Wednesday, March 4, 2009

3. Read the Scriptures regularly.

From Emily in Baltimore:

I actually laughed, though a little ruefully, when I read my number! Last year my spiritual father directed me to read the Psalms every day. I have tried; my father gave me a copy of this lovely Psalm book, which is a joy to read because of the beautiful illuminations accompanying the text (most drawn from the Book of Kells and other Celtic artwork.)

Another thing that's helped me is this online copy of the Psalter. I took the text and formatted it so that each kathisma fits on the front and back of one page, and I keep them all by my bed so that I'll remember to read one each evening. (If anyone is interested, I'd be glad to send you a copy!) But I am the type of person who is much better at making plans than keeping them. It's been very difficult to stick with this resolution!

But, of course, in the end . . . we just have to do it. So I'm trying, again. I'm reading one kathisma every night; the Psalter is divided into twenty kathismas, so at this rate I will have read the entire thing twice by the end of Lent! I'm sure I will fall back many more times, but I pray God will grant me the strength to get up and go back to the path He has set out for me.

I was raised Protestant, where there is a real emphasis on reading Scripture. I think it's one of the best things about Protestantism, the way they teach their children to memorize Scripture; unfortunately, most Catholics and Orthodox I know don't have nearly as solid a knowledge. Of course, within Orthodoxy, Scriptures are embedded in the words of the prayers and services; many times, reading along in the Bible, I am struck by a phrase I recognize from a church hymn, which I've sung many times without ever realizing it was from Scripture. Still, I think that reading and memorizing Scripture is one of the best things we can do to strengthen our faith. So many times, when I've been lost or despairing, passages I've memorized return to me as a great blessing. Sometimes they make me laugh (my mother loves to quote Proverbs 30:17 when I'm giving her a hard time) and more often, they make me weep. But always, always, they remind me of Christ's great love, and the necessity of returning that love to Him with all of my heart.


Mimi said...

Very good reflection, thank you. One of the things I love about Lent is the chance to re-read Genesis, Proverbs, and Isaiah each year.

Michele Mulder said...

I am excited this year that one of the things we are doing is reading the Psalter as a family before night prayers. It is quite fun how we are doing it. Our Presbytera organized it. There are 20 of us reading 1 Kathisma per day so that every day of Lent the entire Psalter is being read. My husband and I are also reading aloud "Ladder of Divine Ascent" every night.

Carla said...

Thanks, Emily, for your encouragement to read the Psalms daily. I have been wanting to do this for some time--I actually just used your link to order a copy of the illustrated book you recommended.

Having come from a Protestant background, I have a long history of Bible reading and Bible study. However, when I entered the Orthodox Church, I sort of set aside my Bible reading in order to move "out of my head" and into my heart.

When the new Orthodox Study Bible came out last year, I started reading the books that I have never read before (the ones that are not in the Protestant versions). It has been sort of a strange experience, to tell you the truth--it's challenging to let these words sink in as "scripture" since for 50 years of my life I never even knew they existed.

The Forty Maxims

  • 1. Be always with Christ and trust God in everything.
  • 2. Pray, fast and do acts of mercy.
  • 3. Read the Scriptures regularly.
  • 4. Read good books, a little at a time.
  • 5. Practice silence, inner and outer.
  • 6. Cultivate communion with the saints.
  • 7. Be an ordinary person, one of the human race.
  • 8. Live a day, even a part of a day, at a time.
  • 9. Be honest, first of all with yourself.
  • 10. Be faithful in little things.
  • 11. Do your work, then forget it.
  • 12. Do the most difficult and painful things first.
  • 13. Face reality.
  • 14. Be grateful.
  • 15. Be cheerful.
  • 16. Be simple, hidden, quiet and small.
  • 17. Never bring unnecessary attention to yourself.
  • 18. Listen when people talk to you.
  • 19. Be awake and attentive, fully present where you are.
  • 20. Think and talk about things no more than necessary.
  • 21. Speak simply, clearly, firmly, directly.
  • 22. Flee imagination, fantasy, analysis.
  • 23. Flee carnal things at their first appearance.
  • 24. Don’t complain, grumble, murmur or whine.
  • 25. Don’t seek or expect pity or praise.
  • 26. Don’t compare yourself with anyone.
  • 27. Don’t judge anyone for anything.
  • 28. Don’t try to convince anyone of anything.
  • 29. Don’t defend or justify yourself.
  • 30. Be defined and bound by God, not people.
  • 31. Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully.
  • 32. Give advice only when asked or when it is your duty.
  • 33. Be strict with yourself.
  • 34. Be merciful with yourself and others.
  • 35. Do nothing for people that they can do for themselves.
  • 36. Have a healthy, wholesome hobby.
  • 37. Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath.
  • 38. Endure the trial of yourself and your faults serenely, under God’s mercy.
  • 39. When you fall, get up immediately and start over.
  • 40. Get help when you need it, without fear or shame.