10 reasons about the importance of reading the writings of the Orthodox saints (I)

AKA the Holy Fathers

1) What the demons said

The demons fear the Holy Books because (in the demons own words): “Once they (Christians) begin reading those accursed rags (the holy books), they learn your ancient piety and your ancient enmity against us and the little upstarts start raging against us. They learn that Christians of old, both lay and monastic, used to pray unceasingly, fast, examine and confess their thoughts, keep vigil and live as if they were foreigners and strangers in this world. Then, simple-minded as they are, they actually begin putting that foolishness into practice. Furthermore they even take all of the Scriptures seriously … They become as unrelenting and uncompromising with us as your executed Leader (the Savior).” (1)

 

2) Pope Shenouda III (2012)

Suddenly… his childhood of play and fun came to a halt. Why so?… He himself admitted in an interview that it was because he had become absorbed by reading… He read everything and many things above his age – Sherlock Holmes, Tolstoy, Shakespeare, etc. Due to his vast knowledge, many times students from older grades sought his advice…During his exams he always came top of his class… This reading no doubt led him to later on deeply and carefully study the patristic writings and the instructions of the saints… So immersed did he become into the blessed and life-changing habit of studying holy works, that one time he was found to be giving a talk to monks about how to be monks, despite being a layman.

 

3) Fr Seraphim Rose (1982)

For Orthodox Christians of the 20th century there is no more important Holy Father of recent times than Blessed Paisius Velichkovsky. This is so not merely because of his holy life; not merely because, like another Saint Gregory Palamas, he defended the hesychast practice of the mental Prayer of Jesus; not only because he, through his many disciples, inspired the great monastic revival of the 19th century which flowered most notably in the holy Elders of Optina Monastery; but most of all because he redirected the attention of Orthodox Christians to the sources of Holy Orthodoxy, which are the only foundation of true Orthodox life and thought whether of the past or of the present, whether of monks or of laymen.

It is these very same sources—the Divine Scriptures and the writings of the Holy Fathers—which are the foundation of all genuine Orthodoxy in our own times. The observer of the Orthodox world today can see easily enough what “Orthodoxy” becomes when these sources are not made the foundation of life and thought (3).

 

4) What St Kyrillos VI (1971) wrote to a fellow monk

Persist in and honour reading, if possible more than prayer. Reading is the spring of intelligent prayer For, as I had previously told you, reading for a good purpose will show you how to walk on the virtuous path. Whoever reads the books to understand the path of virtue, this path will be opened before him.

 

5) Fr Timothy Pavlatos

“By reading books, which are profitable for the soul, we enter into communion with all the dwellers of Paradise. ‘When I read books about God,’ says the hieromartyr Timothy, ‘then the angels of God surround me.’ What can give us more honor than conversing, through reading of spiritual books, with the holy Angels, with the souls of the blessed, and with God Himself.

“’When I read holy books,’ says St. Gregory the Theologian about the books of St. Basil the Great, ‘then the spirit and body are illumined and I become the temple of God and the harp of the Holy Spirit, played by divine powers. Through them I am corrected and through them I receive a kind of divine change and I am made into a different person.’

“Cleave to reading spiritual writings. It will lead you to that wonderful change which took place in so many saints. Through these works we receive great and holy enlightenment. Through them we learn of the path to salvation, we learn what kind of temptations await us on this path, and about the means by which we may be delivered from them.”

 

6) What St Paisius Velichovksy (1894) told the brothers of his monastery

If you depart from heeding and reading the Patristic books, you will fall away from the peace and love of Christ, that is, from the fulfilling of Christ’s commandments, and there will enter into your midst rebellion, tumult and disorder, disturbance of soul, wavering and hopelessness, murmuring against and judgment of each other; and because of the increase of these, the love of many will grow cold, or rather that of almost all; and if such will be, this community will soon be dissolved, first in soul, and with time in body also. (2)

 

7) St Ignatius Brianchaninov (1867)

Appropriate to yourself the thoughts and the spirit of the Holy Fathers by reading their writings. The Holy Fathers attained the goal: salvation. And you will attain this goal by the natural course of things. As one who is of one thought and one soul with the Holy Fathers, you will be saved. Heaven received into its blessed bosom the Holy Fathers. By this it has borne witness that the thoughts, feelings, and actions of the Holy Fathers are well-pleasing to it. The Holy Fathers set forth their thoughts, their heart, the image of their activity in their writings. This means: what a true guidance to heaven, which is borne witness to by heaven itself, are the writings of the Fathers (4).

 

8) St Ignatius Brianchaninov (1867)

Do not consider it sufficient for yourself to read the Gospel alone, without the reading of the Holy Fathers! This is a proud, dangerous thought. Better, let the Holy Fathers lead you to the Gospel, as their beloved child who has received his preparatory upbringing and education by means of their writings (4).

 

9) St Ignatius Brianchaninov (1867)

The reading of the Fathers’ writings is the father and the king of all virtues. From the reading of the Fathers’ writings we learn the true understanding of Holy Scripture, right faith, the way of life in accord with the Gospel’s commandments, the deep esteem which one should have toward the Gospel commandments – to say it in a word, one learns salvation and Christian perfection (4).

 

10) St John of Kronstadt (1909)

You follow the events of the external world, reading secular compositions, magazines and newspapers. Do not lose sight of your internal world, your soul; it is both nearer and dearer to you [than is the external world]. From henceforth, read the Holy Gospels and the writings of the Holy Fathers ever more often; it is sinful for a Christian not to read Divinely-inspired works.

 

References

  1. On the power of spiritual books by St Paisius Velichkovsky; www.classicalchristianity.com/category/bysaint/stpaisiusvelichkovsky17221794/
  2. Fr Seraphim Rose: His life and works (3rd edition), Ch. 50. In the steps of Blessed Paisius, by Hieromonk Damascene. This book itself references this quote from “Blessed Paisius Velichkovsky” by Schemamonk Metrophanes, p. 123.
  3. Introduction to Blessed Paisius Velichkovsky by Fr Seraphim Rose of Platina; http://orthodoxinfo.com/phronema/intro_bp
  4. How to approach the reading of the Holy Fathers by St Ignatius Brianchaninov; www.pravmir.com/approach-reading-holy-fathers
  5. The importance of spiritual reading by Fr Timothy Pavlatos; http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/the-importance-of-spiritual-reading.aspx