Two millennia of Orthodox Christian experience only emphasize the importance of making Scripture reading, particularly of the Holy Gospels, part of one’s daily prayer rule. Why? The holy apostle Paul reminds us that
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, then the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17, NASB).
By seeking “the riches of Scripture,” St Neilos the Ascetic assures us, we are “led to the life of perfection, gaining nourishment and joy” (Ascetic Discourse). And reading, reflecting on and absorbing the Holy Gospels are of particular importance, because fidelity to the words of the Incarnate Word is the test of true discipleship: “If you abide in My word,” say our Lord, “then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31, NASB).
The problem for most of us is structuring that Scripture reading into our lives – in large part because we are still trying to find time for it, when in reality we must make time for it, just as we make time for meals, work, sleep and the “idiot box.” However, another difficulty lies in finding a systematized approach that works for us. Some people find that reading the Epistle and Gospel appointed for the day provides more than enough food for contemplation. And that is wonderful in itself. If each of us does only that much, our personal and parish lives will be infused with new spiritual life and energy.
Other folks, however, feel a need for the “full-meal deal,” that is, reading throught the entire Bible or at least the whole New Testament on a regular basis. The following Lectionary for the Kellia if offered as a suggested system. Adapted from the cell rule of the Optina Monastery, it takes one through the entire New Testament four times a year. Please note that due to the full round of services prescribed, this lectionary s not used on Holy Thursday, Holy Friday, Holy Saturday, Pascha, Pentecost, Nativity Eve, Nativity, Thophany Eve and/or Theophany. In leap years the Scripture read on February 28 are repeated on the 29h.
The pattern is simple: each day one reads one chapter from the Holy Gospels and two chapters from the Acts of Apostles through the Apocalypse [Revelation]. Thus, the first day one reads Matthew 1 and Acts 1-2; the second day, Matthew 2 and Acts 3-4, and so on. However, for the last seven days of the cycle, one reads one chapter of the Gospel, as normal, but only one chapter from the Apocalypse: e.g., John 15 and Revelation 16; John 16 and Revelation 17; and so forth.