The true foundation of all education is the word of God. Sadly, this fact is lost in modern society in our schools and institutions of higher education. Although society constantly invests billions of dollars in reforming education to prepare children and youth for life, the money is spent in vain as long as there is no spiritual education. For this reason, Orthodox Christians, and especially parents, must take the responsibility of spiritual education in their lives and the lives of their children.
We must recognize that a person does not become a Christian simply because of his birthright or a habit that his parents instilled in him. Rather, the true Christian is one who reaches out to study his faith and gain understanding.
Where can I start?
The first step in developing a lifelong habit of spiritual reading is developing a habit of reading the Holy Scriptures. St. John Chrysostom, one of the great early Church Fathers, teaches us that demons fear to enter a room where the Holy Scriptures are kept, because the Holy Scriptures are the highest wisdom ever written, the true revelation of God in the Person of Jesus Christ.
We should set aside time every day to stand in front of our holy icons, open the Holy Scriptures, and read aloud. We can read a chapter each day or we can read what the church assigns to each day in the church lectionary. It is not necessary for us to understand everything that is read; instead, we should focus on the portions that speak to us and meditate on them. This is the beginning of understanding, and with time, understanding of the other portions will come. This is because the words themselves are imbued with Divine Power. With the grace of the Holy Spirit, the words will reveal to our souls their meaning if–and only if–we apply ourselves to this endeavor daily without growing lazy. With each step, the Word of God will enlighten our soul. We will see the benefits immediately and they will continue to grow the rest of our lives.
We may also use the Holy Scriptures in times of need. For example, praying the Psalms is useful when one is tired or upset about something. They are also helpful in guiding a person to make the right decisions, fighting temptations, repelling demons, calming the soul, enlightening the mind, gladdening the heart, etc. Every spiritual healing is made possible through the Psalms.
It is recommended that a person read the Holy Scriptures out loud so that both body and mind are involved and engrossed in this activity. When we hear the Word of the God with our own ears, spoken by our own tongue, it is more effective on our hearts and souls.
Other Spiritual Works
In addition to the Holy Scriptures, we should undertake to read other spiritual works, such as commentary on the Holy Scriptures (especially from the early Church Fathers), the Lives of the Saints (such as the Synexarium, the Life of Antony, etc.), and books containing practical advice as to how to live an Orthodox Christian life.
Commentaries on the Holy Scriptures are important to help the believer discern the meaning of passages in the Holy Scriptures. In the Orthodox Church, the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures is not simply a personal activity, but rather, it is part of the Holy Tradition of the Church. It is important to approach the Holy Scriptures in a humble manner, utilizing the interpretations of the early Church Fathers who preceded us and who interpreted the Holy Scriptures through the Holy Spirit.
The Lives of the Saints offer us living, concrete examples of how people like us have lived the Gospel in their lives and reflected Christ’s light throughout the world. These are people with real problems who followed Christ with all their hearts. As believers, it is for us to study their examples, be inspired by them, and compare our lives to theirs to see where we are succeeding and falling short.
Spiritual works offering practical advice on Orthodox living are also important, because they teach us how to respond to different circumstances and problems in our lives. Many of these help us to fast correctly, to offer sincere repentance, to engage in spiritual warfare, and to lead a moral life generally. A person’s father of confession and/or spiritual father is a good reference for suggestions about which of these books are good to read.