Servile fear may be found even among those who do not love God, whom the dread of punishment alone keeps back from offending their Lord and Master. Speaking of this fear St. John says that perfect charity casts it out. [1 John 4:18]
On the other hand, filial fear belongs to God’s children. These recognize the Most High for their Sovereign Lord, and love Him as their tender Father; hence they have for Him a profound esteem and veneration. Knowing that they are exposed in this life to a thousand occasions of offending Him by reason of the temptations they must undergo through the frailty of the fleshy the malice of the demon, and the allurements of the world, they fear sin above every other evil.
Mary, at the moment of her Immaculate Conception, received, together with the other gifts of the Holy Spirit, that of the fear of God. This fear in her was in no sort servile. Filled as she was with divine grace, altogether pure and holy, what chastisement could she apprehend?
Neither was there in Mary, properly speaking, that fear which theologians call “chaste fear,” which has for its object the possible danger of falling away from God by sin; for she well knew that by an especial assistance of the Holy Ghost, she would never lose divine grace.
The fear of God was, therefore, in Mary a reverential fear, caused by a keen and lively sense of the awful majesty of the Most High and His limitless power. It was this very sentiment which impelled this glorious Virgin to believe with all her heart the truths revealed by God: to consecrate to the Lord all the affections of her soul: to shelter herself and rest, like a white dove, under the fatherly wings of Divine Providence: “I sat down under His shadow, whom I desired.” [Cant 2:3]
The chief effect of the gift of fear in Mary was to inspire her, in her adorations and supplications, with so great a sense of respect and veneration for the Divine Majesty, that all her petitions merited to be heard: even as we read of Jesus, that He “was heard for His reverence.” [Heb 5:7] Mary might, therefore, like another Esther, present herself without fear before the throne of the King of kings, and lay her request at His feet, with a certain confidence of being fully heard, whatever the object of her petition might be.
Oh, that we would imitate Mary in the acquisition and exercise of this precious gift of the fear of God! That our prayers might be animated with this reverential and wholesome fear, which is the pledge of divine favors, for it is written that God “will do the will of them that fear Him: and He will hear their prayer.” [Ps 145:19] Would that we dreaded above all things to commit sin, the greatest of evils, and that we might courageously shun all the occasions of offending our Heavenly Father and losing His grace! Happy the soul that possesses this salutary fear, the beneficial effect of which is felt especially at the moment of death. For such a soul does not dread the passage from life to eternity: on the contrary, it looks upon that moment as the beginning of all real blessings.
Text from Alexis M. Lepicier, The Fairest Flower of Paradise (London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne, Ltd., 1922).