While attending the Divine Services is important to us as Orthodox Christians, this is not the end-all-be-all of our spiritual lives. Orthodoxy is a way of life, not a 2-hour commitment once a week. Our spiritual lives must continue (and blossom) within our own homes! In this post, we share some edifying practices you can start to incorporate into your spiritual life as an Orthodox Christian.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
1. Read the Scriptures
Carve out some time each day – even if it’s just 30 minutes – to read passages from the Bible. If you aren’t sure where to start, consider following a daily readings calendar. In Orthodoxy, the Church prescribes certain passages for certain days (usually a reading from the Epistles and one from the Gospels). This method is best if you have limited time to devote to reading.
Alternatively, you could simply start at the beginning and read so many chapters a day. Or you could follow a “Read the Bible in a Year” plan. Some plans take you in chronological order, while others take readings from throughout the Bible (Old Testament, Psalms, Proverbs, and New Testament) to expose you to different genres of the Bible each day. There are many Bible reading plans you can find online with a simple Google search!
The Holy Bible is the written word of God. Through the Scriptures, we can hear the Lord Himself speak to us. He speaks to the soul of every child of God through both the Old and New Testaments, teaching us so much about our Faith. Every time we read the Scriptures, we notice something we didn’t notice before.
2. Pray reader’s services
Another way you can enrich your spiritual life is by adding reader’s services to your prayer life. The Eastern Orthodox Church created these services for the laity whenever a priest could not be present. Perhaps the most popular is the Service of the Hours, traditionally read at 6 AM (the first hour), 9 AM (the third hour), 12 PM (the sixth hour) and 3 PM (the ninth hour). Each “Hour” commemorates an event on the day of Christ’s Passion. If you can’t chant them at the allocated times, you can chant them one after the other in the morning.
Other edifying services you could pray as a family at home are Vespers, Little Compline, Great Compline, an Akathist or Canon, and the Typika. Recently, the OCA Archdiocese published a Prayer Service for Protection from the Coronavirus, which we highly recommend.
3. Pray the Psalter
The Psalter – a collection of the Psalms in a separate book – is an excellent spiritual tool you can start implementing in your prayer life at home. Through the Psalms, God Himself gives us the words we need in order to pray. Chanting the Psalter at home will help teach you how to pray in the correct manner and for the proper things.
4. Dive into other spiritual books
Fortunately, there is no shortage of spiritual reading available in the Orthodox Church. The Popular Patristic Series gives the laity access to the writings of the Church Fathers on various topics. Ancient Faith Publishing has an abundance of spiritually enriching books you can purchase. Another great place to find Orthodox spiritual books is St. Vladimir’s Seminary (SVS) Press.
Check your parish library and see if there are any books you are interested in. Better yet, speak to your priest and ask him what spiritual books he would recommend specifically for you, to help you continue to deepen your relationship with God.
Keep Reading: Suggested Books For Inquirers and Catechumens
5. Create a prayer corner
Just as we pray before holy icons in the Church, we also pray before them in our homes, our little churches. Every Orthodox home should have a special place set aside – whether a room, a wall, or a corner – for worship, with icons, incense, candles, and prayer books. This is a beautiful activity you can do with your entire family, once you have your supplies.
Read More: How to Set Up an Icon Corner
6. Fast according to the Church’s guidelines
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to deepen your relationship with God is through fasting according to an Orthodox fasting calendar. As a general rule, we recommend fasting according to the restrictions on the calendar. Why? Because the Church, in Her wisdom, knows the benefits this can have for our physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
For some people with allergies or certain health conditions, however, doing this is not possible. Before doing anything, you should always speak with your priest about your fasting, so that both of you can come to an arrangement that is spiritually enriching and safe for you.
As an example, you could fast from things that occupy a lot of your time or attention (ex. television) or from foods you tend to overindulge in (ex. pasta) if you cannot keep the prescribed fast for health reasons. You could also fast by limiting your portion sizes more than usual or eating one less meal per day. Keep in mind we fast to deepen our communion with God. Therefore, unless we accompany our fasting with prayer and almsgiving, our fasting does not benefit us at all.
7. Give to others
Our Lord constantly tells us to give what we have to the poor. Giving alms, whether in the form of tangible things – clothing, food, etc. – or money, is something all Christians should do. It helps us put into proper perspective our relationship with material things.
To enrich your spiritual life, start by giving away the things you simply do not need. Clothes that you never wear or that no longer fit. Furniture that does nothing more than hold junk and collect dust. Extra blankets, sheets, and pillows you don’t use. And give these things to your less fortunate brothers and sisters.
Wondering where to take these things? Ask your priest! Your parish may have some sort of program that handles these kinds of donations, or your priest might know of other organizations where you can take these items to help those in your local community.
8. Keep in touch with other parishioners
One final way to enrich your spiritual life is by keeping in touch with other people in your parish. Call them on the phone, FaceTime them, ask them out for coffee, or plan a visit to their home. Especially make sure to do this with elderly members of your parish, with shut-ins, and with any catechumens. You’d be surprised how a simple phone call from you could make someone else’s day.
Continue to grow closer to Christ
With the hectic pace of our lives today, it can be challenging to find the time to focus on God. But we need to make that effort as best we can. Start small, and set some goals for yourself (with the help of your priest) to start enriching your relationship with God through fasting, prayer, spiritual reading, almsgiving, and fellowship. And most of all, by remaining steadfast in your Faith.
Keep Reading: Keeping the Orthodox Faith Alive At Home