Philokalia Ministries
Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Fifty-one and Letter Fifty-two

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Fifty-one and Letter Fifty-two

May 6, 2021

Tonight we picked up with Letter 51, entitled “Turning the burdens of life to spiritual profit”. Saint Theophan gives Anastasia some of the best and most practical advice and counsel here. He begins to teach her a method of reinterpreting everything that comes before her eyes in a spiritual sense. She had been struggling, as we often do, with distractions in her day-to-day work and so finding it very difficult to maintain the constant remembrance of God. Therefore, gradually, Theophan teaches her how reinterpret every day activities, extraordinary and ordinary, into a means of actually drawing the mind and the heart to God. Far from being an obstacle, when spiritually reinterpreted they become the most beneficial means of moving the thoughts and imagination toward God.  Theophan tells Anastasia to begin with home and the people that she knows in her every day activities; and then to do it with everything that she sees within the world and every circumstance she encounters. Gradually it will become very natural for her. At the close of the letter, however, he warns her not to spare herself. There’s a certain wrongful activity that is afflicts everyone. We spare no labor on any matter except when it comes to that of salvation. This she must remove from her heart. The most important matter is our salvation and consequently it will be the most difficult labor of our life. But it is worth it. 

In Letter 52, Theophan brings Anastasia back once again to the remembrance of God. He knows that he is repeating himself and that she is probably becoming fatigued. Yet he tells her that his repetition is rooted in the fact that this remembrance of God is the most important thing of all and all power is in it. What he explains to her in this letter is that she must do all in her power to warm her heart with ever deeper devotion and reverence for God. It cannot simply be a barren remembrance but that which is guided by the deepest feelings of love and urgency. She must pray and read until she begins to notice this warmth developing within the heart. Only when she sees this happening can she be confident that it will continue to influence her throughout the course of the day. This is what the Lord himself desires: “I came to set fire on the earth of human hearts, and I could not wish for more other than that it inflame everyone as soon as possible!” 

 

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Text of chat during the group:

00:29:07 Lilly Crystal: Gracias hermana @Ren

00:30:37 Eric Williams: I am still disappointed and saddened that the Church did not use closed churches as an opportunity to promote the Divine Office. :(

00:30:54 renwitter: De nada mija @Lilly!

00:33:35 Eric Ash: Mother Theresa once said, "the most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved." And she is someone who saw the ravages of what we traditionally call poverty.

00:35:00 Lilly Crystal: Toronto is back under severe lockdowns. 10 people max at Church. I was turned away from confession yesterday. Please keep us Canadians in your prayers

00:35:42 carolnypaver: Heartbreaking…..We’ll keep praying for an end…

00:36:12 Wayne Mackenzie: in Edmonton back in major lockdown 15 people  allowed in church

00:37:12 carolnypaver: *gasp*. And I complained that AAA made me put on a mask today to get some documents notarized.  :(

00:37:24 Lilly Crystal: It's truly heart breaking @Wayne

00:37:55 Eric Williams: Better to pray in the bathroom than to doomscroll through Facebook, right? ;)

00:38:07 Joseph Muir: We have it good here in the States, Carolyn

00:38:16 Joseph Muir: PREACH, Eric!!!!!!

00:38:37 Erick Chastain: it is a canticle

00:39:02 Lilly Crystal: @Eric Me and my chotcki😂 #sorry lol

00:42:37 Nicole’s iPhone: Great idea! I’m good at editing :)

00:44:24 Nicole’s iPhone: Lilly, I have a priest friend in Marmora and churches are closed, no sacraments at all there
He’s on a farm and last year would put the monstrance in the window for people to come visit Our Lord
00:48:00 renwitter: @deacon Miron is practicing rocking for when Baby comes :-)

00:48:54 Miron: practice makes perfect! only five more days till due date! :)

00:49:07 renwitter: Wow! Five days?!? Amazing!

00:49:50 carolnypaver: Awwww——Happy delivery!  God bless Mom, baby, and you, Deacon!

00:50:50 Eric Williams: I like the phrases "spiritual exercises" and "training", because we intuitively understand how necessary training and exercise are for physical health and pursuit of excellence. Sometimes - perhaps often - we must force ourselves to do it. Likewise for spiritual health.

00:51:37 Lilly Crystal: Praying for health and safe delivery @Miron

00:53:37 Miron: Thank you Thank you!!!

00:59:00 Deacon Robert Cripps: Praying for a safe and healthy delivery!

01:05:23 renwitter: All that time in Adoration has @Father David burnin’ up

01:06:15 Lilly Crystal: @ren lol

01:14:27 Nicole’s iPhone: Thank you!

01:14:38 Lilly Crystal: Gracias Padre

The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis III, Part I

The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis III, Part I

May 4, 2021

There are times that it becomes perfectly clear that one is being fed on solid food. Tonight was such a moment. We picked up with Hypothesis Three on “how we should repent”. We heard from St. Isaac the Syrian with whom we are familiar. St.  Isaac begins by teaching us that for every illness, whether of the soul or body the appropriate medicine must be applied. Only then will one be cured. We must apply the appropriate remedy to the passion that afflicts us the most.

St. Isaac gives us two examples this evening of men pierced to the heart with contrition. Both impose upon themselves penances that seem disturbingly severe to modern sensibilities. But it is precisely here that we must suspend judgment and allow ourselves to consider the deeper action at work in the hearts of these men. We must ask the question: Could they ever know the joy of the hand of mercy reaching out to them and lifting them up out of their sin and offering them forgiveness if they first did not experience the depth of sorrow for their sin against love? Having been so cut off from the spiritual tradition and developing such a truncated view of the human person that is often either overly intellectual or psychological, we tend not grasp the wound of sin and the effect that it has upon our relationship with God. We do not see what we have become in Christ; that we are God-bearers and that we have been imbued with His own Spirit that searches the depths of our souls. We have become so isolated from one another that we no longer see the radical solidarity that exists between ourselves and each other in our sin. How can we know anything about either the depth of compunction that arises from a heart that mourns the loss of love and will do anything to regain it or of the beauty and tenderness of the mercy of God that reaches out to touch us and raise us up?

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Text of chat during the group:

00:22:16 Tyler Woloshyn: This reminds me in many way of the many saints of the east who bore the title, "Fools for Christ" who took on those self-imposed penance to maximize their humility as a witness to those who are indifferent otherwise to the gospel.

00:23:12 carolnypaver: Why does he say “the rule” put him in chains?

00:24:42 Joseph Muir: What page are we on?😀

00:24:58 carolnypaver: 31

00:25:02 Tyler Woloshyn: 30

00:25:04 Tyler Woloshyn: 31

00:25:05 Joseph Muir: Much thanks!

00:30:10 Tyler Woloshyn: When I think of red hot piercing contrition it reminds me of The Great Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete during Great Lent.  Prayerful and very catechetical.

00:53:43 renwitter: Most. Beautiful. Story. Yet. *heart*

01:03:08 Lilly Crystal: Amen!

01:14:34 Lilly Crystal: Yes! It’s so sad here in Toronto!

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Forty-nine Part II and Letter Fifty

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Forty-nine Part II and Letter Fifty

April 29, 2021

The simplicity and the clarity of St. Theophan‘s thought often keeps us perhaps from seeing the holy genius and the beauty that is expressed in these letters. This was particularly evident tonight as we concluded letter 49 and began letter 50. St. Theophan begins by talking to Anastasia about a particular infirmity that we all struggle with as human beings - worry. Anxiety is a disease that is rooted in our separation from God. We experience within our very depths a kind of disintegration; sometimes a very specific form of anxiety and sometimes a very diffuse kind of uneasiness about life, love, and work. Theophan’s simple advice is that she should not to let it take root in her heart. She must engage in her work with enthusiasm and clarity and her focus must be upon God and remembrance of him. 

In letter 50 he returns to this very subject with Anastasia. The remembrance of God is necessary. Indeed, it is to be the labor of our life. If we do not achieve it we will come to nothing. We will have no success in the spiritual life and in fact we will have no spiritual life at all. The remembrance of God is the very essence of the spiritual life. It is vitally important!  In this sense he tells her that the remembrance of God cannot even be treated as ordinary thought. Every concept of God, every attribute of God, everything that he has revealed of himself to us, all of his redemptive work is to be caught up in and permeate our remembrance of him. It is this that energizes the heart and the spirit. Furthermore she must remember the mercies of God and thank Him for them. All the good things that God has given her - her family, her piety, her recent conversion and desire for God - all of these things she must hold in her mind. Above all she must remember all of the secret mercies the God has shown her, all the many ways that he has protected her in unseen and hidden ways.

Love ignites love he tells her. She must hold to her heart the knowledge of God‘s love for her at every single moment. This must be the source of her resolve. Soon the flame of that love will burn so hotly that she will not have to labor to pray or to remember God - her heart will take her there with the urgent longings.

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Text of chat during the group:

00:34:16 Lilly Crystal: I am totally anxious if I don't have a daily prayer routine! “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Mark 2:17

00:37:57 Eric Ash: The psalms weren't written by someone who was a stranger to anxiety and feelings of hopelessness.

00:42:29 Lilly Crystal: “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you”
Peter 5:7

00:45:47 Eric Williams: Scientist solidarity, Erick. Balancing intellect and faith is very challenging.

00:46:04 Erick Chastain: yeah for sure

00:47:37 Eric Ash: Must be an Eric/k thing

00:48:29 Eric Williams: Yeah, we're a bunch of troublemakers. ;)

00:48:52 Erick Chastain: LOL

01:03:25 Eric Williams: Already sent it to my oldest godchild. :)

01:10:59 Art: No mind

01:24:35 Lilly Crystal: Thank you Father. God bless

01:24:38 Nicole’s iPhone: Thank you!

01:26:51 Lilly Crystal: I would come all the way from Canada 🙂

01:26:56 Nicole’s iPhone: Love the idea of conferences!

01:28:26 Lilly Crystal: 'philokalia familia' 😂

01:30:53 Erick Chastain: Dr jean-claude larchet "Therapy of Spiritual Illnesses"

01:31:08 Wayne Mackenzie: thanks

The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis II, Part II

The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis II, Part II

April 27, 2021

This evening we concluded the Hypothesis II of the Evergetinos. The focus is on the remembrance of death. Our mortality is a very powerful lens through which to view our life, our actions and most importantly our relationship with God. God and His love alone endures and it is to this love alone that we must cling. If we sin and turn away from that love then repentance must be our constant companion. In fact, we are told that even our virtue can lead us into sin without repentance. We can begin to imagine that such a virtue has its origin in our asceticism. Such a view of life will not lead us to love God above all things and so hate sin.  It is not enough simply for us to avoid certain behaviors we must develop an aversion to anything that is not God and that does not lead to Him.

In Hypothesis II, the Fathers begin to speak to us about how we should repent. We should grieve in measure with the wrong which we have committed. Otherwise, we will usually fall again into the same net. There is a kind of guile that exist in the human heart when there is an expectation of being able to repent later after having committed a sin a second time.

Finally, discussion ensued about how we are to understand sin. We must be very careful in the distinctions that we make and by which we judge our lives and our behavior. It must not be simply in accord with our own reason and intellect but rather in accord with a standard that has been revealed to us that this judgment is made - the cross of Christ and the self-emptying love that we witnessed there.

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Text of chat during the group:

00:24:42 renwitter: Hi Eric’s baby! (The wave just killed me)

00:25:48 Eric Williams: His name is Peter Damian. :)

00:31:02 Joseph Muir: Hello, Godson Peter😀❤

00:59:55 Lilly Crystal: You're fine Erick! I'm just as confused lol

01:02:26 Tyler Woloshyn: That whole part of self-emptying brings the term kenosis to mind, where it is always at work with Christ always pouring out His love and graces to us.

01:04:52 renwitter: Maybe the first Eastern Canadian voice ;-) You are not forgotten Wayne :-)

01:07:08 Wayne Mackenzie: Thanks

01:08:43 renwitter: The form the Fathers of the Oratory use is: “God, the Father of mercies,
through the death and resurrection of his Son
has reconciled the world to himself
and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins;
through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace,
and I absolve you from your sins
in the name of the Father, + and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.”

01:09:11 Joseph Muir: ❤

01:14:05 Lilly Crystal: Amen! Thank you all so much❤️

01:15:09 carolnypaver: God bless you, Lilly! So glad you’re here!

01:17:39 Tyler Woloshyn: God bless you Father! Have a blessed evening everyone!

 

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Forty-nine

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Forty-nine

April 22, 2021

Tonight we began letter 49 on facing the burdens and responsibilities of life.  These realities, St. Theophan tells Anastasia, are not to be seen as obstacles to a holy life or doing God’s will.  In fact, it is by God’s providence that we are presented with the work and station in life that we have embraced.  It is the disposition of the mind and heart that is most important.  The meanest and smallest of tasks of life or the most demanding of duties must be done as if received from God’s hand and with the constant remembrance of Him.  We cannot allow what we do become abstracted from that relationship as if it could exists independently from God and outside of the action of His grace.  God is everywhere and in every occupation.  It is He that we should be looking for in ever set of circumstances and we must receive every person as if we were receiving Him. Worldly standards must not direct our actions.  Rather we must put on the mind of Christ in order that we might approach all things with a selfless love and absolute desire to do the Father’s will.  Any occupation that makes that impossible or threatens it in some fashion should be avoided.

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Text of chat during the group:

00:16:29 carolnypaver: Different translation from the one we did before?

00:16:38 renwitter: Yes

00:17:11 carolnypaver: Will you let us know when we can pick up?

00:17:26 renwitter: Yep! Absolutely

00:17:53 carolnypaver: Awesome!

00:42:31 Miron: “Be careful that when you say ‘I’m too busy’ that you don’t really mean that ‘I don’t believe in the possibility of my own transformation’ (in Christ)” Archimandrite Maximos

00:54:13 Eric Williams: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

00:55:21 Erick Chastain: I think the mic should work now if there's time

01:06:16 renwitter: The beautiful thing about accepting our work as something given to us by the Lord, and done for his sake, is that that reality is not dependent on the nature of the work, right? The Politician’s job is as much God-given as that of the Father in the home.

01:15:20 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: It is also liberating to realize that the Lord is the one who will appreciate, thank or reward us; and this, in a way that ia always perfectly sinless and just.

01:15:53 Eric Williams: I found the proper attribution for what I said earlier. Greek lyric poet Archilocus (c. 680–645 BC) wrote, “We don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.” It seems to have gained modern attention after being partially misquoted by a Navy SEAL.

01:28:47 renwitter: Down with cell phones!! (But seriously, can texting be obliterated from the face of the earth. Those little dings. . . . its like audio water torture)

01:29:18 Daniel Allen: agreed haha

01:29:22 Joseph Muir: Turn off the sound-effects😂

01:32:02 Daniel Allen: what’s the next book?

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Join Philokalia Ministries’ Mailing List!

April 22, 2021

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The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis I, Part X and Hypothesis II, Part I

The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis I, Part X and Hypothesis II, Part I

April 20, 2021

Tonight we concluded Hypothesis I with a story of a bishop who fell into grave sin and scandal. Broken in spirit, he embraces a life of repentance in a monastery, while also seeking to hide his the dignity of his office. However, God reveals to the Abbot of the monastery that the bishop is coming to him. The  abbot recognizes him and tells him that he will follow him wherever he goes to reveal that he is a bishop. The abbot does this not with a morbid delight but rather that the bishop might be fully healed. The very scandal of having fallen from such a lofty position as bishop into grave sin must not be something that he hides.  The fullness of healing can only take place when the fullness of the sin is exposed. He who humbles himself will be exalted. Humbling himself completely, the bishop will not regain the dignity of his office but rather regain something greater - his dignity as a son of God. Again, we see that such repentance is not embraced in isolation from others. The fruit of the bishop’s repentance and its perfection is passed on to others after he dies. Many miracles surrounded his death demonstrating to all the genuineness and the sincerity of us repentance.

Turning then to Hypothesis II, we began considering the importance of keeping before our minds the reality of death. We must do good here and now and not delay until the future. This is not meant to instill fear in the hearts of men but rather to liberate them from the illusion that our life in this world is endless or that we are guaranteed a tomorrow. Grace is to be embraced in the moment. God is to be embraced in the moment. To do so is to experience freedom from the fear and anxiety that so often holds the human heart and in its grip.

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Text of chat during the group:

00:11:53 Tyler JVW: Holy Transfiguration Monastery has a wonderful Psalter

00:39:02 Eric Williams: I never felt invincible. I was a very odd child. ;)

00:40:14 Joseph Muir: You’re a very odd adult, Eric😉😂

00:42:27 Lilly Vasconcelos: Be nice to Eric, Mr. Muir😂

00:43:40 Lilly Vasconcelos: Yes I feel the same Father🙂

00:45:52 Lilly Vasconcelos: Humans were not made for long periods of solitude, there is so many negative pschological effects if one doesn't have God as the centre of their lives

00:48:52 Tyler JVW: The definite spiritual high after any retreat or catechetical talk in some experiences.

00:52:59 Lilly Vasconcelos: Praying the Divine Office throughout the day helps me feel like Jesus shares my day with me, so that at night it's kinda exciting if we might depart to him❤️ I don't know if that helps, Ren💕

00:55:55 Tyler JVW: The whole Passion Week Troparia, "Behold the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night" comes to mind.

00:57:57 Eric Williams: Sort of like showing up for the heavenly banquet without the proper garment?

00:58:00 renwitter: Don’t forget your unblemished white wedding garment bathing suit ;-)

00:58:06 renwitter: Ha! Eric get there before me

01:00:28 Joseph Muir: Behold, the Bridegroom is coming in the middle of the night. Blessed is the servant that He shall find awake. But, the one that He shall find neglectful will not be worthy of Him. Beware, therefore, O my soul! Do not fall into a deep slumber, lest you be delivered to death, and the door of the Kingdom be closed on you. Watch, instead, and cry out: Holy, holy, Holy are You, O our God! Through the Theotokos, have mercy on us!

—from bridegroom matins during Holy Week in the Byzantine churches, both Catholic and Orthodox; and also in the mesonyktikon, the liturgical midnight hour

01:01:20 Joseph Muir: Or they get a passing grade, but only after needlessly inducing a panic attack🤣

01:03:31 Lisa Weidner: In response to Ren’s comment on what to do

01:03:36 Joseph Muir: At the risk of spamming these comments, I once broke up with a girl after she told me that she was a diehard fan of the Saw movie franchise

01:03:37 Lilly Vasconcelos: Theotokion from Orthros:
You are truly most blessed, O Virgin Mother of God: through the One who was incarnated of You, Hades was chained, Adam revived, the curse wiped out, Eve set free, Death put to death, and we ourselves were brought back to life...

01:03:50 Tyler JVW: It also reminds me of the Byzantine Prayer before bed time:  O Eternal God, King of every creature, Who hast enabled me to attain to this hour, forgive me the sins which I have committed this day by thought, word and deed. Cleanse my humble soul, O Lord, from every defilement of flesh and spirit. Grant me, O Lord, to pass through the sleep of this night in peace, that I may rise from my humble bed and please Thy most Holy Name all the days of my life, vanquishing the enemies both fleshly and bodiless that contend against me. Deliver me from vain thoughts that defile me, O Lord, and from evil desires. For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory: of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

01:05:39 Lisa Weidner: prior to going to bed, Sister Theresa Althea Noble speaks of a practice of Memento More- remembering one’s death as part of one’s examination conscience prior to bed- with the gratitude of the day that Fr David mentioned with a review of the day in reference to our judgement with God- how the day would be reflected in that judgement- so living with an awareness of one’s death/ judgement prior to God.

01:08:43 Tyler JVW: Prayer before retiring before bed by St, John of Damascus:  Upon retiring, say this prayer: O Master, Lover of mankind, is this bed to be my coffin, or wilt Thou enlighten my wretched soul with another day? Behold, the coffin lieth before me; behold, death confronteth me. I fear, O Lord, Thy judgment and the endless torments, yet I cease not to do evil. My Lord God, I continually anger Thee, and Thy most pure Mother, and all the Heavenly Hosts, and my Holy Guardian Angel. I know, O Lord, that I am unworthy of Thy love for mankind, but am worthy of every condemnation and torment. But, O Lord, whether I will it or not, save me. For to save a righteous man is no great thing, and to have mercy on the pure is nothing wonderful, for they are worthy of Thy mercy. But on me a sinner, show the wonder of Thy mercy; in this reveal Thy love for mankind, lest my wickedness prevail over Thine ineffable goodness and merciful kindness; and order my life as Thou wilt.

01:10:21 Lilly Vasconcelos: Thanks Father! God bless and good night

01:11:21 Nicole: THANK YOU!!

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Forty-eight

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Forty-eight

April 15, 2021

Tonight we picked up with Letter 48. St. Theophan begins to instruct Anastasia about how to attain Undistracted Prayer. One of the most difficult labors in the spiritual life is to settle one’s thoughts. As we seek to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ we are confronted with the multiplicity of our thoughts and their unruliness. Theophan tells Anastasia that she must have firm resolve and hold on to her anxiety about this and intensify her efforts in correcting the fault of allowing her mind to wander. To pacify one’s thoughts is a gift of God but nonetheless we must labor with our whole being. We must force ourselves in every good thing but especially in prayer. Theophan is very stark in his language. He does not hesitate to tell Anastasia that prayer is the most important thing in our life as human beings. In fact our whole being must become Prayer; we must be directed toward God in all that we do say and especially in how we pray. Therefore we cannot enter into prayer as a by-the-way activity or in a haphazard fashion. To do so, Theophan tells Anastasia, is a criminal offense. This language seems harsh but what he’s trying to communicate to her is that prayer is fundamentally an act of justice toward God, giving Him what is His do. We have been created for Him and to share in the fullness of eternal life. There is nothing more important in this world than to live for God.

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Text of chat during the group

00:37:24 Eric Williams: Sometimes maintaining a prayer rule feels more like a sysyphean task than herculean. ;)

00:39:28 Sheila Applegate: Add Cerbwrys

00:39:35 Sheila Applegate: Adce

00:39:57 Sheila Applegate: Cereberus spitting fire from the base.

00:40:24 Sheila Applegate: My phone is glitchy, sorry.

00:42:15 Miron: metropolitan

00:47:38 Mark Cummings: It is my dream to live next door to church

00:48:10 Eric Williams: Often it’s not just a matter of how close a church is, but more whether/when it’s open for prayer. :(

00:49:11 Wayne Mackenzie: There was a time when the churches were open all day

00:50:56 Mark Cummings: Not long ago I could go to adoration any time 24/7

00:51:02 Mark Cummings: pre-covid

00:51:15 Mark Cummings: I miss that

00:51:41 Wayne Mackenzie: I am talking about the 60s

00:52:26 Mark Cummings: lol- it is not often that I get to say that was before my time

00:53:07 Wayne Mackenzie: yes I am giving my age away

00:58:15 Eric Williams: “Grasp” is an interesting choice of word. The origin of the modern “comprehend”, meaning “understand”, is from Latin for “grasp”. It’s as though we wrap our minds around an idea, enveloping and seizing it. It’s very material, “earthy”.

01:13:45 Eric Williams: Isn’t hyperbole a prominent part of ancient rabbinic teaching styles?

01:28:06 Nicole: Thank you!

01:28:12 Scott: What if we end with the Sienfeld bass instead?  More positive!

01:28:59 Eric Williams: Instead of the Law and Order “bong”, just say “Pray, criminal!” for an appropriate level of jarring. ;)

The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis I, Part IX

The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis I, Part IX

April 13, 2021

We picked up this evening with Hypothesis I which we have been considering over the past month or so. Again the theme is repentance and the avoidance of despair. We have been presented with stories from the Gerontikon which is a collection of the saying of the elders. The focus of the first story we considered tonight was a monk who fell in love with an Egyptian woman. Her father went to a pagan priest and was instructed by a demon through that priest to tell the monk that if he denied God, denied his holy baptism, and rejected his monastic vows then he could marry his daughter.  Yet despite doing all of these things, God did not abandon him. The demon acting through the pagan priest understood this and so told the father to refuse the monk’s request to give his daughter in marriage. At that moment, the monk came to the realization of what he had done and repented with deep sorrow. Turning back to his elder, he was instructed to engage rigorously in a fast for weeks and to ask God for his mercy. Eventually the monk was given a vision of a dove entering into his mouth. At this the elder understood that God had received the monk’s penance and restored him to the life of grace. This tells us something very important about the nature of repentance and far reaching it must be. Our penance cannot be something that has no meaning or value but must be a remedy that heals the wound hat led to the fall in the fall in the first place. We must also seek out the guidance of an elder, like this young monk, who not only can instruct us but also intercede on our behalf before God.

Following this, an elder teaches us that when a person is experienced in asceticism and has built his life on the very things to draw him closer to God, falls from grace, he can return more quickly along the path to holiness because even though his house, as it were, may have been demolished he still has readily available all the materials from which constructed it. A person newly initiated into the spiritual life, however, will not only have to build the house but search for the materials. Both suffered the demolition and distraction brought about by their sin, but the one whose life had long been directed toward God can return with a greater swiftness.

Discussion then ensued about how we understand affliction in light of all the things that we have been talking about in regards to repentance. How does one not fall into despair when afflicted again and again?  It is only when our knowledge of God is no carried tale and no abstract notion but rather the fruit of a relationship of love that we are able to see through the tears in the darkness and find our way into the embrace of the loving God. This is what we must seek to possess ourselves and to which we must guide others.

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Text of chat during the group:

00:37:59 Tyler Woloshyn: This reminds me of St. Mary of Egypt's retreat into the wilderness to overcome the passions that surrounded her, yet in that long suffering she overcame it with the greatest ascetism and prayer.

00:38:13 Lilly Vasconcelos: Sin is sin. I dislike the idea of venial vs mortal, just my opinion. We should strive for holiness :)

00:39:33 Tyler Woloshyn: Very Byzantine focus there Lilly.  Categorizations can sometimes complicate the examination of conscience.

00:45:36 Tyler Woloshyn: St. Pachomius of Egypt?

00:46:25 Erick Chastain: Modern-day Egypt, back then it was Thebes

00:47:47 Wayne Mackenzie: It's the rule of Pachomis

00:49:51 Tyler Woloshyn: The Prayer of St. Pachomius at least for the Jesus Prayer sure sets a wonderful template for building a crescendo for praying the Jesus Prayer.

00:50:12 Wayne Mackenzie: yes

00:50:50 Eric Williams: Rule of St. Pachomius: http://www.saintjonah.org/services/stpachomius.htm

00:51:04 Joseph Muir: Thank you, Eric!

00:56:56 carolediclaudio: I’m late- what page are we on? :)

00:58:18 carolnypaver: 25

00:58:26 Wayne Mackenzie: p 25

00:58:28 Tyler Woloshyn: Acedia, which Evagarios of Pontus talks about those 8 passions. Despair being grave.

00:58:28 carolnypaver: bottom

00:58:39 carolediclaudio: Thank you!

01:09:45 Lilly Vasconcelos: Thank you Father David :)

01:10:20 Tyler Woloshyn: Christ is Risen! Thank you for the wonderful explanations and being very welcoming Fr. David.

01:10:24 carolediclaudio: Yes, very beautiful. So sorry was late.

01:11:38 Lilly Vasconcelos: I brought 2 more Canadians

01:11:43 Lilly Vasconcelos: Hahaha

01:11:49 Katharine M: :D

01:11:59 carolediclaudio: Good :)

01:13:45 Sue and  Mark: YES!!!!!!

01:13:58 Erick Chastain: That would be great!

01:14:16 Eric Williams: Maybe “The Way of a Pilgrim”?

01:14:17 Daniel Allen: perfect i won’t have to buy another copy

 

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Forty-seven Part II

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Forty-seven Part II

April 8, 2021

Tonight we came to the conclusion of Letter 47 on developing a prayer rule. St. Theophan begins by warning Anastasia that she must be even more diligent and concentrated in the evening. It is then that we often become sluggish and inattentive as we become more and more fatigued or after we have had the evening meal.  It is at times like this that we can be subject to particular temptations. Therefore, Theophan tells Anastasia that she should increase her prostrations and petitions to God and that she should even seek to fall asleep with the Jesus prayer on her lips or reciting some psalm.

Along these lines Theophan encourages her to memorize a certain number of the psalms; in particular those that speak to her heart. She should allow herself to read through the Psalter and then select those that mean the most to her. And this way she will be fully armed for the spiritual battle. Most important of all, however, is that Anastasia sees herself standing before God with her “mind in the heart with devotion and heartfelt prostration to him.”  All of his other suggestions are mere aids in the practice. What is going on in the heart is most important.

He then tells her that in her prayer rule she should set a distinct number of short prayers that she says as well as a set number of prostrations that are done. This will keep her from falling into laziness and help her to stretch herself in the development of her prayer. She should not speed through these and if she does she should add additional prostrations to her practice. Thus, she must have a certain spiritual maturity; not trying to cheat God. 

As a brief conclusion Theophan tells her that he is sending her a prayer rope that he wants her to use. This is not a monastic thing, he emphasizes. In fact, Theophan received and heard about the prayer rope from a lay person. It is simply an aid to allow one’s love and devotion to be directed to God; one that adds a bodily element to that effort. For this reason it is invaluable.

----

Text of chat during the group:

00:28:58 Eric Ash: I'm reminded of a study that showed artist renditions of the last supper have been showing an increased portion size over the centuries as society's view of what a modest portion is has grown.

00:37:14 Scott: https://www.amazon.com/Psalms-New-Translation-Singing-Version/dp/0809116693/ref=sr_1_5

This Psalter is the same translation as the breviary commonly used in the US, which is a pleasant translation.

01:00:50 renwitter: Hey folks! Sorry this is off topic, but since you are here :-) If you are not already, but would like to be on the mailing list for Philokalia Ministries, please fill out this form! Thank you! https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fapp.etapestry.com%2Fonlineforms%2FThePittsburghOratory%2Fphilokaliacontact.html%3Ffbclid%3DIwAR0_S8CqCO7SYILbW8mLPQfACza8728Y7UDGDMFZopqoZ-ytgi0GumyQoRA&h=AT0XPibbprPPvay0ZxKcKhkPmFtot0lrrjJjmurma0VgE9HNjqGO9WQ5tD-pVT2rRAEZiQF-1Nvf03RY3uXkfVIIFbB8OlI_WFtjktNqJ_-zQFRX6DyT8QLToXEV9qquNMQfnG7e6w&__tn__=-UK-R&c[0]=AT3qqUcjHbbsDV6cRbNPgatZ405PY07aOV1kg-XwstnyFNKsYKofNczkMTzIAH5VjlLdTDbZHPu75Rani-bux_zi0Nm6eOSUhEw5e1CmF1nQFyuHskX2YVkRjsdulqrZ5WtJ4N8b1s4F-oVpMEWATX-FSxCWDmVvjvPHjtqECCOCA1bsALdKdM-yeDfeJJq1du-jI4Ne

 

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