How to Contemplate?

edited December 1969 in Personal Issues
Agape all,

I've noticed recently that I'm lacking something pretty big in my (feeble) spiritual life; the ability to contemplate on the words of the Bible! I find that when I read I tend to take things at face value and I tend not to be able to personally dig deeper into the meanings of the words. I've been given advice on how to deal with this before, such as taking only a few verses at a time and spending more time on them...but I don't seem to be able to hear God's voice. Maybe I'm being too impatient? I don't know, but I'd really like to hear any suggestions from anyone!

Keep me in your prayers,


  • Well when you read a verse think how does this apply to me and how should i apply it to my life
  • i suggest u read more contemplative books... for example pope Shenouda's books and abouna Ya3oub Malaty's books... they seem to have an amazing way of contemplating on God's words...
    and trust me, eventually you'll get used to it and u'll find that u have all those wierd but great ideas out of no where...
    good luck.. keep trying and dunt give up...
  • Hi Matthew,
    I know it's hard at the beginning... we all go through that sometimes! Just ask God to give you wisdom and guidance as you read His word, and He will. Before I read the Bible, I pray:

    "Lord, God, please make me worthy to read your Holy Bible, to understand it, to accept it, and to live by its teachings all the days of my life."

    If you ask, God will open your eyes to understand His message. Another suggestion that I've personally tried is to keep a notebook next to you when you read the Bible. Write in it your favorite verses and any questions that you may have (or clarifications), then go ask Abouna or a servant and write down the answers that they tell you beneath the question so you could refer back to it later. This works well as a motivation and to broaden your understanding.

    Please let me know how this works out for you and remember me in your prayers always!

    God Bless,
  • i totally agree with marmoura99.. im 100% sure that God will help you to the max.... remember saint Bishoy, he couldnt understand the book of Jeremiah (i think it was) and he asked for God's help, God sent him the prophet himself to explain the book in a very detailed way :)
  • Contemplating on the Words of the Bible necessitates that you enter into the mindset of the Church in understanding the words that have been written. Otherwise, we become simply reliant on our own spiritual understanding to understand dogma, spirituality, etc. The Holy Spirit has assigned the role of interpretation of the words of the Bible to the Church Fathers, those who have been blessed with the grace of being able to share the Word of God with the members of the Church. If you are to sit and read, have the writings of the Church Fathers with you as well. There are some monasteries that indeed don't give the Bible to the monks for some years, having given them instead the writings of the Church Fathers; this is to allow the understanding of the Church and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to become a part of the monks. Otherwise, there will be reliance on ourselves. There's no need to re-invent the wheel, nor is it unto us to pride ourselves in our own understanding and rely on our thoughts.

    Pray for my weaknesses and sins,
  • Childoforthodoxy, your post got me thinking about those Dark Middleages, when the Bible was only available to clergy (those who could read Latin), and wasn't translated into the languages of the people... This was one of the things that changed with the protestant movement, since they translated the Bible and made it available for all...

    I agree with you that one should not lean on their own understanding and should always stay within the boundries our church has set for us concerning dogma and rites...
    But, remember, Jesus talked to normal people as well as Pharisees, who had studied the law. I think the higher your level of spirituality the more meaning you will get out of the Bible and the deeper your understanding of its words will be, but that doesn't mean that people with less spiritual capacities can't read the Bible correctly or have their own interpretations (as long as they agree with the church of course) that they can use in their lives. Look at St Samaan el Kharaas, he did interpret the Bible in a literal way, but still he had a pure heart...

    God Bless
  • Forgive me if my message conveyed that the interpretations were only meant for a select few. The Bible was, at least to my knowledge, never read in the Latin in the Eastern Orthodox Churches; indeed, many of the Church Fathers wrote in Greek (including the Fathers of the Coptic Orthodox Church, e.g. St. Cyril).

    The Pharisees were ones who took the law literally; they were "educated," so to speak, in literalism, not in the Spirit of the law. The Holy Spirit is found in the writings of the Church Fathers, as He has guided them into interpreting the Bible. You will see that each Church Father relied heavily on the thoughts of whoever preceded him, as they understood that the Holy Spirit was present in the life of the previous Church Father and was guiding them in their exegesis of the Bible.

    For example, if one is to aspire to be an engineer, he must first learn addition, subtraction, algebra, geometry, calculus, etc. It is then that new discoveries are made in solving novel questions. But no one in the world simply skips the basics and believes themselves to be able to solve very complex mathematical equations; indeed, one must learn the language, so to speak, of mathematics in order to be able to function within its realm with ease. It is much in the same way with the reliance on the Fathers. We as Orthodox Christians believe them to be guided by the Holy Spirit in their exegesis, writings, sermons, homilies and so forth. We, therefore, cannot take away from this; indeed, this is part of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church.

    The Church is of One Way and One Truth. This singularity of Truth is maintained throughout all of the writings of the Church Fathers, as they were all guided by God. As such, creating a new path by simply starting from the beginning with the Bible and the Bible alone may easily lead one away from that One True Way of understanding. The Holy Spirit is not divided in Himself nor in His thought; so, too, should our Church be. In the case of contemplating on the Word of God, this also holds true.

    One will learn of dogma from the Church Fathers, who have elucidated the dogmas for us so as not to fall into the many traps that those who have come before us have fallen in to. Why, then, do we separate ourselves from this and rely only on our selves? One must learn the Way of the Holy Spirit, which has been shown by the Church to have guided the Church Fathers, before one is to become an interpreter. And even then, one does not interpret solely with knowledge but with the Spirit of God. But we, as Orthodox Christians, must be careful to maintain this straight path with all of our efforts.

    It is easy to simply rely on oneself; it is also quite dangerous.

    Pray for me,
  • Thankyou everyone for your comments, you've really touched me! I do read contemplative books, particularly those by HH Pope Shenouda and they are wonderful...but sometimes I just feel like this contemplation "isn't meant for me". I don't know how to explain how I feel, but it feels like God isn't speaking to me personally because I'm reflecting on the thoughts of others instead of my own. Maybe I'm just seeking something a little more personal, I don't know...but I feel kinda silly as I'm writing this now!

    I do agree with you childoforthodoxy about the authority of interpretting scripture resting with those who are chosen to do so by God. Maybe the ability to have good personal reflections and contemplations on the Bible is a talent that God has chosen not to grace me with, but that doesn't mean I won't still keep trying :P

  • Forgive me I didn't specify I meant the Catholic church in the Middleages (cf Latin)...
    I don't think we should ignore the writings of the Church fathers, of course not, but I do believe that through the Bible God talks to everyone on a personal level, which is why one should, in my opinion, within the correct orthodox teaching, be able to read the Bible and see what God is telling them...

    God bless
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