July 4, 2012 + How to Read the Bible (Part 2)


from Orthodox America, Issue 4, Vol. 1, No. 4, October, 1980
by St. Justin Popovich

Prayerful Preparation

Just as important as knowing why we should read the Bible is knowing how we should read the Bible.

The best guides for this are the holy Fathers, headed by St. John Chrysostom who, in a manner of speaking, has written a fifth Gospel.

The holy Fathers recommend serious preparation before reading and studying the Bible; but of what does this preparation consist?

First of all in prayer. Pray to the Lord to illumine your mind--so that you may understand the words of the 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 Bible.

How We Should Read the 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 Bible is not a book, but life; because its words are spiritual life (John 6:63). Therefore its words can be comprehended it 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 Saviour apply: Whoever, is willing to do it--will understand that this teaching is from God (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 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.

Everyday 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 Bible as much as possible. What 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 Saviour said about the man who casts seed on the ground, and sleeps and rases night and day. and the seed sprouts and grows, while the man does not know it (Mark 4:26-27).

The main thing is: sow, and it is God Who causes and allows what is sown to grow (I Cor. 3:6). But do not rush success, lest you become like a man who sows today, but tomorrow already wants to reap.

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Venerable Andrew Rublev the Iconographer

Troparion - Tone 3

Shining with the rays of divine light, O venerable Andrew, You knew Christ the wisdom and power of God. By means of the image of the Holy Trinity You preached to all the world the Holy Trinity in unity. And we, with amazement and joy, cry out to you: As you have boldness before the Most Holy Trinity Pray that the Uncreated Light May illumine our souls!

Kontakion - Tone 2

Like a trumpet, you clearly sounded the sweetness of divine hymns, and were revealed as a brilliant beacon shining on the world with the light of the Trinity. Therefore, we all cry to you, venerable Andrew: "Unceasingly pray for us all."