Quotes on reading and meditating on Scripture by early Christian fathers
Augustine of Hippo said:
Nourish your soul with Bible reading. It will prepare a spiritual feast for you.
The Apostles believed because they had touched him. But what can folk like us do? By now Christ is ascended into heaven and will only return at the end to judge the living and the dead. On what base shall we build our faith, unless it be those Scriptures with which the Lord wanted to confirm the faith of those who touched him?
He revealed to them the meaning of the Scriptures and showed how it was necessary that the Christ should fulfil all that had been written about him in the books of the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms. The Lord went through the whole Old Testament. He seemed to span it all in his embrace.
The Scriptures are in fact, in any passage you care to choose, singing of Christ, provided we have ears that are capable of picking out the tune. The Lord opened the minds of the Apostles so that they understood the Scriptures. That he will open our minds too is our prayer.
[Augustine was a prolific writer, bible scholar, theologian, and bishop of Hippo in Roman North Africa. He lived between 354-430 AD. See biography.]
Isidore of Seville said:
Anyone who wants to be always united to God must pray often and read the Bible often. For in prayer it is we who are speaking to God, but in the readings it is God speaking to us.
All spiritual progress is based on reading and meditation. What we do not know, we learn in the reading; what we have learned, we preserve by meditation.
Reading the Bible provides us with a two-fold advantage. It instructs our minds, and introduces us to the love of God by taking our attention off vanities.
None can understand the meaning of the Bible if they do not acquire familiarity with it through the habit of Bible reading.’
[Isidore was a bible scholar and archbishop of Seville, Spain. He lived between 560-636 AD.]
John of Damascus said:
“Like a tree planted by streams of water,” (Psalm 1:3) the soul is irrigated by the Bible and acquires vigor, produces tasty fruit, namely, true faith, and is beautified with a thousand green leaves, namely, actions that please God. The Bible, in fact, leads us towards pure holiness and holy actions. In it we find encouragement to all the virtues and the warning to flee from evil.
The Bible is a scented garden, delightful, beautiful. It enchants our ears with birdsong in a sweet, divine and spiritual harmony, it touches our heart, comforts us in sorrow, soothes us in a moment of anger, and fills us with eternal joy.
Let us knock at its gate with diligence and with perseverance. Let us not be discouraged from knocking. The latch will be opened. If we have read a page of the Bible two or three times and have not understood it, let us not be tired of re-reading it and meditating on it.
Let us seek in the fountain of this garden `a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ (John 4:14) We shall taste a joy that will never dry up, because the grace of the Bible garden is inexhaustible.
[Quote from On the Orthodox Faith by John of Damascus. John was a monk at Mar Saba near Jerusalem. He lived his life studying the Scriptures, writing, and preaching, and acquired the name “the Golden Orator.” He lived between 676 and 749 AD. See biography.]
“You are reading (the Scriptures)? No. Your betrothed is talking to you. It is your betrothed, that is, Christ, who is united with you. He tears you away from the solitude of the desert and brings you into his home, saying to you, ‘Enter into the joy of your Master.'”
Anyone who is assiduous in reading the Word of God becomes weary while reading, but afterwards is happy because the bitter seeds of the reading produce sweet fruits in the soul.
Let us study while we are on earth that Reality which will stay in our minds also when we are in heaven.
[Jerome was a prolific Christian writer and bible scholar who translated the whole Bible into the common language of his day. He lived and worked in a cave near the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. He was born in 347 and died in 420 AD. See fuller biography.]
John Chrysostom said:
“Listen carefully to me. Procure books [of the Bible] that will be medicines for the soul. At least get a copy of the New Testament, the Apostle’s epistles, the Acts, the Gospels, for your constant teachers. If you encounter grief, dive into them as into a chest of medicines; take from them comfort for your trouble, whether it be loss, or death, or bereavement over the loss of relations. Don’t simply dive into them. Swim in them. Keep them constantly in your mind. The cause of all evils is the failure to know the Scriptures well.”
[John Chrysostom was an eloquent and uncompromising preacher of the Gospel. He served as archbishop of Constantinople and also suffered exile. He lived between 347-407 AD. Fuller bio here]
Basil of Caesarea said:
Any part of the Scriptures you like to choose is inspired by God. The Holy Spirit composed the Scriptures so that in them, as in a pharmacy open to all souls, we might each of us be able to find the medicine suited to our own particular illness.
Thus, the teaching of the Prophets is one thing, and that of the historical books is another. And, again, the Law has one meaning, and the advice we read in the Book of Proverbs has a different one.
But the Book of Psalms contains everything useful that the others have. It predicts the future, it recalls the past, it gives directions for living, it suggests the right behavior to adopt. It is, in short, a jewel case in which have been collected all the valid teachings in such a way that individuals find remedies just right for their cases.
It heals the old wounds of the soul and gives relief to recent ones. It cures the illnesses and preserves the health of the soul.
Every Psalm brings peace, soothes the internal conflicts, calms the rough waves of evil thoughts, dissolves anger, corrects and moderates profligacy.
Every Psalm preserves friendship and reconciles those who are separated. Who could actually regard as an enemy the person beside whom they have raised a song to the one God?
Every Psalm anticipates the anguish of the night and gives rest after the efforts of the day. it is safety for babes, beauty for the young, comfort for the aged, adornment for women.
Every Psalm is the voice of the Church.
[Basil of Caesarea was great Scripture scholar, theologian, bishop, and defender of the Christian faith during a time of great controversy and division in the 4th century churches. See an excerpt of his treatise On the Holy Spirit and a brief bio in Living Bulwark.]
Source of quotes are from the writings of the early church fathers and from Drinking from the Hidden Fountain: A Patristic Breviary, translated by Thomas Spidlik, Cistercian Publications, Kalamazoo, MI and Spencer, MASS, 1994..
Top image of a man reading the Word of God in the Scriptures, from © lightstock.com, stock image ID: lightstock_105096.