Hello, My Name Is...I Am A Christian! What Does That Mean?
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Hello, who is speaking?
When we enter an Orthodox Church decorated in the traditional way, and look up towards the sanctuary, we see there in the apse the figure of the Mother of God with her hands raised to heaven—the ancient scriptural manner of praying that many still use today. Such is also to be our attitude to Scripture—an attitude of openness and attentive receptivity, our hands invisibly outstretched to heaven.
As we read our Bible, then, we are to model ourselves in this way on the Blessed Virgin Mary, for she is supremely the one who listens. Receptive listening continues to be her attitude throughout the Gospel story. The vital importance of listening is also indicated in the last words attributed to the Theotokos in Holy Scripture, at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. In all this the Virgin serves as a mirror and living icon of the biblical Christian. We are to listen in obedience while God speaks. The words of Scripture, while addressed to us personally, are at the same time addressed to us as members of a community.
Book and Church are not to be separated. The interdependence of Church and Bible is evident in at least two ways. First, we receive Scripture through and in the Church. The Church tells us what is Scripture.
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Thus, the Church has decided which books form the Canon of the New Testament. A book is not part of Holy Scripture because of any particular theory about its date and authorship, but because the Church treats it as canonical. Because the Fourth Gospel, whoever the author may be, is accepted by the Church and in the Church.
Secondly, we interpret Scripture through and in the Church. If it is the Church that tells us what is Scripture, equally it is the Church that tells us how Scripture is to be understood. His difficulty is also ours.
The words of Scripture are not always self-explanatory. The Bible has a marvelous underlying simplicity, but when studied in detail it can prove a difficult book. God does indeed speak directly to the heart of each one of us during our Scripture reading—as Saint Tikhon says, our reading is a personal dialogue between each one and Christ Himself—but we also need guidance.
And our guide is the Church. We make full use of our private understanding; illuminated by the Spirit. We make full use of biblical commentaries and of the findings of modern research. But we submit individual opinions, whether our own or those of the scholars, to the judgment of the Church. We read the Bible personally, but not as isolated individuals.
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We read in communion with all the other members of the Body of Christ in all parts of the world and in all generations of time. Holy Orthodox Church, our Mother, has always held and still does hold? A first step is to see how Scripture is used in worship.
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How in particular are biblical lessons chosen for reading at the different feasts? A second step is to consult the writings of the Church Fathers, especially St. John Chrysostom. How do they analyze and apply the text of Scripture? An ecclesial manner of reading the Bible is in this Way both liturgical and patristic. To illustrate what it means to interpret Scripture in a liturgical way, consider the Old Testament lessons at Vespers for the Feast of the Annunciation March 25 and at Vespers on Holy Saturday, the first part of the ancient Paschal Vigil.
At the Annunciation there are five readings:. She is both Mother and Ever-Virgin; Christ is born from her, yet she remains still inviolate, the gate of her virginity sealed. She provides the humanity or house which Christ the Wisdom of God 1 Cor. She is the Burning Bush, who contains within her womb the uncreated fire of the Godhead and yet is not consumed.
But, by exploring the use made of the Old Testament in the Church lectionary, we can discover layer upon layer of meanings that are far from obvious at first sight. The same thing happens when we consider how Scripture is used on Holy Saturday. Here there are no less than fifteen Old Testament lessons. First among the lessons is the account of the creation Gen. The third lesson describes the Jewish ritual of the Passover meal: Christ crucified and risen is the new Passover, the Paschal Lamb who alone can take away the sin of the world 1 Cor. The sixth lesson recounts the crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites Ex.
The final lesson is the story of the three Holy Children in the fiery furnace Dan. How can we develop this ecclesial and liturgical way of reading Scripture in the Bible study circles within our parishes? Others in the group may be assigned to do homework among the Fathers, relying above all upon the biblical homilies of St. But there is gold in the patristic texts, if only we have the persistence and imagination to discover it.
The third requirement in our reading of Scripture is that it should be Christ-centered. In the person of Christ. He is the unifying thread, that runs through the entirety of the Bible from the first sentence to the last. Jesus meets us on every page. It all ties up because of Him. Much study of Scripture by modern western scholars has adopted an analytical approach, breaking up each book into what are seen as its original sources.
The connecting links are unraveled, and the Bible is reduced to a series of isolated units. Recently, there has been a reaction against this, with biblical critics in the west devoting much greater attention to the way in which these primary units have come to be joined together. This is something that we Orthodox may certainly welcome.
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We must see the unity of Scripture as well as the diversity, the all-embracing end as well as the scattered beginnings. As the lessons for the Annunciation and Holy Saturday make clear, everywhere in the Old Testament we find signposts and waymarks pointing to the mystery of Christ and His Mother Mary. Interpreting the Old Testament in the light of the New, and the New in the light of the Old—as the Church lectionary encourages us to do—we discover how the whole of Scripture finds its point of convergence in the Savior.
Melchizedek, for example, the priest-king of Salem, who offered bread and wine to Abraham Gen. The rock that flowed with water in the wilderness of Sinai Ex. Why are the Genesis readings in, the sixth week dominated by the figure of Joseph? Why read from the Book of Job in Holy Week? Because Joseph and Job, who both suffered innocently, foreshadow the redemptive suffering of Christ on the Cross.
We can discover many other correspondences between the Old and New Testament by using a biblical concordance. Often the best commentary of all is simply a concordance, or an edition of the Bible with well-chosen marginal cross-references. Only connect. It all ties up. Wherever he looks, on every page, he finds everywhere Christ. That is the fourth criterion in our Bible reading. I am to see all the narratives in Scripture as part of my own personal story. Who is Adam?
Who is Cain, the murderer of his brother? It is I. The way to God lies through love for other people, and there is no other way.
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Disowning my sister or brother, I replace the image of God with the mark of Cain, and deny my essential humanity. The same personal application is evident in the Lenten services, and above all in the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete. There are three steps to be taken when reading Scripture.