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Tonight we completed letter 17 and began letter 18 of the Saint to the young Anastasia. Once again St. Theophan works very hard to keep the young woman focused, so that she does not lose sight of the simple yet comprehensive view of the Christian life and fidelity to the gospel. 
 
God is served and loved in what is right before us and in those that He has put along our path. There is no station in life, no set of circumstances where God is absent. We must not think in an abstract way about our faith but rather seek to embrace the smallest things with love, seek to receive the grace of God in the smallest actions with gratitude. As the Gospel tells us, God entrusts us with small things and when we have embraced these with love and fidelity only then will He entrust us with greater things. There’s a kind of hubris that we fall into as Christians in imagining ourselves doing great things or extraordinary things as the Saints. We don’t realize that the sanctity is found simply in mortifying our own will, and setting aside our ego. Love begins at home and in caring for those standing before us. 
 
All of us must hold onto the “one thing needful” - to subordinate all things to the spiritual. It is the love of God that orders all loves. It is the desire for God that orders all other desires and brings us to experience the joy of the kingdom.
 
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Text of chat during the Zoom meeting:
 
00:34:10 Eric Williams: Theophan's description of individuals doing what they ought having great effect in aggregate reminds me of Smith's Invisible Hand acting in markets. "By pursuing his own interest [an individual] frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good."
00:38:12 Louise Alfer: Some of the greatest saints were porters...St. Andre and Solanus Casey
00:39:59 Eric Ash: I remember also reading of saints in Europe that dreamed of being sent to mission in the New World but were kept to minister in their home countries instead. Seems to have worked out, they became saints after all
00:45:55 Eric Williams: "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
00:47:54 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: Eric, that was the gospel last sunday in the Byzantine lectionary (Third Sunday after Pentecost) with the epistle from Romans helping to define God's righteousness.
00:57:48 Eric Ash: Maybe I'm the only ignorant one that had to look it up but darning a sock is to repair a hole usually by sewing by hand.
00:59:25 Natalia Wohar: On this topic of saints, I recommend a recently released movie called A Hidden Life about Blessed Franz Jagerstatter : )
01:04:20 Ren's Kingdom of Neatness and Organization: Active love is a harsh and fearful thing compared with love in dreams. Love in dreams thirsts for immediate action, quickly performed, and with everyone watching. Indeed, it will go so dar as the giving even of one’s life, provided that it does not take long but is soon over, as on stage, and everyone is looking on and praising. Whereas active love is labor and perseverance, and for some people, perhaps, a whole science. - Father Zosima, The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
01:04:42 Eric Williams: Who says we don't run out screaming? ;)
01:07:46 Eric Williams: Man, this group really serves as a necessary examination of conscience. Being patient and gentle, loving people who are difficult to love, is a major struggle for me. As anyone who knows me is aware, so is biting my tongue.
01:08:26 carolnypaver: Group Spiritual Direction.
01:17:48 Katharine: P.S. I'm guessing the bookbinder girls were doing pro bono (or very poorly paid) work to manufacture pamphlets or tracts containing progressive ideas/propaganda instead of supporting their mothers.
01:18:52 carolnypaver: Thank you, Katharine!
01:19:54 Mary McLeod: Thanks everyone!

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More than anything, letters 16 and 17 reveal to us the heart of St. Theophan. He wants the young Anastasia to be free and her heart to be filled with the peace, the complete peace of the kingdom. Before he teaches her anything about the life of prayer or establishes any rule for her to follow, he wants her to grasp the fact that God is part of her life at every single moment and everything that she does, no matter how small, so long as it is done in love, is pleasing in the eyes of God. How different our lives would be if we could even live this for a single day and taste the sweetness of this peace!  How full our lives would be if we could engage even in the most menial tasks with the freedom of love, eternal love!

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Tonight we started reading letter 16 to the young Anastasia. The Saint works very hard to bring this young woman to clarity about the true goal of life. One might even say that he is stern or sarcastic with her and in his humor. But he wants her to know the precious gift and the freedom of living for God completely and understanding that we do not have to torture ourselves by asking what we should do in this life. It is perfectly clear, our goal is God and living in accord with His will and coming to share in His eternal life. This is so simple and comprehensive that there’s a part of us, I think, that fears it, to have our life guided by one thing, the desire for God.
 
We tend to live our lives in the abstract, what needs to be done out there, what great thing can I be doing or accomplish, what will give me identity and purpose in this world. When this happens we lose sight of our dignity and destiny in Christ. We are made for the kingdom. We are made to be sons and daughters not of this world but of God.
 
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Text of chat during the Zoom meeting:
 
00:30:27 carolnypaver: When he says someone has opened her eyes, it sounds kind of like Adam and Eve after they sinned. Is that what he is referring to?

00:37:04 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: I thought it was a little sarcastic. She's saying she's vegetating at home, doing nothing important, whereas in reality she was learning how to practice holiness and the virtues within the home environment and duties of interacting with family, so in saying "only now has someone opened your eyes" St Theophan is sort of like imitating God when God said to Adam and Eve, "O you're naked, but who told you that you were naked?"

00:38:43 carolnypaver: Thank you!

00:43:41 Eric Williams: Perhaps I misheard, but I don't think you have the Latin meaning of "infatuate" right. It means "to make foolish", from the adjective "fatuus", "foolish". If I misheard you, I apologize.

00:44:56 carolnypaver: If I say it enough times it MUST be true!

00:47:01 Chad Whitacre: “Long ago, fatuous meant "illusory," after ignis fatuus, the strange light (literally "foolish fire") that sometimes appears at night over marshy ground. The word's Latin root - the fatuus we see in ingis fatuus - is also behind the word infatuate, which once meant "to make foolish," but which now usually means "to inspire with foolish love or admiration."

00:48:08 Eric Williams: I was right! :P

00:48:27 Natalia Wohar: To Eric’s credit, the word “foolish” is in the definition haha

00:48:36 Adrienne DiCicco: But not entirely, Eric! :-P

00:48:46 Eric Ash: Than an additional thousand in thanks for being right

00:48:49 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: Acquire the spirit of peace and thoudans will be saved around you.

00:48:53 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: http://orthochristian.com/63166.html

00:49:07 Mary Schott: But isn't is considered foolish to follow that foolish/fake light?

00:49:43 Mary Schott: both meanings are not mutually exclusive, but rather jointly exhaustive

00:49:49 Katharine Memole: Fr. David and Eric are both right. :)

00:58:12 Mary McLeod: This reminds me of the part of the Screwtape Letters where the head demon says that the person must always be drawn to think of the future or the past, but never the present, so that they will miss all the grace God gives in the moment.

01:09:39 Eric Ash: There is a widely quoted Saint Teresa of Calcutta saying that goes, “If you want to bring peace to the whole world, go home and love your family.” Which is actually a paraphrase of a quote from her Nobel Peace Price acceptance speech “And so, my prayer for you is that truth will bring prayer in our homes, and from the foot of prayer will be that we believe that in the poor it is Christ. And we will really believe, we will begin to love. And we will love naturally, we will try to do something. First in our own home, next door neighbor in the country we live, in the whole world.”

01:12:32 carolnypaver: Christ has become a “virtual reality.”

01:12:33 Natalia Wohar: We should start meeting outside in the grass at the Oratory or in front of Cathy

01:12:39 Wayne Mackenzie: To make room for God, we need to learn to say no. So much of our businesses is the fear of our own death.

01:14:47 Scott: Everyone just wants Eric doing penance.

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Tonight we read St Theophan’s 15th letter to the young Anastasia. He encourages her to plant the things that he has taught her deep within her heart.  She will not only find comfort in these things but encouragement and support for what lies ahead.
 
St. Theophan begins to introduce Anastasia to the life of prayer. But he does not begin with the discipline itself or specific practices. Rather, he speaks to her of the radical and instantaneous connection that one has with the Angels and the Saints. The moment a prayer is uttered from the heart it is immediately heard and responded to. Again this is supremely encouraging because it reminds us that we do not tread this path alone. We are surrounded by angels and saints that God has willed to give us, that in His providence He has chosen to support us in the spiritual battle and to lift us up if we have fallen. Their presence magnifies the beauty that we seek. In them we see the love and the grace of God with an even greater clarity than if we were to look up these things with our own eyes and hearts that have yet to be purified. In the angels and saints we see the God who is set upon our salvation and who has given us all that we need as human beings to participate in fully in His life.
 
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Transcript of chat during the group:
 
00:26:29 Eric Williams: What page are we on?
 
00:26:43 Natalia Wohar: 69, Letter 15
 
00:26:44 Ed Kleinguetl: 69
 
00:26:44 Eric Ash: 69, start of letter 15 I
 
00:26:58 Eric Williams: Thank you :)
 
00:42:43 carolnypaver: I need that Novena to St. Charbel.
 
00:56:33 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: Some saints are given a broader mission or extension of their earthly mission to a heavenly mission dimension. We think of the most Holy going from being the Mother of God to Mother of the Church and Mother of Humanity as the most obvious case. Often repeated in Byzantine liturgical texts is the term « derznovennia », which is a specific type of boldness, a specific « access » to God, given by God to those saints who were pleasing to God by their lives and in their ministry on earth, and thus, God gives them an added or intensified capability of interceding for us.
 
00:59:08 Mary McLeod: In theology school they always repeated that grace perfects nature, not destroys it.
 
01:07:20 Eric Williams: Fantastic book. Very challenging - not difficult, but he doesn't beat around the bush. ;) I wholeheartedly recommend it to all. As a depressive, one might think his intensity and his distress over sin would bring me down, but I find great comfort in reading the prayers of a holy man who often found himself feeling as lowly as a worm.
 
01:09:36 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: one of my favorite prayers to the most holy Theotokos: "Most glorious, ever-virgin Theotokos, receive our prayers and bring them to Your Son and our God, that because of you, He might save our souls." Sometimes I say it on the big beads or knots of the Prayer Rope, in between the Jesus Prayer.
 
01:16:04 Eric Williams: "Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all. "If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realise that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed." C.S. Lewis
 
01:19:30 Mary McLeod: I remember in the St. Isaac readings a monk was saying he labored without any discernible progress for 25 years!
 
01:23:04 Eric Williams: It blows me away to contemplate the fact that God gives us so few years to prepare for eternity.

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Tonight we concluded letter 14. What a beautiful experience and privileged experience to share in the intimate correspondence between a saint and a young woman who desires to be a saint.  St. Theophan opens up for her the reality of life in God, what it means to be transformed from glory to glory. 
 
Tonight he began to speak with her about the primacy of conscience, the incorruptible judge that God has given to us, the divine voice in the human spirit. There is nothing more beautiful than a soul with a pure conscience; and nothing will bear witness to the light of God’s glory as one who has been wholly transformed by his grace. It is this reality, this purity of conscience, that we should seek above all. It reveals what we are in fact. The angels and saints see the state of our soul and our guardian angel, in particular, comes to our aid and intercedes on our behalf. The demons are scorched and repulsed by the brightness of the soul with a pure conscience. Whereas one who has neglected the conscience becomes the focus of their attack.
 
The pure of conscience magnify the glory of God within the world. And so that should be the center of our concern, our energy and attention. It is this that we must be zealous about - not externals. “Examine what lies within!”, Theophan tells her. You must make a decision. Decide just how you’re going to live your life.
 
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Chat conversation during the group:
 
00:33:57 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: How to from and orthodox conscience
00:34:18 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: by fr Alexey young is available at
00:34:25 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: http://www.pravmir.com/how-to-form-an-orthodox-conscience/#ixzz3e6KPm2PA
00:35:11 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: sorry, it's "how to form an orthodox conscience"
00:41:05 Wayne Mackenzie: the more we become closer to God the more we see our own sins. Its like opening up a darkened room and we open the curtains we see the dust in the air.
00:43:40 carolnypaver: I found a prayer that said if we saw ourselves as we are seen by God, we’d die of fright.
00:44:27 Wayne Mackenzie: yes if we compare ourselves to God
00:46:34 Joe and Larissa Tristano: St. Sophrony ~ bear a little shame
00:54:41 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: We observe saints as very bright or holy because we are comparing them to ourselves, while the saints see themselves as still in darkness or in sin because they are comparing themselves to God, as they rise towards Him. This an interplay of three stages of spiritual growth: illumination and purgation as we grow in theosis/ deification which is our union with God. Along similar lines is the Eastern understanding of purgatory, for which you can read more at: https://www.royaldoors.net/2013/05/purgatory-and-the-christian-east/
01:09:45 Eric Williams: "The Eucharist is a fire that inflames us, that like lions breathing fire, we may retire from the altar being made terrible to the devil." -St. John Chrysostom
01:16:15 carolediclaudio: I think babushka is old woman :)
01:16:28 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: Regarding St Sophrony - bear a little shame. When we feel shame (noun) it is supposed to carry us over to guilt, to repentance and then to God. In the scriptures and in eastern liturgical texts, "to shame" as in a verb meaning to disgrace or dishonor someone is usually an abuse directed at us by and from the evil one, whereas "guilt" as a feeling which we feel when we do or say or think something wrong is meant to be a blessing from God. If this distinction intrigues anyone, feel free to check out my youtube channel where I tried to show how this can be. I think it was part two: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yh8iWZBksTY&t=9s
01:18:00 Eric Williams: Babushka or baboushka or babooshka (from Russian: ба́бушка, IPA: [ˈbabʊʂkə], meaning "grandmother" or "elderly woman") :P
01:18:34 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: babushka is affectionate term for elderly married woman because they were the ones who wore the scarf on their hair, which was also worn by young married women.
01:18:40 carolnypaver: Russian/Polish/Ukraine term,” studda bubba”, which means “old woman
01:19:17 Joe and Larissa Tristano: Matushka is priests wife
 
 

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