Wed, January 18, 2006

Reading the Bible

The Come Receive the Light radio broadcast for January 7, 2006 featured Father Thomas Hopko speaking about how to include Bible reading in your day. Father Thomas is a wonderful speaker and he gave many good suggestions: read the scriptures regularly, keep the readings short so it can be done, don’t read when you’re likely to be tired. He also discussed the merits of various translations and the differences between reading and studying the word. I highly recommend you listen to the broadcast (Real) (or listen to the MP3).

I especially enjoyed his retelling of a story from the desert fathers:

Our topic today is not so much Bible study, it’s Bible reading, what was called in the old roman church — the old early Orthodox church in the latin version — lectio divina. That’s where you just read it to read it. You spend five, ten minutes with it a day and you just read it.

There’s a story in the desert fathers, how one fellow would be listening — they weren’t reading in those days because they didn’t all have books — but he was listening every day to the reading of the Scripture in the gathering of the brothers (in the synaxis).

So he comes to the old guy one day and he says to him, “I’m leavin’. This is a waste of time.”

And the old guy says, “Why?”

He said, “Because I can’t remember anything. I go in there and I hear this and the minute I go out and I can’t remember anything.”

The old man says to him “Well I tell you, before you leave, do something, okay? Do this: Get two buckets and put them by the door of your cell. Every day at the prayer of the hours you go to the spring and you fill up one of the buckets with water and then you pour the water out. But every day the same bucket. You fill it up and you pour it out.”

So the guy says, “Okay.”

So after a year the old man comes back and he said, “Did you do what I told you?”

The guy says, “Yes.”

He said, “Well, let’s look at the buckets.” So the buckets are sitting there and he says, “What’s in them?”

He says, “Nothing. They’re both empty.”

Then the old man says, “Why is one of them very clean and very nice and the other one is just filled with spiders and cobwebs and dust and dirt?”

The young guy says, “Well obviously, father, the clean one is the one that I filled up and poured out the water every day.”

The old man said, “There’s your answer: they’re both empty.”

In other words, the word of God has to pass through us and cleanse us. But sometimes we may not retain it. And John Climacus said the same thing, he said “The remembrance of the word of God is not done by the brain, it’s done by the behavior.”

So I think we need just to read it — just expose ourselves to it. And I would even say to people if you don’t understand something, let it go. Just let it go. Cling to the part that you do understand. And of course if you’re reading gospels and not maybe letter to the Romans or some Old Testament book might be tough, but the psalms and the gospels they are pretty straight forward … and we’re familiar with them. But we just need to keep repeating and repeating.