Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

Marina Chizhova
19.04.2017

Spiritual reading, or why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers?

Not only our body, but also the soul needs constant nutrition. One of the varieties of such spiritual food is literature. And although today it seems old-fashioned and not at all obligatory, you cannot saturate your mind and heart with anything else as you do with spiritual reading. Especially important to talk about it in Lent.

Open Gospel

The benefits of spiritual reading

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God(Luke 4, 4). These are the words of the Savior Himself that He spoke during His temptation in the wilderness. Thus, He showed how much food for an immortal soul is more important than bodily food.

St. John Chrysostom says this in the following way:

What bodily food is to maintain our strength is the same as reading the Scriptures for the soul. It is a spiritual food that strengthens the mind and makes the soul strong, firm and intelligent, does not allow it to get involved in unreasonable passions.

It is impossible to consider yourself a Christian and at the same time not to know the Holy Scripture, in which, in the expression of blessed Augustine,God speaks to us. And the same John Chrysostom argued that the reading of Scripturestronger than fire softens the fierce soul and makes it capable of everything beautiful.

But an Orthodox Christian appeals not only to the Bible, but also to the lives of the saints and the spiritual heritage of the fathers of the Church.

The Holy Fathers loved to compare spiritual books with a mirror that a soul peers at in order to see its shortcomings.One look at the sacred books excites to a pious life- said St. Epiphanius of Cyprus.

That is why this reading is also called edifying. And indeed, nowhere will you find so much wisdom, examples of piety and commandment, as in such literature. This is all the more important in our times when there is a lack of spiritual leadership. To a large extent, patristic works can make up for it.

Young man reading a book

How to read?

In the matter of spiritual reading moderation and constancy are very important. This kind of literature can not be swallowed whole volumes. The Holy Fathers advised to read little, but attentively, with reverence,so as not to lose interest in the read. It is necessary to try so that every word reaches the heart and mind, otherwise such an exercise will prove fruitless.

St. Theophan the Recluse advised several times to re-read the same thing, to “chew on” what was read. He even recommended devoting no more than half an hour to this activity, and then thinking about what they read during the day. The main thing he thought was to do it every day, especially during difficult periods of life.

It is also important to relate what is written in Holy Scripture to your life, to try to do it in practice. Rev. Nikon Optina wrote:

What is the use that a person knows that he needs to pray and does not pray; knows what to forgive offenses, and does not forgive; knows that you need to fast - and does not observe the posts; it is necessary to endure - and not tolerate, etc. Such knowledge, according to the word of the Gospel, will even condemn man. Therefore, you need to read with attention and try to live in the spirit of what you read

We do not read the books of the Holy Fathers in order to accumulate much knowledge, much less to be proud of them.Holy Scripture must be read not for knowledge, but in order to save your soul, - said the sigiyumen John (Alekseev).St. Tikhon of Zadonsk also warned about this:

If only the mind is to refine the book, and you will not correct the will, then you will be even angrier from reading the book than it was before, since the most evil are scholars and rational fools than simple ignoramuses

It is necessary to read with great humility, and then the Lord himself will illumine the heart of man.

The lamp before the gospel

What is better to read in the Great post?

Lent is a particularly blessed time for our soul to be filled with the Word of God, therefore spiritual reading occupies an important place in it. It is impossible to imagine that a Christian would spend this period without ever taking into his hands the Bible, the patristic literature.

There are two books to which Lent is given primary importance:

  • Gospel;
  • Psalter.

Old Testament books

Three more books are read from the Old Testament to the Great Lent:

  • Being;
  • Proverbs Solomon;
  • The book of the prophet Isaiah.

They sound on services in temples most often. The Psalter is read twice a week, the Gospel in Passion Week must sound completely. Why exactly these books of the Holy Scripture does the Church offer to our attention?

Psalter on lectern

Psalteris a model of prayer-literature literature, why some even call it the “oral icon” of Christ.The main theme of Lent is repentance. Most psalms are also written in penitential order.

Reading favoritesOld Testament booksassociated with the early tradition of baptizing all those announced (preparing for baptism) on Great Saturday. Such a custom existed in the ancient Church. It was for this purpose that the teachings and teachings in the faith read the listed books.

Although this tradition has not been preserved, it is impossible to call the reading of the Old Testament books from all the Holy Scriptures in the Great Lent random. For all of us, this whole period can be compared with the time of the Old Testament expectation of our Messiah - Jesus Christ.

Gospel reading

thereforeGospelit is necessary to read only in the last, Holy Week of the fast, and completely. However, because of the length of such services in many churches, reading the Gospel begins earlier. It is good if at home you can also pass through Him wholeheartedly for fasting with prayer and concentration.

In addition, of course, it is recommended to also read the books of the holy fathers. In addition to the famous "Ladder", it may be the works of Theophan the Recluse, Ignatius (Brianchaninov), Haboth Dorotheos, John of Kronstadt and other devotees.You can read only one (any) of the works of these devotees, but carefully.

Man rushes into the unknown

Tips for beginners

It is good if you have a familiar priest who will help you decide on the terms of Orthodox literature and the measure of your reading. Nikon Optinsky generally advised on each book to take a separate blessing, but you can take one thing in common for the chosen literature.

What to do if you do not have such a mentor? In this case, you can use several tips:

  1. The volume of spiritual reading must be commensurate with your own strength and circumstances. It is better to read a little, but constantly.
  2. The choice of literature must correspond to the way you live, your spiritual inclinations. A lesson will be idle if you cannot apply what you read to your life.
  3. You can choose reading on the topic of that sinful inclination that torments you the most: read about it or about the opposite virtue. So it will be easier to defeat the passion that is fighting you.
  4. It is not necessary to tackle the spiritual heights immediately and read the classics of ascetic literature, as the new ones in the Orthodox faith often do.It is better to start with something simpler. For example, take modern authors who can speak clearly and accessible to any audience. Alexander Torik, Andrey Tkachev, Tikhon (Shevkunov) - their books today can be easily found both in the Internet space and on the bookshelves.
  5. If something in the books of the holy fathers or the Scriptures seems incomprehensible to you, you should ask someone who knows. Since attempts to understand oneself, from one’s mind and without knowing the context, can have harmful consequences, it is useful to refer to qualitative interpretations. If you read every day according to the chapter from the Gospel, then you can refer to the explanations of John Chrysostom, Theophylact of Bulgaria or Bishop Michael (Luzin). If the question still remains unresolved, it is better to leave it until the time, then it will become clear.
  6. All that you read should be applied only to yourself, compared with your life, and not with someone else's. Otherwise, we will begin to condemn and lecture our neighbors, thereby only harm ourselves.
  7. Before reading spiritual literature and Holy Scripture, one should ask the Lord with humility so that He enlightens our mind and gives us the correct understanding of what is written.You can pray in your own words, there is a special prayer before reading spiritual books:
Lord Jesus Christ, open my eyes to the heart, so that I, hearing Your Word, enlightened it and do Your will. Do not hide your commandments from me, but open my eyes, so that I may comprehend the miracles of your law. Tell me your unknown and secret wisdom! I trust in You, my God, and I believe that You will enlighten my mind and meaning with the light of Your mind, and that then I will not only read what is written, but also fulfill it. Make me not in sin to myself. I read the Lives of the Saints and read Your Word, but in renewal and enlightenment, and in the shrine, and in the salvation of the soul, and in the inheritance of eternal life. For You, Lord, enlightenment lying in darkness and from You are every good gift and every perfect gift. Amen

Professor Alexander I. Osipov talks about what books it is useful to read to the laity:


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  • Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers

    Spiritual reading, or Why read the Bible and the works of the holy fathers