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The Spiritual Means, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III

6- Your relationship with the Holy Bible

  

Your relationship with the Holy Bible concentrates on certain main points. The most important point is: possessing the Bible, keeping it in your company, reading it, understanding it, contemplating on it, studying it, learning it. And above all is acting according to it, practising its commandments and turning them into life.

1- Possessing The Bible

Everybody must possess the Holy Bible, either a big edition on his desk for reading and studying or a small edition that is kept in a pocket or a handbag so that it is always with him. It accompanies him on all his journeys, during working hours, at time of rest or while sitting with people.

The Bible becomes a friend and a companion in his coming in and going out, in his moving and his travelling. He feels that he can’t do without it ever. If he forgets to take it with him, he feels that he has lost something very important.

I fear that the Holy Bible is a stranger in our homes or in our life, “... with nowhere to lay His head” (Lk 9:58), or He lays His head in your library or on your desk but not in your mind or heart! Yes, I don’t mean by possessing the Bible to be a rarity in your house or a charm in your pocket. It must be for your continuous use. You will never achieve this friendship with the Bible except if you have love for it..

St-Takla.org Image: Praying before eating, and reading the Holy Bible صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: صلاة قبل الأكل وقراءة  الكتاب المقدس

St-Takla.org Image: Praying before eating, and reading the Holy Bible

صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: صلاة قبل الأكل وقراءة  الكتاب المقدس

2- Love For The Holy Bible

You love the Bible because it is God’s message to you. You receive it with love..

It is exactly like one receiving a letter from somebody he loves. He reads it and rereads it because it contains words dear to him.. As David the Prophet said about God’s words, “More to be desired are they than gold... sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Ps 19:10). And in the long Psalm:

“How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Ps 119:103).

He also says: “... I love Your Commandments more than gold, yes, than fine gold!” (Ps 119:127), “Your word is very pure; Therefore Your servant loves it” (Ps 119:140), “I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure” (Ps 119:162), “Behold, I long for Your precepts” (Ps 119:40), “I will delight myself in Your Commandments(Ps 119:47), “I love Your testimonies” (Ps 119:119), “I have seen the consummation of all perfection, but Your Commandment is exceedingly broad (Ps 119:96). He also says:

“Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction” (Ps 119:92).

And so, if you love the Holy Bible, you will find enjoyment and pleasure in reading it.

This pleasure makes you continue reading it steadfastly and meditating on it.

3- Perseverance In Reading The Holy Bible

The first Psalm says about the righteous man who is blessed that:

“... His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Ps 1:2).

This is the commandment that the Lord gave to Joshua, the son of Nun: “This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it (Josh 1:8).

Reading the Bible will be of more profit if it is done on a regular and continuous basis, every day...

That is in order to absorb the spirit of the Bible and its effect becomes firm in you. Then reading it becomes a habit. You may specify certain extracts from the Bible to be read every morning before leaving home so that they become a source of contemplation during the day. It fills your mind during your walking, your coming in or your going out. You may also read another chapter before going to bed so you can think about these verses before going to sleep and they will accompany you even in your dreams...

Perseverance in reading the Bible helps one to enjoy it and become attached to it and it becomes continually in one’s thoughts..

And so you will be able to “meditate in the law of the Lord day and night” according to the Commandment. If this meditation was possible for a great king like David the Prophet, or for a great leader like Joshua, in spite of their many responsibilities, how appropriate for us who, no doubt, have much less responsibilities..?!

There are important factors to help you benefit from reading the Bible. One of them is:

St-Takla.org Image: Color the Arabic Holy Bible - Courtesy of "Encyclopedia of the Coptic Ornaments Colouring Images" - the names of all the Bible books were added by St-Takla.org - transparent gif - click on any Book name to go to it صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: تلوين صورة الإنجيل - موضوعة بإذن: موسوعة الزخارف القبطية للتلوين - تم إضافة أسماء أسفار الكتاب المقدس الـ73 بواسطة موقع الأنبا تكلاهيمانوت - شفافة - اضغط على أي اسم سفر للذهاب إليه

St-Takla.org Image: Color the Arabic Holy Bible - Courtesy of "Encyclopedia of the Coptic Ornaments Colouring Images" - the names of all the Bible books were added by St-Takla.org - transparent gif - click on any Book name to go to it

صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: تلوين صورة الإنجيل - موضوعة بإذن: موسوعة الزخارف القبطية للتلوين - تم إضافة أسماء أسفار الكتاب المقدس الـ73 بواسطة موقع الأنبا تكلاهيمانوت - شفافة - اضغط على أي اسم سفر للذهاب إليه

4- Reading In Reverence

When you read the Bible, you listen to God talking to you, and so you must listen to Him in reverence...

And as much as you have reverence in reading, so would be the effect of God’s words on you.

Because your heart at that time will be ready, aware of being in the presence of God.. Therefore when the Church reads to us from the Holy Bible, the deacon calls out saying: “Stand up in the fear of God and listen to the Holy Gospel”.. And before the Bible reading, the priest raises incense and prays a litany where he says:

“May we be worthy of hearing and performing according to Your Holy Gospels...”

For just hearing the Gospel, one needs to be worthy and to be prepared, as we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other sections. We remember how the Prophet Moses called the people, before hearing the Ten Commandments, to sanctify themselves and be ready for three days in order to be worthy of hearing God’s word to them (Ex 19:10-15).

The one who reads the word of God with carelessness and negligence would not be affected by it or benefit from it.

We must learn then to read the Holy Bible with reverence and respect.. Remember that at church, you stand up and the Bishop or Patriarch present takes off his crown during the Gospel reading, showing respect to the word of God. So do not be with one spirit at church then with another spirit at home.. And what else is important when reading the Holy Bible?

5- Reading With Understanding

Enter into the depth of the Divine words and understand what is meant by them..

Read with contemplation and depth. “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament(Dan 12:3).

The scribes and Pharisees were amongst the scholars of the Jews. But in spite of that, they couldn’t understand the word of God or know God’s intentions..! For example, they never understood the Commandment of keeping the Sabbath holy. They also never understood the meaning of the word “neighbour” till the Lord explained the parable of the good Samaritan...

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The element of understanding is very essential so that the Lord says:

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hos 4:6).

Among the requirements of knowledge is not to depend on one verse. The Bible is not one verse but a Book. And a mere verse does not give a complete meaning of God’s aim and commandment.. Therefore:

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Collect the verses that relate to one topic and receive a complete meaning.

Among the conditions that help you to understand God’s word:

To read with spirit and in depth..

It is not important how much you read without understanding and without contemplation!! But your benefit lies in the depth with which you read, where the word of God enters into the innermost of your thoughts and your heart, making it touch your feelings..

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Therefore, consider the spirit of the commandment seriously, and not only the literal meaning.

As the Lord says that God’s words are “spirit and life (Jn 6:63).

So the importance lies in understanding the spiritual meaning of the commandments and not just merely its literal interpretation, as the scribes and Pharisees did. St Paul the Apostle says about that:

“... not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2Cor 3:6).

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Understanding the Bible is very essential, whether it concerns spiritualities or dogma and faith.

Many used to read the Bible but they went astray because they did not comprehend its meaning and relevance. They did not perceive “what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev 3:6). And so says the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom is the glory: “You are mistaken, not knowing the scriptures” (Mt 22:29). Therefore try to understand the significance of everything you read. And if you fail to understand, consult and ask..

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Many heretics used to read the Bible. They were even considered by some as scholars, but they strayed from the right path because of lack of understanding.

Or maybe, sometimes, they would select one verse from the Bible and ignore the rest of the verses so that their understanding was not complete. Take, for example, the Lord’s saying: “... My Father is greater than I” (Jn 14:28). They consider this verse without considering: “I and My Father are one” (Jn 10:30).

Or some of them would say: The Apostle said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household(Acts 16:31), and they do not mention with it the Lord’s saying: “ He who believes and is baptized will be saved (Mk 16:16).

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Therefore if anyone says to you: ‘So and so is written’, reply, ‘And the Lord said “Again it is written...”’ (Mt 4:7).

If a bitter person says to you: ‘It is written.. “By a sad countenance the heart is made better”’ (Eccles 7:3), reply: ‘It is also written.. “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil 4:4). And it is also written: “To everything there is a season,.. A time to weep, and a time to laugh”’ (Eccles 3:1,4). And so this way you become wise in understanding what you read..

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If the Adventists debate you on keeping the Sabbath saying: ‘It is written, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it Holy”’ (Ex 20:8) , say to them: ‘It is also written, “Therefore let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come”’ (Col 2:16,17).

The verses of the Bible -if collected together- will form integration, consistency and depth of understanding.

And what else about your relationship with the Bible? There is another important point, which is:

6- Memorizing Verses From The Bible

Try to memorize verses from the Bible that represent specific spiritual principles or bases of the dogma and faith, or promises from God that would encourage and comfort you, or ones that contain answers to matters that involve you. Repeat these verses many times in your mind and in your heart, in a reflective way so that they will penetrate into your soul and your subconscious, having thus been engraved in your memory, and becoming a source of comfort and support whenever needed...

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There are many examples of verses to memorize from the Bible:

Some memorize the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:7), or the characteristics of love (1Cor 13), or many spiritual recommendations found in Romans 12 and in 1 Thessalonians 5, or parts of the Book of Proverbs and the Book of Ecclesiastic, or the Ten Commandments as in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, or memorizing a good number of the Psalms and prayers of the prophets in the Holy Bible, or various verses that touch your heart when you read them. Or verses that concern certain virtues, or concern dogmas of the faith or present answers to spiritual warfares.. There are so many examples..

If the spiritual person memorized one verse a day, how many would he memorize in a whole year?..

And how much more would he memorize in a number of years?! Even if he memorized one verse every week, there is no doubt he will have 52 verses memorized by the end of the year, or 520 verses in 10 years, and this, having been done, would be considered very little and would bother his conscience.

What is left now is putting these memorized verses into action.. I used to repeatedly say to my spiritual children concerning this matter:

Learn the Gospel and the Gospel will protect you.. Learn the Psalms and the Psalms will protect you..

But how do they protect you? David the Prophet has many contemplations on this matter.

Now I move to another point, which is:

7- Contemplating On The Bible

Whatever you read from the Bible and whatever you memorize from its verses could become a source of your contemplations. You mingle it with your soul and thoughts and you will find the result in what will be inspiration for you. You will see that each word has meanings and significance that will be renewed and increased in your heart and make you enter into a spiritual atmosphere.

My advice to you then is not only to read, but enter into its depth through contemplation; I have written an article on contemplation that you can read.

Another advice concerning reading the Bible is:

8- Read With The Spirit Of Prayer

Start reading by praying, asking God to give you understanding and reveal to you His will. Say to Him what David the Prophet said in his long Psalm:

“Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law” (Ps 119:18).

Conclude reading by a prayer, asking the Lord to give you strength for application. And as He gave you understanding, to give you desire and will.

Let your reading be also accompanied by prayer, as the Bible says: “And lean not on your own understanding” (Prov 3:5). Try to receive God’s message to you through prayer.

Some put in their mind a specific idea that they have already decided on, then read to search for a verse to confirm what they have made up their mind about. Or they try to subjugate what is written in the Bible to their own thoughts. As for you, do not be like that, but read to learn and to know.

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What you need to apply this is the spirit of humility in your prayer..

Humility through which you submit to the teaching of the Bible, through which you change and correct your thoughts.. Humility through which you ask for knowledge, saying with David the Prophet: “Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths(Ps 25:4). While you are reading say to Him:

“Lord, what do you want me to do?” (Acts 9:6).

As for what to do, that is what I want to talk to you about later on.


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