Philokalia Ministries
Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Sixty-Five, Part II

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Sixty-Five, Part II

September 30, 2021

Tonight we continued with Letter 65 on Saint Poemen‘s thoughts on the God-pleasing life. Once again St. Theophan is drawing Anastasia into a deeper understanding of what takes place within the mind and the heart. We constantly have to strive to maintain sobriety; that is, a steady attentiveness and attitude of mind where we simplify the thoughts and keep them focused upon Christ. We do not allow or want to allow ourselves to be formed simply by the world around us and in an indiscriminate fashion. At the earliest age, parents should begin to introduce their children into the things that heighten one’s awareness of God; to teach them the love of silence, to show them what commitment to prayer looks like, to help them see how the beauty of the world around them allows them to transcend the self and turn the mind and the heart to God. 

Beyond this, Theophan encourages Anastasia to tie the struggle with the thoughts to the development of virtue. Forming and shaping the mind and the heart by that which is good strengthens us in order that we can engage in the battle with the thoughts more effectively and eventually overcome them. In this sense, we must take personal responsibility for what goes on in our minds and hearts. We may get to a point where they have put down deep roots within us and our thoughts and actions have become habitual and seem to be out of our control. In reality, however, the responsibility lies with us who at one time or another willed to be negligent or lazy or simply inattentive to God and the spiritual warfare that He calls us to at every moment of our lives.

---

Text of chat during the group:

00:13:09 Wayne Mackenzie: page # again?
 
00:13:23 Ashley Kaschl: 257
 
00:13:46 Wayne Mackenzie: thnz
 
00:13:48 Ashley Kaschl: 3rd paragraph, I think 😁
 
00:13:55 Ashley Kaschl: No prob
 
00:57:50 Eric Williams: If only folks were as fanatical about daily prayer and worship as they are for sports…
 
00:59:35 Art: Amen to that Eric
 
01:15:46 Miron Kerul Kmec: Thank you

 

The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis X, Part II and Hypothesis XI, Part I

The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis X, Part II and Hypothesis XI, Part I

September 28, 2021

Tonight we continued with Hypothesis 10 and began Hypothesis 11. Both speak with us about the deepest realities of human existence. The weight and the significance of our choices, the things we love, the realities that we give our hearts to, are all placed before us for our consideration. Quite naturally this creates tension and uneasiness within the mind. The reflections are sobering to say the least. They speak to us about a malicious evil who furiously seeks to undermine our faith in the mercy of God; that puts before us every sin that we have ever committed from the moment of our birth to the end of our lives.  At the moment when we are about to come before the Righteous Judge, they attack us with the greatest fury, seeking what actions of ours belong to them. While unsettling, such truths compel us to examine our lives with honesty. To whom or to what have we given our hearts? 

Hypothesis 11 addresses how, after death, souls are assigned to the same place as those souls which lived in a similar way on earth. There is a radical solidarity, a bond that exists between those who share a common love. Those who love God and who have given themselves over to Him fully will experience a radical unity with others of a similar mind and heart; seeing with an unobstructed  gaze all that others have in their hearts. Similarly those who share a common love of a particular sin will be bound together and know similar consequences.

---

Text of chat during the group:

00:12:29 Eric Williams: Would “The Way of a Pilgrim” be suitable for Schola Christi?
 
00:24:13 renwitter: If I was as holy as St. Gemma, maybe I could say with her: “If I saw the gates of hell open and I stood on the brink of the abyss, I would not despair; I would not lose hope of mercy, because I would trust in you, my God.”
 
00:33:04 Tyler Woloshyn: Great book for Lent as well.
 
00:49:26 renwitter: **Such a beautiful line from Scripture** One of my favorites
 
00:51:27 Ashley Kaschl: Something about this is reminding me of a quote from CS Lewis’s “The Weight of Glory”: 
 
“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward … promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
 
00:53:03 renwitter: These Hypothesis’ are scaring me to death. I’m never going to sleep tonight :-( Sigh
 
00:54:29 Rachel (30): Yes! Start now, and every moment from now on! Our limited capabilities will never be enough, but our intentions and giving the whole of our selves, everything emptied out for Love. The thief on the Cross, the disposition of his heart, by the grace of God, must've been such a deep and true repentance that if he could live a thousand years, he would live in repentance. He had encountered Life, Love itself. But our Lord, in His mercy, took the thief to Himself right then, in that moment in time. Whatever time we have left, give everything.
 
00:57:35 renwitter: The second one!
 
01:14:19 Rachel (30): Thank you
 
01:14:34 Carol Nypaver: Blessings to all!

 

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Sixty-Four and Letter Sixty-Five, Part I

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Sixty-Four and Letter Sixty-Five, Part I

September 23, 2021

This evening we began Letter 64 where St. Theophan discusses with Anastasia solitude as well as how to avoid boredom and idleness. Theophan is very direct and one might even say stern about this subject. The feeling of loneliness or boredom should be out of place for us if we understand our true identity. We are in reality never alone. The Lord is always close by as well as our Guardian Angel. Therefore, each time we find ourselves alone we must renew as quickly as possible the conviction that the Lord and our Guardian Angel are with us and, in fact, we must rush to take advantage of these moments. Solitude, Theophan tells her, in this spirit is sweet and he prays that she will one day desire it as Paradise on earth. He goes on to tell her that she should avoid idleness at all costs. She should keep the mind focused when her tasks of the day are complete. There are many things that we can do to help us in this regard. Best of all, however, is reading spiritual books. This is the sphere of the most serious subject of all. In it everything is new and never becomes obsolete. The more you learn, the more you will discover subjects that are yet unfamiliar. 

Moving on to Letter 65, Theophan begins to share with Anastasia the writings of Saint Poemen that relate to what he has been explaining to her for a long time. Repentance and grieving over one’s sins is the beginning of the divine path. “Repent, the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” A person who repents and grieves over his sins will naturally shun evil and do good. Just as a woman who grieves over the loss of her husband and weeps bitterly can think of nothing else, so a soul that weeps over the loss brought by its sin can’t think of anything else but restoring their relationship with God and weeping over their fall.

----

Text of chat during the group:

00:01:58 Sheila Applegate: Hi! I can't unmute.
 
00:04:07 Carol Nypaver: Also, my son’d birthday (on Padre Pio’s Feast).
 
00:19:27 Mark Cummings: a rent, typically a small one, paid by a freeholder or copyholder in lieu of services which might be required of them.
 
00:20:06 Mark Cummings: Idle hands are the devil's workshop
 
 
00:41:30 Fr. Miron Kerul-Kmec Jr.: St. Basil - "Do not submit your souls to corrupt melodies that come to us through the ears. Many passions that enslave us have been caused to grow in our natures by this sort of music."
 
00:42:01 Cathy: i agree
 
00:43:15 renwitter: I’m guessing this person he “knows” is himself :-D
 
01:21:01 renwitter: “For while all things were in quiet silence, and that night was in the midst of her swift course, 15Thine Almighty word leaped down from heaven out of thy royal throne.” One of my favorite passages. The Father communicating His Word to us in the depth of silence.
 
01:21:43 Carol Nypaver: 😇
 
01:22:05 Cathy: Thank you. Beautiful
 
01:23:07 renwitter: We also love Miron Theophan!
 
01:23:37 Ann Grimak: Thank you so much,
 
01:23:52 Mark Cummings: Thank you!!!
 
01:24:00 Cathy: Good night.  Thank you Father!
 
01:24:20 Ashley Kaschl: Solitude is more of a trusting that we are deeply known by GOD and by seeking to know ourselves through a relationship with Christ, we become more aware of just how close God and our Guardian Angel is to us.
 
01:25:14 Carol Nypaver: Thank you, Ashley! Very insightful.

 

 

The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis IX, Part III and Hypothesis X, Part I

The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis IX, Part III and Hypothesis X, Part I

September 21, 2021

Tonight we concluded a brief section from Hypothesis Nine and began reading Hypothesis Ten. The subject matter of these readings is rather fierce; presenting us over and over again with the experience of death. What is the experience of the soul at the moment of death bearing within it  its vices and virtues alone.? 

We are presented with images and visions of the Saints who describe a malignant evil set upon the demise of those seeking to follow the narrow path that leads to the kingdom. Even at the moment of death the evil one is there to accuse and weigh in the balance individual’s vices and virtues. If anything these images stress for us the reality of evil and hostile powers set upon our demise and that the spiritual life and struggle has cosmological scope. 

Such truths remind us of the necessity of constant vigilance in the spiritual warfare. We must desire to the kingdom above all things and seek it with purity of heart and intention. It is this alone that sets us upon the path to the kingdom with a holy boldness even when faced with these hostile powers in their most fearful form.

---

Text of chat during the group:

00:16:50 Ed Kleinguetl: Orthodox theory of the toll houses
 
00:22:57 Carol Nypaver: Page?
 
00:23:12 Ashley Kaschl: 84
 
00:46:37 Rachel (30): Yes, exactly! What a sobering reflection.
 
01:06:46 Eric Williams: When being chased by a wild beast, one needn’t run fastest - just faster than one’s companions. ;)
 
01:07:22 Rachel (30): lol
 
01:14:21 Tyler Woloshyn: Have a blessed evening folks. I am off to my Ukrainian class. Please pray for Canada during our federal election tonight. God bless! :)
 
01:15:06 Erick Chastain: will do!
 
01:15:49 renwitter: “Do we all flap” 😂😂😂😂😂😂
 
01:16:06 renwitter: Made. My. Night
 
01:21:48 Rachel (30): thank you
 
01:21:51 D Fraley: Thanks Father David

 

 

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

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

September 16, 2021

Tonight we concluded Letters 63. St. Theophan began to speak with Anastasia about something that was near and dear to her heart - singing and playing the piano. Theophan does not demonize music; but he does understand the impact that it has upon the soul, either to elevate it or to drag it down. Its beauty can make us transcend ourselves, while its coarseness can make us insensitive to that which is beautiful. Therefore, Theophan counsels Anastasia to acknowledge the fact that her abilities are a gift from God. Part of her gratitude for these gifts is to use them in the way that He would intend them to be used and that she would turn them to the praise of God. At this moment, Theophan sees that she had only used them to amuse herself and others and has made no mention of God whatsoever. His words are rather sober and stern, but he wants her to understand that her music can speak to the human heart and do the same thing that a good preacher does in church. The fruit of her gift is to edify others as well as herself. However, sensitive to the fact that her taste in music has developed over the course of years, he counsels her to take things slowly and not to make sudden changes. 

In closing, Theophan warns Anastasia not to make herself eccentric in the eyes of others and to avoid idiosyncrasies. Rather she has to focus on being good humored and cheerful. Even her laughter must be such that it is not done at the expense of the others but rather is sensitive to the tenderness of the human heart. Likewise she is not to be gloomy in anyway. Her focus upon Christ and his presence in others should foster a joyfulness in her heart. She must never lose sight of the good things the God has created and the good things that exists in others.

---

Text of chat during the group:

00:28:38 renwitter: My alarm is Agni Parthene!
 
00:54:13 Eric Williams: Striving to be a saintly parent for our kids is HARD.
 
00:56:09 Eric Williams: Imagine what love and holiness could be brought to the world if it were full of living saints!
 
00:59:16 Eric Williams: Even better than battleships: arks to rescue humanity from the floods of sin and evil in the world!
Catholic coast guard!
 
01:01:42 Eric Williams: Could you share a PDF of “The Ascetic Heart”, Father?
 
01:02:21 renwitter: It is on the website, Eric! At www.thepittsburghoratory.org/philokalia-ministries, scroll down to “documents.” You can download it right from there.
 
01:04:09 Carol Nypaver: Thanks, Ren!  I was trying to find it too!
 
01:04:44 renwitter: Oh! Its not there! I will add it tomorrow :-) Check back around noon.
 
01:05:01 Carol Nypaver: Will do!
 
01:05:13 Art: On Dancing, St. John Vianney
 
Is it not there, my dear brethren, that the boys and the girls drink at
the fountain of crime, which very soon, like a torrent or a river
bursting its banks, will inundate, ruin, and poison all its
surroundings? Go on, shameless fathers and mothers, go on into
Hell, where the fury of God awaits you, you and all the good actions
you have done in letting your children run such risks. Go on, they
will not be long in joining you, for you have outlined the road
plainly for them. Go and count the number of years that your boys
and girls have lost, go before your Judge to give an account of your
lives, and you will see that your pastor had reason to forbid these
kinds of diabolical pleasures! . . .Ah, you say, you are making more 
of it than there really is!
 
01:06:24 Carol Nypaver: Wow, Art!  Thank you.
 
01:06:24 Eric Williams: We’re drowning in data, but there’s precious little information, even less knowledge, and wisdom is rarer than hens’ teeth!
 
01:08:32 Eric Williams: news motto: “If it bleeds, it leads.”
 
01:11:16 Cathy: i agree Ren!
 
01:20:14 Eric Williams: I teach my kids that a good joke is one that all parties enjoy, not one that makes us laugh at the expense of someone else.

 

The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis IX, Part II

The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis IX, Part II

September 14, 2021

We continued this evening with our reading of Hypothesis IX. As always the stories that we are given from the Fathers are both comforting and fiercely challenging. 

We heard first about how saintly souls are able to see divine things. Because of their purity of heart and by the grace of God they are able to have a vision of things beyond the limits of the human mind and our capacity for perceiving the hidden realities around us. 

We also heard about the reality of Hell itself through the experience of these holy Fathers. Hell is presented very much as the opposite of the complete intimacy and communion the faithful soul shares with the eternal Trinity. If that life is lacking in nothing and knows the fullness of love, Hell is the experience of complete isolation from God and one another. Those who were blessed to receive the fullness of revelation in Christ, those who know His teaching and yet turned away from it, come to experience the deeper loss. For the judgment that comes upon them is not only due to their sinful actions and deeds, it also due to the fact that they have lead others to blaspheme the name of God and to insult God. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

---

Text of chat during the group:

00:13:20 D Fraley: Would you go back?
 
00:14:35 Rachel (30): FR. John McGuckin has a good talk on St. Cyril
 
00:14:47 Rachel (30): Do you have pictures of the Sinai icons?
 
00:16:30 Ashley Kaschl: I’m with you, Ren. It’s WAY easier to warm up than cool off.
 
00:38:18 Rachel (30): Yes! Exactly what I was hoping to be addressed today. The renewal of the Church through the Fathers..
 
00:39:51 Rachel (30): I have encountered suspicion at times, in the West, of the Fathers, the writings of the Philokalia, Cassian, Climacus, Maximos,,I think it our blessing, priviledge and patrimony..to be able to have access to these teachings and writings.
 
00:42:30 Ambrose Little: “I agree with all that you have said.”
 
00:42:50 Carol Nypaver: 😆
 
00:56:45 Carol Nypaver: Why are they being punished for not knowing God?  Why wouldn’t they be in Purgatory?
 
01:04:36 Erick Chastain: This is called limbo, a section of hell for virtuous pagans
 
01:06:47 Carol Nypaver: So “limbo” is part of Hell?
 
01:12:16 renwitter: There is a document put forward by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 that marks a firm turn away from any idea of limbo in the Catholic faith. Pope Benedict said that the idea of limbo should be abandoned because it had always been always “only a theological hypothesis” and “never a defined truth of faith.” It would seem that the main motivation for this clarification on the part of the Church was that limbo was seen as unjustly limiting the mercy of God.
 
01:16:58 Carol Nypaver: Someone who never knew God being condemned to Hell seems like a limit to God’s Mercy. (Not trying to be argumentative, just genuinely confused)
 
01:21:57 renwitter: I was just speaking to the idea of limbo. All I can think about this story is something we have spoken about in the past - that in these writings there is not a distinction made between hell and purgatory as we think of them, and that hell is often used in a way that we would use purgatory. The very fact that they can receive any consolation at all seems to be a clue into the nature of the place - not hopeless. Again, I don’t actually know, but this is something we have spoken about in the past.
 
01:22:25 renwitter: Of course, hell is often spoken of also in the way we would think about it.
 
01:24:43 Ambrose Little: I think we can focus too much on figuring out the circles of hell. :) The underlying point in this passage seems to be that it is a greater sin to know God and turn away from him than to never have known him but not believe. This is supported in Scripture, too.
 
01:25:28 renwitter: Great point, Ambrose. And one that always makes me feel so doomed. :-(
 
01:26:17 Rachel (30): the distortion is in the understanding
 
01:27:06 Ambrose Little: Throw yourself on the mercy of God! Be that “valiant struggler” and repent immediately every time you sin.
 
01:28:42 Ambrose Little: Those whom the Lord loves, He chastises. People don’t recognize that the “hardness” of God is for our own good.
 
01:30:06 Carol Nypaver: “It is through suffering that the soul is purified.”
 
01:30:42 Eric Williams: Blame my cat ;)

 

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

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

September 10, 2021

We began Letter 63 this evening entitled “Singing and Music.”However, St. Theophan begins first by discussing with Anastasia how she engages in the tasks of the day and fulfilling her duties. His counsel to her speaks directly to us as well in our own day. The work that we engage in is to be free from trouble and cares. Otherwise the heart becomes agitated. We must strive to work calmly; for if we do not everyday life becomes a hindrance to the spiritual life and our activity and occupations are done in vain. A hubbub always results in the spiritual life getting nowhere at all. Thus, we must distinguish proper zeal from improper care and worries. 

Theophan then moves on to address some specific concerns of Anastasia about what is near and dear to her heart; singing and playing the piano. As with everything else, Theophan warns Anastasia that she must be discriminating. We are in a constant state of receptivity and music more than most things has an incredible power over the soul; either in elevating it or dragging it down. Theophan does not demonize music for he sees its true value.  He tells her that it is impossible for her to change everything at once. However, she must give due attention to the content of the music that she sings and plays. She must become more discerning and so choosing songs that have a more tolerable content; gradually setting aside and forgetting others that become a mere distraction. Admittedly, this may be very difficult for the modern mind to accept. The norm is to be completely immersed in the noise of the world and to surround ourselves with music in almost every setting. Yet, for the person who desires to please God in all things, nothing must escape the scrutiny of love and the desire for intimacy. Music may be enticing and stimulating but it may also be an obstacle to our relationship with God.

---

Text of chat during the group:

00:09:27 renwitter: pghco.org/evergetinos
 
00:09:30 renwitter: pghco.org/theophan
 
00:54:46 Samuel + Christina: Harmonium is a reed organ
 
00:55:01 D Fraley: A harmonium is like an accordion.
 
01:10:19 Karl MacMillan: I still will argue that Appetite for Destruction by Guns n Roses is just about the perfect rock album - even if I can't really listen to it anymore.
 
01:11:28 renwitter: What about Valaam chant?
 
01:11:41 Erick Chastain: I love valaam chant!
 
01:12:32 Alexander Pearson: Valaam?
 
01:12:56 Carol Nypaver: They have the most beautiful YouTube videos.
 
01:13:12 Karl MacMillan: I think everyting has been downhill since the introduction of polyphony :)
 
01:13:31 Rachel (30): Thank you
 
01:14:34 renwitter: PSA. These are the links for the Monday and Wednesdays:
 
01:14:35 renwitter: pghco.org/evergetinos
pghco.org/theophan
 
01:14:56 Rachel (30): Thank you a thousand times. God bless.
 
01:15:38 Cathy: What a wonderful way to end mt day.  Blessings!
 
01:15:51 D Fraley: Thank you Fr David.

 

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

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

September 7, 2021

Tonight we began Hypothesis IX on “where the souls of the dying go and how they exist after the separation from the body.”  We are presented both with the experience of the Saints as they witness the death of others their ascent to heaven and also the experience of those who witness, through the action of God and his Angels,  both Hell and the joys of Heaven. 

Our contemplation of these stories is meant to foster kind of urgency within us. We are not to lose ourselves in empty speculation but rather allow the stories to stir within us the desire for God and a spirit of repentance. We are taught that we must have no illusions about our capacity to choose darkness, to dull the conscience, to such an extent that we choose freely the path that leads away from God. It is a frightening prospect but it is also a saving truth.

---

Text of chat during the group: 

00:28:47 renwitter: PSA: From now on, the link for this group will always be pghco.org/evergetinos
 
00:29:00 renwitter: The one for Wednesday will be pghco.org/theophan
 
00:35:24 Ambrose: Now we know why the father spoke so little. He could never get a word in edgewise. :)
 
00:50:20 Mark J. Kelly: Erick’s point reminds me of a great quote by Blaise Pascal, “To those who seek God, He gives sufficient light.  To those who do not seek Him, He gives sufficient darkness.”
 
00:50:52 Ashley Kaschl: Gotta go! See ya Wednesday. 😁
 
01:12:51 renwitter: The Church of the Quivering Brethren
 
01:13:22 Rachel (30): Referring to hidden things from ourselves and not living fully in Christ, I think St. Climacus speaks about this in the beginning of The Ladder. He relates a story of a monk who was living an unspeakably sinful life until he confessed his sins and not only to the priest alone but the whole community.
 
01:17:11 renwitter: For those who joined the group a little later tonight. PSA: From now on, the link for this group will always be pghco.org/evergetinos
The one for Wednesday will be pghco.org/theophan
 
01:20:10 Miron Kerul Kmec: will we get e-mail tooo?
 
01:22:09 renwitter: Yes! For each group
 
01:26:15 Ambrose: “There but for the grace of God go I.”
 
01:30:32 Rachel (30): Thank you.
 
01:31:26 D Fraley: Thank you
Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Sixty-Two Part II

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

September 2, 2021

Tonight we concluded Letter 62 on Active Warfare with the passions. Increasingly, Theophan offers more and more practical counsel to Anastasia. Active warfare against the passions includes specific ascetical practices such as fasting, the ordering of sleep and other appetites, avoiding certain forms of entertainment; basically anything that is formative and helps one to be more attentive to God and is conducive to cleansing the passions from the heart. This requires arranging our life and the course of the events in such a way that make us responsive to the action of God‘s grace and providence. God will often bring things together in such a way that events coalesce in order for Him to cleanse us of the passions and grind to dust the squalid and selfishness and stubborn egoism which maintain the passions and destroy the person. Theophan is very much part of a tradition that tells us to kill the passions both inwardly and externally, while cultivating good behavior and giving for range and exercise to the disciplines that cleanse the heart. Theophan reminds her of all the things that she must be attentive to; such as, engaging in spiritual reading, daily scripture readings, self-mortification, and renouncing oneself when necessary. All of these things he has taught Anastasia and simply leaves her with the thought - “May God speed.” Indeed, may God swiftly cleanse our hearts and draws us to His own.

Podbean App

Play this podcast on Podbean App