Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Suggested Lenten Reading


Lent seems like a long time at the beginning, but it can pass you by quickly, if you don't make a point of putting forth the effort to pray more, attend more of the services, and to read more. One should set goals that are not overly ambitious, because often when we try to do too much, we end up doing very little. It is better to set realistic goals, try to stick with them, and hit the ground running.

When it comes to spiritual reading, there are many options. Each Lent, you should select a couple of things you will especially focus on reading, cut out some of the things you waste time on, and devote that time to some reading that will feed your soul.

Here are some of the most traditional options:

  1. The Scriptures, especially the books of Genesis, Proverbs, Isaiah (which are read in the Lectionary Readings of Lent), the Psalter, and the Gospels: In the services of Lent and Holy Week the reading of these books are appointed to be read (almost all of Genesis, Proverbs, and Isaiah; the Psalter is read twice each week during Lent; and all four Gospels (read in their entirety during Holy Week). Most people probably would have a hard time reading them all, in a given Lent, but you could at least aim to read some of them.
  2. The Ladder of Divine Ascent, by St. John Climacus, which is appointed to be read during the Lenten services by the Typikon. 
  3. The Lausiac History of St. Palladius (the lives of the Desert Fathers), which is also appointed to be read during the Lenten Services.
There are also many other spiritual classic which make for good Lenten reading:
  1. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers.
  2. The Conferences, by St. John Cassian.
  3. The Arena, by St. Ignatii (Brianchaninov). This is one of the best all around books on the spiritual life available in English, and is a text that is worth reading, and re-reading.
  4. My Life in Christ, by St. John of Kronstadt.
  5. The Life of St. Anthony the Great, by St. Athanasius the Great.
Then there are more options that are well worth reading:
  1. Great Lent: Journey to Pascha, by Fr. Alexander Schmemann. A great guide to the meaning of the services of Great Lent.
  2. Psalm 118: A Commentary, by St. Theophan the Recluse. This Psalm is one of the most important of the Psalms, and it will be chanted at all of our funerals. We should try to learn the lessons of this Psalm while we still have time to apply them.
  3. Season of Repentance: Lenten Homilies of St. John of Kronstadt.
  4. The Four Gospel, by Archbishop Averky. 
  5. The Field: Cultivating Salvation, by St. Ignatii (Brianchaninov).
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but if you are looking for something that will be edifying, you won't go wrong with any of them.