January 7, 2021
*Please note that there were some technical difficulties which caused the audio to drop a few times between the 40-45min mark.
We began this evening with Letter 38. St. Theophan shows Anastasia where she should take up for her Lenten disciplines. It may be surprising for some of us when we hear it. He tells her that she should begin with the renewal of her baptismal vows; vows that were made on her behalf when she was a child. At the very beginning of Lent she must in a clear and decisive fashion commit herself to Christ and her renunciation of everything that is contrary to His will. How different this is from our day when we typically renew our baptismal vows at Easter. St. Theophan would have her see them as the lens through which she views all of her disciplines and takes them up. They mean nothing if they do not lead to Christ and they must be shaped and embraced with the fulfillment of these vows in mind.
In Letter 39, St. Theophan becomes more specific: he begins to tell her about the battle that lies ahead. She must be ready and prepared to engage in the fiercest kind of struggle with the most hostile opponent. The evil one will do everything he can to destroy her hope in the Lord or to distort her vision of the discipline she now embraces. Therefore, she must be humble in the battle and remain constant even in the midst of affliction. She must have strong courage and remain steadfast even when she seems to fail repeatedly. Such failure, in fact, will always be present; but it will not be absent the providence of God. Everything is from him and he shapes all things in secret. Anastasia’s prayer must simply be: “Save me by the way Thou knowest” And in the end, through these words she must give herself over entirely and irrevocably to God.
Text of chat during the group:
00:42:05 Mary McLeod: I read somewhere that fasting without prayer is just dieting :)
01:00:49 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: From the Third Hour: Prayer of Saint Mardarios O God and Master, Father almighty, Lord, only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit, one Godhead, and one power, have mercy on me a sinner; and by the judgements which You know, save me Your unworthy servant; for You are blessed for ever and ever. Amen.
01:01:53 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: General Prayer of the Hours: In every season and at every hour, in heaven and on earth You are worshipped and glorified, O good God, longsuffering, rich in mercy, loving the just and compassionate to sinners, calling all to salvation by the promise of the blessings to come; now at this very hour, Lord, accept our prayers, and direct our lives in the ways of Your commandments. Sanctify our souls, purify our bodies, correct our thoughts, and make our knowledge whole and sober. Deliver us from every distress, evil, and pain. Surround us with Your holy angels as with a rampart so that protected and guided by their host we may reach the unity of the faith and the knowledge of Your unapproachable glory; for You are blessed for ever and ever. Amen.
01:15:27 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: the Russian or old church Slavonic govenie, with its Ukrainian counterpart, hoveennia, when it is used in the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom petition when we pray for everyone who enters the temple in order to pray in the spirit of “blahohoviynist’”, means more than just reverence or respect, for it is the kind of attitude that creates worship which is “full of the most sincere homage, respect and devotion as an expression of his own underlying measureless surrender to God”. This aspect of surrender is also the ability to perceive everything as coming from God, and not just perceiving it in any old way but with gratitude. This is why as he was dying almost literally on the road on the way to his place of exile, St John Chrysostom's last words were "Glory to God for all things!"
01:16:35 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: https://janotec.typepad.com/terrace/2007/10/the-last-words-.html
John remembered all these things, and he knew that his time was ending. He was not afraid. Even as a young monk he was never afraid of the night, because for him it was never dark. In one of his many sermons on the Psalms, he said that “… it is during the night that all the plants respire, and it is then also that the soul of man is more penetrated with the dews falling from Heaven … night heals the wounds of our soul and calms our griefs.” He was exhausted, and his body was broken by exposure to the wind and rain, the rocks and thorns, strong enemies and a weak body. But he wasn’t brokenhearted, and he was not bitter. He was not depressed or hopeless. He remembered all these things: his enemies, his disappointments and defeats, his last long journey into the wild lands, and the beatings and lashings of his two imperial guards. He forgave them, every one, for each and every hurt and trespass. In this world, you can forgive, but you
01:16:53 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: He forgave them, every one, for each and every hurt and trespass. In this world, you can forgive, but you don't forget. But every time you remember is one more instance in the infinite count of seventy times seven. John remembered and forgave them all, just as his own Lord forgave his every sin on the Cross. His body was fading, but he was still on fire for the Lord. His soul was even brighter with the flame of Divine Love, and the glory of God’s grace. On fire and not in darkness, in strength and not weakness, and in the greatest sermon of his lifetime, St. John Chrysostom the Golden-Mouthed, whispered out his last words: “Glory to God for all things!” Only a man who had given his heart solely to the Lord Jesus, who had sacrificed his everything to the Holy Trinity, who had soared to the heights of the Church and earthly power, who had it all taken away and spent his last years on dusty, forgotten roads … only such a man could say such things, giving God all the glory, Who gave this last sermon such
01:17:00 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: golden eternal wings."
01:18:30 Sheila Applegate: That is really beautiful. Thanks. I love his words on the night.