Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov on Reading the Gospel

When reading the Gospel, do not seek pleasure, exaltation or brilliant thoughts. Seek to see the infallibly holy Truth.

When reading the Gospel, try to fulfil its commandments and live it instead of being satisfied with the mere fruitless reading. This is the book of life, so read it with your life.

Do not think that the Four Gospels, the most sacred of the books, begins with the Gospel of Matthew and ends with the Gospel of John for no reason. Matthew teaches more about doing the will of God, and his instructions are especially fitting for those who begin their path to Him. John elaborates on the union between God and man, renewed by the commandments. His concept is accessible to those who have already gone far on their road to knowing God.

Opening the Holy Gospel, remember that you are preparing to read the book that will decide your eternal fate. It is by this book that we will be judged and, depending on what our earthly lives were in relation to it, we will inherit either eternal bliss or eternal torment (see: John 12: 48).

God revealed His will to a speck of dust as insignificant as man! The book that proclaims this great and all-holy will is in your hands. It is up to you whether to accept or reject the will of your Creator and Savior. Your eternal life and eternal death are in your hands: judge for yourself how careful and prudent you need to be. Do not trifle with your eternal destiny!

Pray in contrition to the Lord that He will open your eyes to see the miracles hidden in His law (see: Psalm 119: 18) that is the Gospel. Your eyes will be opened to see the wonderful healing of the soul from sin, done by the word of God. Healing of bodily ailments was only a sign of the healing of the soul, visible to carnal people and their minds, blinded by sensuality (see: Luke 5:24).

Read the Gospel with utmost reverence and attention. Do not neglect any of its details; consider nothing in it of little importance. Every grain of it emits a ray of life. The neglect of life is death.

Reading about the lepers, the weakened, the blind, the lame and the raging, healed by the Lord, think of your soul, held captive by demons and bearing the many different ulcers of sin, as being similar to those sick.  Learn from the Gospel the faith that the Lord, Who healed them, will also heal you, if you diligently pray to Him for your healing.

Acquire a disposition of soul that will make you capable of being healed. Those who confess their sinfulness and decide to depart from it are able to receive it (see: John 9: 39–41). To a proud righteous man, that is, a sinner who does not see his sinfulness, the Savior is both useless and unnecessary (see: Matthew 9: 13).

Being able to see the sins and the fallen state of the whole human race is a special gift of God. Obtain this gift by prayer, and the Gospel of the Heavenly Doctor will be clearer to you.

Try to let the Gospel assimilate into your mind and heart, so that, figuratively speaking, the entire life of your mind is immersed in it. Then your activity will readily become Evangelical. This can be achieved through unceasing reverent reading and studying of the Gospel.

Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds

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