzer

"A man is ethical only when life, as such, is sacred to him, that of plants and animals as that of his fellow men, and when he devotes himself helpfully to all life that is in need of help."
— Albert Schweitzer in Zen and the Art of Anything by Hal W. French

"As inward illumination is seen as the grace of God, the secular project of letting things emerge on their own terms becomes a truly human, and therefore a sacred project. Reverence then becomes an important ethical dimension of every human decision. Ironically, a search for innocence must also be undertaken to conquer the inevitable feelings of guilt that arise when anything radically new makes its appearance on the human scene."
— Gerald J. Bednar in Faith as Imagination

A Bow to the Creator of Galaxies and Geese

"I am in awe of the maker of galaxies and geese, stars and starfish, mercury and men [and women]. Sometimes it is rapturous awe; sometimes it is the numinous dread Jacob felt. Sometimes it is the humble awe of knowing that ultimately I belong to God, to the maker whose thumb print is on each one of us. And that is a blessing."
Madeleine L'Engle in Glimpses of Grace

"Bowing in Zen Buddhism has profound significance. It is first a concentrative practice, engaging the body in movement to help the mind throw off distraction. Then it is an act of reverence to the Buddha or enlightened mind, a physical acknowledgment of the Buddha-nature in each of us."
— Sandy Boucher in Opening the Lotus

"Traditionally, a bow or genuflection (touching the right knee to the floor while keeping the upper body erect) is made upon entering and leaving a church. Both are a form of reverence and are made at the altar."
— Thomas Ryan in Reclaiming the Body in Christian Spirituality

"Bowing is a very important practice for diminishing our arrogance and egotism. It is not to demonstrate complete surrender to Buddha, but to help get rid of our own selfishness."
— Shunryu Suzuki in Crooked Cucumber by David Chadwick

"At nine thirty on an August night, filled with the lightening bugs and cricket sounds, my children and I lie in the back yard waiting for the Perseid meteor shower…. One after another they come, blazing across the heavens. And without warning, a spell of reverence falls across the backyard. We lie in silence while the ground beneath us grows holy and God's presence burns across the sky, yet deep and luminous inside me too. It is a rare moment. Not because the sight is so spectacular, but because I am aware of it. Because I have been taken out of myself. My children and I have stepped out of our familiar world into wonder and beauty, and have discovered the Creator in the midst of it."
— Sue Monk Kidd in Firstlight

A Call to Increase Kindness, Respect, and Caring

"Don't murder or slay another person or yourself.

"Don't break, bruise, or crush, which can mean not to break the will of someone or crush his or her spirit. This would apply especially to a child, a spouse, a person who is having financial problems, or a person who can't defend himself or herself.

"Don't batter or shatter, which can mean not to assault someone physically or verbally and not to humiliate someone....

"Some rabbis, ministers, priests, and scholars have suggested a different interpretation of the Eighth Commandment [love thy neighbor as thyself], which says that to be rude to someone, to treat any human being in a demeaning way, or even to fail to respond to a greeting is a theft of a person's self-respect. If you ever have been on the receiving end of someone's coldness or indifference, or have ever been in a good mood until someone treated you like you didn't exist, then you have some idea what it means for someone to steal your self-worth."
— Leonard Felder in The Ten Challenges

"The Jain religion in India teaches that because all life is essentially interrelated and interconnected, all living beings should be considered sacred and be respected. This belief forms the basis of ahimsa, which has been translated into English variously as 'reverence for life,' 'nonviolence' and 'dynamic compassion.'"
— Nathaniel Altman in Sacred Trees

"There are three aspects of [the Minyan principle of respect]: respect for your body, respect for nature, and respect for animals. With regard to the body, you are obligated to maintain proper hygiene, diet, and exercise; to strive toward eating a vegetarian diet; and to consume nothing that is harmful to you."
Rami Shapiro in Minyan

"Reverence for life is simply about striving to widen the 'circle of our compassion' to encompass all living creatures, all nature, all life."
— Phillip L. Berman in The Journey Home

A Careful Way of Walking

"In my daily rambles along the path, I have been inspired by a famous observer of the Irish landscape, the early-twentieth-century naturalist Robert Lloyd Praeger, who walked over all of Ireland 'with reverent feet,' he said, eschewing motor transport, 'stopping often, watching closely, listening carefully.'"
— Chet Raymo in The Path

A Challenge for Saints of the 21st Century

"The challenge of the saints of the twenty-first century is to begin again to comprehend the sacred in the ten thousand things of our world; to reverence what we have come to view as ordinary and devoid of spirit."
Edward Hays in Secular Sanctity

A Coalescence of Opposites

"The Gift of Reverence keeps us true to ourselves and to God. It tells the truth in love and will not back down for motives of self-defense or security. Reverence is not only the fear of offending God prompted by love, but is loyalty to one's own personal integrity: to do what one believes is right no matter what the stakes are. As the Gift of Reverence grows stronger, our trust in God expands. Humility is a profound sense of our weakness and nothingness, but at the same time an even greater trust in God's infinite mercy and compassion. The Gift of Reverence puts together these apparent opposites."
Thomas Keating in The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living

A Companion of Wisdom

"We teach children how to measure, how to weigh. We fail to teach them how to revere, how to sense wonder and awe. The sense of the sublime, the sign of inward greatness of the human soul and something which is potentially given to all men is a rare gift."
— Abraham J. Heschel in Lyrics for Re-Creation by James Conlon

"The great faiths teach a different kind of wisdom: reverence in the face of creation, responsibility to future generations, and restraint in the knowledge that not everything we can do, should we do."
— Jonathan Sacks in The Dignity of Difference

The Core of a Life of Sensitivity

"Spiritual sensitivity heightens when we know how to see, touch, and taste the physical world with exquisite reverence and contemplative discipline."
— Tessa Bielecki in Holy Daring

"When we can let go in life, appreciate 'the now,' and have our appreciative senses fed by an attitude of gratitude, then the possibility for experiencing life with a sense of passion and awe becomes real. This is important because awe is at the core of a life of sensitivity. As Nikos Kazantzakis recognizes in his famous work Zorba the Greek: 'The highest point a (person) can attain is not knowledge, or virtue, or goodness, or victory, but something even greater, more heroic, more despairing: sacred awe.' "
Robert J. Wicks in Seeds of Sensitivity: Deepening Your Spiritual Life

A Covenant of Cosmic Solidarity

"Theologically speaking, a truly ecumenical challenge is opening up: to inaugurate a new covenant with the Earth in such a way that it will signify the covenant that God established with Noah after the destruction wrought by the flood. There we read: 'I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth, an everlasting covenant that I have established between God and all living beings on earth' (Genesis 9: 13-16). Human beings must feel that they are sons and daughters of the rainbow, those who translate this divine covenant with Gaia, the living superorganism, and with all the beings existing and living on it, with new relationships of kindness, compassion, cosmic solidarity, and deep reverence for the mystery that each one bears and reveals. Only then will there be integral liberation, of the human being and of Earth, and rather than the cry of the poor and the cry of the Earth there will be common celebration of the redeemed and the freed, human beings in our own house, on our good, great, and bountiful Mother Earth."
Leonardo Boff in Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor

A Debt We Owe to the Miracle of Life

"I understood that the great commandment to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God must be translated into the discipline of practicing reverence for all life. I was forced to recognize that all members of the commonwealth, all species rare or common, shared an unconditional will to live, which is the divine spirit within us. Standing, or kneeling, in the presence of the mystery of death and the miracle of life I had carelessly extinguished, I felt that ultimately there was no distinction among sparrows, sapsuckers, and me. I owed reverence, respect, and restraint to all.
Sam Keen in Sightings

A Direct Experience of God's Presence

"Awe is the feeling of being overwhelmed by a reality greater than yourself and greater than what you encounter in ordinary life. A curtain is drawn back and the little human is overtaken by a trembling awareness that life is astounding in its reality, vastness, complexity, order, surprise. Experiences of awe awaken a spiritual awareness. If you pay attention, you will learn from awe in a direct way that the Divine Presence is everywhere at all times. Here we have not an assertion but a direct experience of God’s Presence. There is no stronger foundation for all the prayer and observance that Judaism prescribes than your own direct experience of the transcendent, and that is known through awe."
Alan Morinis in "Extraordinary Experiences of Awe" on MussarInstitute.org

"In the icon, what you see is human beings and situations as they are in the light of God's action. . . .
"The reverence — as any Eastern Christian will tell you — is not because the icons are seen as magical objects but because in their presence you become aware that you are present to God and that God is working on you by his grace, as he does in the lives and words of holy people, supremely in the words of Scripture and the person of Jesus."
Rowan Williams in The Dwelling of the Light

An Encounter with Everyday Epiphanies

"Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world."
— John Milton

An Endangered Quality in Our Irreverent Culture

"Awe and wonder are concepts that have fallen into extreme disfavor, if not actual contempt, in our culture. Rather than admiring what is greater and better than ourselves, we try to destroy it. We disfigure what is more beautiful than we are and ridicule what is more profound than we are and drag what is higher than we are down to our own level. We feel diminished by the existence of these things, whereas we should feel exalted. We shut ourselves off from everything that would lift us up."
— William H. Herr

"Older characters on television are not the philosophers of our age, the sages or medicine women of past times. No, the elderly of our time are portrayed as frail and bumbling creatures who dodder along doing nothing, understanding nothing, aware of nothing, muttering…. Negative stereotypes exaggerate isolated characteristics and ignore positive characteristics entirely. So older people are portrayed as slow, but not as wise or patient. We see them as ill, but not as quite in charge of their own lives. We are reminded constantly that they forget things, but not a single note is made of the fact that everyone else does as well."
Joan Chittister in The Gift of Years

"Of all the trials we face, the greatest is that which accuses us of our 'crimes against humanity.' And that trial — which is not simply a question of 'to be or not to be,' but rather, to be human or not to be human — is also the trial or travail of God who has risked God's very self in the form of vulnerable humanity. Ecce Homo…. We must engrave upon our hearts and repeat to our children: each person's existence is as holy and irreplaceable as the very holiness and irreplaceability of God."
— Terry A. Veiling in Practical Theology

"Reverence [meaning a capacity for awe of ideals such as truth and justice, which then leads to a capacity for respecting the limitations of other human beings], has more to do with politics than with religion. We can easily imagine religion without reverence; we see it, for example, wherever religion leads people into aggressive war or violence. But power without reverence — that is a catastrophe for all concerned. Power without reverence is aflame with arrogance, while service without reverence is smoldering toward rebellion. Politics without reverence is blind to the general good and deaf to advice from people who are powerless. And life without reverence? Entirely without reverence? That would be brutish and selfish, and it had best be lived alone."
Paul Woodruff in Reverence

An Entrance to Holy Ground

"We do not always see that we should be moving about our days and lives and places with awe and reverence and wonder, with the same soft steps with which we enter the room of a sleeping child or the mysterious silence of a cathedral. There is no ground that is not holy ground."
Robert Benson in Between the Dreaming and the Coming True

An Equal Appreciation of the Small and the Vast

"When we experience ourselves as one small part of nature, we feel reverence. Zen teaches that we should feel reverence for all beings no matter how insignificant they might seem. From the enlightened vantage point, we should appreciate everything equally, from the most basic and small to the most complex and vast. Each has the whole reflected within. The tea ceremony represents this relationship. The tearoom, the utensils, the tea, and every action is treated with reverence for its being."
— C. Alexander and Annellen Simpkins in Simple Zen

"When you experience only God
your whole life is an act of worship,
a form of prayer, a song of praise.
You see enlightenment, dormant,
in everyone who comes before you.
You see the inmost Self and feel deep reverence.
Nothing is insignificant; everything has meaning.
Even in a blade of grass
you see supreme Light shining."
Amma in Messages from Amma by Janine Canan, translator

The Essence of Religious Unity

"Religion is reverence…. We can find it in the Word and penetrate to its essence. Perhaps we shouldn't be too concerned with the forms if we haven't practiced the essentials. We can begin with humility, honesty, generosity, patience, kindness, and goodwill. All the religious rituals and esoteric sciences exist to serve these fundamental virtues and not as an end in themselves. If we use these rituals and sciences to support our self-importance, we are hurting ourselves. If we remember humility, honesty, generosity, patience, kindness, and goodwill, we will be serving the Beneficent Reality and the true religion of Oneness. We will be the rose garden."
Kabir Helminski in Living Presence

An Experience of "Thou-ness"

"The soul suffers when we lack reverence. We live in an age that understands respect — respect earned through achievement, power, or actions. We live in an age that understands rights, obligations, and sets of commitments. But we have difficulty experiencing reverence when it comes from a deeper place. Reverence requires an experience of 'otherness,' the 'thou-ness' of that other who crosses our path."
— D. Stevenson Bond in Living Myth

An Expression of Our Inherent Sense of Mystery

"Our inherent sense of mystery is in our irrepressible longing for something we cannot name but intensely miss. We are afflicted, or blessed, with a kind of insistent, cosmic homesickness. It comes in moments of awe and wonder at starlight or twilight, or a child's birth and unfolding, or the quiet peacefulness in an old woman's face, the surprising lift of music, a pause of self-recognition in Shakespeare, or the opening of the world in a line of poetry."
Ted Loder in The Haunt of Grace

"At the moment you are most in awe of all there is about life that you don't understand, you are closer to understanding it all than at any other time."
— Jane Wagner in The Essential Crazy Wisdom by Wes Nisker

"In other words, mystery, from the Greek word mysterion, is not about what we can solve but about what astonishes us in splendor and horror: that part of creation that can be experienced but never completely explained. This spiritual understanding of mystery is quite different from our common, everyday understanding of the term. Mysterion is about experiencing mystery as awe, not just as something secret and hidden." — Stephen Kendrick in Holy Clues

"Sometimes something shivers us — a sunset, a single wildflower, a child playing in the park or in the street, a thousand scenes, a thousand times. That shiver is awe, wonder, a primal feeling, a sense of overwhelming meaning and mystery at the same time."
Ted Loder in Loaves, Fishes, and Leftovers

The First Step in the Spiritual Journey

"I believe that religious experience begins with awe and wonder. That is the first step in the spiritual journey. Awe is the beginning of wisdom."
Matthew Fox in Wrestling with the Prophets

"Reverence is the recognition of something greater than the self — something that is beyond human creation or control, that transcends full human understanding. God certainly meets those criteria, but so do birth, death, sex, nature, truth, justice, and wisdom. A Native American elder I know says that he begins teaching people reverence by steering them over to the nearest tree.... 'Do you know that you didn't make this tree?' he asks them. If they say yes, then he knows that they are on their way."
— Barbara Brown Taylor in An Altar in the World

Freedom from Cynicism and Nihilism

"Nihilism is at the opposite pole of 'Reverence for Life.' It has reverence for nothing except its own anti-values of power, public relations, lies, short-term profit."
Frederick Franck in What Matters

A Gentle Tide

"Whenever I discussed spiritual matters with my friends, I was struck by the sense of awe and reverence that permeated their thoughts. At these times they were no longer tribesmen afflicted with the normal worries and cares of this life; they had become men of distinction, wise men, seers almost, as they expounded the mysteries of nature. They reveled in the opportunity to escape conventional reality and tramp the lofty summits with their spirits and Sky Heroes. There they felt freer, more able to be themselves — or more exactly, to be somebody other than themselves. They had allowed a state of mysterium tremendum to wash over them like a gentle tide, filling their minds with the tranquil mood of deepest worship."
James G. Cowan in Messenger of the Gods

A Hallmark of the Great Prophets of Human Solidarity

"What else is it but Reverence for Life that motivated the great prophets of human solidarity in the cruel pandemonium of the twentieth century: Gandhi, Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, the Dalai Lama, Bede Griffiths, Archbishop Tutu, Mother Teresa, Laurence Vander Post, Elie Wiesel, Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, and for me, a non-Catholic, no one more than that genius of the heart Pope John XXIII — among countless lesser known women and men in all parts of the world? What they really have in common, these prophets, must have been a freedom from all cynicism, a love of people, a love of life, and a passionate awe for the mystery called 'life,' that basically 'religious' orientation to existence as such."
Frederick Franck in What Does It Mean to Be Human?

A Heightening of Spiritual Sensitivity

"Spiritual sensitivity heightens when we know how to see, touch, and taste the physical world with exquisite reverence and contemplative discipline."
— Tessa Bielecki in Holy Daring

"Contemplating the Universe in its boundless spectrum of archetypes is the basis of the Sufi practice of invoking the names of God. Glorifying and exulting God's attributes through our prayers and concentrations arouses those very qualities in ourselves — in other words our attunement shapes our being."
Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan in Awakening

The Higher Form of Awe

"There are two levels of awe, one lower and one higher.
The lower awe is experienced as fear, particularly of harming others.
This fear fills you with the desire to turn from evil to good. About this type of awe our sages said,
'If there is no fear, there is no wisdom.'

"The higher awe is experienced as wonder
so intense that it over whelms the self with the glory of God.
Of this awe our sages said,
'If there is no wisdom, there is no wonder.'"
Rami Shapiro

An Honoring of Dignity

"Each time we meet another human being and honor their dignity, we help those around us. Their hearts resonate with ours in exactly the same way the strings of an unplucked violin vibrate with the sounds of a violin played nearby. Western psychology has documented this phenomenon of "mood contagion" or limbic resonance. If a person filled with panic or hatred walks into a room, we feel it immediately, and unless we are very mindful, that person's negative state will begin to overtake our own. When a joyfully expressive person walks into a room, we can feel that state as well. And when we see the goodness of those before us, the dignity in them resonates with our admiration and respect."
Jack Kornfield in The Wise Heart

"Reverence for me is about respect. It's the way in which you treat someone. Reverence is the sentiment and the act of deep respect."
— Melissa Ra Karit

"Judaism represents a highly distinctive approach to the idea of equality, namely that it is best served not by equality of income or wealth, nor even of opportunity. Nor is it sufficient that we each have equal standing before God as times of prayer, and before the law in cases of dispute. A society must ensure equal dignity — the Hebrew phrase is kavod habriyot, 'human honour' — to each of its members. 'The great concern of Moses", wrote Henry George," was to lay the foundation of a social state in which deep poverty and degrading want should be unknown.'"
— Jonathan Sacks in To Heal a Fractured World

"The average person undoubtedly thinks that an honorable person is one who receives much honor, whereas the Torah's attitude is the reverse: It is the one who gives honor."
— Abraham Twerski in A Code of Jewish Ethics by Joseph Telushkin

"I am going to tell you this: there are no 'rotten apples.' There are only people who disagree with your point of view on things, people who construct a different model of the world. I am going to tell you this: no persons do anything inappropriate, given their model of the world."
— Neale Donald Walsch in Meditations from Conversations with God

"No creature lacks a spiritual life."
— Hildegard of Bingen in Wrestling with the Prophets by Matthew Fox

"'Whoever shames another in public is like one who sheds blood.' (Baba Metzia) There is a clear implication, in this passage, that embarrassment resembles murder because shaming someone in public causes that person's face to whiten, as the facial blood restricts within the arteries. This is, literally, 'shedding blood'….Shaming a person leaves an indelible scar. A physical wound may heal in time, but a wound on the soul is less likely to fade and heal. Perhaps it all goes back to the biblical notion of the worth of a human being. We humans are made in the image of God, and any diminution of someone created in the image of God is no different than demeaning God. Preserving the dignity of a fellow human, whatever the effort and cost, is always considered worth the endeavor. No child of God should be subjected to an act of shame or humiliation by a fellow human being."
— Dov Peretz Elkins in The Wisdom of Judaism

"Awe is an intuition for the dignity of all things, a realization that things are only are what they are but also stand, however remotely, for something supreme."
— Abraham J. Heschel

An Intimation of the Divine

"Awe … is more than an emotion; it is a way of understanding. Awe itself is a way of understanding. Awe itself is an act of insight into a meaning greater than ourselves…. Awe enables us to perceive in the world intimations of the divine, to sense in small things the beginning of infinite significance, to sense the ultimate in the common and the simple; to feel in the rush of the passing the stillness of the eternal."
— Abraham J. Heschel in The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by James Martin

"We see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. Our five senses give us impressions of the world around and within us. The results can be pleasing or offensive. Sometimes we receive impressions beyond the normal scope of our senses. Such experiences can fill us with awe.

"An impression of awe can seem both blissful and fearful. It is strangely exhilarating, agreeably disturbing, and outside the normal. No wonder we associate awe with an experience of the divine. Awe gives us a deeper awareness of the immediate presence of God.

"We all remember occasions when we have touched, and been touched by, God. An encounter with divinity immeasurably enriches all life. We feel the wonder of a birth, see the beauty of a living being, or know the ecstasy of love. Such moments may indeed be rare, but their influence lasts a lifetime."
— Robert Maclennan in Emotional Wisdom

A Link to the Fathomless Complexity of the Spirit

"The transcendence which brings a person back to himself … means the sublimity of God, the immeasurability of his wisdom and the fathomless complexity of his creative Spirit. The fear of God links reverence before the majesty of the 'ever greater God' with a childlike basic trust in his immeasurable goodness, and curiosity about his creative activity in the history of the cosmos, the history of life, and in personal history."
— Jurgen Moltmann in Experiences in Theology

"The adoration of God is a mixture of gratitude and reverence and awe."
— Douglas Steele in Paths to Prayer by Patricia D. Brown

A Matter of Open Heart

"Blindness and limited vision go with a closed heart. We do not see clearly when our hearts are closed. A shut heart and shut eyes go together; we have eyes but do not see. So also we have ears and do not hear. Enclosed in our own world, we neither see nor hear very well…

"A closed heart lacks gratitude. If successful in life, a person with a closed heart often feels self-made and entitled; or if life has gone badly, bitter and cheated. But gratitude is far from it.

"A closed heart is insensitive to wonder and awe. The world looks ordinary when our hearts are closed."
Marcus J. Borg in The Heart of Christianity

The Most Precious Offering

"The highest expression of love is respect. Respect is not only due to one's superior or elder, but even to a child. Only, one should know to what extent it should be given and in what form it should be expressed. In loving one's mate, one's friend or relation, one's parents, one's teacher, one's priest, the best expression of love that can be shown is a sincere respectful attitude. No love-offering can be more precious than a word, an act of respect."
— Hazrat Inayat Khan in The Wisdom of Sufism

An Outflow of Profound Intimacy

"Reverence comes not with perfection but with profound intimacy: the true knowing of ourselves in relation to another and acceptance of all the joys, tedium, pain, sorrows, tenderness, and vulnerability that being deeply connected brings."
— Lois Kellerman and Nelly Bly in Marriage from the Heart

Part of the Vocabulary of Service

"We are at our best when we worship we realize that what we have, what we are, what we can do is all offered in the service off something, someone, greater than we are. Thus to our profession belong such words as reverence, awe, majesty, beauty, and inspiration: those are our words, and understanding what they mean suggest that we too are holy, and that the work we perform is holy."
Peter J. Gomes in worcesterago.org

A Pathway to Love through Solitude

"It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brothers. The more solitary I am, the more affection I have for them. It is pure affection, and filled with reverence for the solitude of others. Solitude and silence teach me to love my brothers for what they are, not for what they say."
Thomas Merton in The Wonders of Solitude by Dale Salwak

A Psychological Need

"We need to express or awe and elation and gratitude--and sometimes our terror. If a person has no sense of reverence, no feeling that there is anyone or anything that inspires awe, it generally indicates an ego inflation that cuts the conscious personality off completely from the nourishing springs of the unconscious…This is why modern people who are deprived of meaningful ritual feel a chronic sense of emptiness."
— Robert Johnson

A Purely Secular Perspective for Some People

"I learned reverence from my father. For him, it had nothing to do with religion and very little to do with God. I think it may have had something to do with his having been a soldier, since the exercise of reverence generally includes knowing your rank in the scheme of things. From him I learned by example that reverence was the proper attitude of a small and curious human being in a vast and fascinating world of experience."
— Barbara Brown Taylor in An Altar in the World

A Recovery of the Numinous

"If we cannot recover a sense of the numinous, of the sheer mystery of transcendence-in-our-midst, our worship will satisfy other needs perhaps, but not the spiritual hunger that makes authentic worship unique."
— C. Kirk Hadaway and David Roozen in Rerouting the Protestant Mainstream

A Reminder to Restore Respect for Elders and Children

"So, let us ask again, where are our elders today?
Sadly, if we are honest, we know where they are not.
They are not in the center of the village. Their wisdom is not flowing outward.
Any person or society or nation that ignores the lessons of the past will — sooner or later — face the flames of their own fear or arrogance. Some may not survive.
Isn't it time, then, to put the elders back in the center of the village?"
Joseph M. Marshall III in Walking with Grandfather

"Treat every person, from the tiniest child to the eldest elder, with respect at all times."
— Cherokee saying in Native American Stories of the Sacred by Evan T. Pritchard

"Elders are repositories of tribal knowledge and life experience, essential resources for the survival of the village, anchoring it firmly to the living foundation of tradition. The old and the elder are the most revered members of the village community and its greatest preservers and nurturers. It is natural that everyone should be attracted by age, to becoming old.

"The elder is as important to the community as the newborn, in that they both share a proximity with the Other World, the ancestors' world. The newborn just arrived from there, and the old one, the elder, is preparing to go there. The very young and the very old complement each other because they draw from one another. The very old honor youth as the source of collective physical stability and strength and as recent arrivals to this world, who are more closely connected to the ancestors"
Malidoma Patrice Some in The Healing Wisdom of Africa

"In most societies, the elderly have been revered. In many cultures, only the elderly were considered fit to rule. They were the members of the community who were responsible for guiding everybody's future because they had more knowledge about living, about history, about the memory of the group than all the others."
Joan Chittister in The Gift of Years

A Respect for Beauty in Crafts

"Beauty in craft lends delight and grace, but it is always secondary to the true aim of craft: to create something useful and usable. The intention is always humble: to do the work well. This means honoring and knowing the raw materials; there is no place for plastic and Velcro in the craftswoman's workshop. Similarly she knows and honors the instruments of her craft. St. Benedict's Rule talks about the stewardship of tools, however common and simple they may be: They are to be treated with the same reverence as the sacred vessels of the altar."
Margaret Guenther in Toward Holy Ground

The Root of Faith

"The way to faith leads through acts of wonder and radical amazement. Awe precedes faith: It is the root of faith. We must grow in awe in order to reach faith."
— Abraham J. Heschel

A Sacred Way of Touching

"Let everything you touch be treated as if it were as precious as the altar vessels. Whenever you handle any equipment or any person, be reverent. Be full of care with everything entrusted to you. Everything you touch or see, everyone for whom you have responsibility, is to be viewed as something cherished by God, and thus to be cherished by you. "
— Norvene Vest in Friend of the Soul

A Salute of the Soul

"Reverence is a specific attitude toward something that is precious and valuable, toward someone who is superior. It is a salute of the soul, an awareness of value without enjoyment of that value or seeking any personal advantage from it. The world is seen through, and no veil can conceal God completely. So the pious man is ever alert to see behind the appearance of things a trace of the divine, and thus his attitude toward life is on of expectant reverence."
— Abraham J. Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity

A Sense of Wonder at the Vastness of the Universe

"The sense of planetarity can be deepened by a sense of cosmic awe or cosmic wonder. People stare into the heavens on a dark and starry night and feel small but included in the Ten Thousand Things: that is, everything that exists. This everything is not limited to the earth; it includes the heavens, too.

"Combined with this sense of awe, there is an intuitive recognition that the various things -- the hills and rivers, the trees and stars, the spirits and ancestors - are interconnected. Each grain of sand is part of the universe, but the universe is also present in each grain of sand. The wildflower may be part of heaven, but heaven is in each wildflower.

"This sense of deep interconnectedness finds vivid expression in the Buddhist image of Indra's Net. Here we have the image of the universe as a vast network of jewels, each of which contains an infinite number of facets, each of which mirrors another jewel in the universe. Many Buddhists add that the jewels do more than mirror one another; they are present in one another.

"Cosmic awe, then, is a sense of wonder at the vastness of the universe, combined with a sense that all things are interconnected."
Jay McDaniel in The Spiritual Side of Sustainability, on Jesus, Jazz, and Buddhism

A Sharing of Culture with Others

"You need not believe in God to be reverent, but to develop an occasion for reverence you must share a culture with others, and this must support a degree of ceremony."
— Paul Woodruff

A Stay Against Ecocide

"Without reverence we will gradually descend into ecocide. In the degree that the imperatives of the market -- the temple of the mall -- govern our lives, we are in escalating danger of destroying the commonwealth of all sentient beings -- bugs and bees and buntings -- on which we depend for a luxurious life on planet earth."
Sam Keen in S & P website Interview with Frederic Brussat

Of Supreme Importance

"Ultimately, one basic value is supremely important: respect. If I had to put restorative justice into one word, I would choose respect: respect for all, even those who are different from us, even those who seem to be our enemies. Respect reminds us of our interconnectedness but also of our differences. Respect insists that we balance concern for all parties."
-- Howard Zehr in The Little Book of Restorative Justice

"Listening to each other and respecting each other aren't just nice ideas, They are matters of life and defeat."
Alan Jones in Reimagining Christianity

A Way to Face the Raw Power of Life

" Humility and awe enable us to face the raw power of life that is always present and at work behind our one-sided commitments to surviving and escaping pain."
Mark Nepo from his website MarkNepo.com

A Way of Reading

"Read with a vulnerable heart. Expect to be blessed in the reading. Read as one awake, one waiting for the beloved. Read with reverence."
Macrina Wiederkehr in Home Tonight by Henri J.M. Nouwen

The Way to Think of a Newborn Child

"Our attitude toward the newborn child should be one of reverence that a spiritual being has been confined within limits perceptible to us."
— Maria Montessori in Full Esteem Ahead by Diana and Julia Loomans

A Way to Be More Rooted in the Earth

We can be more rooted in the Earth 1) by enjoying a sense of place with respect to our local habitats; 2) by revering individual animals as subjects in their own right; 3) by being respectful of and awed by the planet as a whole; 4) by enjoying openness to our own bodies; 5) by becoming inwardly silent, so that we might hear the Earth on its own terms; 6) by feeling the pain of the world, both human and nonhuman; 7) by coming to terms with our own inner violence, which is part of earthly existence; and 8) by recognizing our call from Holy Wisdom to overcome this violence and be peacemakers in a broken world. Each of these eight sensibilities can be part of the inner dimension of a Christianity with roots and wings.
Jay McDaniel in With Roots and Wings

The Wellspring of Prayer

"We are beings of reverence. Sometimes we are filled with respect and fascination at the greatness of the universe, the majesty of the starry sky, the still waters of a lake, the fury of a wind, and the mystery of the human heart.

"Prayer springs from the attitude of reverence just as a lyric poem sings the majesty of creation, the unfathomable mystery of life, the glories of humanity, and the surprising conquests that we attain."
Leonardo Boff in The Lord Is My Shepherd