Coram Deo is a phrase little heard today — at least in my experience — among Christians of the protestant variety. Truthfully, it is a reality which strips away the defense of arrogance and freedom that is so inimical to humanity, it unmans a person; stripping us of the comforting delusion of the anonymity of our desires and actions. For those two, simple words of Latin come together to bind us to the truth that our lives, all the little pieces of love and hate, honor and betrayal, are done so before the face of God. That in concert with his transcendence he is intimately immanent, inescapable and that we are laid bare before his righteousness, all our machinations the feeble plans of petty creatures. It is a reminder of our need of not simply regeneration, but of the reformation of our hearts and will. And to live Coram Deo in conscious regard of its reality is both humbling and terrifying. It is the very light which shines upon the incredulity of our deluded goodness and demands that we recognize our redemption, of a reconciliation to God that is only possible as an external, transcendent act for us, that our salvation from the lives we lead in broken covenant with our creator must come extra nos, it must come from outside of us, beyond the ability of our captive and conditioned wills.
Our lives are on display…and what a mess we make of them. I find comfort in this,
60. How are you righteous before God?
Only by true faith in Jesus Christ: that is, although my conscience accuses me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God, without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sins, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.
— From the Heidelberg Catechism, written by Caspar Olevianus and Zacharius Ursinus in the 16th century