Author’s note: These blog posts are usually written to be used with Sunday Church School Students. While some of the information in this blog can be applied to your students, for the most part, this blog post is for you. May it be part of making you a better
Orthodox Christian, and thereby, a better Sunday Church School teacher!
“It is important for us to memorize the Holy Scriptures!” We often hear that statement, ponder it for a moment, agree, and go on with our lives. Since this new year is still fresh and we are still in the process of resolving to be better people, however, let us consider going beyond just thinking about memorizing the Scriptures and actually implement ways to do just that.
Why it so important for us to commit the Scriptures to memory? Metropolitan Kallistos Ware put it simply in an interview on “Come Receive the Light,” when he said, “The answer surely is–memorizing impresses the words upon us. By memorizing, we mark the words of the Bible in our heart. By memorizing, we make the words of Scripture part of ourselves.”
Historically, memorizing the Scriptures has been an important part of Orthodox Christian life. For example, St. Pachomius, considered by many to be the founder of communal monasticism, was a man of Scripture. He required prospective monks to memorize at least 20 Psalms and 2 of St. Paul’s epistles (yes, the entire books!) before they could join the community, and everything in the community itself was regulated by the Scriptures. He said,“The Scriptures are the single most important thing to guide our lives.”
Even today, our Orthodox Christian life should have at its very core the Holy Scriptures. The Gospel book resting on the altar of our Church is a constant visual reminder for us of how our life in the Church revolves around the Gospel of Christ. St. Seraphim of Sarov said, “We should swim in the words of the Holy Scripture, like a fish is swimming in the water.” In other words, we need to know the Scriptures so well that we breathe them, we are immersed in them, we live through them. As a fish cannot survive without the water in which it swims, we cannot properly live our Christian lives without immersing ourselves in the Scriptures.
So, let us resolve to work harder to commit the Scriptures to memory. As we memorize, the Scriptures will become part of ourself, guide our life, and settle to the very core of our being. Memorizing the Scriptures is a resolution worth making at any time, and regardless of when it is made, it is imperative that act on this one! Our spiritual lives depend on it.
Following are a number of links that can be helpful as we work on memorizing Scriptures.
Listen to this podcast about the importance of memorizing Scriptures: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/nassif/desert_spirituality_for_city_folks_part_6_pachomius
“I can remember going to Russia with a friend of mine who, like me, taught in University–and this was in the Communist era–when Bibles were very difficult to obtain. And I smuggled some copies of the Bible in Russian with me.
And when I was visiting a Church, and there weren’t many people around, I was speaking with an elderly lady and I said to her, ‘Would you like a copy of the Bible?’
And she said, ‘Oh! All my life I’ve wanted to have my own copy of the Bible. Yes,’ she said, ‘I have a friend who has a Bible, and sometimes she lends it to me and allows me to read it.’
And this astonished me. We take it for granted we can easily obtain Bibles. But that was not the situation under Communism in Russia. And so, I gave her a copy of the Bible. We were in Church and she took it and put it on a reading desk and opened it. And she began reading. And all the time she made Signs of the Cross and bowed to the ground. And tears flowed down her face.
And my friend said, ‘If we gave a copy of the Bible to one of our colleagues in the Theology faculty at the University, do you think they would react like that?’ So that opened my mind to what a great gift we have in the Bible, in Scripture. And how we, in the West, take this gift for granted. But often Christians under persecution have not been able to have their own Bibles.
Now in Russia things are much better, but in those days the Bible was a rare and precious book. And we ought to have the feeling that that lady had, as she wept to have her own copy of the Bible.” ~ Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, from an interview on “Come, Receive the Light” http://myocn.net/metropolitan-kallistos-ware-memorizing-Scripture/
Read about 10 reasons to memorize Scripture, such as: our Lord Himself memorized Scripture; it helps us resist temptation; it renews our minds and transforms us; etc. Find these reasons and more here: http://www.unlockingthebible.org/reasons-memorize-Scripture-bible/
Scripture memorization also helps to alleviate stress, helps us make wise decisions, and comforts us when we are feeling sad, as stated here: http://rickwarren.org/devotional/english/why-memorize-Scripture.)
Here is one suggested method for Scripture memorization. It encourages us to learn the location of the verse, then the gist of what it is about, associate the verse with its location, and then carry the verse around with us so we can practice it until we have it completely memorized. Read more about this method here: https://carm.org/how-to-memorize-Scripture
Wondering where to begin with Scripture memorization? This page offers many Scriptures that are important for Orthodox Christians to memorize: http://www.stlukeorthodox.com/html/biblestudy/meaningfulbibletexts.cfm. You may be surprised to see that you have memorized many of them already!
This pdf offers ideas of ways to memorize Scripture, as well as beautifully written printable verses from the gospel of John that can be printed and posted around the house to help you learn: https://s3.amazonaws.com/a.voskamp/BlogFiles/theJesusProject(LARGE)MEMORYPRINTS.pdf
Here are 8 verses from the Psalms, typeset over beautiful pictures, that you can print and cut out to make individual verse cards. Keep one by your bed or at your sink until you have it memorized, and then replace it with another: http://www.lovegodgreatly.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Memory-Verse-Cards-Printable.pdf
Add a Scripture memory app to your phone such as this one: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.codeinfaith.bibleinme&hl=en