November 12, 2020
This evening we continued to discuss the path of a virtuous life. Saint Theophan begins to instruct the young Anastasia and us about how we are to prepare ourselves to receive the Holy Eucharist: the period of time set aside for fasting, the confession of our sins, and the reception of holy communion. It becomes very clear that Saint Theophan is speaking about something that shapes the whole of our life. We are not to fast haphazardly, allowing our thoughts to stray or to linger in daydreams. Our attention is to be kept upon God especially when we are in Church. To let the thoughts stray is to lose sight of Who it is that we stand before. We must always remember that we come before God Our fear and love of Him should shape our actions. We are to do all in our power to warm our hearts with devotion. When necessary we must force ourselves to do everything that we can to make ourselves ready.
In letter 33 he begins to speak to Anastasia about her conduct at home. When she returns from church it is not to dive back into distractions. Rather, she is to rush to her room, the place of solitude and silence and linger in the communion of love that she has just entered. Overwhelmed with the great Mystery in which God has privileged us to participate, we can only cry out “Lord have mercy.”
Text of chat during the group:
00:12:32 Margie: Greetings
00:18:58 Fr. David: http://traditionalorthodoxy.blogspot.com/2010/06/approaching-constant-govenie.html
00:23:01 Mark Cummings: https://www.howtopronounce.com/russian/govenie
00:25:29 Eric Williams: I think it's Old Church Slavonic and pronounced approximately go-vyeh-nyee-eh.
00:35:02 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: This Old Church Slavonic word govenie is still used today in modern Ukrainian as hoveennia-говіння. Russian uses it without any changes to the spelling but they pronounce in Russian as govyenyeeeh. It is integral to a petition in the Great Litany or Ektenia of Peace used in the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom as well as services like Matins and Vespers. "For this holy church and for all who enter it with faith, reverence (blaho-hoveennia) and fear of God, let us pray to the Lord. So blaho means good, suggesting that it is possible to have bad or improper hoveennia as well as good. It is trying to capture a unified attitude of spirit, soul (feelings-willing, thoughts, desires), and body. Of course sin disintegrates where the incensive, appetitive and intellective powers of the soul as well as the proper relationship of body, soul and spirit are disordered. And so this attitude is really about an entire holistic as well as holy lifestyle rather just a singular feeling or thought or desire.
00:35:46 Eric Williams: Thank you, Fr Ivan! I knew you'd come through with correct pronunciation. :)
00:40:38 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: The verb form in Ukrainian is hoveety-говіти. This is trying to capture the way in which one participates in worship services as an extension or being interwoven or integrated with the way one lives. It makes sense that the way you "are", or "is" in front of God doesn't change because you walk into or out of a church building. Existence is integrated. This is why some church fathers speak of the liturgy after the liturgy. If one's mode of living is good hoveennia, this permeates all your time, in all places, whether in church or not. But of course the eucharist is the source of this mode of living.
00:42:27 Eric Williams: If you build it (public vespers and other hours), they will come. The Oratory proved that with expanded hours for confession.
00:46:33 Eric Ash: The Cherubikon is sung markedly slower as well which also really helps to slow the mind down and remind us to refocus our often distracted minds towards prayer
00:52:40 Mark Cummings: I feel like when I daydream during mass and prayer, I am not allowing myself to go to as great of depth in my relationship with Jesus. My overall spiritual experience is lacking.
00:54:15 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: Eric Ash. yes... thank you for pointing this out. it's not just because the priest is doing or saying something in secret and we need to drag out the singing to fill the space. Believe it or not, I've actually heard some people try to explain the Cherubikon in this way. One does not easily lay aside earthborn cares or replace them with heavenborn ones in order that the King of all may be accepted wholeheartedly. The body and soul are unruly even in the midst of a good spirit. And so the majestic and slow singing is meant to help the easily distracted soul (thoughts feelings desires willpower) and unruly body (ever seeking entertainment of self rather than worship of the "Other") submit to the spirit and restore the integrity needed for holistic and healthy worship. The passions are real and because of them we can so easily miss the Lord Who is ever bending over backwards to be present to us.
00:54:23 Eric Williams: I'm highly distractible, but the Jesus Prayer is great for bringing my attention back.
00:55:57 Mark Cummings: Is adoration still happening or is it disallowed with COVID restrictions?
00:58:03 The Pittsburgh Oratory: It is still happening.
00:58:39 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: The Jesus Prayer for me as well helps to focus and pay attention. On the outside it looks as if I'm disrespectful, doing something else, when someone is giving a talk or liturgizing, but in reality, the Jesus Prayer hones and guides my listening skills. Again this is about listening with heart not just mind or ears.
00:59:14 Eric Williams: Pews really make prostrations difficult. :(
01:00:04 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: Kneeling in the East is a sign of alienation from God and the desire to repent because of it.
01:02:13 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: In the East adoration is expressed either by prostrating to the ground with head touching the ground or by standing straight and head erect, almost like at attention in the military, acknowledging that through his resurrection Jesus has trampled our death by his death and we can now stand restored to life.
01:02:33 Eric Williams: Nothing reminds me of the countless angels and saints at liturgy with me like walls covered in wonderful icons!
01:20:21 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: it would appear that govenie in Russia in St Theophan's time also has another meaning. Sort of like the way people say Kleenex when they want to say tissue paper. In St. Theophan’s time it was a widespread custom in Russia for people to spend the first week of Great Lent preparing to receive Holy Communion on Saturday. This preparation, in Russian was called govenie, and it involved fasting, attending Divine Services, reading prayers (including canons, akathists, etc.), doing prostrations and engaging in other spiritual activities, instead of going to work. On the Friday of the first week of Lent, people would go to confession. Thus, when St. Theophan mentions the “six days of spiritual creation,” he refers to these first six days of Lent which were a preparation for Holy Communion on St. Theodore’s Saturday.
01:22:57 Mark Cummings: It is my dream to live across the street from church!
01:24:30 The Pittsburgh Oratory: Here is that link again for anyone who joined after Fr. David posted it: http://traditionalorthodoxy.blogspot.com/2010/06/approaching-constant-govenie.html
01:24:37 Katharine Memole: I’ve lived places with church on the public square. when there are feast days people walk out of church snd then celebrate with food, games, fireworks right in the square. it’s hard when the onus of making feast days and liturgical seasons part of daily life is completely on individual families instead of communal.
01:24:54 Mark Cummings: Father - Is there any chance that you can stay on for a couple of minutes after the podcast to discuss your icons?
01:25:47 Eric Williams: Amen, Katharine! It's super HARD.
01:25:52 Margie: Thank you and goodnight.