Many of us spend some time in Christian bookstores, or in the spiritual or Christian section of large bookstores. There is always a great variety of current writing before us. Some of it is helpful, but much of it is not. Some is even harmful, despite the best intentions of its authors. It seems there are hundreds of “Christian” titles every year; it is a major market. Remember, these authors and publishers are out there to make money, ot just educate Christians. It is easy to fall into the trap of reading modern writers, and neglecting first the scritpures themselves, and the venerable fathers who sought to educate early Christians.
It is a modern fallacy that we have become smarter and wiser as the centuries have passed. This may be true in some fields, such as medicine, but it is not true in spirituality and Christian thought. Those closest to Christ in time, those who learned directly from the apostles and the disciples, were enlightened. The Holy Spirit worked mightily in them. We see through a glass that has darkened considerably since the first five hundred years of the church.
Another modern fallacy is that anyone who “falls” for Christianity is a dupe, ignorant, unintelligent, or insane. People who believe this have not met the patristics. They have not read the work of geniuses such as St. Basil the Great, and his brother, St. Gregory of Nyssa. Their genius is humbling. Their logic is infallible. They knew not only what they had been taught by their Crhistian masters, but they knew the ancients on philosophy and science, as well. They knew literature of several cultures. They were brilliant minds, and better educated than any of us today.
St. basil, in a letter to Gregory, gave the following advice on the Christian life, and excoriated himself for lassitude: “We must strive after a quiet mind. As well might the eye ascertain an object put before it while it is wandering restless up and down and sideways, without fixing a steady gaze upon it, as a mind, distracted by a thousand worldly cares, be able to apprehend the truth…Now one way of escaping all this is separation from the whole world, that is, not bodily spearation, but the severance of the soul’s sympathy with the body, and to live so without city, home, goods, society, possessions, means of life, business, engagements, human learning, that the heart may readily receive every impress of divine doctrine.”
He goes on to say that next, we must turn to scripture and prayer for our education and life, to put our trust entirely in God and not in the world and our own abilities.
What excellent, God-fearing advice! But how many of us are willing to take it, and not hold on to a little worldliness? I console myself with the thought that perhaps someday we will settle on a farm again; the Lord has denied this to us so far. But am I expecting what I should not hope for? Are we suited for some other ministry? We shall see; the Lord reveals His divine plan in time.
It is unlikely that thee will find St. Basil in the average bookstore; I encourage thee to look online or in a theological library if possible. Do not slight the fathers because they are not modern. Modernity is a philosphical error; trust in tradition and the work of the Holy Spirit.