Everyone today talks about the importance of “education,” and billions of dollars are wasted, billions of precious hours of human time are wasted, on an educational system that grows worse and worse every year. Why is this?
IT IS BECAUSE THE TRUE FOUNDATION OF ALL EDUCATION IS THE WORD OF GOD, AND THIS IS PRECISELY WHAT ‘EDUCATORS’ DENY AND DRIVE OUT OF THE SCHOOLS. THUS ALL ATTEMPTS AT ‘REFORMING’ EDUCATION ARE USELESS AND DOOMED, AND THEY WILL INEVITABLY LEAD TO GREATER AND GREATER DARKNESS AND CHAOS IN THE LIVES OF CHILDREN AND THE LIFE OF SOCIETY IN GENERAL.
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT THIS? THE FIRST STEP IS A SIMPLE ONE, TOTALLY WITHIN OUR CONTROL: WE MUST ESTABLISH THE DAILY HABIT OF READING THE WORD OF GOD, THE LIVES OF THE SAINTS, AND OTHER SPIRITUAL READING.
Our holy father, St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain, says that the study of Divine Scripture is the highest and truest science:
“Divine Scripture is the Divine Science that makes us more educated than all the philosophers, more wise than all the moralists and political theorists; and it alone transforms us from carnal, natural, and wretched into holy, spiritual, and blessed.” (from Spiritual Exercises, p. 284 of 1800 Venice edition).
No matter how smart or educated we think we are, we will be moral and spiritual idiots if we never read the Holy Scriptures and other sacred writings. We are rational sheep in the flock of Christ, and we MUST exercise our MINDS in reading sacred writings in order to understand, to be inspired by, to be transformed by, and, in short, to practice, our Faith.
The idea that a person can become or remain a true Christian merely by accident of birth, by inertia, out of habit, without study and without understanding, irrationally and sentimentally following various unexplained and dimly understood customs, IS A LIE.
WE MUST STUDY OUR FAITH!!!
WHERE DO WE START?
We start with the Bible, and especially the Holy Gospels. St. John Chrysostom says that the demons fear even to enter a room where a copy of the Gospels is kept. This is because the Gospels are the highest wisdom ever written, the revelation of who God really is, in Jesus Christ.
We start by setting aside time every day – it can be as little as 5 or 10 minutes – to stand in front of our holy icons, open the Gospel, and read aloud. We can read a chapter a day, or we can simply read the “pericope” (the assigned section) listed in the Church calendar. We do not have to “figure out” everything that is read. The words themselves have divine power and these words themselves, by the power of the Holy Spirit, will teach our souls what they mean, if only we apply ourselves daily over a long period of time without growing lazy. Day by day, the power of God’s Word will reach into and enlighten your soul. This is guaranteed, infallible, and invincible. Try it, and you will see. The benefits will start right away, and will last and grow the rest of your life.
Next in power and importance are the rest of the New Testament, and then, in the Old Testament, the Psalms.
Whenever you are tired or upset with something in life: read the psalms.
Whenever you need wisdom to make a decision: read the psalms.
Whenever you are fighting temptation: read the psalms.
The psalms drive away demons, calm the soul, enlighten the mind, gladden the heart…you name it. Every spiritual and psychological benefit imaginable, not to mention physical healing, has, in the daily lives of millions of Christians, come through reading the Psalms.
Again, when you read anything in the Bible, make sure you read aloud. When our body and mind are both involved, when we hear the Word with our own ears that has been spoken with our own tongue, this has irresistible Divine power; it becomes a part of our being, not just a bunch of words or ideas.
WHAT SHOULD WE READ BESIDES THE BIBLE?
There are three kinds of reading that we should undertake next: Basic commentary on the Scriptures, The Lives of the Saints, and books of practical advice on how to lead an Orthodox life.
Commentaries on Scripture by true Holy Fathers are very helpful when we are trying to go deeper into the meaning of what we are reading and to avoid misunderstanding. The basic commentary that everyone should start with is the Explanation of the Gospel by St. Theophylaktos, Archbishop of Bulgaria, a learned Byzantine saint of the 11th century who distilled and summarized St. John Chrysostom’s works for the average reader.
The Lives of the Saints give us vivid, concrete examples of how people have actually fleshed out in their own lives what we read about in the Gospel. These are real people with real problems who followed Christ with all their hearts, no matter what their problems were! We need to know about them, be inspired by them, measure our lives compared to THEIRS, NOT compared to degenerate media celebrities, rock stars, pro-athletes, and greedy multi-millionaires.
How-to books include writings on prayer, fasting, preparing for confession, leading a moral life, and so forth, authored by saints in the past as well as the many good Orthodox authors that we have had in the past century. Ask your priest for advice on which of these to read!
WHAT ABOUT THE “PEDALION” AND THEOLOGICAL BOOKS?
Reading the Church canons in the Pedalion, as well as formal theological writings by the great Fathers who wrote in the past or by “theologians” writing today, can be beneficial, but ONLY if we are reading the Gospels and other literature described above first, AND ONLY IF WE ARE LEADING A MORAL AND DEDICATED CHRISTIAN LIFE. An arrogant, egotistical person living in sin, addiction, worldliness, and rebellion against the Church and Her teachings, who reads the canons and theological works and imagines that he understands them (even, perhaps, trying to teach others!), becomes not a saint but a plaything of the devil. We must be struggling to overcome our passions before reading the canons and deep theological works, for if we read canons and theology while enslaved to sin, we will become both as filthy and as proud as demons, and possibly lead others astray as well.
An Orthodox Christian who humbly struggles against sin in obedience to the Church’s moral law, and who instructs his mind with the Scriptures, Psalms, Lives of Saints, and Church services, is safe spiritually. Reading complex theological works or studying the Church canons is more dangerous, and must be done with great care and humility.
BROTHERS AND SISTERS! LET US BEGIN TODAY TO
1. Acquire a spiritual library for our home.
2. Set aside time every day for the Gospels and other spiritual reading.
3. Keep asking our priest and other competent spiritual authorities the meaning of what we are reading, as well as attending classes at Church on our Faith.
4. INSTILL IN OUR CHILDREN THIS PRACTICE, WITH DISCIPLINE!