August 27, 2020
What a beautiful group it was tonight. We finished letter 23 and began letter 24. St. Theophan continues to discuss with Anastasia the nature of spiritual zeal and its impact upon our souls. It is the fire that purifies us and it also gives us perseverance and diligence in the pursuit of the things of God.
This zeal leads to a renewal of the mind and a renewal of the spirit by grace. It leads us to renounce our sins and the affairs of the world; encouraging us to seek to make our lives a living sacrifice - holy and acceptable to God.
In letter 24, St. Theophan begins to lead Anastasia into a vision of what setting aside the old person and putting on Christ looks like. It involves a willingness, in love, to give ourselves over to the workings of grace and also to labor for it ourselves. We have been given all that we need to perform the surgery necessary to remove all vanity and passions in the soul. In this we must have the greatest courage and not pity ourselves. God will not force us to take this path but invites us to willingly give ourselves over in love.
This link will take you to a PDF of the text referenced (and written) by Fr. Chirovsky during the group.
Text of chat during the group:
00:44:49 Eric Williams: Also, the Campus Crusade for Christ organization rebranded and now goes by Cru. They might still be around, but under that new name.
00:46:10 Adrienne DiCicco: My sister's in Cru on her campus. I'm a little skeptical, but it seems like it may just be a step in her faith journey.
01:00:23 Wayne Mackenzie: If you have a copy of the Orthodox study bible, the footnote expands on the comments made by Fr, Ivan. Romans 12: 1-2
01:17:50 Daniel Allen: i over analyze everything
01:21:29 Ren's Kingdom of Neatness and Organization: Bless you prison, bless you for being in my life. For there, lying upon the rotting prison straw, I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity as we are made to believe, but the maturity of the human soul.”
01:25:07 Edward Kleinguetl: Thank you, Ren
01:26:23 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: i have sent the article which I wrote on Romans 12:1 to Fr David.
August 20, 2020
Tonight we started letter 23. Saint Theophan had just spoken to Anastasia about what it is to rise from the fallen state of sin and what has been revealed to us in Christ. It is for this that we must have a strong zeal and embrace it with true joy.
In this letter St. Theophan maps out for Anastasia the different kinds of zeal. Spiritual zeal is focused on pleasing God and the pursuit of salvation. Intellectual zeal is the pursuit of any number of temporal goods and works. These are not evil but rather a part of life. Yet we can give them disordered attention and energy that takes away from our relationship with God. More dangerous still is the zeal for Vanity and for Evil itself. These must be rejected altogether for they entrench a person in sin and darken the conscience. Zeal is not simply an emotion but rather the fervor of the Saints driven by the grace of God which is the fruit of their baptism. So it must be for us.
Text of chat during the group:
00:44:24 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: The biblical account calls Barnabas “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11:24). In the Byzantine tradition when the priest reunites the Body of Christ with the Blood of Christ in the chalice as a sign of the Resurrection, he says "Fullness of the Holy Spirit" as he drops a portion of the Lamb-the Body into the Blood. And then the priest blesses hot water (which the deacon will pour into the chalice) with the words which are intentionally of a double meaning in Greek or Old Slavonic but in English it's either "Blessed is the warmth/zeal/fervor of your "holies" (saints)." and then when the deacon pours it the priest says, "the warmth/zeal/fervor of faith, full of the Holy Spirit." And so the Holy Spirit restores life where there is death, and our risen Lord Himself is the source of zeal/fervor in the saints, ie the baptized. "Without me you can do nothing" John 15:5
00:45:57 Carol Nypaver: Thank you for the insight Fr. Ivan!
01:23:23 Eric Williams: One of the hardest things for me, with respect to maintaining zeal, is separation from fellow faithful, orthodox Christians. Even before COVID-19, it seemed like we were few in number and scattered. I've found this especially challenging as a father. It's hard to raise children in the faith when they're not surrounded by good examples. Those examples, ideally, would be around in every aspect in life, and not just at liturgies.
01:24:15 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: Eric, agreed
August 13, 2020
Tonight we concluded letter 22 of Saint Theophan to the young Anastasia. Theophan focuses, in this final section of the letter, on zeal for the Lord. God has acted for our salvation and offers us the fullness of His life and love - His grace. He has given us His Spirit to create within us the right disposition to receive His grace.
That disposition is repentance. We see something of the hopelessness of our sin and in that moment we also become able to see and grasp the depth of God‘s love and mercy. Yet, in the face of all this, God awaits our consent. We must yield ourselves to the Spirit’s action. God does not force Himself upon us; love must be embrace freely. This freedom means acknowledging the efficacy of the form of salvation put before us, desiring to be saved and a complete willingness to do in sincerity whatever is asked of us.
This is the path of salvation. When a person sees and embraces this reality an experience of calm comes to them. Once divine grace is established within us, our response, though weak, suddenly becomes all-powerful and knows no impediment and overcomes everything.
Text of chat during the group:
00:42:14 Edward Kleinguetl: For God, all things are possible.
00:49:37 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief. (with a gentle reminder that this is revealed to us in the biblical way, many centuries before rationalism separated that which was meant to be whole. So, belief is not something we do with our cogitating mind, alone. We are to believe holistically with entire being comprised as it is of body, soul (desires, feelings-willpower, emotions and thoughts) and spirit (heart).) This is also how we ought to repent, or surrender to God, etc.
00:51:13 Carol Nypaver: Thank you, Fr. Ivan! So many accuse Catholics of “blind faith.”
00:51:51 Patrick Kiechlin: The Divine Liturgy is so incredibly beautiful.
00:55:49 Wayne Mackenzie: It appeals to all the senses
00:56:53 Patrick Kiechlin: Indeed. It is truly Heaven on Earth.
01:18:42 Carol Nypaver: Sorry—I tried to unmute. What about St. Paul’s conversion? It seemed there was no movement of his will toward the Lord, but was totally the work of God. So——when we pray for the conversion of our loved ones, can such a radical conversion occur without their direct “consent?”
01:21:10 Carol Nypaver: Awesome! Thank you.
01:23:07 Sheila Applegate: A misdirected love that God directed.
01:26:14 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: Paul experienced the Resurrected Lord and not as an intellectual idea but revealed in His Body the Church. Acts tells us Paul was secluded for three years after. I like to think he hits the scrolls to reevaluate his thoughts in light of his experience.
01:26:52 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: a crucifixion of self as it were
August 10, 2020
Tonight we began reading letter 22 of St. Theophan to Anastasia. He begins to speak to her about the redemptive uplifting a fallen man. Yet once again the Saint works very hard to help her understand the fundamental truths behind the life that she has been called to live. Without understanding these things all else will be wanting. In particular he wants her to understand that it is the Holy Trinity that is active in the restoration of man. God has revealed Himself fully to us; He has drawn back the veil and allowed us to see the depths and intimacy of Love.
This restoration is something far greater than the forgiveness of sins; rather it is being drawn into the very life of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Spirit sets things in motion within us and prepares us to be that faithful dwelling place of God. Yet, this gift must be paired with the revelation of the Good News of the mercy and self-emptying love of God; that while we were yet enemies of God, He gave us His only begotten Son in order that we might have life and have it in all of its fullness. A person must be struck with fear and awe at this reality. They must be shaken to their very foundation. Only by seeing our complete unworthiness of this reality and the depth of our sin can we also come to see the preciousness and the value of the gift that we have received. Only then will we give our lives over fully - as God has given Himself to us.