How’s the weekly Bible reading going? If you’ve been keeping up with the readings, you’re well into Exodus and halfway through Luke. I confess: I’ve fallen behind. My note this week is a note to encourage us to catch up and keep up, but not simply for the sake of keeping up. We dare not turn the daily reading of God’s Word into another box to be checked on our “to do” list. I pray that keeping up with the reading will not be a duty, but a delight, as the prophet Jeremiah testifies: “your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart” (Jer 15:16).
The early Church Fathers delighted in Scripture. They were devoted to preaching and teaching God’s Word, and they encouraged the members of their churches to read and study it for themselves. In a sermon on Genesis, John Chrysostom (ca.349–407) exhorted his congregation:
I beseech you to make your way here frequently, and attend carefully to the reading of the Holy Scriptures, not only while you are present here but also at home by taking the sacred books in your hand and receiving the benefit of their contents with assiduity [utmost care and attention]. Great, you see, is the advantage accruing from this: first, this very fact of the tongue’s being brought to reform through reading [people read out loud in those days]; then the soul too is given wings and becomes elevated, glowing with the light of the Sun of Justice, freed at that time from the harm of evil thoughts and enjoying great peace and tranquility. What bodily nourishment is for the maintenance of our strength, reading is for the soul. You see, its nourishment is spiritual, and it both invigorates the mind and makes the soul strong, better attuned and wiser. (Homily on Genesis 29.4; trans. Hill, 201)
Again, in another sermon, Chrysostom encourages his congregation to be diligent in reading and studying the Scriptures, for such study releases their sweet aroma:
For, just as with the grains of incense, the more they are moved around with your fingers, the greater fragrance they give out, so it is with the Scriptures in our experience: the more you devote yourself to studying them, the more you are able to discover the treasure hidden in them, and thereby gain great and unspeakable wealth. (Homily on Genesis 13.3; trans. Hill, 170)
Finally, one the early monks reminds us of how God’s Word works its way into our hearts:
The nature of water is soft, that of a stone is hard; but if a bottle is hung above the stone, allowing water to fall drop by drop, it wears away the stone. So it is with the Word of God; it is soft and our heart is hard, but the man who hears the Word of God often, opens his heart to the fear of God. (Abba Poemen, Sayings of the Desert Fathers)
Let’s catch up and keep up with our weekly Scripture readings. God’s Word is at work in us who believe (1 Thess 2:13). As we abide in his word, it will become sweet nourishment for our soul and it will open our heart to the fear of the Lord.