We picked up this evening with Hypothesis I which we have been considering over the past month or so. Again the theme is repentance and the avoidance of despair. We have been presented with stories from the Gerontikon which is a collection of the saying of the elders. The focus of the first story we considered tonight was a monk who fell in love with an Egyptian woman. Her father went to a pagan priest and was instructed by a demon through that priest to tell the monk that if he denied God, denied his holy baptism, and rejected his monastic vows then he could marry his daughter. Yet despite doing all of these things, God did not abandon him. The demon acting through the pagan priest understood this and so told the father to refuse the monk’s request to give his daughter in marriage. At that moment, the monk came to the realization of what he had done and repented with deep sorrow. Turning back to his elder, he was instructed to engage rigorously in a fast for weeks and to ask God for his mercy. Eventually the monk was given a vision of a dove entering into his mouth. At this the elder understood that God had received the monk’s penance and restored him to the life of grace. This tells us something very important about the nature of repentance and far reaching it must be. Our penance cannot be something that has no meaning or value but must be a remedy that heals the wound hat led to the fall in the fall in the first place. We must also seek out the guidance of an elder, like this young monk, who not only can instruct us but also intercede on our behalf before God.
Following this, an elder teaches us that when a person is experienced in asceticism and has built his life on the very things to draw him closer to God, falls from grace, he can return more quickly along the path to holiness because even though his house, as it were, may have been demolished he still has readily available all the materials from which constructed it. A person newly initiated into the spiritual life, however, will not only have to build the house but search for the materials. Both suffered the demolition and distraction brought about by their sin, but the one whose life had long been directed toward God can return with a greater swiftness.
Discussion then ensued about how we understand affliction in light of all the things that we have been talking about in regards to repentance. How does one not fall into despair when afflicted again and again? It is only when our knowledge of God is no carried tale and no abstract notion but rather the fruit of a relationship of love that we are able to see through the tears in the darkness and find our way into the embrace of the loving God. This is what we must seek to possess ourselves and to which we must guide others.
Text of chat during the group:
00:37:59 Tyler Woloshyn: This reminds me of St. Mary of Egypt's retreat into the wilderness to overcome the passions that surrounded her, yet in that long suffering she overcame it with the greatest ascetism and prayer.
00:38:13 Lilly Vasconcelos: Sin is sin. I dislike the idea of venial vs mortal, just my opinion. We should strive for holiness :)
00:39:33 Tyler Woloshyn: Very Byzantine focus there Lilly. Categorizations can sometimes complicate the examination of conscience.
00:45:36 Tyler Woloshyn: St. Pachomius of Egypt?
00:46:25 Erick Chastain: Modern-day Egypt, back then it was Thebes
00:47:47 Wayne Mackenzie: It's the rule of Pachomis
00:49:51 Tyler Woloshyn: The Prayer of St. Pachomius at least for the Jesus Prayer sure sets a wonderful template for building a crescendo for praying the Jesus Prayer.
00:50:12 Wayne Mackenzie: yes
00:50:50 Eric Williams: Rule of St. Pachomius: http://www.saintjonah.org/services/stpachomius.htm
00:51:04 Joseph Muir: Thank you, Eric!
00:56:56 carolediclaudio: I’m late- what page are we on? :)
00:58:18 carolnypaver: 25
00:58:26 Wayne Mackenzie: p 25
00:58:28 Tyler Woloshyn: Acedia, which Evagarios of Pontus talks about those 8 passions. Despair being grave.
00:58:28 carolnypaver: bottom
00:58:39 carolediclaudio: Thank you!
01:09:45 Lilly Vasconcelos: Thank you Father David :)
01:10:20 Tyler Woloshyn: Christ is Risen! Thank you for the wonderful explanations and being very welcoming Fr. David.
01:10:24 carolediclaudio: Yes, very beautiful. So sorry was late.
01:11:38 Lilly Vasconcelos: I brought 2 more Canadians
01:11:43 Lilly Vasconcelos: Hahaha
01:11:49 Katharine M: :D
01:11:59 carolediclaudio: Good :)
01:13:45 Sue and Mark: YES!!!!!!
01:13:58 Erick Chastain: That would be great!
01:14:16 Eric Williams: Maybe “The Way of a Pilgrim”?
01:14:17 Daniel Allen: perfect i won’t have to buy another copy