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.
REVEALING THE DIVINE WISDOM OF GOD THROUGH HOLY SCRIPTURE (Part IV)
How to Read the Holy Bible
By His Eminence Metropolitan KALLISTOS of Diokleia
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Timothy 3:16).
"If an earthly king, our emperor," wrote Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk (1724-83), "wrote you a letter, would you not read it with joy? Certainly, with great rejoicing and careful attention." But what, he asks, is our attitude toward the letter that has been addressed to us by no one less than God Himself? "You have been sent a letter, not by any earthly emperor, but by the King of Heaven. And yet you almost despise such a gift, so priceless a treasure." To open and read this letter, Saint Tikhon adds, is to enter into a personal conversation face-to-face with the Living God. "Whether you read the Gospel, Christ Himself is speaking to you. And while you read, you are praying and talking to Him."
Such exactly is our Orthodox attitude to the reading of Scripture. I am to see the Holy Bible as God's personal letter sent specifically to myself. The words are not intended merely for others, far away and long ago, but they are written and directed to me, here and now. Whenever we open our Holy Bible, we are engaging in a creative dialogue with the Savior. In listening, we also respond, "Speak, for Your servant hears." we reply to God as we read (1 Samuel 3:10); "Here am I" (Isaiah 6:8).
Two centuries after Saint Tikhon, at the Moscow Conference held in 1976 between Orthodox and the Anglicans, the true attitude toward Holy Scripture was expressed in different but equally valid terms. This joint statement, signed by the delegates of both traditions, forms an excellent summary of the Orthodox view: "The Scriptures constitute a coherent whole. They are at once divinely inspired and humanly expressed. They bear authoritative witness to God's revelation of Himself in creation, in the Incarnation of the Logos/Word, and in the whole history of salvation, and as such express the word of God in human language. We know, receive, and interpret Scripture through the Church and in the Church. Our approach to the Holy Bible is one of obedience."
Reading the Holy Bible with Obedience
First of all, we see Scripture as inspired by God, and we approach it in a spirit of obedience. The Divine inspiration of the Holy Bible is emphasized alike by Saint Tikhon and by the 1976 Moscow Conference: Scripture is "a letter" from "the King of Heaven," writes Saint Tikhon; "Christ Himself is speaking to you." The Holy Bible, states the Conference, is God's "authoritative witness" of Himself, expressing "the word of God in human language." Our response to this Divine word is rightly one of obedient receptivity. As we read, we wait on the Spirit.
Since it is Divinely inspired, the Holy Bible possesses a fundamental unity, a total coherence, because the same Spirit speaks on every page. We do not refer to it as "the books" in plural, τά βιβλία (ta biblia). We call it "the Bible," "the Book," in the singular. It is one book, one Holy Scripture with the same message throughout--one composite and yet a single story from Genesis to Revelation...". (Source: The Orthodox Study Bible, p. 762)
(To be continued)
A Plea for Holiness (2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1)
"And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: 'I will dwell in them And walk with them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.'
'Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty.'
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."
Spiritual Warfare (10:3-6)
"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God, for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled."
The Epistle of Saint Paul the Apostle to the Galatians
Sonship by Faith and Baptism (3:26-29)
"For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."
"Do Good to All (6:1-4)
"Brethren if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load."
The Epistle of Saint Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians
Prayer of Revelation (1:15-23)
"Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the Church, which is His Body, the fullness of Him Who fills all in all."
Transfigured by Grace (2:1-10)
"And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lust of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not your works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before-hand that we should walk in them."
The Epistle of Saint Paul the Apostle to the Philippians
Preserve Unity in Humility (2:1-10)
"Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, Who, being in the form of God did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond-servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of these in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
(To be continued)
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!" - St. John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God