My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
HOW TO READ THE HOLY BIBLE AND WHY
by Saint Justin Popovich
The Holy Bible is in a sense a biography of God in this world. In it the Indescribable One has in a sense described Himself.
The Holy Scripture of the New Testament are a biography of the Incarnate God in this world. In them it is related how God, in order to reveal Himself to men, sent God the Logos/Word, Who took on flesh and became man--and as a man told men everything that God is, everything that God wants from this world and the people in it.
God the Logos/Word revealed God's plan for the world and God's love for the world. God and Logos/Word spoke to men about God with the help of words, insofar as human words can contain the uncontainable God.
All that is necessary for this world and the people-in-it-the Lord has stated in the Holy Bible. In it He has given the answers to all questions. There is no question which can torment the human soul, and not find its answer, either directly or indirectly in the Holy Bible.
Men cannot devise more questions than there are answers in the Holy Bible. If you fail to find the answer to any of your questions in the Holy Bible, it means that you have either posed a senseless question or did not know how to read the Holy Bible and did not finish reading the answer in it.
In the Holy Bible has made known:
- What the world is; where it came from; why it exists; where it is heading; how it will end;
- What man is; where he comes from; where he is going; what he is made of; what his purpose is; how he will end;
- What animals and plants are; what their purpose is; what they are used for;
- What good is; where it comes from; what it leads to; what its purpose is; how it is attained;
- What is evil; where it comes from; how it came to exist; why it exists--how it will come to an end;
- What the righteous are and what sinners are; how a sinner becomes righteous and how an arrogant righteous man becomes a sinner; how a man serves God and how he serves Satan; the whole path from good to evil, and from God to Satan;
- Everything--from the beginning to the end; man's entire path from the body to God, from his conception in the womb to his resurrection from the dead;
- What the history of the world is, the history of heaven and earth, the history of mankind; what their path, purpose, and end are.
In the Holy Bible God has said absolutely everything that was necessary to be said to men. The biography of every man--everyone without exception--is found in the Holy Bible.
In it each of us can find himself portrayed and thoroughly described in detail: all those virtues and vices which you have and can have and cannot have.
You will find the paths on which your own soul and everyone else's journey from sin to sinlessness, and the entire path from man to God and from man to Satan. You will find the means to free yourself from sin.
In short, you will find the complete history of sin and sinfulness, and the complete history of righteousness and the righteous.
If you are mournful, you will find consolation in the Holy Bible; if you are sad, you will find joy; if you are angry--tranquility; if you are lustful--continence; if you are foolish--wisdom; if you are bad--goodness; if you are a criminal--mercy and righteousness; if you hate your fellow man--love.
In it you will find a remedy for all your vices and weak points, and nourishment for all your virtues and accomplishments.
If you are good, the Holy Bible will teach you how to become better; if you are kind, it will teach you Angelic tenderness; if you are intelligent, it will teach you wisdom.
If you appreciate the beauty and music of literary style, there is nothing more beautiful or more moving than what is contained in Job, Isaiah, Solomon, David, John the Theologian and the Apostle Paul. Here music-the Angelic music of the eternal Truth of God--is clothed in human words.
The more one reads and studies the Holy Bible, the more he finds reasons to study it as often and as frequently as he can. According to Saint John Chrysostom, it is like an aromatic root, which produces more and more aroma the more it is rubbed.
Just as important as knowing why we should read the Holy Bible is knowing how we should read the Holy Bible.
The best guides for this are the Holy Fathers, headed by Saint John Chrysostom who, in a manner of speaking, has written a fifth Gospel.
The Holy Fathers recommend serious preparation before reading and studying the Holy Bible; but of what does this preparation consist?
First of all is prayer. Pray to the Lord to illuminate your mind--so that you may understand the words of the Holy Bible--and to fill your heart with His grace--so that you may feel the Truth and Life of those words.
Be aware that these are God's words, which He is speaking and saying to you personally. Prayer, together with the other virtues found in the Gospel, is the best preparation a person can have for understanding the Holy Bible.
How should we read the Holy Bible? Prayerfully and reverently, for in each word there is another drop of eternal Truth, and all the words together make up the boundless ocean of the Eternal Truth.
The Holy Bible is not a book but life; because its words are "spirit and life" (St. John 6:63). Therefore its words can be comprehended if we study them with the spirit of its spirit, and with the life of its life.
It is a book that must be read with life-by putting it into practice. One should first live it, and then understand it.
Here the words of the Savior apply: "Whoever is willing to do it--will understand that this teaching is from God" (St. John 7:17). Do it, so that you may understand it. This is the fundamental rule of Orthodox exegesis.
At first one usually reads the Holy Bible quickly, and then more and more slowly, until finally he will begin to read not even word by word, because in each word he is discovering an everlasting truth and an ineffable mystery.
Every day read at least one Chapter from the Old and the New Testament; but side by side with this put a virtue from each into practice. Practice it until it becomes a habit to you.
Let us say for instance, that the first virtue is forgiveness of insults. Let this be your daily obligation. And along with it pray to the Lord: "O gentle Lord, grant me love towards those who insult me!"
And when you have made this virtue into a habit, each of the other virtues after it will be easier for you, and so on until the final one.
The main thing is to read the Holy Bible as much as possible. When the mind does not understand, the heart will feel; and if neither the mind understands nor the heart feels, read it over again, because by reading it you are sowing God's words in your soul.
And there they will not perish, but will gradually and imperceptibly pass into the nature of your soul; and there will happen to you what the Savior said about the man who "casts seed on the ground, and sleeps and rises night and say, and the seed sprouts and grows, while the man does not know it" (St. Mark 4:26-27).
The main thing is: sow, and it is God who causes and allows what is sown to grow (1 Corinthians 3:6). But do not rush success, lest you become like a man who sows today, but tomorrow already wants to reap.
By reading the Holy Bible you are adding yeast to the dough of your soul and body, which gradually expands and fills the soul until it has thoroughly permeated it and makes it rise with the Truth and Righteousness of the Holy Gospel..." (Source: The Struggle for Faith).
Please note: While we are traversing Great and Holy Lent, I, as your priest, would like to encourage all of you to bring me the Orthodox baptismal names of both, living and deceased family members to be prayed for not only on special days i.e., Saturday of Souls but throughout the year. When the priest prepares the holy Gifts at the Prothesis (i.e., Proskomede), he commemorates the names of Orthodox Christians given to him. Very few of our parishioners fulfill this most important responsibility and duty.
Furthermore, an Orthodox Christian who practices his/her faith should understand how very necessary it is to have an active sacramental life, i.e., the sacraments of: Repentance and Confession, Holy Oil (Holy Unction), Holy Communion. As long as one prepares spiritually throughout the year, one can receive these sacraments as often as possible. How else can an Orthodox Christian work out his/her own personal salvation? How else can an Orthodox Christian claim to have a personal relationship with Christ?
Some people have what is referred to as "little knowledge" and act as though they know more than their priest. Your priest is the only spiritual teacher in the parish. You are to attentively and respectfully listen and learn from him. He has been entrusted by the Lord and the Church to instruct, guide, serve and protect the parishioners in his parish. He is the shepherd (ο ποιμήν) and you are the sheep (πρόβατα). Jesus says of Himself, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep" (St. John 10:11-15). The children of God, the Christians, the believers, the followers, the disciples, etc. are referred in the Holy Scripture as "the sheep" who are always obedient and place their trust in the Good Shepherd, Christ.
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Glory Be To GOD For All Things!
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God