Philokalia Ministries
Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Sixty Part I

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

July 30, 2021

When reading the Fathers, one has to be prepared to be challenged; and at in times in ways that are discomfiting. Letter 60 of Theophan’s  correspondence with Anastasia presents us with such a challenge. The title of the Letter is “Cleansing the Heart.”  Theophan focuses on the eruption of passions that come with great force; feelings, desires, thoughts come upon us like a wave or erupt like a volcano. Our response to such circumstances is to be consistent with all that he has taught her. We are to turn these thoughts and feelings out again and to do so repeatedly until they cease. However, Theophan warns Anastasia that despite how these thoughts and feelings come upon us, that is, seemingly unintended, they are in reality a reflection of impurity still present within our hearts. Although at the moment we may not have given an assent to such thoughts, feelings, and desires, the presence of such passions bear witness to the fact that there is still impurity within our heart; that is, at some point, we were guilty through negligence, a lack of prayer, or laziness in the ascetical life. And in  all of this we must not conceal ourselves or cover our nakedness, as it were. Rather, we are to humbly blame ourselves and acknowledge our sin and our participation in the sin and its emergence. To do so is to fail to embrace the truth in the sight of God and to ignore the voice of our conscience. It is to hold on falsely to our self-esteem and vainglory. Humility means “truthful living” and acknowledging the truth in an unvarnished way before God.  In this and in this alone will we find healing.


Text of chat during the group:

00:28:30 renwitter: As Mother Mectilde de Bar would tell us, our practice of virtue is not just for the sake of securing our salvation and moving on. We ought always to be seeking to bring greater and greater glory to God.

00:33:16 renwitter: Ya’ll are gonna think I’m crazy, but the image that just came to mind is me telling myself that I can watch a certain tv show, or engage in idle conversation without being in danger, and suddenly Miracle Max’s wife from The Princess Bride runs in shouting “Liar, Liar!!”

00:33:37 Ashley Kaschl: 😂😂😂

00:33:41 Lilly: lol

00:34:47 Joseph Muir: 🤣

00:35:00 Cathy: The Holy Spirit saved you Ren

00:45:22 renwitter: Forgiveness Sunday is coming to mind

00:54:25 Sheila Applegate: 👍

00:57:22 Cathy: I need to get a maid, therefore I can practice this method!

00:58:04 renwitter: 😂

01:04:28 Ashley Kaschl: CS Lewis said something similar to what Father is saying, something to the effect of “I find that when I think I am asking God to forgive me I am often in reality (unless I watch myself very carefully) asking Him to do something quite different. I am asking Him not to forgive me but to excuse me.”

01:09:25 Mark Cummings: I think Ren just apologized to Father for something but I am not sure


The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis VII Part III

The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis VII Part III

July 27, 2021

Tonight we picked up with Hypothesis VII, continuing our reflection upon the experience of death by those righteous souls who sought to draw close to God in their life. God in His great mercy will often come to them to console and prepare them for their own passover; their passing over from death to eternal life.

The unknown of this reality can be a fearful thing, and so in the stories we often hear of the dying soul being surrounded by his fellow monks praying for his soul. This moment, often feared and avoided by modern men and women, is something we are encouraged to meditate upon in the deepest way. It is not simply facing our fears, but facing them in light of what God has revealed to us and his only begotten Son. We are in the End Times; salvation is now and so every moment is freighted  with destiny because every moment is an opportunity to love and give ourselves in love. The stories magnify that reality for us so that we would take our life seriously; but more importantly, that we would take God at his word. We must foster a kind of stability in life and mind; a clarity about what we pursue as our ultimate goal. Otherwise we may not prepare ourselves for that most intimate of moments when we will stand before God in the full light of His Truth.


Text of chat during the group:

00:39:34 Eric Williams: Nope, not ready. Thanatophobia is rough. ;)

00:41:30 Ambrose Little: I think it’s the attraction of gnosticism, too.

00:45:21 Eric Williams: Erick must be fun at parties. ;)

00:47:18 Erick Chastain: :)

00:56:59 Tyler Woloshyn: An example of semantron

01:02:52 Eric Williams: Every parent willing to be honest will say they’ve wanted to flee. ;)

01:03:34 renwitter: Personally, I favor “One day I’ll fly away” from Mulan Rouge :-D My personal favorite “run-away song.”

01:07:45 Eric Williams: *innocent whistling*

01:09:13 Ambrose Little: Eric, rather this: :)

01:13:21 D Fraley: Thank you, Father David.

01:14:02 Lilly: Thank you!

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Fifty-nine Part III

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Fifty-nine Part III

July 23, 2021

“Know that in this is the entire essence of the labor over the attainment of salvation.“ These are bold words from Saint Theophan at the end of Letter 59.  However, they do not arise simply from his own experience but from the entire spiritual tradition. Part of the problem in modern times is that we have lost the clarity that is necessary for those in the spiritual battle and the weapons that we have been provided in abundance. Purity of heart, the struggle with a Passions, unceasing prayer, the invocation of the name of Christ; all of these things are part of the arsenal of the Christian and allow him to enter into the spiritual battle without fear. This lack of fear is not a natural virtue but rather comes from our awareness that we are not on the battlefield alone. We have been given access to an inexhaustible source of grace; the Holy Spirit dwells within us and not only elevates our prayer but raises us up to a radical intimacy with the Triune God. What is it that we could possibly lose in this life that is not regained immeasurably in Christ?  Perfect love cast out all fear. We dare not tolerate a worldly wisdom that would convince us that the spiritual battle presented before us is for monks alone. All who desire Christ, all who desire the love of the heavenly bridegroom, will be willing to engage in this battle regardless of the costs.


Text of chat during the group:

00:11:22 Andrea Boring: hi!

00:11:35 Andrea Boring: it says the video was disabled by host!

00:11:47 Edward Kleinguetl: Hi!

00:14:13 The Pittsburgh Oratory: Welcome Andrea

00:14:57 Mark Cummings: Father has a lot of power

00:15:37 Andrea Boring: no :( no worries. it's ok.

00:47:20 renwitter: To this day he will suddenly appear from around a corner in his Judo pose with Judo hands :-D

00:47:41 Ashley Kaschl: 😂😂😂

00:48:30 renwitter: I was a Kempo Patate Kid, so our sparring sessions don’t work so well…and I don’t stand a chance anyway 😂😂😂

00:48:37 renwitter: Karate*

01:08:40 Eric Williams: Attend Pitt for your BS and go to the Newman Center for your MR or MRS. ;)

01:17:10 Mark Cummings: Thank you!

01:18:57 Lilly ليلي: Thank you


The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis VII Part II

The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis VII Part II

July 20, 2021

Tonight we continued our reading of Hypothesis VII on the experience of death for those who have sought to live a virtuous life; how God often offers consolation or aids them by accompanying them through the experience of death. We are presented with one beautiful story after another. But, what becomes evident is that these are not simply to be read as pious stories, but rather something that speaks to how we view life as a whole including our preparation for death. We are reminded how important it is to be present to those who are dying; not just as an obligation but as a privilege to accompany a loved one in this most important moment. The stories also speak to us about the importance of forming our own hearts and those of our children from the earliest ages to understand how present God is to us at every moment of our lives. We need to shape the religious imagination in such a way that it creates within us an urgent longing for what God alone promises.


Text of chat during the group:

00:30:16 Joseph Muir: What page are we on?

00:30:28 Eric Williams: 56

00:31:07 Tyler Woloshyn: First saint that comes to mind is St. Rafka, the Maronite nun-Saint, the Lily of Lebanon.

00:43:15 sue and mark: Holy death is a life long process.

00:54:25 Eric Williams: The East has a tradition of reciting the entire psalter over the recently deceased, continuously throughout day and night, if possible. It fell into disuse, but I'm told it's slowly returning. Also returning are families washing and dressing the body, as well as forgoing embalming.

00:59:00 Eric Williams: My wife's family stopped working on their grape farm in the middle of picking when they got news her grandfather was dying. In the midst of that very busy and very important period of time, they dropped everything and showed up at the nursing home in grungy clothes and covered in mud. They were able to be their for his last moments.

00:59:36 Eric Williams: *there (I hate typos :P)

01:03:08 Tyler Woloshyn: It is also chanted on Good Friday  night into Holy Saturday Vigil in front of the Tomb of the Lord. Seminarians would take turns in Kathismatas.

01:04:54 renwitter: My funeral is planned and the program is printed :-D

01:06:41 Joseph Muir: My godfather became an alcoholic, so bad that, when I was a young child, younger than 10,  my parents pulled away. My mom’s dad was an alcoholic, and some of the family wounds (some that are still felt today) were deep enough that they wanted to ensure my not being needlessly exposed to toxicity. Eventually, now in my 20s, he was on his deathbed, dying of sclerosis of his liver, due to decades of hard drinking. We hadn’t seen each other in probably 10+ years, and he was hooked up to a million tubes, and, while “awake”, wasn’t communicative. Even fo this day, I am convinced that our hearts spoke to each other that day, that he apologized for his addiction, since it kept us from having more of a relationship; and, in my heart, I was able to tell him that I forgave him, that I loved him, and that he could be assured of my prayers❤

01:14:47 Lisa Weidner: An important prayer to pray as someone is dying is the Divine Mercy Chaplet , and after their passing

01:22:17 Eric Williams: I'm always amazed and impressed when I see or hear about children playing "mass", whereas most would play "house, or as knights, or as policemen, firemen, or doctors.

01:25:09 renwitter: There is nothing like the sound of little voices humming “pray for us” (from the litany of our patron saints that we do) as they walk to their cars **heart eyes**

01:28:31 Sharon: Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is a beautiful catechetical model which is a fruit of Maria Montessori’s philosophy of teaching.

01:31:25 carolnypaver: Armata Bianca (White Army) was PadrePio’s vision.

01:37:49 sue and mark: catechesis of the Good Shepherd is excellent!


Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Fifty-nine Part II

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Fifty-nine Part II

July 15, 2021

Tonight, in Letter 59, St. Theophan continued to guide Anastasia through the writings of Saint Hesychius of Jerusalem. Again we see how deeply connected Theophan is to the spiritual tradition as a whole. The spiritual battle is very simple, albeit not easy. We must show great attentiveness to what is going on internally and with our thoughts. When we see the enemy advance a thought, we must strike it down with anger in the heart and do so swiftly. Most of all we must pray against it, calling upon the name of Jesus Christ in the heart. The fruit of such an exercise is that we begin to walk upon that path of holy contemplation belong to the Saints, immersing ourselves more more deeply into the mysteries of Christ.  It is His Spirit that dwells within us and guides us most of all and that should free us from fear in the battle. When we call upon Christ in that Spirit we lack no power to overcome the attacks of the demons.

Theophan also warns Anastasia not to ignore the secret thoughts that can approach the heart. The evil one often begins with what the fathers called “provocation”; thoughts immediately rush in and, if they are met with our thoughts willingly, the passions are stirred. Rather we must seek unceasing silence of any thought in the heart and allow that Spirit to breathe so deeply within us that we are constantly calling upon the Lord. A certain sobriety must guide our actions; we must situate ourselves at the doors of the heart in order that we might see the thoughts creeping up and understand what form the demons are attempting to inscribe and how they are seeking to entice the imagination.


00:11:14 Lilly: Hi Nick and Natalia! Happy to see you guys made it!

00:11:28 Nicholas Koeppel: Thank you for the invite Lilly!

01:02:32 renwitter: "Stand at the brink of the abyss of despair, and when you see that you cannot bear it anymore, draw back a little and have a cup of tea" ~Elder Sophrony of Essex

01:02:39 renwitter: Or in Fr. David’s case, an espresso

01:02:42 renwitter: Or five

01:03:15 Ashley Kaschl: 😂😂

01:03:37 Joseph Muir: How about some whiskey?😂

01:04:05 Erick Chastain: why not both? Irish coffee

01:04:21 renwitter: Thats a dangerous path away from despair, but works in a pinch ;-)

01:04:25 Joseph Muir: But not five of them😆

01:04:48 Erick Chastain: some ascetic reading group this is LOL

01:05:27 renwitter: Rough day, so I had two beers with dinner tonight, which I thought was pretty indulgent. But there are four left in the fridge if I end up needing five :-D

01:16:46 Katharine M: ^‿^

01:20:18 Joseph Muir: I got my copy of The Ladder in the mail earlier this week!

01:20:43 Nicholas Koeppel: Thank you

The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis VI Part III and Hypothesis VII Part I

The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis VI Part III and Hypothesis VII Part I

July 13, 2021

Tonight we began our discussion of Hypothesis VII on the many times that the souls of virtuous people are made cheerful at the time of death by some divine overshadowing.

What we find in these paragraphs and the stories that they tell of the experience of those dying being consoled by God, by a vision of angels, or by saints is a portrait of how God has transformed for us the experience of death. For those who draw close to Him in faith and have embraced his grace, the moment is transformed from one of fear or terror to a moment of deep consolation and the experience of the presence of God and of his love.

On another level, this speaks to us about the nature of the Incarnation itself. All that has been assumed has been redeemed. This includes the experience of suffering and death. For those who have faith, entering into these realities -  whether our own or others - should be something that we do freely.

This is how a Christian is to love. We do not live in isolation from each other; we do not suffer alone or allow others to suffer and die alone. If God comes to the aid of his faithful in these stories, it is to show us what we are to do and be for others at the moment of their death. We are to love as He loves.  We are to enter into the most fearful of experiences and grasp the hand of the person that God has put before us as He will one day take hold of our own.


Text of chat during the group:

00:13:27 Daniel Allen: What page are we on?

00:13:36 carolnypaver: 51

00:13:56 Daniel Allen: Thank you

00:33:28 carolnypaver: Some of us have no choice…

00:43:32 Jim Milholland: We are always looking to take another bite out of the proverbial apple of knowledge.

00:43:51 Eric Williams: Great way to put it!

00:45:05 Eric Williams: A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

00:49:32 Ambrose Little: It’s a memorable anecdote that can make the deeper reflection stick more, though.

00:53:18 Eric Williams: This sort of reminds me of when Jesus told people to not touch Him or hold on to Him because He had yet to ascend. Perhaps we shouldn't see these dying words as treating the wife's touch as sinful or tempting the husband to sin. Rather, he desired to depart this world and join his Lord, and his wife mustn't cling to him, preventing his departure.

00:53:39 Ambrose Little: It’s a backhanded compliment for her. Lolz

01:09:11 Eric Williams: I've read or heard countless stories of Eastern saints from whom fragrant, often miraculously healing, myrrh flowed at death. Are there similar stories from the deaths of Western saints? Is it less common in the West, and if so, why? (This might be too much of a digression, which is why I opted to type rather than raise my hand to speak.)

01:21:06 carolnypaver: “The Fourth Wiseman” (movie)has a good depiction of the leper colony.

01:24:53 Jim Milholland: A pandemic of fear and complacency

01:25:12 Ambrose Little: I could yawn a lot more. :D

01:25:19 Edward Kleinguetl: "The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread" (Mother Teresa of Calcutta).

01:29:37 Eric Williams: The Evergetinos: Sponsored by Clorox(TM)

01:31:58 Ashley Kaschl: I think, too, the technology we have (while able to be used for good) gives the illusion of action and participation so it’s easy for people to grow complacent because they think they’re acting by watching, posting, etc.

01:32:06 iPad (32) jeane kish: Outstanding teaching by the Master, Fr. David, thank you!

01:32:34 Jim Milholland: Has the pandemic been a kind of asceticism too?

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Fifty-eight Part III and Letter Fifty-nine Part I

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Fifty-eight Part III and Letter Fifty-nine Part I

July 8, 2021

Tonight we concluded Letter 58 with another wonderful story from Abba John the Dwarf. We are reminded through it that no matter how far we distance ourselves from the passions, they will always seek us out. They will try to lure us back to a position where we will welcome them into our hearts. At that moment, it is most important to run to the inner chamber, the depths of the heart, and embrace the “Ruler“, that is Christ and allow him to restore peace and calm. When we do this, we are told, it will be as if those passions never existed. 

In Letter 59, Saint Theophan tells Anastasia that he has told her almost everything about spiritual warfare. There are many passions that approach us in many different ways. But the general method for combating them is the same. What he has set before her is nothing novel. St. Theophan is not an innovator. To show Anastasia this, he begins to quote at length St. Hesychius the priest.  In his writings we see the essence of everything that Theophan has taught. There are four fundamental things that we must have in the spiritual battle: humility, extreme attentiveness, refutation of the thoughts, and prayer. Through these, the ascetic will see the enemy bound or chased away by the honorable name of Jesus like dust in the wind.


Text of chat during the group:

00:29:44 renwitter: Ashley is going to catch on fire pretty soon :-D

00:52:28 renwitter: Same Anthony. Same.

00:53:39 Ashley Kaschl: Just saw this lol definitely had to blow one out 😂

00:53:46 Eric Williams: Sarcasm? *innocent whistling*

00:59:00 renwitter: They make you just too darn tired to speak unless absolutely necessary :-D

01:00:58 Eric Williams: Before you speak, THINK: Is it TRUE? Is it HELPFUL? Is it INTELLIGENT? Is it NECESSARY? Is it KIND? :)

01:02:45 Eric Williams: or exorcized ;)

01:02:56 Miron Kerul-Kmec Jr.: ^^^^

01:03:06 renwitter: Yep. Little demon child.

01:03:31 Daniel Allen: Oh that’s just a day in the life haha

01:03:33 Miron Kerul-Kmec Jr.: I can dunk it in the baptismal font! porblem solved!

01:03:43 Eric Williams: "St. Theophan would not approve of your behavior, child!"

01:03:51 Erick Chastain: can we have another session on Fridays that just consist of Fr David telling stories?

01:04:06 renwitter: I think they need a proper Byzantine exorcism.

01:04:28 Miron Kerul-Kmec Jr.: haha yep!

The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis VI Part II

The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis VI Part II

July 6, 2021

We read the Fathers in the way that we read the Scriptures; with a profound humility and knowledge that we lack perfect understanding. There are no experts in the desert Fathers any more than there are experts in the Faith or the Scriptures. When confronted with eternal realities, whether that reality be the eternal love of God or that of Hell one is compelled to sit in silence. When reading the Evergetinos this silence must be that of one who has a docile heart, a heart that is teachable. The heart that is teachable understands that it must suspend judgment and gradually allow God to pull back the veil that limits its vision. It is the pure of heart who come to see God. This we must acknowledge - that in the face of our sin we are not going to see and understand things clearly, much less eternal realities. We must humbly gaze upon our God with the eyes of love and through the ascetical life we must set aside the self that we so often make the idol that we worship.

Tonight we reflected in Hypothesis VI upon the glory of the Saints and the joys of heaven. Yet, we do so knowing that we see so little. We hold on to these things with hope. We hope in the One who has promised us life. We hope in the One who has died for our sins. 

Most often this experience expresses the full measure and limit of our faith. We cling to the God who has revealed himself in His only begotten Son.


Text of chat during the group:

00:01:46 The Pittsburgh Oratory:

00:01:56 The Pittsburgh Oratory: A must read!!

00:01:56 Robyn: Hi Father, hi everyone

00:04:09 The Pittsburgh Oratory:

00:11:52 The Pittsburgh Oratory:

00:20:35 Tyler Woloshyn: Newly baptized and newly illuminated infants, are new temples of the Holy Spirit. In a certain sense bowing to the Holy Spirit. Just a quick thought.

00:35:36 Lilly Crystal: 1 Corinthians 2:9 “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man, The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” There IS joy in suffering, though few know how to embrace it with love. We must take up our cross, no matter how heavy, and follow Him! :)

01:07:42 Eric Williams: St Ephraim wouldn't think highly of universal salvation theologies, it seems.

01:31:01 Erick Chastain: yep

01:32:03 Lilly Crystal: Thank you Father!

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Fifty-eight Part II

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Fifty-eight Part II

July 1, 2021

Our thoughts this evening and discussion revolved around a mere two paragraphs of Letter 58.  Yet it is here that Saint Theophan draws Anastasia into the heart of the spiritual life; he teaches her about spiritual warfare and the prayer that is needed to engage in the battle. Through the attention of the mind moving into the heart through unceasing prayer one is not only united to God but protected from passionate thoughts, feelings, or desires as they arise. This is an unending battle while we are on this earth.  Theophan would have Anastasia understand that she cannot enter into this half-heartedly. One is all whole Saint or no saint at all. One cannot live with one foot in the world and one foot in the kingdom or with a heart divided.  We must give our hearts to Christ alone.

Anastasia, therefore, must not let her thoughts wander indiscriminately. For if one does it will often trigger memories, the imagination and the recollection of past sins and so trigger new ones or make us more vulnerable. When she sees such things arise she must rush to seek shelter once again in the heart before the Lord.


Text of chat during the group:

00:06:43 Lilly: Welcome Kevin, another Canadian! :)

00:22:06 Lilly: I was told the prayer rope's tassel is meant for wiping tears, so I think emotion is good during prayer? Just a thought

00:57:40 renwitter: Talk them over with your guardian angel every night :-D

00:59:55 Lilly: @ren yes!! :)

01:01:29 Mary McLeod: Padre Pio had all his spiritual children go at least once a week

01:01:29 John Clark: The Way Of The Pilgrim can be found on kindle for $3.99.

01:07:28 Jim Milholland: Great stuff! So grateful!


Podbean App

Play this podcast on Podbean App