By Shery Abdelmalak
“This year I want to finish the entire Bible in one year!” The Bible! | New Year’s Resolution Conundrum
For so many years, I have either thought this at the start the a new year, or have had friends with similar goals. One year I did really well thanks to the streaks of Bible Gateway that kept me going, each morning I would read a few chapters. I flew through Genesis and Exodus, books I probably hadn’t read since childhood, but had so much more meaning as I understood what was happening. I was reading stories of our great God as He taught His creation the perfection found in His Love.
And then, I hit a slump.
It was around the start of February when most New Year’s resolutions fail. But I didn’t want this to be another failed New Year’s resolution, when it was, by far, the furthest I had ever made it.
I saw my spiritual father, I told him that I did great right up until Leviticus and I just couldn’t take any more, I didn’t understand anything that was happening. I didn’t understand why everything was a physical sacrifice. I didn’t understand why God gave Moses such specific laws, and I definitely didn’t understand what the laws were meant to mean to me. To all of this, he laughed and said, “your first mistake was attempting Leviticus.”
I few nights later I stumbled across Fr. Anthony Messeh’s blog, titled WHAT’S THE MOST BORING BOOK IN THE BIBLE?
“LEVITICUS! No doubt about it. Leviticus is by far the hardest book to read. It is (forgive me again God) filled with boring detail after boring detail – things that seem to have no bearing on my life today. Go read Leviticus 11 – where God specifies which animals are clean for eating and which are not – and tell me why I should be excited to read that? Or Leviticus 8 – where Moses consecrates Aaron and his sons as priests – and read the details given and tell me what spiritual lesson you derive from it?” What’s the most boring book in the bible? | Fr. Anthony Messeh
This really marked it for me – that it wasn’t about reading the entire Bible in a year that mattered, it was how many days in a year could I spend with Christ?
For the great historical minds, that grow in faith by learning every detail of the history of mankind, Leviticus serves a great purpose. To them, it is all a part of the great story of salvation. But to me, it wasn’t the same.
“A day without prayer is a day wasted.” Pope Kyrillos VI famously said | The Bible!
If we’ve learnt anything from the year that has passed, it’s to expect the completely unexpected. It is to find Christ, no matter the circumstances that befall us. Pope Kyrillos VI famously said, “A day without prayer is a day wasted.” The real essence behind the goal of reading the Bible every day for a year is in this- to be with Christ.
Maybe reading the Bible in a year is a good indication that I am not wasting my day, but where is my mind while I’m reading? If it is not immersed in the Word of God, then there is so much more I could be doing to find Christ.
If you were to ask a Sunday school class how they think they should go to Christ, you will quickly here the textbook answers – PRAY, READ THE BIBLE, ATTEND LITURGY WEEKLY. In essence, these are the tools to form a relationship with the Creator. They’re all the right answers, but there needs to be a greater purpose behind it all.
“In order to grow closer to Christ, it won’t be by keeping score of how much of the Bible we have read, or if we pray every day” The Bible! | New Year’s Resolution Conundrum
If this was the case, then there would be a tangible answer to, “how much time do I need to spend in prayer to go to heaven?” or “will I go to hell if I don’t read the entire Bible?”
Christ gives us the answer to these questions in the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-15). As the story goes, the owner of the Vineyard hired labored to work for one denarius per day. All through the day, he went to the market and acquired more workers, some at the sixth hour, some at the ninth, and even some at the eleventh hour.
At the end of the day, their wages were distributed, those that arrived at the eleventh hour and worked for one hour received one denarius. Those that were there from the first hour and had worked for 12 hours then assumed they must be receiving more, but just as was originally agreed, they also received one denarius. They complained that this was not fair, to which the owner explained that this is what they originally agreed to, and his display of kindness to the others should not stir up evil within them.
When comparing this to the Kingdom of Heaven, those that received their one denarius after working from the eleventh hour, were like those that formed a relationship with God at the end of their lives, accepted the Kingdom of Heaven with great joy and humbly accepted the generosity of God, the Owner. The ones that complained after working all day, reading the Bible every day and doing all the right things, almost denied the Kingdom for the sake of their labor.
“Just like any relationship, there needs be something that reignites the spark from the mundane, think of your senses and not just your mind.” The Bible! | New Year’s Resolution Conundrum
Our relationship with Christ should not be focused on labor alone, but the love of Christ that dwells within us. The love of Christ that accepts sinners to repentance with joy, and not self-seeking. As soon as our relationship with Christ becomes real and genuine, then He makes us worthy of the Kingdom in the same way as the ones that knew Christ from the beginning.
The goodness of our God is highlighted by St Paul when he writes, “But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Romans 5:20). In order to grow closer to Christ, it won’t be by keeping score of how much of the Bible we have read, or if we pray every day, but in how much of our time is spent with our eyes truly upon His grace, in order to imitate Him.
The spiritual life is largely unseen, in fact, Metropolitan Kalistos Ware bases his book, Beginning to Pray, on the notion that if you have not experienced silence when you pray, then you haven’t yet begun to pray. If this is what we are looking for, then it is hard to say if we are doing any of it right. Just like any relationship, there needs be something that reignites the spark from the mundane, think of your senses and not just your mind.
PRAY OUT LOUD
Most people will pray silently in their minds. This can work for some, but for others, it will allow the mind the wander. Praying out loud makes you accountable for the words you say, and if it doesn’t sound right, you’ll be the first to hear it (maybe close your door first, though).
USE YOUR ENTIRE BODY
In the traditional Coptic churches in Egypt, this goes without saying. In the Western World, it takes a bit more practice. In a single prostration, you offer your entire body to God. It’s more than just a conversation, but the complete self-denial of one’s self before the Creator. For females, wear a headscarf- and your reverence before the King naturally follows. Sometimes I forget who I’m praying to, but a scarf serves as a reminder of so many things; The humility of Saint Mary first and foremost.
It also serves as a reminder that there is something to be hidden, that there is beauty in creation, and if I am His creation, then I need to act accordingly. If there are days that I can’t see it, then a scarf is there to remind me that I need to find it again.
READ IN GOOD COMPANY
Read the Bible with a close friend of family member and discussion will naturally follow, even better find a Connect Group, and this will spark even more spiritual discussion with those closest to you.
Delivered to you by COPTICNN™ | Coptic News Network on 2021-01-26 from Sydney, Australia.
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