“Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said,
‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I,
unless someone guides me?’” – Acts 8:30-31
Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord,
Some time ago, someone came to me and asked, “Father, what type of adult education does our church offer?” I answered and told her what we currently have at Resurrection, as well as what we hope to have in future years. “Good,” she said, “because there is so much about my faith that I don’t know, and I have a lot of questions.” What she was describing was a commitment to cultivating her spiritual life, both by asking questions and doing research outside of Sunday morning. Like anything we do in life – exercise, relationships, forming good habits in our daily life – the more work we put in, the more cultivation that takes place, the more we receive.
A word that is often used with regards to one’s spiritual life is cultivation, a word I love using myself because it denotes a certain care that is given so that progress can be made. We cultivate a relationship with our children.
We cultivate the plants in our garden. God cultivates a parish community to grow in His will. With toil and hard work, cultivation is something that ultimately produces fruit.
Our theme for this month is Faith and Spiritual Growth, which I’ll be talking about in “Father Niko’s Summer Reads” each week in July. I picked five books which have impacted me–spiritually, in relationships, or other areas, which I think you might find interesting as well. The five books are:
The Five Love Languages of Children by Adam Chapman
The Orthodox Church by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware
Beginning to Pray by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom
The New Oxford Annotated Bible
The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen
Each week, I will be sharing some thoughts on these books with you in our weekly ebulletin.* If you’d like, you may pick up one or more of these books to help you on your spiritual journey as well. In the same way that we asked loved ones and those we trust for advice about life, we go to books like these for spiritual guidance and questions like “How to live our faith?” and “What do things mean?” The more we read and ask questions, the more our hearts will be cultivated. *Note* if you haven’t yet, you can sign up for our ebulletin by emailing Liz in the church office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saint John Chrysostom said that, like divers who swim to the bottom of the ocean to search for pearls, so must we dive into the Holy Scriptures to learn their meanings. I believe this can be taken further and say that it applies to better understanding our faith as well: the Church’s teachings, the services in which we worship, everything. Our relationship with God is like any other relationship, in that the more we put in, the more we get out of it. This is cultivation.
It should also go without saying, but anything we read by an Orthodox saint is also tremendously beneficial to us. If it requires guidance, please feel free to ask. In so doing, we continue God to cultivate our hearts and minds going forward every day of our life.
Have a wonderful month! God bless!
With love in Christ,
Father Niko Bekris