10 reasons about the importance of reading the lives of Orthodox saints

(Most especially well-written and detailed versions of modern-day saints)

 

1) It humbles and changed a man who used to beat up his wife (1)

A young man came to the convent of St Abu Seifin with his wife and daughter. He said,  “Ask my wife how I used to treat her cruelly. I never stopped beating her. Consequently our relationship and life were miserable. Having read the life story of Tamav Erene, I was deeply touched. I decided to change and to stop hurting my wife. Deep in my heart I sought repentance.

I went to my wife, apologized for what I did and asked her forgiveness. Then we went to church together and took holy Communion. Today we have come to Tamav’s shrine to take her blessing and thank her for saving our family and changing our life. I am asking her to continue helping me in the life of repentance.

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2) What St Justin Popovich wrote (2)

If you wish, the Lives of the Saints are a sort of Orthodox Encyclopedia. In them can be found everything which is necessary for the soul which hungers and thirsts for eternal righteousness and eternal truth in this life, and which hungers and thirsts for Divine immortality and eternal life. If faith is what you need, there you will find it in abundance: and you will feed your soul with food which will never make it hungry. If you need love, truth, righteousness, hope, meekness, humility, repentance, prayer, or whatever virtue or podvig, in them, the Lives of the Saints, you will find a countless number of holy teachers for every podvig and will obtain grace-filled help for every virtue.

 

3) What St Justin Popovich wrote (2)

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,’[1] 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 world─Jesus Christ─and you will boldly stand up for the holy truth of His Gospel unto Death, unto every death, and you will feel stronger than all deaths, and much more so than all 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.

 

4) What St Kyrillos VI wrote (3)

Whoever reads the books of the saints, seeking to know the way of righteousness, the way of righteousness will be opened to them.

 

5) What hieromonk Damascene wrote (4)

I spoke recently to an Orthodox priest who had converted to Orthodoxy from Protestantism. He told me that, when he was received into the Church, the officiating priest told him: “You will never be truly Orthodox without reading the Lives of the Saints.” Later, when he himself became a priest, he found that the most pious people in the churches are those who read the Lives of the Saints, and that those who make the most progress in the spiritual life are those who read the Saints’ Lives.

 

6) Mother Safina dearly loved doing it (5)

Mother Safina was brilliant in the Coptic language. She loved reading the holy books and the biographies of the saints. While still at her parents’ house, she used to spend all her time in praying and copying (by hand) the holy books and the biographies of martyrs and saints.

 

7) Fr Faltaous El Sorianni dearly loved doing it (6)

“He read the stories about the lives of the fathers as well as their sayings, even if they were written in English. He used to scribe many of the manuscripts, which included the stories our fathers the hermits and the ascetics of St. Mari Ephraim El Souriany” … “if he was around other monks, all he would ever talk about is the glory of God, the stories of our fathers the hermits and the saints, or about monasticism and its many virtues and struggles” …

“Fr. Faltaous also has a very captivating way of telling the stories of the fathers as well as their sayings, especially because he has a very nice voice” … “At the monastery, when an ordination for a new monk was due to take place, Fr. Faltaous would dedicate the whole night to speaking with him about the lives of the saints, and sometimes he would tell him some stories that may seem fictitious, but he intentionally intertwined reality with fiction in order to refrain from revealing his own personal monastic life”….

“During our initial days as monks, he would sit with us and we would have spiritual gatherings where he would talk to us about he lives of the saints in his own captivating way – out of the wealth of knowledge that he had. We were always eager to hear what he had to say, and we would return back to our cells feeling joyful. As a result, we would remain steadfast in our lives as monks, and we would love this path all the more, all because we were inspired by what he told us.”

 

8) St John Maximovitch carefully studied them in his youth (4)

It was during his university years that the Orthodox education and outlook which Michael had received in his childhood came to maturity. Young Michael saw the point of this upbringing. He saw that the Lives of the Saints, in particular, contain a profound wisdom which is not seen by those who read them superficially, and that the proper knowledge of the Lives of the Saints is more important than any university course. And so it was, as his classmates noticed, that Michael spent more time reading the Lives of the Saints than attending academic lectures, although he did very well in his university studies also.

One could say that he studied the Orthodox Saints precisely “on the university level’: he assimilated their world-outlook and their orientation toward life, and studied the variety of their activity and ascetic labors and practice of prayer. He came to love them with all his heart, was thoroughly penetrated by their spirit—and began to live like them. Many years later, during the sermon he gave when he was consecrated a Bishop, he said: “While studying the worldly sciences, I went all the more deeply into the study of the science of sciences, into the study of the spiritual life.”

 

9) St Justin Popovich and St Nikolai Velimirovich thought it was extremely important (7)

They sought the answers to the world’s most pressing problems in the teachings of the Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church, and especially in the experiences found in the Lives of the Saints.  The saints were for them “living Bibles”  “incarnate dogmas”,  and the true source of Orthodox theology, experiential knowledge of God and existential pedagogical truth valid for all times.

 

10) What I wrote about it (8)

There is nothing more edifying, more joy-giving, more inspiring, more spiritually educational, more faith building, more humbling, more protecting against sin, more sweeter, more building of reverence towards the Orthodox faith and agreeing that it embodies the pure Christian Truth – than reading well written and detailed accounts of the lives of the saints, but especially modern day saints of whom there are thousands!

 

References

  1. Tamav Erini and the Glorious Horizons in Monastic Life Part II, p. 142, find it for sale at www.orthodoxbookstore.org.
  2. Orthodox Faith & Life in Christ, “Introduction to the Lives of the Saints” by St Justin Popovich, www.orthodoxinfo.com/general/stjustin_intro.aspx
  3. Pope Kyrillos: The heavenly harp by Deacon Ramzie Wadie Girguis, p. 60, find it for sale at www.orthodoxbookstore.org.
  4. The place of the lives of the saints in the spiritual life by Hieromonk Damascene, www.orthodoxinfo.com/general/place_lives.aspx
  5. Tamav Erini: A monastic life kindled with love at the feet of Christ, book 3, p. 40
  6. The star of the Sheheet Desert: Fr Faltaous El Souriany – His life and miracles Part I, find a soft copy at http://www.st-mary-alsourian.com by googling the title.
  7.  Life of our Father Justina Archimandrite of Chelije by Fr Daniel Rogich, http://www.serfes.org/lives/stjustin.htm.
  8. I wrote this.