The Holy Scripture in the Life of the Orthodox Christian

Holy New Martyr Ignatius

Holy New Martyr Ignatius

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.

THE HOLY SCRIPTURE IN THE LIFE OF THE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN
"Let them hear, as many of us as neglect the reading of the Scriptures, to what harm we are subjecting ourselves, to what poverty" (St. John Chrysostom, Hom. XI.VII On Matthew).

The Holy Bible

a) The Holy Bible and the Church. The Christian Church is a Scriptural Church: Orthodoxy believes this just as firmly, if not more firmly than Protestantism. The Bible is the supreme expression of God's revelation to man, and Christians must always be 'People of the Book.' But if Christians are People of the Book, the Bible is the Book of the People, it must not be regarded as something set up over the Church, but as something that lives and is understood within the Church (that is why one should not separate Scripture and Tradition). It is from the Church that the Bible ultimately derives its authority, for it was the Church which originally decided which books form a part of Holy Scripture; and it is the Church alone which can interpret Holy Scripture with authority. There are many sayings in the Bible which by themselves are far from clear, and the individual reader, however sincere, is in danger of error if he trusts his own personal interpretation. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked the Ethiopian eunuch, and the eunuch replied: "How can I, unless someone guides me?" (Acts 8:30). Orthodox Christians, when they read the Holy Scripture, accept the guidance of the Church. When received into the Orthodox Church, a convert promises: 'I will accept and understand Holy Scripture in accordance with the interpretation which was and is held by the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church of the East, our Mother' (On Bible and Church, see especially Dositheus, Confession, Decree 2). [Excerpts from the Orthodox Church by Metropolitan of Diokleia Metropolitan Kallistos Ware].

Select Quotes From Saint John Chrysostom On The Benefits and Importance of Scripture Reading for Christians by Dr. Eugenia Constantinou, University of San Diego

The Bible helps us to obtain our salvation. "Now if we are willing to examine the Scriptures in this way, carefully and systematically, we shall be able to obtain our salvation. If we unceasingly are preoccupied with them, we shall learn both correctness of doctrine and an upright way of life" (Hom 53 On John).

Scripture reading sanctifies us. "Moreover, if the Devil does not dare to enter into the house where the Gospel lies, much less will he ever seize upon the soul which contains such thoughts as these, and no evil spirit will approach it, nor will the nature of sin come near. Well, then, sanctify your soul, sanctify your body by having these thoughts always in your heart and on your tongue. For if foul language is defiling and evokes evil spirits, it is evident that spiritual reading sanctifies the reader and attracts the grace of the Spirit" (Hom 32 On Acts).

The Scriptures are a treasure and neglect of it causes harm. "It is not possible, I say not possible, ever to exhaust the mind of the Scriptures. It is a well which has no bottom" (Hom XIX On Acts).

Knowledge of the Bible protects us and ignorance of it results in a multitude of evils. "This is the cause of all evils, the not knowing the Scriptures. We go into battle without arms, and how are we to come off safe?" (Hom. IX On Colossians).

The Bible is a medicine chest with remedies for grief and all troubles. "Listen, I entreat you, all that are careful for this life, and procure books that will be medicines for the soul...get at least the New Testament, the Apostolic Epistles, the Acts, the Gospels, for your constant teachers. If grief befalls you, dive into them as into a chest of medicines; take from them comfort for your trouble, be it loss, or death, or bereavement of relations; or rather do not merely dive into them but take them wholly to yourself, keeping them in your mind" (Hom IX On Colossains).

The Bible is a treasury with remedies for every ailment. "Great is the profit derived from the sacred Scriptures and their assistance is sufficient for every need. Paul was pointing this out when he said, "Whatever things have been written have been written for our instruction, upon whom the final age of the world has come, that through the patience and the consolation afforded by the Scriptures we may have hope." (Romans 15:4; I Cor. 10:11). The Divine words, indeed, are a treasury containing every sort of remedy, so that, whether one needs to put down senseless pride, or to quench the fire of concupiscence or to trample on the love of riches, or to despise pain, or to cultivate cheerfulness and acquire patience--in them one may find in abundance the means to do so" (Hom. 37 On John).

Knowledge of the Scriptures allows us to bear difficulties. "For as the rich in money can bear fines and damages, so he that is rich in the doctrines of [Christian] philosophy will bear not poverty only, but all calamities also easily, more easily than that [rich] one" (Hom IX On Colossians.)

Children must be instructed in the Scriptures, beginning with the learning of psalms and hymns. "But now your children will utter songs and dances of Satan, like cooks, and caterers, and musicians; no one know any psalm but it seems a thing to be ashamed of even, a mockery and a joke. There is the treasury house of all these evils. For whatsoever soil the plant stands in, such is the fruit it bears; if in a sandy and salty soul, of like nature is its fruit; if in a sweet and rich one, it is again similar. So the matter of instruction is a sort of fountain. Teach him to sing those psalms which are so full of love of wisdom. When in these you have led him on from childhood, by little and little you will lead him forward even to the higher things" (Hom. IX On Colossians).

On the lack of attention paid when listening to the reading of Scripture in church, when in fact it is not the clergy but God who addresses them. "They think that when they enter in here [the church], that they enter into our presence [the clergy], they think that they hear from us. They do not lay to heart, they do not consider that they are entering the presence of God, that is He who addresses them. For when the Reader standing up says "Thus says the Lord", and the Deacon stands and imposes silence to all through him [the Reader]. If they knew that it was God who through His prophet speaks these things, they would cast away all their pride. For if rulers are addressing them, they do not allow their minds to wander, much else would they when God is speaking. We are ministers, beloved. We speak not our own things, but the things of God. Letters coming from heaven are read every day...These letters are sent from God; therefore let us enter with becoming reverence into the churches and let us hearken with fear to the things here said" (Hom. IX On Thessalonians.)

On the importance of instructing children in the Holy Scriptures. "Do you wish your son to be obedient? From the very first, "Bring him up in the chastening and admonition of the Lord." Never deem it an unnecessary thing that he should be a diligent hearer of the Divine Scriptures. For there the first thing he hears will be this: 'Honor thy father and thy mother'. So then, this is for you. Never say, 'This is the business of monks.' Am I making a monk of him? No, there is no need he should become a monk. Why be so afraid of a thing so replete with so much advantage? Make him a Christian..." (Hom XXI Ephesians).

The Scriptures were written for a purpose and it is a great evil to be ignorant of them. "From this if is that countless evils have arisen--from ignorance of the Scriptures; from this it is that the plague of heresies has broken out; from this it is that there are negligent lives; from this there are labors without advantage. For as men deprived of this daylight would not walk aright, so they that look not to the gleaming of the Holy Scriptures must be frequently and constantly sinning, in that they are walking in the worst darkness" (Intro. Hom. On Romans).

Ignorance of the Scriptures by Christians is a disgrace. "Is it not strange that those who sit in the marketplace tell the names, and races, and cities and talents of charioteers and dancers, even accurately state the good and bad qualities of horses, while those who assemble in this place [the church] understand nothing of what is taking place here and even are ignorant of the number of the [sacred] Books?" (Hom. 32 On John).

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Please note: Along with prayer, worship, fasting, Mysterion (Sacrament) of Repentance and Confession, there is the great need for the study of the Holy Scripture. There can be no spiritual life for any Christian without knowledge of the Holy Scripture. I encourage all of you to begin to make the reading of the Holy Scripture (i.e., New Testament) at least, a daily spiritual practice, and discipline. You will find inner peace, comfort, hope, healing, inspiration, guidance and much, much more. Don't be intimidated by your lack of knowledge of the Holy Scripture. No one is expecting you to be a theologian or a Scriptural scholar. The Holy Scripture are divinely inspired and they are there as spiritual nourishment for your soul. When approached with an open heart, faith, humility, sincerity, trust, it becomes a personal dialogue between you and Our Savior. The Holy Spirit is there to open your eyes and for you to understand the teachings of Our Lord and to translate what your learn into life. May Our Lord, the Holy Spirit, illuminate your heart and soul!

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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.

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"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"-St. John Chrysostom

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry)
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George