Prayer of St. John Chrysostom—Before Spiritual Reading
Note: the Latest Wednesday’s Readings are the Last Readings on the List in the Sidebar.
Prayer Before Reading: In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit: O Lord Jesus Christ, open the eyes of my heart, that I may hear Your word and understand and do Your will, for I am a sojourner upon the earth. Hide not Your commandments from me, but open my eyes, that I may perceive the wonders of Your law. Speak to me the hidden and secret things of Your wisdom. On You do I set my hope, O my God, that You will enlighten my mind and understanding with the light of Your knowledge, not only to cherish those things which are written, but to do them, that in reading the lives, works and sayings of the Saints I may not sin, but that such may serve for my restoration, enlightenment and sanctification, for the salvation of my soul, and the inheritance of life everlasting; For You are the enlightenment of those who lie in darkness, and from You comes every good deed and every gift. Amen.
A Sermon on Reading Spiritual Works Archbishop Platon of Kostroma
“This is the commandment given by the holy Apostle Paul to his beloved disciple Timothy. The reading of holy writings is one of the main means of succeeding in the spiritual life. Following the Apostle, the Holy Fathers also command us to read continually the holy writings, since this is an important means to spiritual perfection. Such reading is absolutely necessary, especially in the present age, when worldly education and worldly habits threaten to stifle a taste for everything spiritual, and false teachings and ideas are spreading rapidly.
“If we read the Sacred Scripture with faith,” says St. Basil the Great, ‘we will feel that we see and hear Christ Himself. What is it we need, an actual voice or the One Who speaks to us through the Scriptures? It is all the same. In Sacred Scripture, God speaks with us just as truly as when we speak with Him through prayer.’ For this reason, prayer and the reading of sacred books must be our continuous occupation. Pray or read continually if you want to be with God at all times.
“The Saints talk with us when we read their writings. Through their writings, they guide us and speak to us and we, so to speak, resurrect through them after their death in order to talk with them. Thus, we have no reason to envy the contemporaries of Chrysostom, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, Athanasius the Great, Ambrose and others. From the holy ranks of the Fathers we may choose with whom it is best for us to converse. There is no better, more joyous, and more beneficial way to spend the time we have than in reading the writings of the Holy Fathers.
“By reading books, which are profitable for the soul, we enter into communion with all the dwellers of Paradise. ‘When I read books about God,’ says the hieromartyr Timothy, ‘then the angels of God surround me.’ What can give us more honor than conversing, through reading of spiritual books, with the holy Angels, with the souls of the blessed, and with God Himself.
“’When I read holy books,’ says St. Gregory the Theologian about the books of St. Basil the Great, ‘then the spirit and body are illumined and I become the temple of God and the harp of the Holy Spirit, played by divine powers. Through them I am corrected and through them I receive a kind of divine change and I am made into a different person.’
“Cleave to reading spiritual writings. It will lead you to that wonderful change which took place in so many saints. Through these works we receive great and holy enlightenment. Through them we learn of the path to salvation, we learn what kind of temptations await us on this path, and about the means by which we may be delivered from them.”
A talk delivered at the Annual Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Western America, February 16/March 1, 2002
How to Make Use of the Lives of the Saints
“First, we look to the Saints as our examples, be imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ (I Cor. 11:1), the Saints say to us along with the Holy Apostle Paul.
“As Christians, we want to grow in the likeness of Christ, to have that likeness shine in us. For this to occur, we need to look often to the Saints to see that shining likeness: we must look to them for real, practical examples of how to live. St. Basil the Great gives this analogy:
‘Just as painters, in working from models, constantly gaze at their exemplar and thus strive to transfer the expression of the original to their own artistry, so too he who is eager to make himself perfect in all kinds of virtue must gaze upon the Lives of the Saints and make their excellence his own by imitation.’ 
“Secondly, we must look to the Saints as our heavenly friends, as our brothers and sisters in the Faith. As we read the Lives of the Saints each day, we will discover little by little those Saints whom our hearts go out to. They will become our close friends, those whom we pray to most of all, those in whom we confide our joys and sorrows.
“As Archimandrite Aimilianos, the former Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Simonos Petras on Mount Athos, writes: “These close friends will be the guides of our choice and a great comfort to us along the strait and narrow way that leads to Christ. We are not alone on the road or in the struggle. We have with us our Mother, the All-Holy Mother of God, our Guardian Angel, the Saint whose name we bear, and those close friends we have chosen out of the Great Multitude of Saints who stand before the Lamb (Rev. 7:9).
“When we stumble through sin, they will raise us up again; when we are tempted to give up hope, they will remind us that they have suffered for Christ before us, and more than us; and that they are now the possessors of unending joy. So, upon the stony road of the present life, these holy companions will enable us to glimpse the light of the Resurrection. Let us search, then, in the Lives of the Saints, for these close friends, and with all the Saints let us make our way to Christ.  As we study the Lives of the Saints, humility must be our safeguard. We need to soberly apply what we read to our own conditions and circumstances, realizing our own infirmity, not thinking too much of ourselves, not dreaming of ascetic feats that truly are beyond us. In other words, we must take spiritual life step by step, and not expect to make one great leap into sanctity.