Does God Exist?

Jesus casting out demons

Jesus casting out demons

“To oppose something is to maintain it. …To be an atheist is to maintain God. His existence or his nonexistence, it amounts to much the same, on the plane of proof.” Ursula K. Le Guin.

If God exists, why does He not provide incontrovertible proof of His existence? I believe in the existence of God. I have been blessed by experiences that constitute, for me, proof. But those experiences do not, and indeed cannot, prove God’s existence to you. I believe, but I cannot believe for you. I have had certain experiences, but those experiences were meant for me, and me alone.

One definition of a miracle is that it provides access to the divine. It is, therefore, personal. Even when a miracle is performed in public, that miracle is interpreted individually. The individual may choose to internalize or rationalize what they have seen, to accept or deny the event. A person’s response to the miracle is what is important, not the miracle itself.

In the case of Jesus’ miracles, we see at least two reactions. Some people were astonished and praised God. Others argued that Jesus performed miracles by the power of Beelzebub. The same miracle occurred before all, but it was interpreted and assimilated differently.

What if God were to provide incontrovertible proof of His existence? What then? The interpretation and assimilation of that proof take place within each person. Some would love God, some would hate Him. But to provide absolute and incontrovertible proof would be to end the question. Each person’s reaction would, at that point, be fixed and immutable. For some, the love of God would be paradise; for others, the love of the God whom they hate would be a torment. And so God, in His mercy, leaves the question open and provides the opportunity for true repentance.

Thou Shalt Not Desire

Decalogue parchment by Jekuthiel Sofer 1768

Decalogue parchment by Jekuthiel Sofer 1768

The 10th commandment is summed up by the following two statements:

  • You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife
  • You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor

That word “covet” is not a word we use much anymore. The only place I ever hear it is while reading the Bible or listening to a sermon. We don’t use the word in everyday speech, and we’ve lost the sense of what it actually means. In one of Rene Girard’s books I learned that in other languages, it is translated as “desire.” This changes everything. What is obscure is suddenly clear.

  • You shall not desire your neighbor’s wife
  • You shall not desire anything that belongs to your neighbor

To desire is to lust after. In the book of James we read:

But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (Ja 1:14-15.)

An old proverb comes down to us in many variations, but the modern variation is known as “For Want of a Nail.”

For want of a nail, the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe, the horse was lost.
For want of a horse, the rider was lost.
For want of a rider, the message was lost.
For want of a message, the battle was lost.
For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

The meaning of the 10th commandment boils down to cutting the chain of events that leads to sin. If we can cut off our desire for what is not ours, we end up not murdering, stealing, bearing false witness, and a host of other sins. But the only way to cut off our desire is not by sheer willpower, but by the keeping of the summation of the law — to love the Lord your God with your heart, soul, and spirit, which leads to loving your neighbor as yourself.

Finitum (non) Capax Infiniti

The Great Panagia (Our Lady of the Sign)

The Great Panagia (Our Lady of the Sign)

Finitum (non) Capax Infiniti

Finitum non capax infiniti: the finite cannot contain the infinite. This is the argument of the Reformed (Calvinist) confession against the idea that the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharistic bread and wine. The Lutheran position states finitim capax infiniti: the finite can contain the infinite — that god is everywhere present, but makes Himself known only where and how He wills.[1] The theological shorthand for this argument is (non) capax, meaning it is a question of whether the infinite God who is everywhere present and filling all things can also be locally and bodily present in the bread and wine.

The source of this disagreement is Aristotle: specifically, the application of Aristotle’s philosophic speculation to theology. In Book 3 of Aristotle’s Physics, he writes: “the infinite body will obviously prevail over and annihilate the finite body.”[2] Following Aristotelian logic, the finite cannot contain the infinite. This means the Son of God cannot be contained by the bread and wine.

If we accept the argument that the infinite God cannot be contained in the bread and the wine, we must extend this argument further to encompass both the Incarnation and the person of Jesus Christ. If the infinite Son of God cannot be present in the bread and wine, how then can the infinite Son of God be present in Mary’s womb? If the finite cannot contain the infinite, then how can Christ be fully God and fully man?

Some Protestants deal with the problem through Kenotic Theology, which is derived from the Carmen Christi, or the Hymn to Christ.

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Ph 2:6-11)

In Kenotic Theology, the passage from Philippians 2 is taken to mean the kenosis (or self-emptying) of the Son of God had to do with the Son of God emptying Himself of his divinity so as to fit within the confines of the human body. Kenotic Theology is contradicted by the Apostle Paul, who writes: “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Co 2:9). Clearly we cannot accept any diminution in the divinity of the Son of God, for then the fullness of the Godhead would not be present in Jesus Christ.[3]

In 451 A.D., the Fourth Ecumenical Council was called to settle disputes as to the relationship of the divine and human natures in Jesus Christ. They settled the issue as follows:

Following the holy Fathers we teach with one voice that the Son [of God] and our Lord Jesus Christ is to be confessed as one and the same [Person], that he is perfect in Godhead and perfect in manhood, very God and very man, of a reasonable soul and [human] body consisting, consubstantial with the Father as touching his Godhead, and consubstantial with us as touching his manhood; made in all things like unto us, sin only excepted; begotten of his Father before the worlds according to his Godhead; but in these last days for us men and for our salvation born [into the world] of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God according to his manhood. This one and the same Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son [of God] must be confessed to be in two natures, unconfusedly, immutably, indivisibly, inseparably [united], and that without the distinction of natures being taken away by such union, but rather the peculiar property of each nature being preserved and being united in one Person and subsistence, not separated or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son and only-begotten, God the Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Prophets of old time have spoken concerning him, and as the Lord Jesus Christ hath taught us, and as the Creed of the Fathers hath delivered to us.[4]

If orthodox theology is correct, if Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man, then God built for Himself a body of flesh taken from the Virgin Mary and took up residence in Mary’s womb. The Virgin Mary became the container of the uncontainable (χώρα άχωρήτου),[5] just as the human body of Jesus was united with the divinity of the Son of God in the person of Jesus Christ. Iconographically, this is represented by the icon of the Panagia (a.k.a. Our Lady of the Sign), which depicts the Virgin Mary at the moment of the Annunciation, a medallion showing Jesus Christ in her womb, and her hands raised in prayer. Her extended hands also depict the boundlessness of Him who is contained in her womb. Ephrem the Syrian (c. 306-373 A.D.) writes the following in Hymn 3 of his Hymns on the Nativity.

Glory to that One Who never before could be measured by us;
our heart is too small for Him and our intellect too weak.
He dazzles our smallness by the wealth of His forms.
Glory to the All-knowing Who cast Himself down,
and asks to hear and to learn what He already knew
to reveal by His questions the treasure of His benefits.[6]

In this hymn, St. Ephrem is describing the vast gulf that separates us from God. Our finitude is too small to contain God — that is, until God Himself enlarged our finitude by His presence. Our Lord’s infinitude was hidden behind the veil of His flesh and revealed only when He desired it for the salvation of souls. By uniting our humanity with His Divinity, our Lord Jesus Christ made it possible for our common humanity — by God’s grace — to grasp His likeness.

In the Christian West, the issue of whether the finite could contain the infinite is extremely important. In the Christian East the issue is not even raised. Indeed, this is an example of how the Christian East considers Roman Catholics and Protestants to be two sides of the same coin, for they ask the same questions — only their answers are different. The Christian East looks at the issue quite differently. Of course, the finite can contain the infinite; in fact, that is the very purpose of creation itself.

In the first creation account, God says: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Ge 1:26). God is by definition infinite; we as His creation are finite. And yet what does it mean for God to create humanity in His image and likeness? Does it not imply that humanity was created to be like God in all things, excluding God’s essence? How can the finite be like the infinite if the finite does not contain within itself the capacity for infinitude — if the finite is not meant to share, by God’s grace, in God’s infinitude?

In the tabernacle, we see the Holy of Holies as the dwelling place of God. We see this recapitulated in Solomon’s temple. Once the temple was built, the ark placed within the Holy of Holies. In the book of 1st Kings we read:

And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD. Then spake Solomon, The LORD said that he would dwell in the thick darkness. I have surely built thee an house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in for ever. (1Ki 8:10-13).

The glory of the LORD filled the temple, for God dwelt there. How can this be? How can the infinite God be fully present with His people in such as way as to dwell among them? Somehow, in a way beyond our understanding, God is not constrained by His infinitude. He is fully present with His people while at the same time being everywhere present and filling all things. Although the Son of God chose to empty Himself and took our poverty upon Himself, yet in accordance with His judgments, He used the gift that He received from us for His own adornment and majesty.[7]

God revealed Himself to Moses not as the impersonal absolute, but as a person. Elder Sophrony writes: “But He Whom I had discarded as ‘unnecessary’ …suddenly put before me the Bible text, the revelation on Mt. Sinai: ‘I AM THAT I AM’ [Exod 3:14]. BEING is I. God, the absolute Master of all the celestial worlds is PERSONAL — I AM.” [Brackets in the original.][8] In speaking of the relationship between human persons and the personal God, Elder Sophrony later said: “By the grace of God, I am.”[9]

So yes, the finite can contain the infinite. By grace, the Holy of Holies contained the glory of God. By grace, the Holy Virgin’s womb contained the uncontainable God. By grace, the body of Jesus contained the infinite Son of God. By grace, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (1Jo 3:2).


Anonymous. 2005. Finitum capax? Some tricky theology. November 21. Accessed June 8, 2016.

Archimandrite Aacharias (Zacharou). 2015. Man, the Target of God. Essex: Stravropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist.

Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov). 2006. We Shall See Him as He Is. Platina: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood.

Aristotle. 350 B.C.E. “Physics.” The Internet Classics Archive. Accessed June 7, 2016.

Cabasalis, Nicholas. 2013. “Homily on the Annunciation by St. Nicholas Cabasalis.” MYSTAGOGY RESOURCE CENTER. March 25. Accessed June 7, 2016.

Peltomaa, Leena Mari. 2001. The Image of the Virgin Mary in the Akathistos Hymn. Boston: Brill.

Schaff, Philip. 2005. NPNF2-14 The Seven Ecumenical Councils. Vol. 14. 14 vols. Grand Rapids: Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

St Ephrem the Syrian. 1989. Hymns. Translated by Kathleen E. McVey. New York: Paulist Press.


[1] (Anonymous 2005)

[2] (Aristotle 350 B.C.E.)

[3] In Kenotic Theology, the Son of God is said to have emptied Himself of his divinity prior to His resurrection.

[4] (NPNF2-14, 388)

[5] (Peltomaa 2001, 138)

[6] (St Ephrem the Syrian 1989, 85)

[7] (Cabasalis 2013)

[8] (Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov) 2006, 28)

[9] (Archimandrite Aacharias (Zacharou) 2015, 79)

The Eastern Orthodox Church

Three-barred cross, Eastern Orthodox Church

Eastern Orthodox Church

She is now, as she was from the beginning, multiplex in her arrangements, simple in her faith, difficult of comprehension to strangers, easily intelligible to her sons, widely scattered in her branches, hardly beset by her enemies, yet still and evermore, what she delights to call herself, One, Only, Holy, Catholic and apostolic.

Such she is: and yet being so, she has not escaped, any more than her great Head escaped, the tongue of calumny. Protestant controversialists attack her, because she holds uncorrupted the Faith of S. Athanasius and S. Chrysostom; Roman theologians condemn her as a withered and sapless branch, cut off from the communion of the first See, and now ready for the fire; infidel travelers contrast the ‘noble simplicity’ of the Impostor of Mecca with the ‘complicated superstitions’ of the Christian East. Everywhere is the cry against her, that her Priests are sunk in ignorance, her people enslaved to bigotry; that she exists only because she has so long existed, and acts with the mechanism of an automaton; that her want of missionary zeal proves her deficiency in vital energy, and that the hour of peril will crush her, like a hollow image, to dust.

For eighteen hundred years, it might be answered, this venerable Communion has fought the good fight, and born about in her body the marks of the LORD JESUS. Since she armed Athanasius against Arius, and sent forth Cyril against Nestorius, unnumbered heresies have assailed her; foes in every shape have surrounded her; without have been fightings, within fears; her existence itself has oftentimes been a very agony; yet the gates of hell have never prevailed against her.

Rev. John Mason Neale, M.A.

A History of the Holy Eastern Church: Part I; General Introduction


General Introduction to the Eastern Orthodox Church

How to Edit your own Book

Good, Fast, or Cheap. Pick Two.

Good, Fast, or Cheap. Pick Two.

Editing your own book is a long and difficult process. I find it to be the second most arduous piece of the process, but definitely the most painful one. There are many reasons why you might want to edit your own work. First, publishers appreciate a well-written book. If your book is hard to read it reduces the potential size of the audience. If your book uses poor spelling, grammar, and sentence construction, it will be more difficult to evaluate and more time-consuming to correct. This increases the publisher’s costs and reduces their potential profits.

Suppose you choose to publish your own book. Instead of the publisher bearing the cost of editing your book, you will have to pay the cost upfront. The cost can be prohibitive. There are sites where you can hire freelance editors, and pricing varies. Some charge $3.95 per page (in early 2015); this price seems about average. Most copy editors charge by the word, and prices vary based on the type of editing you need. Basic proofreading runs around $0.019 cents per word. Line editing costs around $0.025 cents per word. Developmental editing costs around $0.032 cents per word.

Let’s talk about the types of editing for a moment. Proofreading is about “grammar, punctuation, spelling, word choice and sentence structure.”[1] Line editing is about consistency and syntax. Developmental editing is about content and structure. Some people use the term copy editing in conjunction with proofreading, others in conjunction with line editing. When hiring a copy editor, make sure you know which definition they are using so you understand the pricing.

Good editing takes time. Time is money. A good editor has spent more time at their craft and, therefore, costs more. Also, good editors make more than one pass through the material. The second pass finds errors missed on the first pass or errors introduced in the corrections. The third pass ensures nothing was missed. If the third pass finds errors, a fourth pass is necessary.[2] If you hire an inexpensive editor, you will likely get someone who is inexperienced. If you hire someone with a rapid turnaround, you will likely only get one pass through the material. If you find pricing that is out substantially cheaper than the norm, or if the turnaround is quicker than average, you are not receiving a quality service.

Let’s quantify the cost of hiring a freelance editor. The trim size is only 200 – 250 words per page. Let’s say 225. If your book is 100,000 words, that comes to 444 pages. Hiring an editor at $3.95 per page comes to $1755. Let’s look at the freelance editors pricing by the word. Proofreading comes to $1900; Line editing comes to $2400; developmental editing comes to $3200.

On the other hand, you could use a service like CreateSpace; they offer a single round of editing for $0.016 per word, or $1600 for your manuscript. That’s just one round; you’ll need to pay for multiple rounds. charges $0.037 per word for line editing, $0.044 per word for content editing, and $0.081 per word for developmental editing. With Lulu, editing your hypothetical manuscript would cost between $3,700 and $8,100.

I write because I have to. I don’t write to get rich.  I did not set out to edit my own books, but I cannot afford to have them professionally edited. After self-publishing my first book, a reviewer I trusted told me the book was weakly edited.  I was well into writing my second book, and I had to learn some new tricks, and fast. Fortunately, technology is rapidly improving, and there are products on the market that can help.

As a professional writer, you cannot rely on Microsoft Word. Its spell-checker has a limited vocabulary. Its grammar checker is useful but rudimentary. You need something more. offers an interesting product. I have it installed as a browser extension, and it is constantly finding issues that I wasn’t even aware of. They also have an online service that you can either type in directly or copy text into. They have a subscription service that will do more than simple proof-reading. When I tried to use it on my book, the size of the file it accepted was too limiting. I wanted something more powerful, but also something that did not require a subscription.

StyleWriter 4, offered by Editor Software, is a powerful editing program that comes in multiple editions. The Starter edition does proofreading; the Standard edition adds checks for jargon and readability, plus adds style customization features. The Professional edition adds checks for how lively your writing is, plus adds the editor’s list. The editor’s list allows you to look as lists of issues such as spelling, word choice, etc. The professional edition also allows you to choose the type of manuscript you are writing and the type of audience. For example, you can write fiction for the general public, or you can write an Academic paper for an audience of specialists.

For various reasons, I use both products. I copy a few paragraphs at a time into, correct any issues, and copy them back into my document. I then highlight the material in Microsoft word, open StyleWriter, and let StyleWriter import it from the Clipboard. StyleWriter then highlights and grades the text, and allows me to fix any problems. I then copy the corrected text back into my document.

These programs have certain weaknesses. For example, they both prefer modern plain English. They ruthlessly critique text written in another era. For example, StyleWriter had fifteen suggestions for the Gettysburg address; the final sentence was graded as having a “Dreadful” style. For this reason, I only use these programs to edit my text; I do not copy quoted material into the program. I can’t change someone else’s words, so why bother? There are times when a sentence should not be in the modern plain English style; perhaps you are copying the style from a quoted section. Perhaps the material demands a different style of writing.

I do not claim this method will replace a good editor. Nothing can do that. It will, however, improve your manuscript. These programs will often tell you why the change is necessary; incorporating these suggestions will improve your writing. It will help you simplify your writing, making it easier for your reader to follow.


Klems, Brian. 2013. “10 Things Your Freelance Editor Might Not Tell You—But Should.” The Writer’s Dig. November 5. Accessed January 9, 2016.

Levine, Mark, and Lynda Lotman. n.d. “Mark Levine Interviews Lynda Lotman.” Book Editing Associates. Accessed January 9, 2016.


[1] (Klems 2013)

[2] (Levine and Lotman n.d.)

The Apocrypha and Greek Philosophy

The Books called Apocrypha

The Bookes called Apocrypha

Alfred Edersheim notes that one of the reasons why the Apocrypha was written was to find some way to reconcile Greek philosophy with previous Jewish writings. The object was apologetic, to demonstrate that the Hebrew Scriptures were every bit the equal of the Greek philosophers. In particular, Edersheim notes the Apocrypha combined Plato’s speculations with the asceticism of the Stoics.[1]

Of course, by linking Greek philosophy with the Old Testament, the Apocrypha paved the way for the New Testament’s use of the terminology of Greek philosophy. The connections between Platonism, Stoicism, and the New Testament are well documented (if only in the use of the terminology). Donald Robinson mentions the “traces of Stoicism in the New Testament”, especially in the epistles of the Apostle Paul — specifically in Paul’s sermon at the Areopagus (Acts 17:18-32), where Paul quotes from two different Greek poems, including a student of Zeno, the founder of Stoicism.[2]

Scholars have identified the first as coming from the Cretica of the pre-Socratic philosopher-poet Epimenides (fl. 7th or 6th century BC), which forms part of the verse:

They fashioned a tomb for you, holy and high one,

Cretans, always liars,[3] evil beasts, idle bellies.

But you are not dead: you live and abide forever,

For in you we live and move and have our being.[4]

The second has been identified as coming from the Phaenomena of the philosopher-poet Aratus (315/310 – 240 BC), a student of Zeno, the founder of Stoicism:

Let us begin with Zeus, whom we mortals never leave unspoken.

For every street, every market-place is full of Zeus.

Even the sea and the harbour are full of this deity.

Everywhere everyone is indebted to Zeus.

For we are indeed his offspring…[5] [6]

Paul again quotes Epimenides in his pastoral letter to Titus when he writes: “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true.” (Titus 1:12-13a)


Edersheim, Alfred. 1993. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah: New Updated Edition. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.

Robertson, Donald. 2012. “St. Paul on Stoicism: From the Acts of the Apostles.” Stoicism and the Art of Happiness. November 10. Accessed January 20, 2014.

[1] (Edersheim 1993, 22)

[2] (Robertson 2012)

[3] Titus 1:12

[4] Acts 17:25

[5] Acts 17:28

[6] (Robertson 2012)


Potograph of St. Justin Popovich

St. Justin Popovich


by Archimandrite Justin Popovich

The Bible is in a sense a biography of God in this world. In it the Indescribable One has in a sense described Himself.

The Holy Scriptures of the New Testament are a biog­raphy of the incarnate God in this world. In them it is related how God, in order to reveal Himself to men, sent God the Logos, who took on flesh and became man–and as a man told men everything that God is, everything that God wants from this world and the people in it.

God the Logos revealed God’s plan for the world and God’s love for the world. God the Word spoke to men about God with the help of words, insofar as human words can con­tain the uncontainable God.

All that is necessary for this world and the people in it–the Lord has stated in the Bible. In it He has given the answers to all questions. There is no question which can torment the human soul, and not find its answer, either directly or in­directly in the Bible.

Men cannot devise more questions than there are answers in the Bible. If you fail to find the answer to any of your questions in the Bible, it means that you have either posed a sense-less question or did not know how to read the Bible and did not finish reading the answer in it.

In the Bible God has made known:

[1] what the world is; where it came from; why it exists; where it is heading; how it will end;

[2] what man is; where he comes from; where he is going; what he is made of; what his purpose is; how he will end;

[3] what animals and plants are; what their purpose is; what they are used for;

[4] what good is; where it comes from; what it leads to; what its purpose is; how it is attained;

[5] what evil is; where it comes from; how it came to exist; why it exists–how it will come to an end;

[6] what the righteous are and what sinners are; how a sin­ner becomes righteous and how an arrogant flghteous man becomes a sinner; how a man serves God and how he serves satan; the whole path from good to evil, and from God to satan;

[7] everything–from the beginning to the end; man’s entire path from the body to God, from his conception in the womb to his resurrection from the dead;

[8] what the history of the world is, the history of heaven and earth, the history of mankind; what their path, purpose, and end are.

In the Bible God has said absolutely everything that was necessary to be said to men. The biography of every man-­everyone without exception–is found in the Bible.

In it each of us can find himself portrayed and thoroughly described in detail: all those virtues and vices which you have and can have and cannot have.

You will find the paths on which your own soul and everyone else’s journey from sin to siniessness, and the entire path from man to God and from man to Satan. You will find the means to free yourself from sin.

In short, you will find the complete history of sin and sin­fulness, and the complete history of righteousness and the righteous.

If you are mournful, you will find consolation in the Bible; if you are sad, you will find joy; if you are angry–tranquility; if you are lustful–continence; if you are foolish–wisdom; if you are bad–goodness; if you are a criminal–mercy and righteousness; if you hate your fellow man–love.

In it you will find a remedy for all your vices and weak points, and nourishment for all your virtues and accomplishments.

If you are good, the Bible will teach you how to become better; if you are kind, it will teach you angelic tenderness; if you are intelligent, it will teach you wisdom.

If you appreciate the beauty and music of literary style, there is nothing more beautiful or more moving than what is contained in Job, Isaiah, Solomon, David, John the Theologian and the Apostle Paul. Here music–the angelic music of the eternal truth of God–is clothed in human words.

The more one reads and studies the Bible, the more he finds reasons to study it as often and as frequently as he can. According to St. John Chrysostom, it is like an aromatic root, which produces more and more aroma the more it is rubbed.

Just as important as knowing why we should read the Bible is knowing how we should read the Bible.

The best guides for this are the holy Fathers, headed by St. John Chrysostom who, in a manner of speaking, has written a fifth Gospel.

The holy Fathers recommend serious preparation before reading and studying the Bible; but of what does this preparation consist?

First of all in prayer. Pray to the Lord to illuminate your mind–so that you may understand the words of the Bible–and to fill your heart with His grace–so that you may feel the truth and life of those words.

Be aware that these are God’s words, which He is speaking and saying to you personally. Prayer, together with the other virtues found in the Gospel, is the best preparation a person can have for understanding the Bible.

How should we read the Bible? Prayerfully and reverently, for in each word there is another drop of eternal truth, and all the words together make up the boundless ocean of the Eternal Truth.

The Bible is not a book but life; because its words are “spirit and life” (John 6:63). Therefore its words can be comprehended if we study them with the spirit of its spirit, and with the life of its life.

It is a book that must be read with life–by putting it into practice. One should first live it, and then understand it.

Here the words of the Saviour apply: “Whoever is willing to do it–will understand that this teaching is from God” (John 7:17). Do it, so that you may understand it. This is the fun­damental rule of Orthodox exegesis.

At first one usually reads the Bible quickly, and then more and more slowly, until finally he will begin to read not even word by word, because in each word he is discovering an everlasting truth and an ineffable mystery.

Every day read at least one chapter from the Old and the New Testament; but side by side with this put a virtue from each into practice. Practice it until it becomes a habit to you.

Let us say, for instance, that the first virtue is forgiveness of insults. Let this be your daily obligation. And along with it pray to the Lord: “O gentle Lord, grant me love towards those who insult me!”

And when you have made this virtue into a habit, each of the other virtues after it will be easier for you, and so on until the final one.

The main thing is to read the Bible as much as possible. When the mind does not understand, the heart will feel; and if neither the mind understands nor the heart feels, read it over again, because by reading it you are sowing God’s words in your soul.

And there they will not perish, but will gradually and imperceptibly pass into the nature of your soul; and there will happen to you what the Saviour said about the man who “casts seed on the ground, and sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows, while the man does not know it” (Mark 4:26-27).

The main thing is: sow, and it is God who causes and allows what is sown to grow (1 Cor. 3:6). But do not rush success, lest you become like a man who sows today, but tomorrow already wants to reap.

By reading the Bible you are adding yeast to the dough of your soul and body, which gradually expands and fills the soul until it has thoroughly permeated it and makes it rise with the truth and righteousness of the Gospel.

In every instance, the Saviour’s parable about the sower and the seed can be applied to every one of us. The seed of Divine Truth is given to us in the Bible.

By reading it, we sow that seed in our own soul. It falls on the rocky and thorny ground of our soul, but a little also falls on the good soil of our heart–and bears fruit.

And when you catch sight of the fruit and taste it, the sweetness and joy will spur you to clear and plow the rocky and thorny areas of your soul and sow it with the seed of the word of God.

Do you know when a man is wise in the sight of Christ the Lord? –When he listens to His word and carries it out. The beginning of wisdom is to listen to God’s word (Matt. 7:24-25).

Every word of the Saviour has the power and the might to heal both physical and spiritual ailments. “Say the word and my servant will be healed” (Matt. 8:8). The Saviour said the word–and the centurion’s servant was healed.

Just as He once did, the Lord even now ceaselessly says His words to you, to me, and to all of us. But we must pause, and immerse ourselves in them and receive them–with the centurion’s faith.

And a miracle will happen to us, and our souls will be healed just as the centurion’s servant was healed. For it is related in the Gospel that they brought many possessed people to Him, and He drove out the spirits with a word, and healed all the sick (Matt. 8:16).

He still does this today, because the Lord Jesus “is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8)

Those who do not listen to God’s words will be judged at the Dreadful Judgment, and it will be worse for them on the Day of Judgment than it was for Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt. 10:14-15).

Beware–at the Dreadful Judgment you will be asked to give an account for what you have done with the words of God, whether you have listened to them and kept them, whether you have rejoiced in them or been ashamed of them.

If you have been ashamed of them, the Lord will also be ashamed of you when He comes in the glory of His Father together with the holy angels (Mark 8:38).

There are few words of men that are not vain and idle. Thus there are few words for which we do not mind being judged (Matt. 12:36).

In order to avoid this, we must study and learn the words of God from the Bible and make them our own; for God proclaimed them to men so that they might accept them, and by means of them also accept the Truth of God itself. In each word of the Saviour there is more eternity and permanence than in all of heaven and earth with all their history.

Hence He said: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). This means that God and all that is of God is in the Saviour’s words. Therefore they cannot pass away.

If a man accepts them, he is more permanent than heaven and earth, because there is a power in them that immortalizes man and makes him eternal.

Learning and fulfilling the words of God makes a person a relative of the Lord Jesus. He Himself revealed this when He said: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and carry it out” (Luke 8:21).

This means that if you hear and read the word of God, you are a half-brother of Christ. If you carry it out, you are a full brother of Christ. And that is a joy and privilege greater than that of the angels.

In learning from the Bible, a certain blessedness floods the soul which resembles nothing on earth. The Saviour spoke about this when He said, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:28).

Great is the mystery of the word–so great that the second Person of the Holy Trinity, Christ the Lord, is called “the Word” or “the Logos” in the Bible.

God is the Word (John 1:1). All those words which come from the eternal and absolute Word are full of God, Divine Truth, Eternity, and Righteousness. If you listen to them, you are listening to God. If you read them, you are reading the direct words of God.

God the Word became flesh, became man (John 1:14), and mute, stuttering man began to proclaim the words of the eternal truth and righteousness of God.

In the Saviour’s words there is a certain elixir of immortality, which drips drop by drop into the soul of the man who reads His words and brings his soul from death to life, from impermanence to permanence.

The Saviour indicated this when He said: “Truly, truly I say unto you, whoever listens to my word and believes in the One who sent me has eternal life …and has passed over from death to life” (John 5:24).

Thus the Saviour makes the crucial assertion: “Truly, truly I say unto you, whoever keeps my words will never see death” (John 8:51).

Every word of Christ is full of God. Thus, when it enters a man’s soul it cleanses it from every defilement. From each of His words comes a power that cleanses us from sin.

Hence at the Mystical Supper the Saviour told His disciples, who used to listen to His word without ceasing: “You have already been cleansed by the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).

Christ the Lord and His Apostles call everything that is written in the Bible the word of God, the word of the Lord (John 17:14; Acts 6:2, 13:46, 16:32, 19:20; II Cor. 2:17; Col. 1:15, II Thess. 3:1), and uniess you read it and receive it as such, you will remain in the mute, stuttering words of men, vain and idle.

Every word of God is full of God’s Truth, which sanctifies the soul for all eternity once it enters it.

Thus does the Saviour turn to His heaveniy Father in prayer: “Father! Sanctify them with Thy Truth; Thy word is truth” (John 17:17).

If you do not accept the word of Christ as the word of God, as the word of the Truth, then falsehood and the father of lies within you is rebelling against it.

In every word of the Saviour there is much that is supernatural and full of grace, and this is what sheds grace on the soul of man when the word of Christ visits it.

Therefore the Holy Apostle calls the whole structure of the house of salvation “the word of the grace of God” (Acts 20:32).

Like a living grace-filled power, the word of God has a wonder-working and life-giving effect on a man, so long as he hears it with faith and receives it with faith (1 Thess. 2:13).

Everything is defiled by sin, but everything is cleansed by the word of God and prayer–everything–all creation from man on down to a worm (1 Tim. 4:5).

By the Truth which it carries in itself and by the Power which it has in itself, the word of God is “sharper than any sword and pierces to the point of dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). Nothing remains secret before it or for it.

Because every word of God contains the eternal Word of God–the Logos-it has the power to give birth and regenerate men. And when a man is born of the Word, he is born of the Truth.

For this reason St. James the Apostle writes to the Christians that God the Father has brought them forth “by the word of truth” (1:18); and St. Peter tells them that they “have been born anew…by the word of the living God, which abides forever” (1 Peter 1:23).

All the words of God, which God has spoken to men, come from the Eternal Word–the Logos, who is the Word of life and bestows Life eternal.

By living for the Word, a man brings himself from death to life. By filling himself with eternal life, a man becomes a conqueror of death and “a partaker of the Divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), and of his blessedness there shall be no end.

The main and most important point of all this is faith and feeling love towards Christ the Lord, because the mystery of every word of God is opened beneath the warmth of that feeling, just as the petals of a fragrant flower are opened beneath the warmth of the sun’s rays. Amen.