A Sermon on Reading Spiritual Works
by Archbishop Platon of Kostroma
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.” The great Hierarch Gregory says this about reading holy writings out of his own experience. They completely transfigure a person, making him into a saint and deifying him.
Do you remember how the conversion of the Blessed Augustine was accomplished? For a long time the grace of God had already touched his heart. He could not bear the torment of soul caused by his sinful life and yet at the same time he could not leave it. He both wanted it and did not want it. But as soon as he heard the words, “Take, read,” and had read several words, he immediately resolved to abandon his sinful life. What gave cause to such a change? The advice which is often heard, but is rarely given the attention it deserves: “take and read.”
Therefore, 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… So let our eyes be enlightened by the light of the word of God, for Sacred Scripture enlightens more brightly than the sun those who read with love and who keep the commandments of God.
The Psalmist says, “How sweet to my tongue are Thy words, 0 Lord” (Ps. 118:103), “sweeter than honey and the honeycomb” (Ps. 108). This food pleases every palate. This is the true manna, the heavenly food, the angelic bread which was prepared by Heaven without labor on our part, and which has in it every sort of sweetness and every sort of fragrance, satisfying every man’s needs.
From Orthodox Life, Vol. 34, No. 3 (May-June, 1984), pp. 30-34. Translated by Basil Voytan from A Chrestomathy of Sermons (in Russian), Vol. II, pp. 316-319, Jordanville, 1965.
One of the prime ways in which the devil seeks to devour us was revealed to a disciple of St. Paisius Velichkovsky. After the death of St. Paisius his disciple Sophronius succeeded him as abbot. One morning, when he went to the main gate of the monastery a little before Matins, he saw a frightful looking demon. The demon spoke of his warfare against the monks, and Abbot Sophronius asked him what was the greatest weapon he employed against the monks of this day. The demon then answered that it was to keep them distracted from spiritual occupations such as prayer and the reading of spiritual books. The demon said: “Why don’t you read my books? They are spiritual, for I too am a spirit and I inspire men to write.”