An Orthodox Christian Approach to the Study of the Holy Bible

Venerable Gregory Decapolite

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

[Saint Basil the Great]

O God in the Highest Heaven and Lord of mercy, we bless You, for You always do great and inscrutable things for us, and beyond numbering. You provide sleep for us to give us rest from our infirmities and from the many labors of our toilsome life. We thank You for not destroying us together with our sins, for while we were lying in sinful desperation, You showed Your Loving-Kindness as usual and raised us up to glorify Your Kingdom. For this reason we beseech You unimaginable Goodness: Illumine the eyes of our understanding and raise our mind from the heavy sleep of indolence. Open our mouth and fill it with praise for You, that we may be enabled without distraction to sing and chant and confess to You, Who are the God glorified in all and by all--the unbegotten Father, together with the Only-Begotten Son and the All-Holy, Good and Life-creating Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.



On November 20th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Preachers, Apostles, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers and every righteous spirit made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: our righteous Father Gregory of Decapolis; our Father among the Saints Proclus, Archbishop of Constantinople, Disciple of the blessed John Chrysostom and successor to his Hierarchical throne; Holy Martyrs Nirsas the Bishop, Joseph his disciple, and those perfected in martyrdom with them in Persia: Saint Isaacius, John, and Sapor, who were stoned to death; Geithazet and another three martyrs, who were pierced with lances; and the Holy Virgins Thecla, Vaoutha, and Denachis, who were slain with the sword; Holy Martyrs and brethren Efstathius the Deacon, Thespesius, and Anatolius of Gangra; Saint Theoctistos the patrician; Holy Royal Martyr Edmund, king of East Anglia (England), who was perfected in martyrdom in the year 870 A.D., our righteous Father Sozomen of Cyprus, the Wonderworker.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Ascetics, Holy virgins, holy Archbishops, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

SAINT GREGORY OF DECAPOLIS. Saint Gregory, who was from Irenopolis of the Decapolis of Asia Minor, was the son of Sergius and Mary. He became a monk as a young man, and after struggling for many years in virtue and prayer under obedience to a wise spiritual father, he was informed by revelation that it was the will of God for him to live, like Patriarch Abraham, with no certain dwelling, moving from place to place. His journeying took him to Ephesus, Constantinople, Corinth, Rome, Sicily, Thessaloniki, and again to Constantinople, where, after many labors in defense of Orthodoxy against Iconoclasm, he reposed in peace in the first half of the 9th century. He had two disciples, one of whom was Saint Joseph the Hymnographer (see April 3rd), who wrote the Menaion service for Saint Gregory, his father in Christ.

SAINT PROCLUS. Saint Proclus lived during the reign of Saint Theodosius the Younger. A disciple and scribe of Saint John Chrysostom, he was consecrated Bishop of Cyzicus about the year 426 A.D., but because the people there unlawfully elected another bishop before his arrival, he remained in Constantinople. In 429 A.D., Nestorius the heretic, who was Archbishop of Constantinople for about a year, and had already begun his blasphemous teaching that it is wrong to call the Holy Virgin "Theotokos", invited Bishop Proclus to give a sermon on one of the feasts of our Lady, which he did, openly defending in Nestorius' presence the name "Theotokos," that is "Mother of God". Saint Proclus was elevated to the throne of Archbishop of Constantinople in 434 A.D. It was he who persuaded Emperor Theodosius the Younger and his holy sister Pulcheria to have the most sacred relics of his godly teacher Saint John Chrysostom brought back from Comana, and triumphantly received them upon their return to the Imperial City (Constantinople). He reposed in peace in 447 A.D.


Holy Epistle Lesson: Colossians 3:17-25; 4:1
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 18:15-17, 26-30


"For this reason, the Holy Apostle Paul says:  "Quench not the Spirit" (I Thessalonians 5:19). By this he means: do not, by thinking or doing evil, grieve the Goodness of the Holy Spirit, lest you be deprived of His protecting radiance. For the Holy Spirit, being eternal and Life-Creating, cannot be quenched; but the grief of the Holy Spirit--that is, His aversion to the sinner--leaves the mind bereft of illuminating knowledge and thus dark and gloomy." (Saint Diadochos)


There are at least five reasons why Orthodox Christians should read and study the Holy Bible. First, according to Christian tradition, the Holy Bible is the divinely inspired and thus authentic record of God's revelation of Himself and of His Will to mankind. Correctly understood, it is a primary source of truth concerning the nature of God, the condition of man and the overall purpose of the universe. Those who see such truth must therefore have recourse to the witness of Holy Scripture.

Second, as an inspired record of divine revelation, the Holy Bible is God's Word to mankind concerning Himself and His Kingdom. And that Word is addressed especially to those who are members of the Church, who are called to listen to it, take it to heart and respond to it in faith and obedience.

Third, the Orthodox Church teaches that the Holy Bible is a verbal icon of God Himself. Just as the persons and events depicted in painted icons are "really present" in and through their physical representations, so God is "really present" in and through the physical representation of His written Word. Through reading and studying Holy Scripture, through praying over it and meditating upon it, it is possible to make contact with, and commune with, God Himself. Through the diligent and prayerful study of and meditation upon the Holy Bible one can both "touch" and "be touched by" the Eternal, Undivided and Life-Creating Trinity.

Fourth, the liturgical life of the Orthodox Church is grounded in and expressive of Holy Scripture. It has been estimated that in the Divine Liturgy alone, and without counting readings from the epistles and gospels or the recitation of the Lord's Prayer, there are "98 quotations from the Old Testament and 114 from the New." And in all Orthodox services throughout the year, the Holy Bible is read almost constantly. It follows that one's understanding of and participation in the liturgies and divine services of the Church will be both deepened and intensified to the extent that one make himself familiar with the contents of God's written Word.

Fifth, and finally, the Holy Bible is a major expression of the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church. According to Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, "the Orthodox Christian of today sees himself as heir and guardian to a great inheritance received from the past, and he believes that it is his duty to transmit that inheritance unimpaired to the future." But in order to perform this duty, Orthodox Christians will have to overcome a number of rather formidable obstacles. Faced with the secularized culture of the contemporary world, Orthodox Christianity must learn to dwell in the presence of, and frequently in competition with, a multitude of non-Orthodox philosophical and religious movements and organizations. Many Orthodox Christians are, in fact, tempted to depart from the Orthodox Church in response to the often quite attractive and effective enticements of these philosophies and religions. For far too many of today's Orthodox Christians, Holy Tradition has ceased to be a "living and life-sustaining tradition." Cut off from his theological roots by political forces, by radical cultural change and by his own failure to live in the Light and Truth of God, the modern Orthodox Christian must make every effort to comprehend the doctrinal and liturgical foundations of his Tradition and to express that comprehension in a living faith. Only then will he be able to perform his duty of preserving and passing on "the whole system of doctrine, church government, worship and art which Orthodoxy has articulated over the ages." In seeking to carry out this task, it will be necessary to construct a specifically Orthodox critique of the predominantly secular, non-Orthodox and even anti-Christian beliefs and values of the present age. And an important part of this overall project will be the serious study of the content and meaning of Holy Scripture and the development of a world perspective that is grounded in and expressive of what Father Georges Florovsky has called "the Scriptural mind."

For these (and other) reasons, then, Orthodox Christians should make the reading and study of Holy Scripture a central concern of their lives. The Holy Bible is, of course, a very large and complex collection of documents; and it is possible for the beginning Bible reader to get lost in the details of the sacred texts. What is important, as one seeks to develop a "Scriptural Mind," is to strive for a sense of the overall message of God's written Word, "a grasp of the Scriptures in their totality."

(To be continued)

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George