Saint Isaac the Syrian writes, “Very often many things are said by the Holy Scriptures and in it many names are used not in a literal sense… those who have a mind understand this” (Homily 83, p. 317).
The Holy Scriptures are indeed edifying for the Christian life – particularly as they are read and memorized. There they become a treasure in our heart that can be drawn upon at need. I find that even in simple tasks, such as trimming the wicks in the Church, that reciting psalms and other Scriptures helps center the heart and fittingly gives praise to God.
It was once an enforced part of Tradition that anyone chosen for the office of Bishop had to also know the Psalter by heart. Much of this had to do with the fact that such memorization was standard for monks at the time. Today it is not strictly enforced – though I am constantly amazed at the amount of Scripture, particularly Psalms, that my brother priests in the Church do know. Psalm 50 (LXX) “Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy loving-kindness” is required memorization by priests and deacons. It is to be said quietly while they cense the Church.
St. Seraphim of Sarov read all four gospels in the course of a week, every week. My own taste of this comes every year during Holy Week when all four gospels are read aloud in the Church during the services of the hours. It is hard to describe the effect of any single gospel as it is read in its entirety.
Another great source for study is can be found in the Festal Menaion (translated by Met. Kallistos Ware and Mother Mary) and the Lenten Triodion. Both books contain reich material that is itself a commentary on Scripture that is also part of the devotional life. It is not just an education in Scripture but an education in how to read the Scripture.
Mentioned already in our comments is the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete. It is a meditation on Scripture with a particularly theme – but provides a “mystical” or “moral” approach to the reading of the Holy Scriptures.
Needless to say, the writings of the Fathers – the sermons of St. John Chrysostom and the like, are also invaluable.
In all of these things we are moving away from the individualism that has marked so much treatment of the Bible in modern times. It is a return to the life of humility and a searching for the mind of the Church. It is a submitting of ourselves for the “renewing of our mind” (Romans 12:1) and a discipline that frees us from the tyranny of the individualized constructs of a consumer conscience.
Other thoughts, proven in the fire of life, are welcome.
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