Philokalia Ministries
Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Twenty

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Twenty

July 16, 2020

Tonight we concluded letter 20, where the Saint leads the young Anastasia to a deeper understanding of the nature of the Fall and the illness that arises from it. Again St. Theophan reflects with her on the experience of Adam and Eve. They turn away from God in a way that is blasphemous and hostile. They deny His benevolence and seek for themselves self-rule; embracing the illusion that they can become gods.  St Theophan tells Anastasia that God will not violate their self-rule but rather allow them to experience the consequence of their own freedom. They become self-absorbed and for the first time the phrase “I myself” is used.  The order of life and the order within the soul is perverted. The passions become, as it were, inbred and take over the soul like a horde of approaching enemies. We must have no illusion that this is anything but an illness. Furthermore, we must understand that we’ve been overcome by alien tyrants and we set aside our dignity for the worst kind of slavery. We have set aside hope and joy for what promises only darkness and sorrow.


Text of chat during the group:

Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: The Struggle With Passions by I.M. Kontzevich

Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: describes the stages from first being a thought to becoming a passion or vice.

Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: you can access it at

Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: the official catechism of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Christ Our Pascha identifies five stages but numbers and discusses them slightly differently than I M Kontsevich above. this catechism can be accessed at see paragraphs 788 thru 795

Wayne Mackenzie: That we might spend the rest of our life in peace and repentance, let us ask the Lord. from the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom

Mary McLeod: Aquinas also describes the punishment for the fall very similarly (Summa II-II): But inasmuch as through sin man's mind withdrew from subjection to God, the result was that neither were his lower powers wholly subject to his reason, whence there followed so great a rebellion of the carnal appetite against the reason: nor was the body wholly subject to the soul; whence arose death and other bodily defects. For life and soundness of body depend on the body being subject to the soul, as the perfectible is subject to its perfection. Consequently, on the other hand, death, sickness, and all defects of the body are due to the lack of the body's subjection to the soul. It is therefore evident that as the rebellion of the carnal appetite against the spirit is a punishment of our first parents' sin, so also are death and all defects of the body.

Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: in his work On the Incarnation St Athanasius the Great was of the opinion that humanity would devolve figuring out new and better ways of sinning, ways for the body and soul to rebel against the God-intended ascendency of the spirit.

Wayne Mackenzie: Gender Ideology is a good example.

Joe and Larissa: Bl Fr Alexander Schmeman. - life is about how we deal with what we are dealt


Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Nineteen

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Nineteen

July 9, 2020

Tonight we read the 19th letter of the Saint to the young Anastasia and the beginning of the 20th. Theophan finally comes to the point of describing for her the seed of inner confusion that we experience as human beings, our ancestral sin. We struggle with a disordered state, a disease, that has become deeply rooted within us and given rise to the worst of destructive forces - the passions. It is not natural! In other words,  God has not created us in this fashion. Our forebearers took a path that led them away from God and, as it were, casts the gifts that He had bestowed upon them back in His face. They treated God not as benevolent and loving but as an obstacle to their happiness. The loss was immeasurable. Theophan wants Anastasia to have as her deepest conviction the fact that  this disorderliness is not what God intended. She must fight against the view that there is no hope for a cure, that there is no hope for the dignity of the humanity to be restored. This must be our fight as well. The passions destroyed our consciousness of self and freedom. In the face of this we must make our one goal in life to abide in God in every way and to rejoice in Him alone.


Text of chat during the group:

00:47:43 Mary Schott: Is it not "natural" because the loss of preternatural gifts?

00:52:24 Eric Williams: If you want to read a saint who doesn't make *anything* sound easy, I highly recommend Ephraim the Syrian. :)

00:59:46 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: I think that "loss of preternatural gifts" is a western term or concept. Generally speaking Eastern Christian authors speak or write from the point of view that sin makes us sub-natural whereas holiness is natural to the human condition. One has to translate in the back of one's mind ... in the west the term "supernatural" is used where Easterners use "natural", and the western "natural" is "sub-natural" in the East.

01:08:45 Joe and Larissa Tristano: Fr John, agreed, amartyia, Greek for sin means to “miss the mark” - the passions are birth defects of the soul

01:08:53 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: ...and so, in the East, a "sub-natural" human being is thus "sub-human" or "inhumane", and the holy person is "natural" and "human".

01:09:10 Joe and Larissa Tristano: Yes! Christ being THE Human!

01:09:19 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: exactly!!!

01:15:09 carolnypaver: Holy gifts to holy people….

01:21:18 Mary McLeod: Thanks everyone!


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

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

July 2, 2020

Tonight we concluded letter 18 to the young Anastasia. The Saint works very hard to help her understand what the “one thing needful” for us is as Christian men and women. We must subordinate all things to the spiritual and in doing so this brings about a kind of harmony within the person; a harmony of thoughts, feelings, desires, undertakings, relationships, and pleasures. Simply put the St. Theophan tells us, this is “Paradise”. It is to live in the peace and the love of the kingdom. It is this that we must guard and protect and we must learn the ways that such harmony can devolve into disorder. While there can be external influences that disrupt our lives, Saint Theophan warns Anastasia this sympathy for the things of the world already exists within us in a subtle fashion. The disorder and confusion that we experience within is fed by the turbulence of the world and then once again re-enters the human heart. But make no mistake, he states; it begins within and with a predisposition toward sympathy with the things of the world. It is the nature of the interior disposition and its origin that Theophan will discuss in the next letter.


Text of chat during the Zoom meeting:

01:04:21 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: just a reminder: "how to form an orthodox Christian conscience" would help us to understand the things that St Theophan and his contemporaries would have taken for granted as familiar to members of a a devout Christian family.....


Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Seventeen Part II and Letter Eighteen Part I

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Seventeen Part II and Letter Eighteen Part I

June 25, 2020
Tonight we completed letter 17 and began letter 18 of the Saint to the young Anastasia. Once again St. Theophan works very hard to keep the young woman focused, so that she does not lose sight of the simple yet comprehensive view of the Christian life and fidelity to the gospel. 
God is served and loved in what is right before us and in those that He has put along our path. There is no station in life, no set of circumstances where God is absent. We must not think in an abstract way about our faith but rather seek to embrace the smallest things with love, seek to receive the grace of God in the smallest actions with gratitude. As the Gospel tells us, God entrusts us with small things and when we have embraced these with love and fidelity only then will He entrust us with greater things. There’s a kind of hubris that we fall into as Christians in imagining ourselves doing great things or extraordinary things as the Saints. We don’t realize that the sanctity is found simply in mortifying our own will, and setting aside our ego. Love begins at home and in caring for those standing before us. 
All of us must hold onto the “one thing needful” - to subordinate all things to the spiritual. It is the love of God that orders all loves. It is the desire for God that orders all other desires and brings us to experience the joy of the kingdom.
Text of chat during the Zoom meeting:
00:34:10 Eric Williams: Theophan's description of individuals doing what they ought having great effect in aggregate reminds me of Smith's Invisible Hand acting in markets. "By pursuing his own interest [an individual] frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good."
00:38:12 Louise Alfer: Some of the greatest saints were porters...St. Andre and Solanus Casey
00:39:59 Eric Ash: I remember also reading of saints in Europe that dreamed of being sent to mission in the New World but were kept to minister in their home countries instead. Seems to have worked out, they became saints after all
00:45:55 Eric Williams: "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
00:47:54 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: Eric, that was the gospel last sunday in the Byzantine lectionary (Third Sunday after Pentecost) with the epistle from Romans helping to define God's righteousness.
00:57:48 Eric Ash: Maybe I'm the only ignorant one that had to look it up but darning a sock is to repair a hole usually by sewing by hand.
00:59:25 Natalia Wohar: On this topic of saints, I recommend a recently released movie called A Hidden Life about Blessed Franz Jagerstatter : )
01:04:20 Ren's Kingdom of Neatness and Organization: Active love is a harsh and fearful thing compared with love in dreams. Love in dreams thirsts for immediate action, quickly performed, and with everyone watching. Indeed, it will go so dar as the giving even of one’s life, provided that it does not take long but is soon over, as on stage, and everyone is looking on and praising. Whereas active love is labor and perseverance, and for some people, perhaps, a whole science. - Father Zosima, The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
01:04:42 Eric Williams: Who says we don't run out screaming? ;)
01:07:46 Eric Williams: Man, this group really serves as a necessary examination of conscience. Being patient and gentle, loving people who are difficult to love, is a major struggle for me. As anyone who knows me is aware, so is biting my tongue.
01:08:26 carolnypaver: Group Spiritual Direction.
01:17:48 Katharine: P.S. I'm guessing the bookbinder girls were doing pro bono (or very poorly paid) work to manufacture pamphlets or tracts containing progressive ideas/propaganda instead of supporting their mothers.
01:18:52 carolnypaver: Thank you, Katharine!
01:19:54 Mary McLeod: Thanks everyone!
Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Sixteen Part II and Letter Seventeen Part I

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Sixteen Part II and Letter Seventeen Part I

June 18, 2020

More than anything, letters 16 and 17 reveal to us the heart of St. Theophan. He wants the young Anastasia to be free and her heart to be filled with the peace, the complete peace of the kingdom. Before he teaches her anything about the life of prayer or establishes any rule for her to follow, he wants her to grasp the fact that God is part of her life at every single moment and everything that she does, no matter how small, so long as it is done in love, is pleasing in the eyes of God. How different our lives would be if we could even live this for a single day and taste the sweetness of this peace!  How full our lives would be if we could engage even in the most menial tasks with the freedom of love, eternal love!

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

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

June 11, 2020
Tonight we started reading letter 16 to the young Anastasia. The Saint works very hard to bring this young woman to clarity about the true goal of life. One might even say that he is stern or sarcastic with her and in his humor. But he wants her to know the precious gift and the freedom of living for God completely and understanding that we do not have to torture ourselves by asking what we should do in this life. It is perfectly clear, our goal is God and living in accord with His will and coming to share in His eternal life. This is so simple and comprehensive that there’s a part of us, I think, that fears it, to have our life guided by one thing, the desire for God.
We tend to live our lives in the abstract, what needs to be done out there, what great thing can I be doing or accomplish, what will give me identity and purpose in this world. When this happens we lose sight of our dignity and destiny in Christ. We are made for the kingdom. We are made to be sons and daughters not of this world but of God.
Text of chat during the Zoom meeting:
00:30:27 carolnypaver: When he says someone has opened her eyes, it sounds kind of like Adam and Eve after they sinned. Is that what he is referring to?

00:37:04 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: I thought it was a little sarcastic. She's saying she's vegetating at home, doing nothing important, whereas in reality she was learning how to practice holiness and the virtues within the home environment and duties of interacting with family, so in saying "only now has someone opened your eyes" St Theophan is sort of like imitating God when God said to Adam and Eve, "O you're naked, but who told you that you were naked?"

00:38:43 carolnypaver: Thank you!

00:43:41 Eric Williams: Perhaps I misheard, but I don't think you have the Latin meaning of "infatuate" right. It means "to make foolish", from the adjective "fatuus", "foolish". If I misheard you, I apologize.

00:44:56 carolnypaver: If I say it enough times it MUST be true!

00:47:01 Chad Whitacre: “Long ago, fatuous meant "illusory," after ignis fatuus, the strange light (literally "foolish fire") that sometimes appears at night over marshy ground. The word's Latin root - the fatuus we see in ingis fatuus - is also behind the word infatuate, which once meant "to make foolish," but which now usually means "to inspire with foolish love or admiration."

00:48:08 Eric Williams: I was right! :P

00:48:27 Natalia Wohar: To Eric’s credit, the word “foolish” is in the definition haha

00:48:36 Adrienne DiCicco: But not entirely, Eric! :-P

00:48:46 Eric Ash: Than an additional thousand in thanks for being right

00:48:49 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: Acquire the spirit of peace and thoudans will be saved around you.

00:48:53 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky:

00:49:07 Mary Schott: But isn't is considered foolish to follow that foolish/fake light?

00:49:43 Mary Schott: both meanings are not mutually exclusive, but rather jointly exhaustive

00:49:49 Katharine Memole: Fr. David and Eric are both right. :)

00:58:12 Mary McLeod: This reminds me of the part of the Screwtape Letters where the head demon says that the person must always be drawn to think of the future or the past, but never the present, so that they will miss all the grace God gives in the moment.

01:09:39 Eric Ash: There is a widely quoted Saint Teresa of Calcutta saying that goes, “If you want to bring peace to the whole world, go home and love your family.” Which is actually a paraphrase of a quote from her Nobel Peace Price acceptance speech “And so, my prayer for you is that truth will bring prayer in our homes, and from the foot of prayer will be that we believe that in the poor it is Christ. And we will really believe, we will begin to love. And we will love naturally, we will try to do something. First in our own home, next door neighbor in the country we live, in the whole world.”

01:12:32 carolnypaver: Christ has become a “virtual reality.”

01:12:33 Natalia Wohar: We should start meeting outside in the grass at the Oratory or in front of Cathy

01:12:39 Wayne Mackenzie: To make room for God, we need to learn to say no. So much of our businesses is the fear of our own death.

01:14:47 Scott: Everyone just wants Eric doing penance.
Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Fifteen

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Fifteen

June 4, 2020
Tonight we read St Theophan’s 15th letter to the young Anastasia. He encourages her to plant the things that he has taught her deep within her heart.  She will not only find comfort in these things but encouragement and support for what lies ahead.
St. Theophan begins to introduce Anastasia to the life of prayer. But he does not begin with the discipline itself or specific practices. Rather, he speaks to her of the radical and instantaneous connection that one has with the Angels and the Saints. The moment a prayer is uttered from the heart it is immediately heard and responded to. Again this is supremely encouraging because it reminds us that we do not tread this path alone. We are surrounded by angels and saints that God has willed to give us, that in His providence He has chosen to support us in the spiritual battle and to lift us up if we have fallen. Their presence magnifies the beauty that we seek. In them we see the love and the grace of God with an even greater clarity than if we were to look up these things with our own eyes and hearts that have yet to be purified. In the angels and saints we see the God who is set upon our salvation and who has given us all that we need as human beings to participate in fully in His life.
Transcript of chat during the group:
00:26:29 Eric Williams: What page are we on?
00:26:43 Natalia Wohar: 69, Letter 15
00:26:44 Ed Kleinguetl: 69
00:26:44 Eric Ash: 69, start of letter 15 I
00:26:58 Eric Williams: Thank you :)
00:42:43 carolnypaver: I need that Novena to St. Charbel.
00:56:33 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: Some saints are given a broader mission or extension of their earthly mission to a heavenly mission dimension. We think of the most Holy going from being the Mother of God to Mother of the Church and Mother of Humanity as the most obvious case. Often repeated in Byzantine liturgical texts is the term « derznovennia », which is a specific type of boldness, a specific « access » to God, given by God to those saints who were pleasing to God by their lives and in their ministry on earth, and thus, God gives them an added or intensified capability of interceding for us.
00:59:08 Mary McLeod: In theology school they always repeated that grace perfects nature, not destroys it.
01:07:20 Eric Williams: Fantastic book. Very challenging - not difficult, but he doesn't beat around the bush. ;) I wholeheartedly recommend it to all. As a depressive, one might think his intensity and his distress over sin would bring me down, but I find great comfort in reading the prayers of a holy man who often found himself feeling as lowly as a worm.
01:09:36 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: one of my favorite prayers to the most holy Theotokos: "Most glorious, ever-virgin Theotokos, receive our prayers and bring them to Your Son and our God, that because of you, He might save our souls." Sometimes I say it on the big beads or knots of the Prayer Rope, in between the Jesus Prayer.
01:16:04 Eric Williams: "Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all. "If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realise that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed." C.S. Lewis
01:19:30 Mary McLeod: I remember in the St. Isaac readings a monk was saying he labored without any discernible progress for 25 years!
01:23:04 Eric Williams: It blows me away to contemplate the fact that God gives us so few years to prepare for eternity.
Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Fourteen Part II

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

June 1, 2020
Tonight we concluded letter 14. What a beautiful experience and privileged experience to share in the intimate correspondence between a saint and a young woman who desires to be a saint.  St. Theophan opens up for her the reality of life in God, what it means to be transformed from glory to glory. 
Tonight he began to speak with her about the primacy of conscience, the incorruptible judge that God has given to us, the divine voice in the human spirit. There is nothing more beautiful than a soul with a pure conscience; and nothing will bear witness to the light of God’s glory as one who has been wholly transformed by his grace. It is this reality, this purity of conscience, that we should seek above all. It reveals what we are in fact. The angels and saints see the state of our soul and our guardian angel, in particular, comes to our aid and intercedes on our behalf. The demons are scorched and repulsed by the brightness of the soul with a pure conscience. Whereas one who has neglected the conscience becomes the focus of their attack.
The pure of conscience magnify the glory of God within the world. And so that should be the center of our concern, our energy and attention. It is this that we must be zealous about - not externals. “Examine what lies within!”, Theophan tells her. You must make a decision. Decide just how you’re going to live your life.
Chat conversation during the group:
00:33:57 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: How to from and orthodox conscience
00:34:18 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: by fr Alexey young is available at
00:34:25 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky:
00:35:11 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: sorry, it's "how to form an orthodox conscience"
00:41:05 Wayne Mackenzie: the more we become closer to God the more we see our own sins. Its like opening up a darkened room and we open the curtains we see the dust in the air.
00:43:40 carolnypaver: I found a prayer that said if we saw ourselves as we are seen by God, we’d die of fright.
00:44:27 Wayne Mackenzie: yes if we compare ourselves to God
00:46:34 Joe and Larissa Tristano: St. Sophrony ~ bear a little shame
00:54:41 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: We observe saints as very bright or holy because we are comparing them to ourselves, while the saints see themselves as still in darkness or in sin because they are comparing themselves to God, as they rise towards Him. This an interplay of three stages of spiritual growth: illumination and purgation as we grow in theosis/ deification which is our union with God. Along similar lines is the Eastern understanding of purgatory, for which you can read more at:
01:09:45 Eric Williams: "The Eucharist is a fire that inflames us, that like lions breathing fire, we may retire from the altar being made terrible to the devil." -St. John Chrysostom
01:16:15 carolediclaudio: I think babushka is old woman :)
01:16:28 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: Regarding St Sophrony - bear a little shame. When we feel shame (noun) it is supposed to carry us over to guilt, to repentance and then to God. In the scriptures and in eastern liturgical texts, "to shame" as in a verb meaning to disgrace or dishonor someone is usually an abuse directed at us by and from the evil one, whereas "guilt" as a feeling which we feel when we do or say or think something wrong is meant to be a blessing from God. If this distinction intrigues anyone, feel free to check out my youtube channel where I tried to show how this can be. I think it was part two:
01:18:00 Eric Williams: Babushka or baboushka or babooshka (from Russian: ба́бушка, IPA: [ˈbabʊʂkə], meaning "grandmother" or "elderly woman") :P
01:18:34 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: babushka is affectionate term for elderly married woman because they were the ones who wore the scarf on their hair, which was also worn by young married women.
01:18:40 carolnypaver: Russian/Polish/Ukraine term,” studda bubba”, which means “old woman
01:19:17 Joe and Larissa Tristano: Matushka is priests wife
Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Thirteen Part III and Letter Fourteen Part I

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Thirteen Part III and Letter Fourteen Part I

May 21, 2020

We continued this evening reading letter 13 to the young Anastasia. Theophan again wants her to understand that we do not live our faith out in isolation, but rather in a radical communion with God and with the angels and Saints. Beyond that he wants her to understand that nothing is hidden from the eyes of God or from the eyes of the saints and angels. Our souls take on the quality of the facts of our life. Virtue and love bring brightness to the soul whereas sin brings murkiness or complete darkness. Theophan tells her this not to frighten her but rather that she might understand her true dignity in Christ. By virtue of her baptism she is an heir to the kingdom of heaven and has access to the treasure of God’s grace. It is this reality that is bestowed upon her by virtue of her baptism and it is this reality that must come to bear fruit in her life through seeking God at every moment; seeking above all to embrace his will.  Theophan would seek to free us all from what the Fathers call prelest or spiritual delusion. We have an enormous capacity to lie to ourselves and to seek to protect our own sense of dignity and self-esteem independent from God. We must overcome this illusion by humility - by understanding that we are known in truth and seen with the eyes of love eternal.


Chat texts from the group:

01:08:51 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: The term “prelest” is an Old Church Slavonic word (Greek: πλάνη - plani) which has come into English usage for lack of a precise equivalent, although it is often translated as "spiritual delusion," "spiritual deception" or "illusion," accepting a delusion for reality in contrast to spiritual vigilance and sobriety. Prelest carries a connotation of allurement in the sense that the serpent beguiled Eve by means of the forbidden fruit. Apart from its spiritual context, the word in Old Church Slavonic is often used in a positive sense of something charming, "lovely"; hence, in modern Russian it means: “Beauty”. People often struggle to understand what "prelest" is and how one would know if this is a problem in their life? What to do about it? That's the whole point – one doesn't know. But the Church teaches us practical measures to ward off this state. First, there’s having a good priest/confessor/spiritual director. Second, we practice the virtues: humility, etc.

01:09:23 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: Third, we practice attentiveness to our own thoughts and feelings that offer temptation, which is called being neptic (sober and vigilant) or practicing nepsis (sobriety, vigilance). We are warned to beware of people who are very keen on directing or teaching others spiritually, as if they consider themselves to be experts. We avoid speaking or acting im-pul¬sively. We stay away from any desires, thoughts or feelings that make us agitated. We are to be¬ware of substituting dog¬ma¬tic certitudes in place of practicing the faith (for example: knowing all about a service or a custom, but never actually participating in it or allowing that participation to challenge our core to repentance: changing our desires, thoughts and be¬ha¬viors to bring them into line with God’s knowledge). We are strongly fore¬warned to be¬ware of anyone who claims to be humble and to beware of the sin of pride, as if thinking that we have found the truth while others around us have yet to arrive at what is called “our level”.

01:09:57 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: Con¬verse¬ly, we are not to think that we are so bad a sinner that we are beyond forgiveness. The story is often told about a young convert who was so agitated about everyone else being in a state of prelest that it was he himself who became so obnoxious, overbearing, and neurotic, that he failed to notice that in the process he himself had become a liar, cheat and manipulator. So our Byzantine spiritual tradition tells us not to worry if someone else strikes us as being off track. Focusing on the sins of others is a surefire way of succumbing to prelest-self-delusion ourselves.


Link to download the "cheat sheet" for understanding St. Theophan's anthropology in Letters 5-11




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

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

May 14, 2020
As we know St. Theophan is writing to Anastasia on the feast of her patron, on her name day. He continues by wishing her well; wishing her health and happiness in this world. But, in his love for her, he wants her to understand that life goes beyond the grave, and that what endures is the love of God and the life of virtue. 
It is God and the spiritual life that must be at the center of our existence. All that we do, all that we say, all that we think, is freighted with destiny; because all of these things are opportunities to love and to give ourselves to God. 
Having been formed so well in her early life Anastasia must seek to guard and protect what is most precious - the life that God has given her and the virtue that his grace has brought to life. She must understand, as we all do, that God sees all things, as do his saints and angels. We must never think that anything is hidden from the God who loves us and knows every hair on our head. 
Finally we see in this short section the tenderness of St. Theophan. He offers her not simply cold direction but a fatherly love; desiring her to have the best of things – the eternal love of God. 
Chat transcript from the group:
00:48:02 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: Tenderness and spiritual sweetness: I don't know Russian but in Ukrainian, candy is called tsukorky from the word tsukor - sugar. And all candies and desserts fall under the category of solodoshchee - sweet things.
00:53:40 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: I believe that St John Chrysostom (+407) may have been the first one to coin the phrase that the Church is a hospital.
01:00:03 Joe and Larissa Tristano: Father, would you also think that the raiment is with regard to the putting on of Christ in baptism?
01:11:57 Edward Kleinguetl: Romans 7
01:13:51 Michael Liccione: "subject to futility" Romans 8:20
01:19:45 Adrienne DiCicco: Couldn't agree more re: Catholic schools!! -Phil DiCicco
01:23:52 Joe and Larissa Tristano: “Pray as you can, not as you think you must” & “Have a keepable rule of prayer” Fr. Thomas Hopko
01:25:55 Fr. John (Ivan) Chirovsky: Most of us are used to speaking of body and soul. St Theophan presumed a tripartite understanding (aka trichotomy) of the human being: body, soul and spirit. If anyone is interested in discerning this a little more, please see:
01:26:41 Edward Kleinguetl: As St. Ignatius Brianchaninov advised, “Choose a rule for yourself in accordance within your own strength.” A Rule of Prayer consists of practices to follow daily, such as morning and evening prayer, time for contemplation, liturgy; the rule may identify the time of day for these practices. The purpose of the rule is to help a person grow spiritually. Accordingly, it should not be so burdensome that it is difficult to complete on a daily basis. Nor should it become a heroic effort that later becomes a source of pride that is used to criticize others who may have a lesser rule.
01:26:51 Eric Ash: In some ways I think St. Theophan's ether illustration is more natural to our 21st century imagination than it was to explain in the 19th. The Saint's and Angels can see the whole Earth from Heaven and focus their gaze not just on our earthly bodies but the state of our souls. If he was writing today he might rather compare it that infrared googles can see through the dark and focus on heat, or x-rays see through body to focus on bone. Heavens gaze permeates all, but focuses more on our eternal souls than frail bodies.
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