What will you read first, now that you are sitting down with a few quiet moments,
your Bible open before you, your notebook waiting to be filled?
Preparing Our Mind-set
A beautiful place to begin is always with the prayer of St. John Chrysostom. This is especially important, as it is so very easy to slip into the nonOrthodox practice of asking ourselves, “What does this mean to me?”
With this in mind, I urge you, I beg you, to read this beautiful article about with what mindset we ought to read the Holy Bible. Please read it slowly, in its entirety.
If you have not done so already, you may wish to copy the prayer of St. John Chrysostom in your notebook now. Then, perhaps you will want to copy a few lines from the article you’ve just read. My favorite paragraph might be this one:
“When a man standing in a river thirsts, he need not drink the whole river. It is enough for him to drink only so much water as is necessary to quench his thirst. Thus also it is not necessary for you to know everything or even to know a great deal; but it is necessary for you to know what is essential for your salvation.”
I desperately want to know what the Holy Church teaches, not what some modern day geronda, falsely so-called, thinks, and especially, not my own thoughts and reasonings. The fourth article of this series will give you some resources for finding out what the Saints have to say to us today about the Holy Bible. For now, we’ll look at some ways we might organize our reading.
A Variety of Reading Plans
The daily Scripture readings of the Orthodox Church are a significant place to start, as when we read these, we know that we are reading the same verses as many other Orthodox Christians around the world. (The readings for traditionalists and modernists will sometimes be the same, and other times not, as the calendar of readings is influenced by the solar, lunar, and Paschal cycles, as is the celebration of Saints. In some years, there may be days for which modernists have no readings at all, because of the thirteen day gap.) The schedule of daily readings for 2017, as followed by traditional Orthodox Christians, can be found here as a pdf ready for downloading.
Perhaps the next simplest reading plan is to read a chapter each day. In this case, I would suggest beginning with one of the Holy Gospels, either Saint Mark or Saint John; or the epistles of Saint Paul. His letter to the Philippians is great reading.
Alternatively, you may wish to read one chapter from the Old Testament, beginning with Genesis, and one chapter from the Holy Gospels, beginning with Saint Matthew, and one chapter from the epistles, beginning with the Acts (which is not really an epistle, but leads into them.) You will be reading in three different parts of the Holy Bible at the same time, finishing the Holy Gospels first, beginning them again while continuing in the other sections. Likewise, when you complete the epistles, you will start again with the Acts. By the time you finish reading the Old Testament, you will have read through the Holy Gospels several times, which is wonderful!
Sometimes I like to read straight through a book, not a chapter at a time. Doing so provides a look at the overall story or theme, which may be lost when reading only a small passage each day. You may wish to do this before and after a more detailed study.
Whether you try one of these approaches, or a combination, or some other method, keeping notes of your reading will help you to see your progress, which books you’ve read so far, and which you still have to look forward to. For verses you wish to remember, long-hand copying into your notebook will be more effective than merely highlighting. Personally, I don’t underline, highlight, or write in my Bible, but I am tempted to underline on the Kindle.
Ideas for Study plans
The Christian...”should make such a study of the Gospel that it may always be present in his memory, and at every moral step he takes, for every act, for every thought, he may always have ready in his memory the teaching of the Gospel....the commandments of the Gospel must be so studied that they become the possession, the property of the mind; only then is the exact, constant fulfilment of them possible such as the Lord requires.” (Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov, The Arena)
Learning by Heart
Straightforward memorization is a necessary part of Bible study. While some people are able to easily memorize large portions of Scripture, others steadily learn verse by verse, slowly but surely gathering riches into their hearts. In addition to the essential goal of learning the commandments in order to fulfil them, as stated by Saint Ignatius in the above quote, possessing the Gospel in our minds and hearts will be critical if we live to see the day when the Holy Bible is outlawed.
Organizing Your Study
You may wish to study in depth a particular book of the Bible, not only by reading, but also researching the author’s purpose, the geographical location, the historical setting, and so forth.
Is there a topic of interest to you? You can study that topic as it found throughout the Bible.
Similarly, you can choose a favorite word, and study each place it occurs in the Holy Bible between the first page and the last, or any section you like, reading the surrounding text to better understand how the word is being used. Some time ago, I did a word study of “heart,” writing down every verse in which it is found. I hope to do the same with the word “hope.” Although it will be easy to search for the words on the Kindle, I plan to write out the verses I find, using pencil and paper.
Putting Your Plan into Practice
As I mentioned earlier, the next article will be about online and print resources to greatly enhance your reading. I’m especially excited about this, as I’ve recently found so many great documents.
For today, I encourage you to think about where you’d like to begin. If you’ve never read the Bible before, you may find the most benefit from choosing a reading plan from above. If you’ve read through the Bible in the past, you may wish to try an in-depth book, topical, or word study.
So, start praying, reading, and writing!
Resources and Notes
(Please note that resources are provided because of the information appearing on the linked pages. This is not necessarily a recommendation of the remainder of a site, although there may in fact be valuable information there as well.)
Links found in this article:
- The Prayer of Saint John Chrysostom Before Reading or Listening to the Word of God
- How Should One Read or Listen to the Sacred Scriptures?
- 2017 Wall calendar of Scripture readings
- The Arena, by Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov
- Bible reading plan at Bible Hub
- More than a dozen reading study plans at Bible Gateway
- More reading plans at Bible Study Tools
Humbly submitted by Sister Irene.
Please contact me with your comments, corrections, and questions.