This blog continues the series dealing with the Bible and scriptural issues. It began with the 1st blog: Reading the Bible Means Opening a Treasury. The immediately preceding blog is Reading and Studying the Scriptures.
“The Scriptures were not given merely that we might have them in books,
but that we might engrave them on our hearts.”
(St. John Chrysostom, HOMILIES ON ST. JOHN 1-47, p 319)
Each Christian is to be an Evangelist – not writing new scriptures in books, but transferring the Word of God to one’s heart. Though many American Christians argue strenuously to have the scriptural Ten Commandments engraved in stone tablets to be placed in courthouses, the real place where we need to engrave God’s word is in our hearts. Then by our lives, how we live and treat others, people can read the Gospel in us. “You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on your hearts, to be known and read by all men; and you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3).
“One can not just keep the Word of God in his memory. Men must preserve the Word of God, above all, in a living and burning heart. The Word of God is preserved in the human spirit as a seed which sprouts and brings forth fruit. This means that the truth of divine Revelation must unfold within human thought, must develop into an entire system of believing confession, into a system of religious perspective…” (Georges Florovsky, CREATION AND REDEMPTION, pp 26-27)
The learning of the Scriptures through constant reading and rote memory is not to dull the mind, but to set the heart on fire! Orthodox Christians pray before reading the Gospel, “Illumine our hearts, O Master Who loves mankind, with the pure light of Your divine knowledge. Open the eyes of our mind to the understanding of Your gospel teachings. Implant also in us the fear of Your blessed commandments, that trampling down all carnal desires, we may enter upon a spiritual manner of living, both thinking and doing such things as are well-pleasing unto You.” We study the Scriptures in order to fill our hearts with the warmth of faith, the illumination of the Gospels, and the knowledge of God.
“If you wish to achieve true knowledge of Scripture you must hurry to achieve unshakable humility of heart…Then, having banished all worldly concerns and thoughts, strive in every way to devote yourself constantly to the sacred reading so that continuous meditation will seep into your soul and, as it were, will shape it to its image. Somehow it will form that ‘ark’ of the Scriptures (cf. Heb 9:4-5) and will contain the two stone tablets, that is, the perpetual strength of the two testaments. There will be the golden urn which is a pure and unstained memory and which will preserve firmly within itself the everlasting manna, that is the eternal, heavenly sweetness of spiritual meaning and of that bread which belongs to the angels…Therefore the sequences of holy Scripture must be committed to memory and they must be pondered ceaselessly. Such meditation will profit us in two ways. First, when the thrust of the mind is occupied by the study and perusal of the readings it will, of necessity, avoid being taken over by the snares of dangerous thoughts. Second, as we strive with constant repetition to commit these readings to memory, we have not the time to understand them because our minds have been occupied. But later when we are free from the attractions of all that we do and see and, especially, when we are quietly meditating during the hours of darkness, we think them over and we understand them more closely. And so it happens that when we are at ease and when, as it were, we are plunged into the dullness of sleep, the hidden meanings, of which we were utterly unaware during our waking hours, and the sense of them are bared to our minds.” (John Cassian Conferences. The Classics of Western Spirituality. pgs. 164-165)
We read the Bible to ignite that light of faith in our hearts which guides us through the darkness into the Light.