At someone’s recommendation, I am reading The Communion of Love by Fr. Matta El-Meskeen (Matthew the Poor). I am only 30 pages into the book and had intended to read it during Lent but I could not resist the pull. I may re-read it then, but I am ever so glad I picked it up now. It is written so simply yet what Fr. Matta says is most profound.
The question that guides Fr. Matta’s life is, “How do I make God the center of my life?” This is a good question to ponder and take action on, not only for a monk, but for all who call themselves Christians.
The first section deals with how to read the Bible. Fr. Matta says there are two ways people read the Bible. One is that people put the Bible under themselves and see how it fits into their lives. Others put the Bible over themselves and see how they can strive to obey it. Some quotes to inspire you:
…for the Bible is to be understood, not investigated.
…intentions are tested by temptations as we try to carry out the commandments; we are helped according to the degree of our faith and perseverance, and in so far as we receive help, our trust increases and our knowledge of God and His ways grows surer. All this is to say that the spiritual understanding of the Gospel and of God is the result of the formation of a relationship with God through obedience to His commandments.
Fr. Matta goes on to explain the difference between “academic meditation and practical meditation” on the Bible. He says that academic meditation is what many are used to doing with the Bible; studying it, reading various commentaries and comparing notes, doing a word study and things like that which give a person an intellectual knowledge of God. It “makes the listener desire the truth without showing him how to enter it.”
comes through inspiration, which the soul perceives as a result of its experience and it trials and struggles with the truth when it follows the commandments of the Gospel. This is also supplemented by the illuminations and promptings of the Spirit, which we receive in due time without having previously acquired knowledge of the things revealed.
…practical meditation builds an inner life with God that impregnates a person’s words, thoughts, and teaching with divine power.
…the understanding and teaching of spiritual matters, even to the level of prophecy, if not supported by a holy life and conduct, in integrity and the fear of God, cannot save us from the curse and death that set the seal on the life of Balaam.
Reading this has helped me understand what people mean when they say they have peace and joy in their suffering and in St. John Chrysostom’s words when being taken to his beheading, “Glory to God for all things!”
(All quotes taken from: El-Meskeen, Fr. Matta. The Communion of Love. NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1984. p17-32.)