I would not want to give a wrong impression that an Orthodox Christian needs less Scripture. We need more – but it should be used in a right manner. Many so-called Bible studies simply increase information in an already information-overloaded world. We need not so much information as the powerful work of the Word of God moving in our heart. Thus memorization and repetition of Scripture, as prayer, is a very important and effective means of the use of Scripture. Knowing the stories of Scripture is vitally important, but applying them, not just mentally, but as prayer (as in the Canon of St. Andrew) is much more to the point of our heart’s need. From the Desert Fathers:
John, whom Emperor Marcion had exiled, reported that he and others went to Syria to visit Abba Poemen. They had questions about the hardness of the heart, but Poemen, did not understand the Greek they spoke. No one could interpret for them, and Poemen observed their embarassment. Speaking in Greek, Poemen said, “Water is naturally soft and stone is naturally hard. But let water drip continuously on a stone and it will erode. The word of God works the same way. It is soft and our hearts are hard, but if we hear the word of God frequently, it will open our hearts to reverence.”
Photo: one of our many waterfalls in Tennessee. Here, the water has fallen for many ages and eroded the riverbed for a great distance. Today the water continues to flow and to do its patient work.
Good post. To pray Scripture is to accept it like a child. Reading through Scripture with my children, I have been amazed at how much of the grandeur and the spirit I have missed, since I often read it before as either strict law or academic theology. The humour, the life, the earthiness as well as the heavenliness thereof is incredible.
What a holy irony that some of the Church’s most spiritually “thirst-quenching” teaching came from those whose insights were gained in the desert.
The memorization and rumination on God’s Word in Christ and Holy Scripture is part of what I help prisoners do every day. I want to share this idea with others for feedback.
Today, for example, a prisoner needed to focus on the Genesis narrative of Joseph having been sold into slavery. I asked him to read the narrative, spanning many chapters, and then return to me with a segment of the narrative that appealed to him. The setting for the suggestion came during a routine medical exam that I provided, and was useful not only for me to assess his level of reading comprehension (essential for following medical “orders”), but also for discovering his soul’s thirst for the Holy Scriptures.
His thirst was large.
When he returns for a follow-up session about his hyertension, he will have selected a section of text, and we together will plan for memorization, repetition, and prayerful inquiry. For now, he is memorizing the 23rd Psalm, because he expressed the need to focus his faith on God’s care for him during imprisonment. There are many like this man in the prison where I serve part-time, and I welcome suggestions from others about my approach. Glory to God.
Father, I like many just received my Orthodox Study Bible and am eager to put it to good use. I deeply appreciate your insight as always, but I am wondering if you could provide a bit more concrete advice to those of us who have studied the Bible as evangelicals but not as Orthodox? Please respond at your convenience, either here or in an email. Glory to God for all things.
Amen brother. I love the quote. Strangely, I’ve not heard much about praying Scripture until recently, and I ought to do it more. Thanks for the insight.