Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers

reading

45 Entries

The “Lives of the Saints” shows numerous, but always safe paths of salvation, enlightenment, sanctification, transfiguration, Christianization, theosis. They show all the ways with which human nature overcomes sin, passion, death, and the demon. REF:Fr Justin Popvitch +1979



The life of the Saints witnesses the truth that in the holy Church of Christ, man with the holy mysteries and the holy virtues is transfigured into a “god by grace,” into a godman by grace. REF:Fr Justin Popvitch +1979

Do you have a notebook for taking down quotes from Holy Fathers in your reading? Do you always have a book of Holy Fathers that you are reading and can turn to in a moment of gloom? Start now - this is essential! REF:Fr Seraphim Rose, "Letters"

... Tell me, who of you that stand here, if he were required, could repeat one Psalm, or any other portion of the divine Scriptures? There is not one.

And it is not this only that is the grievous thing, but that while ye are become so backward with respect to things spiritual, yet in regard of what belongs to Satan ye are more vehement than fire. Thus should any one be minded to ask of you songs of devils and impure effeminate melodies, he will find many that know these perfectly, and repeat them with much pleasure. St John Chrysostom, Gospel According To St. Matthew, Homily 2



... reading and spiritual knowledge are good, but only when they lead to greater humility... St. Peter of Damaskos (Book 1: A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, The Philokalia Vol. 3 pg. 169)

A wandering mind is made stable by reading, vigil and prayer. Flaming lust is extinguished by hunger, labor and solitude. Stirrings of anger are calmed by psalmody, magnanimity and mercifulness. All this has its effect when used at its proper time and in due measure. Everything untimely or without proper measure is short-lived; and short-lived things and more harmful than useful. Abba Evagrius the Monk(Texts on Active Life no. 6)

An Athonite ascetic used to say: In attempting to control one's mind, which is very difficult to do because of temptations, it is very helpful to study the patristic writings, especially if this study is done before prayer. It is particularly helpful to read from the Gerontikon. Reading even a few lines from these fathers of the Theban and Nitrian deserts elevates the mind so that it is primed for prayer. It is as if these holy monks are right beside you, these ascetics who struggled with all the cares, problems, and questions which concern every monk. An Athonite Gerontikon

Appropriate to yourself the thoughts and the spirit of the Holy Fathers by reading their writings. The Holy Fathers attained the goal: salvation. And you will attain this goal by the natural course of things. As one who is of one thought and one soul with the Holy Fathers, you will be saved.

Heaven received into its blessed bosom the Holy Fathers. By this it has borne witness that the thoughts, feelings, and actions of the Holy Fathers are well-pleasing to it. The Holy Fathers set forth their thoughts, their heart, the image of their activity in their writings. This means: what a true guidance to heaven, which is borne witness to by heaven itself, are the writings of the Fathers. Blessed Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov, "On Reading the Holy Fathers,", "Living Orthodoxy" (Vol. XVII, No. 2, March-April 1995), St. John of Kronstadt Press, Liberty, Tennessee, 37095



Be emulous, brethren, and in eager rivalry about the things that pertain to salvation. Study the sacred Scriptures, which are true and given by the Holy Spirit. Bear in mind that nothing wrong or falsified is written in them. You will not find that upright men have ever been thrust out by holy men. The upright have been persecuted, to be sure, but by the lawless; they have been imprisoned, but by the impious; they have been stones, but by transgressors; they have been slain, but by such as have been possessed by a depraved and unjust jealousy. Yet they endured gloriously the suffering of such things. St. Clement of Alexandria in The Apostolic Fathers

Do not consider it sufficient for yourself to read the Gospel alone, without the reading of the Holy Fathers! This is a proud, dangerous thought. Better, let the Holy Fathers lead you to the Gospel, as their beloved child who has received his preparatory upbringing and education by means of their writings. Blessed Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov, "On Reading the Holy Fathers,", "Living Orthodoxy" (Vol. XVII, No. 2, March-April 1995), St. John of Kronstadt Press, Liberty, Tennessee, 37095

Do not read either too fast, or too lazily or carelessly, but with reverence, attention and intelligence. Invigorated by reading that profits the soul, the mind acquires strength and prays firmly. St. Gregory of Sinai (On Silence and Prayer no. 11)

Do not say...that one or two books is sufficient for instructing the soul. After all, even the bee collects honey not from one or two flowers only, but from many. Thus also he who reads the books of the Holy Fathers is instructed by one in faith or in right thinking, by another in silence and prayer, by another in obedience and humility and patience, by another in self-reproach and in love for God and neighbor; and, to speak briefly, from many books of the Holy Fathers a man is instructed in life according to the Gospel. St. Paisius Velichkovsky

Having read Holy Scripture very carefully, you should also read the holy Fathers who interpret the Scriptures. You will receive no less delight from reading the Fathers than you do from the Scriptures. The Fathers develop the hidden meanings in Scripture and with their own writings help us to understand what we did not before. Because of that philosophic axiom that all men by nature seek knowledge, we must say that great delight follows naturally when we learn about hidden and unknown matters. This is why there will be ineffable joy and gladness that will come to your soul from the interpretations and the words of the holy Fathers. You too will be shouting, ad did David, those enthusiastic words in the Psalms. St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain, A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel

I am not," you will say, "one of the monks, but I have both a wife and children, and the care of a household." Why, this is what hath ruined all, your supposing that the reading of the divine Scriptures appertains to those only, when ye need it much more than they. For they that dwell in the world,(2) and each day receive wounds, these have most need of medicines. So that it is far worse than not reading, to account the thing even "superfluous:" for these are the words of diabolical invention. Hear ye not Paul saying, "that all these things are written for our admonition"?(3)* St John Chrysostom, Gospel According To St. Matthew, Homily 2

I visited this Cosmas at the Lavra of Pharon (in the Sinai) and stayed there for ten years. Whilst he was speaking to me about the salvation of the soul, we came across an opinion of St. Athanasius, Archbishop of Alexandria. The elder said to me, "When you come across a saying of Athanasius the Great, if you have no paper, write it on your clothing" -- so great was the appetite of this elder for our holy fathers and teachers. John Moschus, Leimonarion (the Spiritual Meadow) 40 St. Athanasius of Alexandria, commemorated 18 January

IT were indeed meet for us not at all to require(1) the aid of the written Word, but to exhibit a life so pure, that the grace of the Spirit should be instead of books to our souls, and that as these are inscribed with ink, even so should our hearts be with the Spirit. But, since we have utterly put away from us this grace, come, let us at any rate embrace the second best course. St John Chrysostom, Gospel According To St. Matthew, Homily I

If you are suffering for your faith in Christ, the Lives of the Saints will console you and encourage you and make you bold and give you wings, and your torments will be changed into joy. If you are in any sort of temptation, the Lives of the Saints will help you overcome it both now and forever. If you are in danger from the invisible enemies of salvation, the Lives of the Saints will arm you with the 'whole armor of God' and you will crush them all now and forever and throughout your whole life. If you are in the midst of visible enemies and persecutors of the Church of Christ, the Lives of the Saints will give you the courage and strength of a confessor, and you will fearlessly confess the one true God and Lord in all worlds - Jesus Christ - and you will boldly stand up for the truth of His Gospel unto death, unto every death, and you will feel stronger than all deaths, and much more so than all the visible enemies of Christ; and being tortured for Christ you will shout for joy, feeling with all your being that your life is in heaven, hidden with Christ in God, wholly above all deaths. Father Justin Popovich, from Introduction to the Lives of the Saints, in Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ

If you read continually spiritual books with eagerness and diligence, know that this continuous eagerness and diligence will open up your mind and will make it receptive to spiritual meanings. And what you did not succeed in understanding the first time you will easily understand when you read it two or three times. For God, seeing your continuous diligence, will illumine your mind to understand even what is difficult. St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite, Modern Orthodox Saints, Vol. 3

It is absolutely necessary that reading correspond to [your] way of life. Otherwise, while you may be filled with ideas of the saints, you will find yourself unable to act upon them, will be aroused to fruitless activity in imagination and desire only, while the acts of piety consistent with your way of life slip through your fingers. Moreover, you will become an empty dreamer. Your thoughts, constantly at odds with what is happening around you, will give rise in your heart to doubt, bringing uncertainty to your behavior, and become burdensome, detrimental both to yourself and to those close to you. St. Ignatius Brianchaninov

It is impossible for the soul to be liberated from turbulent thoughts without the virtue of non-possessiveness. And without peace of the bodily senses it is impossible for the soul to have a peaceful intellect. And if it does not come into temptations it will not acquire wisdom of the Holy Spirit. And without laborious and persistence in reading, it will not come to the discernment of thoughts. And without the stillness of thoughts, the intellect cannot move to seek the hidden mysteries of God. St. Isaac the Syrian

Just as a pauper, seeing the royal treasures, all the more acknowledges his own poverty; so also the spirit, reading the accounts of the great deeds of the Holy Fathers, involuntarily is all the more humbled in its way of thought. St. John of the Ladder (6th Century)

Let each personally choose for himself the reading from the Fathers which corresponds to his way of life. Let the hermit read the Fathers who wrote about the solitary life; let the monk who lives in the cenobitic life read the Fathers who wrote instructions for cenobitic monks; let the Christian who lives in the world read the Holy Fathers who pronounced their teachings for all Christianity in general. Let everyone, in whatsoever calling he be, draw forth abundant instruction in the writings of the Fathers. Blessed Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov, "On Reading the Holy Fathers,", "Living Orthodoxy" (Vol. XVII, No. 2, March-April 1995), St. John of Kronstadt Press, Liberty, Tennessee, 37095

Occupy yourself with reading with a calm spirit, so that your mind may be constantly raised up to contemplation of the wondrous acts of God, lifted, as it were, by some hand outstretched to it. "Reflections on the Eight Thoughts", Abba Evagrius, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," translated from the Russian text, "Dobrotolubiye," by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, eighth edition, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 113 - 114

One should nourish the soul with the word of God: for the word of God, as St. Gregory the Theologian says, is angelic bread, by which are nourished souls who hunger for God. Most of all, one should occupy oneself with reading the New Testament and the Psalter, which one should do standing up. From this there occurs an enlightenment in the mind, which is in the mind, which is changed by a Divine change. St Seraphim of Sarov - Spiritual Instructions

Pray that you may be granted the grace to read the Fathers with the right understanding, the grace to live up to the standards they put before you, and the grace to clearly see your own frailty. You will not long be left wanting and waiting. God will give you help. Elder Macarius of Optina (19th Century)

Prayers after reading find the soul stirred by longing for God and so fresher and more vigorous. Prayer is good when it imprints in the soul a clear conception of God. This is in fact the indwelling of God -- to have God established in oneself by means of the memory. Thus we become God's temple, when no earthly concerns interrupt the continuity of this memory, no unexpected emotions disturb the mind, and the worshipper escapes from everything to retire to God. Driving out all that invites us to vice, he devotes his time to the practices that lead to virtue. St. Basil the Great, Letters

Reading enlightens the mind considerably, and helps it concentrate. For those are the Holy Spirit's words and they attune those who attend to them. Let what you read lead you to action, for you are a doer. Putting these words into practice makes further reading superfluous. Seek to be enlightened by the words of salvation through your labors, and not merely from books. Until you receive spiritual power, do not study works of an allegorical nature because they are dark words, and they darken the weak. St. John Climacus, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent," (Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978), Step27: On Holy Stillness of Body and Soul

Reading serves as a reminder for those who know from experience about what is being said, while to those who lack experience it provides instruction.

Spiritual reading, vigils and prayer bring the straying intellect to stability. Evagrios the Solitary

The Holy Fathers teach how to approach the Gospel, how to read it, how to understand it correctly, what helps and what hinders in comprehending it. And therefore in the beginning occupy yourself with the reading of the Fathers. When they have taught you how to read the Gospel, then read the Gospel primarily. Blessed Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov, "On Reading the Holy Fathers,", "Living Orthodoxy" (Vol. XVII, No. 2, March-April 1995), St. John of Kronstadt Press, Liberty, Tennessee, 37095

The Holy Scripture is the domain of Wisdom, Word and Spirit, of God in the Trinity: in it He clearly manifests Himself: 'The Words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life,' (St. John 6:63) said the Lord. The writings of the Holy Fathers are again the expression of the Mind, Word and Spirit of the Holy Trinity, in which the spirit of the higher class (spiritually speaking) of mankind has largely participated; the writings of ordinary worldly men are the expression of the fallen spirit of men, with all their sinful attachments, habits and passions. In Holy Scriptures we see God face to face, and ourselves as we are. Man, know thy self through them, and walk always as in the presence of God. St. John of Kronstadt (My Life in Christ: Part 1)

The fathers ... kept the commandments; their successors wrote them down; but we have placed their books on the shelves. And even if we want to read them, we do not have the application to understand what is said and to put it into practice; we read them either as something incidental, or because we think that by reading them we are doing something great, thus growing full of pride. We do not realize that we incur greater condemnation if we do not put into practice what we read ... St. Peter of Damaskos (Book 1: A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, The Philokalia Vol. 3 pg. 169)

The purpose of spiritual reading is to keep the intellect from distraction and restlessness, for this is the first step towards salvation. Solomon says that the enemy 'hates the sound of steadfastness' (Prov. 11:15 LXX), while the wandering of the mind is the first step towards sinning. St. Peter of Damascus (Book 1:A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, The Philokalia Vol. 3 pg. 155)

The reading of Scriptures is a great means of security against sinning. Ignorance of Scripture is a great cliff, a deep abyss. It gives birth to heresies and introduces a corrupt way of life. Even one parable can help the soul to have contrition for a sin, to find a little rest from the concerns of the world. Reading Scripture each day will accomplish some great and noble good in us. St. John Chrysostom

The word of God is food for the soul. The word of God is both strength and light for the soul.... All the saints emphasized the necessity of reading the Holy Scriptures. St. Seraphim of Sarov says: 'The soul must keep itself nourished with the word of God; because the word of God is, as St. Gregory the Theologian says, the bread of angels that feeds the soul that is hungry for God. Most of all we must read the New Testament and the Psalms. The understanding is enlightened by these. It is a very good thing to read the word of God in solitude, and to read the entire Bible with understanding. God gives a man His mercy for undertaking this exercise more than for other good deeds, and He fills him with the gift of comprehension. When a man nourishes his soul with the word of God, then he is filled with the understanding of good and evil. Prologue of Ochrid- Bishop Nicholas Velimirovich

There are five occupations which help to gain God's benevolence. The first is pure prayer; the second, psalmody; the third, reading the Holy Scriptures; the fourth, contrite remembrance of one's sins, of death and the terrible judgment; the fifth, work with one's hands. "Reflections on the Eight Thoughts", Abba Evagrius, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," translated from the Russian text, "Dobrotolubiye," by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, eighth edition, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 113 - 114

What books do you read? Read religious books.

In all our undertakings in life we should begin with a read of the Gospel. Christians who want to show obedience to the word of God should read regularly and study carefully, word for word, the Law of the Gospel, endeavoring to understand it fully, dwelling more on those words which of essential import. Study the Acts of the Apostles.... All the heralds of Christ, that is, the Apostles and the Saints, had wisdom which they acquired through the descent upon them of the Holy Spirit.

Read the Salutations to the Theotokos. Modern Orthodox Saints Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene of Lesvos., by Constantine Cavarnos., INSTITUTE FOR BYZANTINE AND MODERN STUDIES., Belmont, Massachusetts., 1990., pp. 145-155



When you are occupied with reading the word of God, have in mind that God is secretly present beneath every word, and take these words as issuing from His divine lips. Lorenzo Scupoli (Unseen Warfare: Chapter 23)

Whenever you become absent-minded, choose spiritual reading over prayer, for reading is the source of pure prayer. St. Isaac of Syria

Wherefore I entreat you to revolve these things. For from taking thought concerning such matters, there springs in the soul some great good, tending unto salvation. For by these meditations we shall be able to please God Himself; and our mouths will be pure from insults, and filthy talking, and reviling, while they are exercising themselves in spiritual sayings; and we shall be formidable to the devils, while arming our tongue with such words; and we shall draw unto ourselves God's grace the more, and it will render our eye more piercing. St John Chrysostom, Gospel According To St. Matthew, Homily 2

Whilst reading or listening to sacred works, honor heartily in those who wrote them the image of God the Word, or God the Word Himself, speaking through them. Remember always, whilst reading books of spiritual or worldly contents, that man is God's image and that this image of God is in the thought, word and spirit through which he speaks. Accustom yourself always to look upon every man with deep respect, as upon the image of God, but especially when he speaks, and above all when he speaks of God. St. John of Kronstadt (My Life in Christ: Part 1, Holy Trinity Monastery pg. 76)

You follow the events of the external world, reading secular compositions, magazines and newspapers. Do not lose sight of your internal world, your soul; it is both nearer and dearer to you [than is the external world]. From henceforth, read the Holy Gospels and the writings of the Holy Fathers ever more often; it is sinful for a Christian not to read Divinely-inspired works. St. John of Kronstadt

An Athonite elder said: "It is a good thing for people to read spiritual books, but it is even better to apply them by living spiritually." An Athonite Gerontikon

Beware of reading the doctrines of heretics for they, more than anything else, can equip the spirit of blasphemy against you. St Isaac of Syria

One must on no account give children books with corrupt concepts; their minds will thus be preserved whole, in holy and divine healthiness. REF:St Theophan the Recluse, "The Path to Salvation" p 57





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