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 six edifying things you can do to deepen your spiritual life and relationship with God.
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
1. Read Scripture
The Holy Bible is the written word of God. It speaks to the soul of every child of God, teaching you so much about your Faith. Every time you read it, you notice something you didn’t notice before. 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!
2. Pray Reader’s Services
Another way you can enrich your spiritual life is to add “reader’s services” to your prayer life. The 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, which is 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 time of the day remembers an event on the day of Christ’s Passion. If you can’t read them at the different times, we usually recommend you read them one after the other in the morning.
Other edifying services you could read 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. Dive into other spiritual books
Fortunately, there is no shortage of spiritual reading available in the Orthodox Church. Ancient Faith Publishing has an abundance of spiritually enriching books you can purchase (ask your priest to check the parish library and see if your church has any you are interested in). Another great place to find Orthodox spiritual books is St. Vladimir’s Seminary (SVS) Press.
4. Create an Icon Corner
Just as we pray before icons in the Church, we also pray before icons in our homes, our little churches. Every Orthodox home should have a special place set aside 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 >>
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to deepen your spiritual life is by fasting according to an Orthodox fasting calendar. As a general rule, we recommend fasting according to the restrictions on the calendar. But for some people with allergies or certain health conditions, doing this is not possible. You should always speak with your priest about your fasting, so that you both can come to an arrangement that is safe and realistic 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.
6. 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, or FaceTime them! 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 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, and fellowship. And most of all, by remaining steadfast in your Faith.
Read More: Keeping the Orthodox Faith Alive At Home >>