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Author Topic: Should the catechumen read the Philokalia???  (Read 5528 times) Average Rating: 0
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Irenaeus07
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« on: March 23, 2008, 09:43:44 AM »

Greetings,

  Well in a previous thread, I was looking for a commentary of the Philokalia, and in that thread, I was strongly discouraged from reading the Philokalia.  So I asked two different Orthodox priests in my local area, one from the OCA and the other from Greek, whether it was alright for me to read the Philokalia, and I told them, there were some Orthodox brothers and sisters who have discouraged me from reading it, saying that I need to have a spiritual teacher to read it. And both of them said that it was ok for me to read it.

With that being said.  It was the Philokalia, which lead me to Orthodox Christianity. Had the Lord not placed the Philokalia in my path, I would not seen the soundness of modern day Christian faith.  It was the Philokalia, that gave me hope that Christianity as it exist today, might actually be a true religion from God.  I was utterly moved by the writings of the Philokalia.  Alot of the Philokalia makes sense to me.  It speaks my language. I had put the Philokalia down for a while, trying to take the advice of my brothers and sisters here.

I recently picked up the Philokalia, was reading it, and was moved by it once again.  And this is what lead me to ask the local priests here in my area. "Can I read the Philokalia?"

And they said yes. All praises is due to our Lord, because I like the book.

And it is the Lord alone, who gives success.
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« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2008, 12:29:50 PM »

I don't see why not.  But I don't think you should draw your own conclusions; if you have any questions you should consult a priest so that he is able to put it into context for you.

May God bless your spiritual growth.
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« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2008, 01:01:54 PM »

FWIW, here is an excerpt taken from OrthodoxWiki:

Guide to Reading the Philokalia
Like all spiritual readings, the Philokalia should be read under the guidance of a spiritual father as to avoid misinterpretations or malpractice of spiritual remedies. For those who are not practicing monastics, the idea of divorcing oneself from the normal life may seem extreme. Nevertheless, keep in mind that those who practice the monastic life are called to live a total Christ-centered life or to use Christ's words "becoming eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake" (Matthew 19:12). In spite of the audience, there are also sayings and writings that are relevant to those who are called to "remain in the world" such as the practice of virtues or the controlling, even extinguishing, of the passions.

Also, this work is not meant to be read all at once. It should be approached like a Merck's Medical Journal: look up the things that are relevant for whatever moment you as a reader need it. The English translations make it easier to use it in this way. For an example, if you are wondering about what patience is about, simply look at the index. If the page numbers are in bold, then it is a significant passage of text addressing that issue; otherwise it may appear as either one sentence or a small part of a larger context.


In Christ,

Gabriel
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Irenaeus07
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« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2008, 08:31:56 PM »

FWIW, here is an excerpt taken from OrthodoxWiki:

Guide to Reading the Philokalia
Like all spiritual readings, the Philokalia should be read under the guidance of a spiritual father as to avoid misinterpretations or malpractice of spiritual remedies.

But in the absence of such spiritual guides what am I to do???

Bishop Kallistos Ware said, "And what are we to do, if we cannot find a spiritual guide?  For, as we have noted, guides such as St Antony or St Seraphim are few and far between. 

We may turn, in the first place, to books. Writing in the fifteenth-century Russia St Nil Sorsky laments the extreme scarcity of qualified spiritual directors; yet how much more frequent they must have been in his day than in ours!  Search diligently, he urges, for a sure and trustworthy guide.  Then he continues: "However, if such a teacher cannot be found, then the Holy Fathers order us to turn to the Scriptures and listen to our Lord Himself speaking." Since the testimony of scripture should never be isolated from the continuing witness of the Spirit in the life of the Church, we may add that the inquirer will also want to read the works of the Fathers, and above all the Philokalia.  But there is an evident danger here.  The starets adapts his guidance to the inner state of each; books offer same advice to everyone.  How are we to discern whether or not a particular text is applicable to our own situation?  Even if we cannot find a spiritual father in the full sense, we should at least try to find someone more experienced than ourselves, able to guide us in our reading." (The Inner Kingdom pg 147)

My Comment:

Thus if one is lacking a spiritual father, one is allowed to read the Philokalia, but should do so with caution.

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« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2008, 10:38:13 PM »

I can't imagine that in this day and age there would be any difficulty in finding a spiritual father/guide.

I would say that your conclusion is quite reasonable, but it would appear that you have already sought the advice of a couple priests, so I would recommend that you continue to do so especially in the light of these being translations out of the original languages.  Quite often the English translations are lacking inorder to accommodate as much of a word for word translation as possible, so consulting a father on this will be able to present to you the subtle nuances in meaning and context that don't come through in the English.

. . . kai Theos nv o Logos.

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« Reply #5 on: March 23, 2008, 10:53:08 PM »

My husband was brought to Orthodoxy due in large part to the Philokalia also. But it needs to be balanced with other material. If you are just looking into the comtemplative prayer and hesychast aspect without the balance of everything else then you are in danger in my opinion. I would just make sure that you aren't alone in your delving. Attending DL is like food and water to the soul, so make sure you are doing some of that too. I would find a good catechism class to take alongside your readings. Failing that, make sure you read about the other elements of Orthodoxy extensively along with attending as many services as you can.
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Irenaeus07
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« Reply #6 on: March 23, 2008, 11:10:15 PM »

My husband was brought to Orthodoxy due in large part to the Philokalia also. But it needs to be balanced with other material. If you are just looking into the comtemplative prayer and hesychast aspect without the balance of everything else then you are in danger in my opinion. I would just make sure that you aren't alone in your delving. Attending DL is like food and water to the soul, so make sure you are doing some of that too. I would find a good catechism class to take alongside your readings. Failing that, make sure you read about the other elements of Orthodoxy extensively along with attending as many services as you can.

Thank you for your advice. 
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« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2008, 07:07:35 AM »

I can't imagine that in this day and age there would be any difficulty in finding a spiritual father/guide.

Why go to that much trouble when you can just substitute a book by Bishop Kallistos for one, as it appears Irenaeus is doing?
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« Reply #8 on: March 24, 2008, 07:58:50 AM »

Why go to that much trouble when you can just substitute a book by Bishop Kallistos for one, as it appears Irenaeus is doing?

Where can I find a spiritual father???  I don't think it is that easy. 

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Thomas
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« Reply #9 on: March 24, 2008, 08:48:10 AM »

Most Orthodox Christians initially use the local priest as their spiritual father, indeed I would state that for most Orthodox Christians their spiritual father is their pastor.  Those who live near a monastery may find a good fit with a monk (or a spiritual mother, like a nun) later on. Occassionally one goes first to a monastery on a retreat and is attracted to a monastic spiritual guide there before they have actually attended an Orthodox Church.

A spiriitual father---the actual term is more appropriately called a spiritual director , may actually be a clergyman, a religous (nun or monk),  or a very spiritual layperson whose is able to meet with you on a regular basis to discuss where you are spiritually in your life and where do you go next. The purpose of Orthodox spiritual direction is to deepen your relationship with the Most Holy Trinity, to learn and grow in your own personal spirituality. The person seeking direction shares stories of his or her encounters of the Lord in the past and how he or she is experiencing spiritual issues.  One of the reasons that a spiritual director is often, but not always, a priest is that confession is a part of the spiritual direction process. The Orthodox spritual director listens and asks questions to assist the directee in his or her process of reflection and spiritual growth. The spiritual director will assign readings, spiritual practices (like the Jesus prayer), and other exercises and disciplines for you to accomplish before the next session. regular reports are given to the spiritual director so the director may provide adjustments of the direction that will edify you and help you to develop spiritually. A spiritual directors will also be under spiritual direction and obedience from their own spiritual director.

Within Orthodox Christianity, spiritual direction has its roots in the Early Church. The gospels describe Jesus serving as the Spiritual Director and Savior to his disciples. Additionally, Acts of the Apostles Chapter 9 describes Ananias helping Paul of Tarsus to grow in his newfound experience of Christianity. Likewise, several of Pauline Epistles describe Paul's spiritual direction of both Timothy and Titus among others. Tradition tells that Saint John the Evangelist was the spiritual director of Saint  Polycarp, the second-century bishop of Smyrna.

John Cassian who lived in the fourth century provided some of the earliest recorded guidelines on the practice of spiritual direction. He introduced spiritual direction in the monasteries. Each novice was put under the care of an older monk. Benedict of Nursia integrated Cassian's guidelines into what is now known as the Rule of Saint Benedict. St Symeon the New Theologian was a monk-poet who embodied the mystical tradition. He wrote that humans could and should experience God directly. His works deeply involved hesychastic practices which, according to St Symeon should be undertaken only with a spiritual director.

This prayer from From Orthodox Psychotherapy" by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos may be helpful as you try to find a spiritual father:

"O Lord, who desirest not the death of a sinner but that he should turn and live, Thou who didst come down to earth in order to restore life to those lying dead through sin and in order to make them worthy of seeing Thee the true light as far as that is possible to man, send me a man who knows Thee, so that in serving him and subjecting myself to him with all my strength, as to Thee, and in doing Thy will in his, I may please Thee the only true God, and so that even I, a sinner, may be worthy of Thy Kingdom". —St. Symeon the New Theologian (SC 129,186-188).

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« Reply #10 on: March 24, 2008, 12:41:50 PM »

Where can I find a spiritual father???  I don't think it is that easy. 



I would just find the closest Orthodox church, and meet the priest there.  If you have a couple close by, I would recommend chosing the smaller one because the priest will likely have more time to devote to you.

God bless
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« Reply #11 on: March 24, 2008, 12:54:00 PM »

Thanks brother Thomas for your input.

I would just find the closest Orthodox church, and meet the priest there.  If you have a couple close by, I would recommend chosing the smaller one because the priest will likely have more time to devote to you.

God bless

From what Brother Thomas has presented it appears that, spiritual father has a very general meaning, which I wasn't using.  I thought of a spiritual father, as someone who has reached or is in direct communication with God (Theosis) and will in turn teach you how to attain what he has attained, and I am not personally convinced that either priest that I've met is in direct communication with God (Theosis). 

But I already have a spiritual father in the general sense, but not in the specific sense. Thanks for your advice.

And thank you Brother Thomas, you advice is always on point.

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« Reply #12 on: March 24, 2008, 01:00:36 PM »

Theosis is a process, I doubt anyone could EVER say that they have fully reached it. And it isn't a good definition to say that it is "direct communication with God." That isn't what theosis means. Theosis is; "becoming by grace what God is by nature."
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« Reply #13 on: March 24, 2008, 01:07:24 PM »

Theosis is a process, I doubt anyone could EVER say that they have fully reached it. And it isn't a good definition to say that it is "direct communication with God." That isn't what theosis means. Theosis is; "becoming by grace what God is by nature."


Jesus said, "Blessed are those who are pure in heart for they shall see God."

I want to sit with someone who has polished their nous (eye of the soul, inner aspects of the heart), so that they may teach me how to see God. Direct Communication. So that I can be one with God.

St Peter of Damaskos says in the Philokalia volume 3 page 98, "All the Beatitudes make man a god by grace; he becomes gentle, longs for righteousness, is charitable, dispassonate, a peacemaker, and endures every pain with joy out of love for God and for his fellow man."
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« Reply #14 on: March 24, 2008, 01:07:44 PM »

I see what you're saying, but as a catechumen I think that there are a few steps prior to that course of action.  What you are describing is in a way  being mentored by an ascetic, but there are many more "baby steps" to consider before going that route.  It is important to establish one's faith on solid foundations to prevent one from falling away due to being overwhelmed by too much at once.

The priests you spoke with were quite likely well educated in the area of directing you in the early stages of conversion, but if you find them still inadequate you might consider booking a retreat at a monestary.
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« Reply #15 on: March 24, 2008, 01:12:46 PM »

I am a convert as well.  I converted about 9 years ago, and I know where you are coming from.  I too felt the same sort of zeal that you speak of, but what I learned is that sometimes you have to pull back on the reigns a little in order to let the process run its course.  God will mould us in his own good time.
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« Reply #16 on: March 24, 2008, 01:13:00 PM »



I want to sit with someone who has polished their nous (eye of the soul, inner aspects of the heart), so that they may teach me how to see God. Direct Communication. So that I can be one with God.


That will take about 15-45 years.  So start by getting received into the Orthodox Church and stopping your external sins. Then you can see if you need more attention.
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« Reply #17 on: March 24, 2008, 01:31:15 PM »

That will take about 15-45 years.  So start by getting received into the Orthodox Church and stopping your external sins. Then you can see if you need more attention.

Actually you can't put a time limit on it. In terms of the external sins, are you speaking of the 10 commandments???   I am not really sure how law works in the Orthodox Church.  I've asked, but haven't received an answer that made any sense.  It is like you follow the law but you don't follow the law.  Not eating pork is a law, but you don't have to follow it.  Thy shall not kill, you have to follow it.  I am not really sure where you draw the line, and I've asked both priest this question, one of them did not answer and other gave me an explanation, which didn't make much sense, and then said, this is a complicated question.  Ok...

I attend the church on a regular basis. I have no instruction, there is no catechumen class at my parish, I am just playing the waiting game.  Whenever the Priest decides he wants to have me Baptized that's when I'll be Baptized.

Thanks Marc Hanna for all your advice.
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« Reply #18 on: March 24, 2008, 01:33:04 PM »

Remember, this isn't like the protestant preacher on TV. There are no Orthodox monks, priests ect that will send you "Heavenly Manna" that will make you instantly perfect.

Babies learn in increments. First they hold their heads up, then they learn to roll over, sit up, crawl, walk, and then run. Few are the children that skip one of the steps in the process. And even after they learn to run there are many other skills they need to learn before they can walk a tightrope or rock climbing.

You have the rest of your life in Orthodoxy. Take your time.

And honestly, your statement about the priests not "in direct communication with God" seems rather judgemental. If you don't know how to do it yourself, how can you know it when you "see" it?
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« Reply #19 on: March 24, 2008, 01:34:35 PM »

On a personal basis, I believe reading:" The Way of a Pilgrim/The Pilgrim Continues His Way" an anonymous 19th c Russian writing re the Jesus Prayer & its application in the Philokalia & ultimately the Gospel can be very helpful in taking an approach to the Philokalia. It is a written account of someone's personal spiritual journey & highly respected in Orthodoxy albeit in an unofficial sense. Of course, I mean this as a mere footnote to the overall thread.
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« Reply #20 on: March 24, 2008, 01:36:58 PM »

We have The way of the Pilgrim, and it is a great book. There are also the little russian phiolkalias. But then there are the PHILOKALIA, numerous THICK books full of stuff that seems unattainable, we have 1-4 but there are several more. The way of the pilgrim and the little russian ones are not nearly as daunting as the big thick volumes.
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« Reply #21 on: March 24, 2008, 02:47:30 PM »

There is truly no definitive answer since it depends on an individual's situation when entering he catechumenate. Certainly no one can say "no" and if Irenaeus07 was led by the Spirit to be inspired from the Philokalia, his journey must be well. For example, it would seem any seeker could probably be lead to Orthodoxy by reading chapters 5-7 of Matthew and reading St. Maximos the confessors writings on love in vol.2 (faber & faber edition )of the Philokalia as a companion to reading the New Testament. After all, far more damage has been done by misguided readings & preachings of the book of Revelation than may result from reading the Philolkalia. Just a 2 cent perspective.
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« Reply #22 on: March 24, 2008, 03:29:15 PM »

Actually you can't put a time limit on it.

Actually I am speaking from experience as someone who actually is baptized, has a spiritual father, participates in the fasts, etc, as to what you can expect.

Sure you may reach theosis before in 2 years and 4 months, and if so, great, but there is a 99.999999999999999999999999999999999% chance that you won't, so get ready for a long path.

Spiritual fathers are not magical beings.  They are human beings like you or me, and they exist--in America. You can find one. But you won't need one until you "outgrow" your parish priest.  Any spiritual father is going to give you a rather rudimentary prayer rule to begin with so it's not like you need to find someone hiding out in a forest to tell you to pray morning and evening prayers, say x number of Jesus prayers a day, and keep the fasts without fail, while loving your neighbor as yourself and not judging your brother.

Your zeal is very good but St John Climacus has some things to say about people who are zealous in the beginning and then die out.  Some of the people on this thread are just urging caution because many of us have seen people come and go far too many times.

I think reading the Philokalia is fine for a catechumen but just don't get in over your head.
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« Reply #23 on: March 24, 2008, 03:57:15 PM »


I attend the church on a regular basis. I have no instruction, there is no catechumen class at my parish, I am just playing the waiting game.  Whenever the Priest decides he wants to have me Baptized that's when I'll be Baptized.


That's quite unforunate because a catechumen class would be very beneficial.  I didn't take any classes myself but I did spend a lot of one-on-one time with my priest before converting.  Are there any other parishes close by that you could "try out"?
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« Reply #24 on: March 24, 2008, 04:17:11 PM »

Sure, it's OK to read the Philokalia as a catechumen.

But to utilize the Philokalia as one's central guide to practice, that's another question.
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« Reply #25 on: March 24, 2008, 09:15:43 PM »

And honestly, your statement about the priests not "in direct communication with God" seems rather judgemental. If you don't know how to do it yourself, how can you know it when you "see" it?

You are absolutely right, it is not my place to say who and who isn’t communicating with God, thanks for the reminder.  It is not my place to judge them.

On a personal basis, I believe reading:" The Way of a Pilgrim/The Pilgrim Continues His Way" an anonymous 19th c Russian writing re the Jesus Prayer & its application in the Philokalia & ultimately the Gospel can be very helpful in taking an approach to the Philokalia. It is a written account of someone's personal spiritual journey & highly respected in Orthodoxy albeit in an unofficial sense. Of course, I mean this as a mere footnote to the overall thread.
We have The way of the Pilgrim, and it is a great book. There are also the little russian phiolkalias. But then there are the PHILOKALIA, numerous THICK books full of stuff that seems unattainable, we have 1-4 but there are several more. The way of the pilgrim and the little russian ones are not nearly as daunting as the big thick volumes.

I was not moved by the Way of the Pilgrim.  I started reading it and couldn’t finish the book.
 
That's quite unforunate because a catechumen class would be very beneficial.  I didn't take any classes myself but I did spend a lot of one-on-one time with my priest before converting.  Are there any other parishes close by that you could "try out"?

This is the city in which God has placed me, so I decided it was best for me to take what God has given me.  This attitude has lead me to the discovery Christianity.  I think I should maintain it.
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« Reply #26 on: March 25, 2008, 12:04:21 AM »

Jesus said, "Blessed are those who are pure in heart for they shall see God."

I want to sit with someone who has polished their nous (eye of the soul, inner aspects of the heart), so that they may teach me how to see God. Direct Communication. So that I can be one with God.

St Peter of Damaskos says in the Philokalia volume 3 page 98, "All the Beatitudes make man a god by grace; he becomes gentle, longs for righteousness, is charitable, dispassonate, a peacemaker, and endures every pain with joy out of love for God and for his fellow man."

The paradox is that the purer one becomes and the more a person can see God, the more they see their own sinfulness.  I've been told by both an abbot and abbess of monasteries that nobody should read the Philokalia without the blessing of their Spiritual Father/Mother (rather it is their priest or someone else).  They also pointed out that even a lot of monastics are never given a blessing to read the Philokalia.  One of Satan's biggest snares is getting us to try things that we aren't capable of doing yet.  You can't expect a 1 year old to go out and run a marathon.  He/she is not capable of that yet.  People get to that level step by step, and any priest/SF is going to have you do it that way.  As the abbot I am thinking about used to say, we need to each start at the bottom and work our way up.  You don't expect to get to the top right away. 
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« Reply #27 on: March 25, 2008, 07:55:29 AM »

The paradox is that the purer one becomes and the more a person can see God, the more they see their own sinfulness.  I've been told by both an abbot and abbess of monasteries that nobody should read the Philokalia without the blessing of their Spiritual Father/Mother (rather it is their priest or someone else).  They also pointed out that even a lot of monastics are never given a blessing to read the Philokalia.  One of Satan's biggest snares is getting us to try things that we aren't capable of doing yet.  You can't expect a 1 year old to go out and run a marathon.  He/she is not capable of that yet.  People get to that level step by step, and any priest/SF is going to have you do it that way.  As the abbot I am thinking about used to say, we need to each start at the bottom and work our way up.  You don't expect to get to the top right away. 

Katheline,

  I do have permission from my priest to read it.  I never realized my local priest is my spiritual father while a catechumen. So I do have permission. 

To Everybody else,

 You are absolutely right, I need to take one step at a time.  Thanks for everything.
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