Reading the Scriptures
In conclusion, one may ask, “How does one read the Scriptures today as a disciple of Jesus?” We offer a few practical suggestions. First, one must read the Scriptures faithfully every day, offering prayer before reading, and taking the time to let the words seep into the heart. The goal of scripture reading is not the only accumulation of knowledge for the head, but also for the healing of the heart and the transformation of one’s life. That is what St. Paul meant when he wrote that scripture was “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16–17). Bible-reading should result in a more peaceful and holy life.
Second, one should read the entirety of the Scriptures, not simply the epistle and gospel for the day. Whether this is done sequentially (by reading the Bible through from Genesis to Revelation) or in some other way (such as reading a chapter of the Old Testament and the New Testament every day) is not important. What matters is opening oneself up to the whole counsel of God.
Third, one may use scholarly aids to enrich one’s devotional reading, such as Bible commentaries, maps, or other scholarly tools. The aim of such tools is to inform oneself of what the Bible meant in its original context. But it should not be allowed to replace a personal application of the sacred text to one’s personal life situation.
A final and special word must be said about the Psalter. If the Gospels form the crown of the Scriptures, the Psalter forms its beating heart. Much of the services of the Church consist of the recitation of the Psalter—in the Orthodox Church it is recited in its entirety every week throughout the daily services of Vespers and Matins, having been divided into twenty sections (or “kathismata”) for the purpose. In the Psalter we hear the voice of the godly man—praising, pleading, lamenting, raging, ask for pardon. More than that, we hear the voice of Christ, the supremely godly man. As Fr Schmemann commented, “If all scripture prophesies about Christ, the exceptional significance of the psalms lies in the fact that in them Christ is revealed as though from ‘within’. These are his words, his prayer.”1 The disciple of Christ will therefore take the Master’s words in the psalms and make them his own, praying the psalms and reciting them each day. He will live in the world of the Scriptures, letting them fill his heart and rule his life, to the greater glory of God.
Schmemann, The Eucharist, 72. ↩