Thursday, May 10, 2012

How to Read the Holy Fathers

We often approach the study of the Holy Fathers of the Church in the way we approach the Scriptures - we lack the docility and humility to be truly led, nourished, challenged, or transformed. Indeed, to study, to "learn about" is not enough and those who teach must do so from a heart filled with love for Christ and His Church. How can we teach others to thirst for Christ, if we have no desire for His life and love in us - if we have not sought and struggled to walk the narrow path that leads to Life? Fr. Seraphim Rose of Platina, a Russian Orthodox monk wrote about it in this way:

" . . . we must go to the Holy Fathers not merely to "learn about them"; if we do no more than this we are in no better state than the idle disputants of the dead academies of this perishing modern civilization, even when these academies are orthodox and the learned theologians in them neatly define and explain all about "sanctity" and "spirituality" . . . but have not the experience needed to speak straight to the heart of thirsting souls and wound them into desiring the path of spiritual struggle . . . .We must go to the Holy Fathers, rather, in order to become their disciples, to receive the teaching of true life, the soul's salvation, even while knowing that by doing this we shall lose the favor of this world and become outcasts from it. If we do this we shall find the way out of the confused swamp of modern thought, which is based precisely upon abandonment of the sacred teaching of the Fathers. We shall find true guidance from the Fathers, learning humility and distrust of our own vain worldly wisdom, which we have sucked in with the air of these pestilential times, by means of trusting those who have pleased God and not the world. We shall find in them true fathers, so lacking in our own day when the love of many has grown cold (Matt. 24:12)—fathers whose only aim is to lead us their children to God and His Heavenly Kingdom, where we shall walk and converse with these angelic men in unutterable joy forever."

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