In John Chrysostom's introduction to his series of homilies on the book of John, he exhorts his listeners, the members of his church, to listen with their souls and not just their physical ears. In our world of sound bytes and constant noise, we must take even greater measures to make sure we are listening attentively when hearing or reading God's Word. Our hearts need to be calm and free from distractions. That alone seems impossible most days, but we should be aware of the state of our heart before receiving His words. Too many times, I am the monk running down the corridors of the monastery, late for Matins!
...let us preserve deep silence, both external and mental, but especially the latter; for what advantage is it that the mouth be hushed, if the soul is disturbed and full of tossing? I look for that calm which is of the mind, of the soul, since it is the hearing of the soul which I require. Let then no desire of riches trouble us, no lust of glory, no tyranny of anger, nor the crowd of other passions besides these; for it is not possible for the ear, except it be cleansed, to perceive as it ought the sublimity of the things spoken; nor rightly to understand the awful and unutterable nature of these mysteries, and all other virtue which is in these divine oracles. If a man cannot learn well a melody on pipe or harp, unless he in every way strain his attention; how shall one, who sits as a listener to sounds mystical, be able to hear with a careless soul?
- John Chrysostom