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How to Read the Bible
by Father Matta El Meskeen
(Fr. Matthew The Poor)
- The author is the spiritual Father of the monks of the Monastery of St. Macarius at Wadi El-Natrun (Natria, or more precisely, Scetis), Egypt. One of his first and famous publications is his book "Life of Orthodox prayer". St. Vladimir Seminary (USA, 1984) has published a collection of his spiritual articles under the title "Communion of Love".
- This booklet encompasses a very valuable spiritual thought. In few pages, the author presents the subtle relationship between the word of God and the human soul without any discussion of the classical methods of Bible interpretation according to the early Fathers or according the modern experts. The author presents the mystery of the word to the soul as if introducing the groom to the bride, and gives the necessary advice so that the soul succeeds in her encounter with the word of God, and her direct dealing with the word of God, until her joyful wedding in eternity. The author does not give an interpretation nor an analysis but gives a true approach to read the Holy Bible and to live by it.
- In the beginning of the book and under the title "The Holy Bible in relation to the reader" the author saves no effort to reveal to the reader the sanctity of the word, its greatness and its importance to human life, showing that God is the center of the Bible, its master and its main topic and the giver of the Word to man to be his way to eternal life.
- Gradually, the author proceeds with the topic: "The reader in relation to the Holy Bible" where he puts the reader in his proper level in relation to the Bible. There are those who felt superior to the Bible and have come out empty handed, but God has revealed himself to those who humbled themselves and elevated the word of God; their mind has been illuminated to understand the eternal will of God.
- The author continues in an amazing spiritual style to show the necessity of the spiritual understanding of the Bible, and compares between understanding the Bible in order to obtain life, and the intellectual study of the Bible in order to extract knowledge or to satisfy a desire to teach others. In both cases, the reader harvests different fruits, according to his intentions, from the same source.
- After that, the author leads us to the heart of the subject to reveal to us the purpose and the goal of reading the Holy Bible, that is to "enter in the mystery of the Bible" and to translate all what is read in the Bible; proverbs, stories, commandments, and teachings into a "life that is lived and experienced". He clarifies that with many examples of those who have lived the mystery of the Gospel in different ways, and have struggled and even died for their keeping of the Word and living by it with excessive joy.
- Finally, the author ends by inviting the reader to honor and venerate the Word, the same as he started; getting inspiration from the church tradition when the gospel is read, when the deacon says loudly to the people "stand in the fear of God" and the priest present the Bible with a special prayer and all who are in the church kiss the gospel with tears of joy. This is what concerns the reading of the Bible in church. But in private, the author invites the reader of the Holy Bible to honor the Word of the Bible by mixing the reading with prayer, fasting and tears and kneeling with veneration because "the guidance of God to man comes during the reading or the hearing of the Holy Bible, when the person is in a state of prayer and humbleness and the heart is open".
- This booklet was first published 1966 in Arabic. It was then translated into the English, French, and German languages. This book was read by Christians from all over the world from various creeds and races, because of its depth, universality, and importance, and because of its subject which concerns every Christian. Although the book is small in its size, very concentrated in its subject, it covers the whole relation between the Christian and the Holy Bible, which in truth is his relation with God.
- The publisher of the book is St. Macarius monastery in Wadi Natroun. It can be ordered from St. Mark bookstore (50 A Shoubra St., Cairo, Egypt). The English version can be ordered from: Light and Life Publishing, 4818 Park Glen Rd., Minneapolis, MN 55416 (Order No. HOWT204).
"The Bible is different from all other books; other books are written by man, but the Bible not only contains the sayings and commandments of God, but was also written entirely under divine inspiration. So we might say that it is God's book, which he gave to man to lead him to everlasting life."
Fr. Matthew The Poor.