As I was preparing for my doctoral dissertation and had to read extensively in the patristic literature of the church, I found that some of it was very familiar. Since I do not believe like Socrates that his slave knows mathematics because he has studied the subject in the previous life, I pondered to find out where I had read this literature before. This pondering made me return to the first library that I used in our village. This was not the school library, but the library of a gentleman who became the pastor of our church and in whose home I would spend many hours. He joined our little Baptist Church, and my parents found out that he was a musician. He played the violin and gave private lessons. I have never had an interest in the violin, but I took accordion lessons. Both of us found out that I was much more interested in reading than in music. Thus he invited me to come as often as I wanted and use his library. He owned many volumes of the patristic literature, and I found myself reading about the lives of the Christian martyrs plus the main works of Augustine, Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, Tertullian and others. I read the patristic literature before I was 15 and I did not return to it until I was in my mid-thirties, but I was delightfully surprised that even though I read this material in another language, I just needed to do some reviewing and it started to come back. This gentleman, being a musician, believed in memorizing his music and so he would play from memory. He applied this skill to his readings, and encouraged me to memorize Christian poems. Very soon I was known in our churches as the boy who could memorize long poems. I kept this habit of memorizing poems, and when I came to the United States I would recite poems in large gatherings of the Christian youth of our Baptist Churches. Memorization forced me to practice excellence. A poem, when it is recited, cannot be done haphazardly. It has to be mastered completely. Even today when I meet some of my colleagues, we start reciting poems jus to see how our minds are functioning. Paul tells his disciple Timothy to show himself approved rightly dividing the word of God. This gentleman instilled in me the need to be approved by God in doing all things in an excellent fashion. There have been times in which other church members would not appreciate his approach, but I have grown to appreciate all the things that I have learned from his library and the drive for excellence in his life.
I Have Read that Book Before! (Life in the Village, Part IV)
- Written by George Hancock-Stefan
- Category: Pastor's Corner