Philokalia Ministries
The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis I, Part VII

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

March 30, 2021

Such beauty! Not only were tonight‘s passages from the Evergetinos memorable - one is compelled to memorize them due to their profundity. They speak to us of the sweetness and the joy that comes to us through repentance and that God desires to give to us. At every turn we are encouraged to be confident and not to be duped by the temptations of the Evil One to ruminate on past sins or to doubt for a moment the God desire to forgive.

We are to be fearless in the face of our own sins and the thoughts from which they arise. To acknowledge them openly is to make them powerless and without weight. To bring them before God and the light of His love is to bring ourselves healing and hope. Immediately, like the father in the story of the prodigal son, God desires to robe us with innocence and restore to us the promise of adoption which the Holy Spirit bestows upon us. God desires to make us partakers of eternal life. In fact, repentance is to be seen as a rebirth from holy mother church who will supply us with nourishment and bring us to a mature faith. With tenderness we are embraced by God who draws us to the maternal breast. As Father he does not desire to punish but rather understands our weakness and likewise seeks to carries us and support us until we are capable of understanding the Evil One’s ways and fighting against them fully.

If we know sorrow because of our sin it should always be paired with the joy; the joy that comes from turning toward God and being restored to that relationship. Despair is the great enemy and we should not wait a moment to return to God.


Text of chat during the group:

00:48:42 Eric Williams: We’re shy about sharing all our thoughts with a wide elder or confessor, but we broadcast them loudly and proudly on social media.

00:49:37 Mary Schott: Lol, true that.

01:05:11 Eric Williams: Just go up to the pulpit and stare ominously in silence. After an uncomfortable period, announce, “Thus ends the lesson” and step down. ;)

01:23:02 D Fraley: Thank you Father.


Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Forty-six Part I

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Forty-six Part I

March 25, 2021

Tonight we began Letter 46 wherein Saint Theophan gives Anastasia general rules for staying on the true path. He begins by praising her for her great love of the Lord and her zeal in the spiritual life. Yet, he wants to give her a number of rules to help her persevere. The first is to fear doubt and to see it as the primary enemy. The demons will instill in us a false sense of security or a prideful view of our spiritual gains. When we fall into sin they then drag us down into doubt and make us question our commitment. Secondly, Theophan tells her that fear and apprehension will not abandon her. In fact, she must hold onto them because they will make her vigilant in avoiding the snares of the evil one. No matter how proficient she becomes in the spiritual life she must remain ever vigilant. Thirdly, she must always hold on to the fear of death and judgment. This is not meant to lead Anastasia into anxiety but rather to open her eyes to the brevity of her life and to see that every action and deed is freighted with destiny. It is meant simply to make her take her life seriously. Fourthly, she is to avoid undesirable company. While not distancing herself completely from the world she must understand that as human beings we are in a constant state of receptivity. Because of our sin we must then guard our hearts and be discerning about what we receive into them. Finally, Theophan tells Anastasia not to avoid people or become gloomy. In her spiritual struggles she must not make herself an oddity in the eyes of others nor should she put on a gloomy appearance which betrays a lack of hope and trust in the grace of God. She must rather practice the asceticism of joy and always bear witness to her hope in Christ.


Text of chat during group

00:18:05 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: In case anyone needs it, to understand St Theophan better, my brother wrote a three page summary:  A Brief Primer on Patristic Greek Anthropology with an Emphasis on the Process of Contemplation and Obstacles to It   

Very Rev. Andriy Chirovsky, SThD      

September, 2003

00:36:40 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: Great Vespers in UGCC                   

Daily Vespers                

Propers for Saturday and Feastday evenings            

I also email texts for Matins and Divine Liturgy to anyone who ask for it.

00:59:42 Eric Williams: “Acquire a peaceful spirit and then thousands of others around you will be saved.” - St. Seraphim of Sarov

01:04:56 Eric Williams: It seems to me that data are plentiful, actual information is uncommmon, edifying information that increases knowledge is rare, and finding knowledge that leads to wisdom is like being struck by lightning or winning the lottery.

01:05:42 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: Amen, Eric.

01:16:01 Eric Williams: I was thinking that, Father, so I’m glad you said it! ;)

01:23:02 Mark Cummings: Thank you!

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

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

March 24, 2021

Another beautiful group tonight!  We picked up with Hypothesis I, page 13. Again we are given multiple stories of individuals repenting from sin and turning back to God from states of depravity. The very movement of the mind and the heart brings down upon them a flood of God’s grace and mercy.

What is different in the stories we read tonight is the radical solidarity and empathy that we see in the minds and the hearts of the elders. They approach those in their charge not as masters but as servants; not condescending to them but rather seeing themselves sharing intimately in the sorrows and the woundedness of their sin. The responsibility was theirs’ to weep over these sins and seek to help others overcome them if possible. There is no such thing as an individual Christian; that is, a Christian separated from the body of Christ and from one another. Our own repentance should help to elevate and lift up the Church and the repentance of others can also help raise us up and strengthen us as well. God‘s desire is to heal us, not to punish us. We have lost this sense of the need for healing and understanding that the Church is a hospital and have instead turned the acknowledgment of one sins into a legalistic practice or rather a psychological and emotional release. Consciences can be so hardened - not only among individuals but among whole groups of people - that we can completely lose our way unless God and his great mercy and Providence does something to up-end the illusion. He will do anything to help us overcome what affects and afflicts us. Blessed be God forever.


Text of chat during the group:

00:17:02 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: in case anyone needs it my brother wrote A Brief Primer on Patristic Greek Anthropology with an Emphasis on the Process of Contemplation and Obstacles to It Very Rev. Andriy Chirovsky, SThD September, 2003

00:17:36 carolnypaver: Thank you, Fr. Ivan!

00:18:11 Wayne Mackenzie: I have a copy of this. A good read.

00:51:30 Katharine M: Sorry I forgot to raise my hand, :)

01:07:00 Eric Williams: “Each generation is converted by the saint who contradicts it most.” - GK Chesterton

01:08:53 Lilly Vasconcelos: Russia is definitely spreading Her errors across the world, as Our Blessed Theotokos warned us in Fatima, Portugal

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

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

March 19, 2021

It is often a few paragraphs that turn into a beautiful blessing; suddenly one’s vision is cleared and our understanding of the spiritual life opens up. This is exactly what St. Theophan does for Anastasia in letter 45. He speaks to her once again about not allowing her thoughts to wander. In fact he speaks very sternly with her here not out of anger but rather as a matter of emphasis. This is at the very heart of the spiritual life - the remembrance of God. And so, he offers her a number of conditions for success. 1). uninterrupted continuity and persistence. Anastasia must not let off of the prayer rule that he will provide her or in this exercise of taking her thoughts captive. 2). To practice patience and self-discipline. Anastasia will inevitably experience doubt and a weakening of her desire and will. All of these she must drive away and continue in her labors. 3). To be inspired with hope in the Lord.  When God sees her labor and her commitment he will add grace to grace until she begins to experience the fruitfulness of her labors. One of these fruits is calmness of heart. The more one lives within the depths, even when the waters on the surface are choppy and life seems chaotic, one can still experience the peace of the kingdom.

Theophan‘s final reminder to Anastasia is that this work of the spirit within her is what she set out to embrace. If she follows it faithfully, she will become a real person; a daughter of God created in His image and likeness and living in constant communion with Him.


00:27:30 Eric Williams: *idle* curiosity

00:28:18 Eric Williams: clickbait!

00:43:38 Eric Williams: We got distracted and our thoughts wandered. ;) *rimshot*

00:47:41 Eric Williams: Getting up at 3 AM to pray was even harder than the silence!

01:00:26 renwitter: I am quitting tomorrow!!!

01:00:41 Erick Chastain: lol yeah me too

01:02:47 renwitter: Yay!! No work, no work. You guys want to form a commune? Saint Theophan’s Skete?

01:10:01 carolnypaver: My husband has a computer-intensive job.  He sets an alarm on his computer to go off every hour to redirect/consecrate his work to God.

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

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

March 16, 2021

Tonight we continued our study of Hypothesis I on repentance and the avoidance of despair. Again, we are presented with a number of stories that emphasize the importance of the simple movement of the mind and heart toward God through acknowledging one’s sin. This immediately brings down upon the individual the mercy and the grace of God - no matter when or where it takes place. God who sees the mind and the heart knows the person’s motivation and the depth of the repentance.

One of the things we are warned about is the kind of sorrow that the demons often will place within the human heart to cast us into despair and make us call into question the mercy of God. Again and again the demons put forward the doubt that one has lived too long in sin in order to receive the mercy of God, that they belong to the demons and hell due to the amount of time they spent in their sin.  Yet, repeatedly we hear the angels say that God is the true master of heaven and earth and in his omniscience sees to the depths of a person’s soul. He alone has the right and the capacity to judge. 

We may find ourselves particularly challenged by the fathers’ emphasis upon how our conscience should immediately cease to be troubled the moment that we acknowledge and confess our sins to God. So often it is fear and doubt that allows our sin to cling to us; that it gradually undermines the unconditional love and mercy that God wants to fill us with in order that we might engage others with that same perfect love. It is often one of the great stumbling blocks for us even as men and women of faith to enter into this profound mystery, to let ourselves to be guided by the grace of God to imagine the unimaginable – that His love could so transform us and so free us from the shackles of sin. The darkness that sin brings to the mind and the heart often clouds our vision just enough to throw that all into doubt; making us want to qualify it in one way or another. All the “reasonable” objections immediately come to our hearts and minds and we stumble. The mercy that we are given is meant to free us in every way, from our sin and from every limitation on our capacity to love and give ourselves in love.


Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Forty-four Part II and Letter Forty-five

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Forty-four Part II and Letter Forty-five

March 11, 2021

St. Theophan continued to talk with Anastasia about the dangers that arise as one draws to the end of Lent and the beginning of Spring. Both have particular and subtle dangers tied to them. The first is seeing Lent as an end in itself. Rather, Lent is a springboard into greater intimacy with the Lord and commitment to him in the life of prayer. If we see it as a period of endurance for 40 days then we are gradually going to slide back into past behaviors and ways of thought. Similarly springtime brings new life and birth and the excitement of all that is going on around us and stimulating the senses. There is nothing, of course, that is evil about this; but if we do not see it within the context of God who is our creator and who has made all these things, our attention can be directed in a disordered way toward them and away from God and from the spiritual life. That which is good, then, can be used as a temptation to pull us away from our discipline.  Theophan warns her about suspicious thoughts that seek to interject themselves into the mind; in particular, the thought “why did I begin“. We will often question ourselves as to why we started along the path that we were on and in the process we question God and the movement of His grace. This Anastasia must fight against and pray that God would preserve her from its effects. 

In letter 45, St. Theophan emphasizes for her again the importance of undistracted prayer. It is the barometer of the spiritual life and reveals to her how high or low or spirit has gone in seeking God. He reminds her that in essence prayer is the remembrance of God and the raising of the heart and mind to Him in love. This she already sees and understands and must simply hold onto it as the greatest truth of life.



00:17:47 Mary McLeod: we’re both here :)

00:31:25 Mark Cummings: Hello- several weeks ago someone referenced a good youtube video of the Jesus Prayer chant. Do you happen to know what the youtube video was?

00:37:26 Sheila Applegate: Well said, Andreea.

00:56:16 Mark Cummings: Doing vs Being, lol

00:56:20 Eric Williams: Telling people I’m a stay-at-home dad has led to a lot of awkward conversations. According to some, I’m perverting God’s created order! To others, a man is somehow worth less if he does not materially provide for his family.

01:02:27 Mark Cummings: Sorry to hear that Eric.

01:18:41 Mark Cummings: Thank you!

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

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

March 9, 2021

We continued our study tonight by reflecting upon the Fathers’ encouragement to reach out to God in the spirit of repentance. More than anything, the examples that are given, the stories that are told, are meant to help us to avoid despair. We have a God who is set upon our salvation. The mere movement of the mind and the heart towards Him with contrition brings with it a flood of mercy and grace. We are meant to be valiant strugglers; taking hold of the grace that God has given us and the mercy and the forgiveness He has bestowed upon us in order that we might come to experience the full freedom of those have been made sons and daughters of God. The Ascetical life is not simply about self- discipline: it is about love and the fullness of life. Christ is the most beautiful person. In Him we see the fullness of God and the depth of His love.  It is to this beauty that we are called and it is this beauty that we cultivate through the Ascetical life. It is better for us to struggle with our own poverty and sin and experience it truly than to remain in the fearful enslavement of Egypt; that is, bound to the emptiness of sin.



Text of chat during the group:

00:23:38 renwitter: Everything he writes is amazing. 100% recommend “Woman and the Salvation of the World.”

00:24:46 Joseph Muir: Is that by the “more contemporary elder” whom Fr David mentioned, Ren?

00:25:10 renwitter: Yep! Evdokimov

00:25:23 Sue mcmillen: was the name?

00:25:41 renwitter: Paul Evdokimov

00:30:48 Joseph Muir: Fr Jeremiah Shyrock, CFR, is his name, if anyone wants to look him up

00:43:05 Anthony Gallagher: my raise hand button is not working :-( trying to raise hand.

00:56:28 Eric Williams: Kids fought over something sharp and the 6yo’s finger got cut badly enough that she’s off to the ER to maybe get stitches (hence my sudden disappearance). What page are we on now?

00:56:54 renwitter: Same one Eric :-D

00:57:09 Eric Williams: 11?!

00:57:16 renwitter: Yepperz

00:57:25 carolnypaver: 11

00:57:49 Michael Liccione: Prayers for your daughter

00:58:30 Eric Williams: Thank you :)

01:14:12 Eric Williams: “All your life you live so close to truth, it becomes a permanent blur in the corner of your eye, and when something nudges it into outline it is like being ambushed by a grotesque.”

― Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

01:15:49 James Ellis: Thank you Father!

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Forty-three Part II and Letter Forty-four

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Forty-three Part II and Letter Forty-four

March 4, 2021

Once again St. Theophan expresses a kind of a holy genius as he speaks to Anastasia. We began the evening by discussing his final simple rule to follow in order to progress in the spiritual life. Patience, he tells Anastasia, will help her to endure and see through the trials and tribulations of life. It will allow her to remain steadfast her discipline. She is not always going to see the fruit of her labor and perhaps not for many years. So she must hold on to the wisdom of the fathers and of the Church; trusting that God will make all things work for the good of those who seek Him.

In Letter 44, St. Theophan offers Anastasia three precautions to take  so that she might avoid some of the pitfalls involved in walking along the spiritual path. The first is never to think that you’ve already succeeded in doing something. The  thought that “I’ve done it!” easily slips into our mind in such a way that we lose our energy in the pursuit of the spiritual life.

Secondly we must not allow ourselves to relax under any condition. By this, he does not mean that we do not allow ourselves time to rest and to be restored physically. What is warning against is that the Evil One can tell us that we’ve been working very hard and that we should ease up on self-constraint and self-observation. When this happens we begin to indulge ourselves indiscriminately. It is like a hole in a dam; it eventually wears away the earth until the water floods through. The evil enemy will speak these words of sweetness to us to give us false encouragement.

And finally, Theophan begins to offer a word a special caution that is tied to the celebration of Easter as well as the coming of spring. As we come to the end of the penitential season and as we see new life emerge in our world and its beauty, we can find ourselves overcome by the senses. Simply put, the new life that emerges in spring time can be enough to arouse all the senses and unless we are vigilant as to what’s going on within we can be led astray even by what is good. The devil often takes the form of an angel of light or uses that which is good in order to distract us - ultimately leading to our fall.

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

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

March 2, 2021

We continued our reading of Hypothesis I of the Evergetinos regarding “Repentance and the Avoidance of Despair.”  We are presented with one story after another of someone who finds himself or herself in grave sin; sometimes struggling year after year and yet returning to God with a repentant heart.

Monk Paul, who compiled the text, begins by giving us stories that at first are a reflection upon the nature of repentance itself; from the perspective of those who receive mercy in order to foster confidence in God.  But there’s a gradual and extraordinary progression that takes place in the stories themselves. They take us deeper and deeper into the very heart of God who is set upon the salvation of all and who looks for the smallest movement of repentance in the human heart in order to draw a person back to Him. 

We tend to look upon ourselves and our own sin and the sins of others through the lens of our own intellect and judgment or our malformed consciences. Ultimately the fathers tell us it is only when we begin to look at the mercy of God in light of the Cross and  the precious blood of Christ that was shed on our behalf that we begin to understand. God’s generosity cannot be called into question. Rather, we must humbly allow ourselves to be drawn into the mystery. We must allow God to show us the nature of love and receive it ourselves before we can truly show it to others. May God bless it and make it so!



Text of chat during group:

00:15:41 Joseph Muir: please pray for my friend Lilly in Toronto, who joined us for the past two meetings. She is dealing with some pretty severe health issue (not Covid-related), and isn’t able to join us tonight, unfortunately

00:16:33 Katharine M: Prayers for Lilly

00:19:01 Eric Williams: I was taught “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”

00:57:27 Eric Williams: The penitent who sins every day and repents every day reminds me of St. Mark Ji Tianxiang, who was an opium addict who didn’t receive the Eucharist for the last 30 years of his life and died a martyr.

01:17:08 Erick Chastain: strangely enough it was a favorite feast day of Pope John XXIII who convened the 2nd Vatican council

01:28:25 Sharon: I realize we need to wrap up, but the themes of toleration and boundaries keep coming up within my circle. The devil uses the word “tolerate” instead of “love.” And more and more people are encouraged to create boundaries. I just wonder how we can be truly seeking conversion of heart and unity with God if we are spending our time and energy just tolerating people and building boundaries.

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