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Author Topic: THE PATH TO SALVATION READING GROUP  (Read 3642 times) Average Rating: 0
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nicodemus
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« on: January 14, 2004, 02:37:07 PM »



Through the prayers of St. Theophan the Recluse, may we have success in our book study and learn unto the salvation of our souls.
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nicodemus
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« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2004, 02:42:36 PM »

First of all, I would like to apologize for still not having the syllabus.  It will be posted later today.  I got a lot of time off of work that I wasn't really expecting and don't have a computer at  home.

I will post the syllabus here later today as well as my thoughts on the first chapter.

Also, after I post the syllabus, I will have a thread for each portion of the book.  While that may seem confusing, it will more easily allow for the discussion to remain focused on the material at hand.  It is of course fine to go back and post on older material, it's just that it would be best to keep it seperated as much as possible.  I believe this would also easier facilitate those that may join the discussion late.
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« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2004, 10:03:51 PM »

I am looking forward to this.  I've e-mailed my priest to ask his blessing to participate, and if he gives it, I will participate.
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« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2004, 01:28:28 PM »

Looking forward to it.
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« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2004, 07:05:30 PM »

A couple more thoughts.  I'm going to hold off on the syllabus for a few days.  I want to see how the discussion on this goes first.  I see several people that said they were going to participate haven't chimed in yet, so I don't want to go ahead full steam until I figure out where everybody is.

I'm going to post my thoughts on the first chapter in about five minutes.
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nicodemus
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« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2004, 07:18:28 PM »

Keep in mind,  I'm no expert on how an online book discussion should go.  Remember, we're trailblazing folks!

Here are some of my observations from the Introduction.

- One can know about the Christian life, but  you still have to do it.  The key is to begin!

- St. Theophan points out that it is easy to fall off the Christian path, and he will provide guideposts in the rest of the book on how to stay on the path.  St. Theophan says we must have "active wisdom," which I take to means we have to not only know what to do, but to do it.  Meaning, we must have praxis and not just knowledge.

- St. Theophan also points out that  we are not born Christians, but that is a concious decision we all must make.  

This is one thing that many non-Christian religions don't believe.  They firmly  believe that one is born a Hindu, a Jain, etc.. and that to deviate from that destroys the family.  We ran into this when my wife converted to Christianity.  We had a hard time making her parents realize Christians don't view the world as other religions do.

-St. Theophan goes on to say the Christian life is difficult because it goes against our natural inclinations.  The "soil" we're in (the world) is hostile to growth, so we must wage battle to attain spiritual  growth.

- Finally, the Saint says the Christian life proceeds in three stages:
1) Turning to God
2) Purification / Self-Ammendment
3) Sanctification

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nicodemus
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« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2004, 07:19:47 PM »

Actually, I have a ton of notes on chapter one, but I want to see what people have to say about the Intro before I throw out the huge post that will be notes on Chapter 1.  Let me know what y'all think.  Remember, this is a work in progress!
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« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2004, 01:46:57 AM »

Nicodemus, I think you've done a good job of expressing the main points of the Introduction.  What excites me, and at the same time, frightens me, is the "battle with oneself involving much labor, intense and sorrowful."  

Since reading the introduction and first chapter about a week ago,  I'm finding myself more mindful of my everyday activities, the way I treat people, the way I waste time, the way I use sarcasm as humor, etc.  I'm 57 years old, have never known a time when I didn't know about and believe in Christ to one degree or another.   I have a seminary degree, have been a Protestant minister, Bible teacher, etc.  Yet, reading St. Theophan, I have this sense of only the very smallest beginning of the real Christian life.  What battles await me?  How will I use that double-edged sword of "forcing" myself and "opposing" myself.

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« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2004, 03:33:27 PM »

What excites me, and at the same time, frightens me, is the "battle with oneself involving much labor, intense and sorrowful."  

That is quite awe-inspiring.  I wish I had read St. Theophan years ago.  I think this book is going to sharpen the senses and hopefully put a leash on my too quick tongue.
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Mor Ephrem
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« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2004, 07:38:01 PM »

Here are some of my thoughts re: the introduction.

St. Theophan begins the third paragraph with a description of me, and for that matter, I suspect, most of us (at least at some point or the other).  "For the most part, the very desire to walk is lacking.  The soul, attracted by some passion or other, stubbornly repulses every compelling force and every call; the eyes turn away from God and do not want to look at Him.  The law of Christ is not to one's liking; there is no disposition even to listen to it." (p.21)  It's easy enough for us on this site to say that we are and be willing in the spirit to walk along the Way, but the flesh is weak, and his description, while only a few lines, is dead on.  If we are really honest with ourselves, we don't even want to hear any of it, let alone actually do it.

At the bottom of p. 22 going onto the top of p. 23 (and these page references are to the paperback, which is what I'm assuming everyone is using), he discusses how a Christian becomes such after birth, rather than becoming one by birth.  Nicodemus rightly points out that this is the way other religions and cultures view religion, but it is not the Christian way.  Nevertheless, even we fall into this mentality: "cradle Catholics", "cradle Orthodox", and all that.  But what really struck me about this section was the relevance of a passage from Galatians.  St. Theophan writes that the naturally born man is injured, fallen, and opposed to Christianity, and then writes that while a plant begins life with the awakening of a dormant power within, the beginning of Christian life is "a kind of recreation, an endowing of new powers, of new life."  The power is from without, and this is where St. Paul comes in:      

For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: neverthless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.  (Galatians 2.19-20, RSV)

He is the Power from without, and if we are in Him, we are "a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (II Cor. 5.17)

Finally, a question: in the middle of the same page, St. Theophan writes that Christian growth entails a lot of struggle against oneself, and that it goes against our natural inclinations.  A non-believer would probably wonder what the point of fighting one's own nature would be, since it comes naturally and is not something freely chosen; will St. Theophan answer this in the book, or would one have to find the answer to that elsewhere?
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« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2004, 01:43:57 AM »

Mor Ephrem writes:  
Quote
If we are really honest with ourselves, we don't even want to hear any of it, let alone actually do it.
 I came out of a Calvinist denomination that had as one of it's confessional statements, the Heidelberg Catechism.  In talking about our inability to live according to God's law it says, 'We are prone by nature to hate God and our neighbor."  Perhaps we can take encouragement from the fact that if we do possess a desire to look more closely into the faith, that alone may be (but not necessarily) already the working of the Spirit.  As you say, "The power is from without."  And yet in such a way so as not to coerce us, but to give full respect to our wills.
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« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2004, 11:26:34 PM »

Very nice posts from Mor Ephrem & Strobert.  I will respond to them tomorrow as well as start the thread on Chapter 1.
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« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2004, 04:58:07 PM »

Given the votes we had for this book, the number of persons expressing desire for the syllabus, I'm surprised there hasn't been a few more contributions here on the Introduction.  

A few of you have new or young children.  Chapter One's remarks on baptism are golden for all of us, but especially new parents.
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« Reply #13 on: January 21, 2004, 01:50:13 PM »

Sorry I've been so flighty about this, we've been incredibly busy at work.  I usually have a lot of time to kill at work and can do this stuff there.  Since we've been unexpectedly busy lately I haven't been able to give this as much attention as I would like to.  I don't have a computer at home and this has limited my ability to put more energy into this.  For that, I apologize.

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« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2004, 04:50:15 PM »

Well, even despite your busyness, Nicodemus, I'm still wondering why no one else has chimed in with at least some remarks about the introduction or the opening chapter.  Can they do nothing without a syllabus?  Have they no ideas, questions, or respones to the wisdom of Theophan?  Was it something I said?
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« Reply #15 on: January 21, 2004, 05:50:19 PM »

To use Phil's quote:

"For the most part, the very desire to walk is lacking.  The soul, attracted by some passion or other, stubbornly repulses every compelling force and every call; the eyes turn away from God and do not want to look at Him.  The law of Christ is not to one's liking; there is no disposition even to listen to it." (p.21)

Personally, I find this "desire to walk" existing more on the mental level and less in the heart. I can argue "theology" and be entirely convinced of the Church's teachings and practices in my mind, but of course my heart is still bogged down in sin and what probably amounts to doubt in Christ's power to transform me. Perhaps this is a product of the "Western" outlook where developing reason and thought are ususally given  higher priority in our lives than developing the heart. Besides, knowledge and "the mind" sometimes seem more tangible and easy to read than the heart's state.
St. Theophan's sciptural references are just what somone in my(our) state needs- we must remember that the power of transformation comes from Christ, not in how much we can convince ourselves or others we believe in Christ's transforming power. However, this transformation takes our will too- not our mental will, but our heart's will. I'm looking forward tot he coming chapters where St. Theophan will elaborate on how to make Christ our heart's desire.
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« Reply #16 on: January 23, 2004, 03:01:45 PM »

Personally, I find this "desire to walk" existing more on the mental level and less in the heart. I can argue "theology" and be entirely convinced of the Church's teachings and practices in my mind...

I think that sums it up amazingly well.  My head knows what it wants to do, I just can't get the rest of me to follow.  Of course, that's the problem, I'm trying to get me to do something, instead of letting go and prayerfully letting God take action.
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« Reply #17 on: January 23, 2004, 03:13:51 PM »

I think that sums it up amazingly well.  My head knows what it wants to do, I just can't get the rest of me to follow.  Of course, that's the problem, I'm trying to get me to do something, instead of letting go and prayerfully letting God take action.

Yes, but how does one do that?  It seems to me that one could easily delude himself into thinking that a sort of spiritual laziness or apathy is the same as "letting go and prayerfully letting God take action".
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« Reply #18 on: January 25, 2004, 11:24:00 PM »

          No where in this book are you going to read St. Theophan condone a kind of spiritual apathy. All through out the book it's podvig, podvig, podvig. I recently went to confesssion last Saturday and confessed a screw up I've tried to stop for a long time, and after confession my spiritual father reminded me of my prayer rule, which I had neglected. He asked me if I eat everyday and if I take a shower on a regular basis. I of course said yes, then he said it's no different spiritually. You do your prayer rule (what ever it might be) every day, morning and night, whether you feel like it or not. Giving God your time in prayer when you are not feeling anything and you are dead tired is a sacrifice that is well pleasing unto God.
           I'm not saying that podvig is some sort of punishment for your sins but it is a slap in the face to yourself that you need to get back in the game. Further in the book St. Theophan will use a war analogy to our struggle against ourselves and satan. You can't drift off into LaLaland in a war if you do you are going to get killed. War requires focus and attention. Even if you are tired, if you know there are enemy troops just around the corner waiting for an ambush, you would'nt dream of just lying down and finding a comfy foxhole to sleep in. You would have your rifle at the ready and your finger on the trigger. It's the same with our noetic struggle.
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« Reply #19 on: January 26, 2004, 03:47:43 PM »

                    I'm not saying that podvig is some sort of punishment for your sins but it is a slap in the face to yourself that you need to get back in the game.


I think calling podvig "a slap in the face" isn't entirely accurate.  Podvig isn't about getting "back in the game," podvig is the course of action, podvig is the game.  The struggle against oneself and one's will is "the game."  

As Mor Ephrem pointed out, there would be a temptation towards spiritual apathy trying to "let go and let God" as the protestant expression goes.  It is hard to put into words what that means.  It certainly isn't me sitting around thinking, "Well, now I'm fed up with myself, I'm going to sort this out this time.  I'm not falling into that sin again."  I know I'm incredibly guilty of that line of thought, and it gets me nowhere.  How to conquer that is a question I'm sure St. Theophan will answer.  He has pointed out already though that even the desire to do good will bear fruit.  Persistance and vigilance also come into play.  I remember reading an interview with a monk and when asked what they do daily he said, "fall down and get back up."  Even with resolve we will have our failures, but much of it can be eliminated when we learn to conquer our thoughts.  Obviously the next question, is "how do we do that?"  I think much of this will be explored in the book, but a lot of it is fairly common sense stuff that through laziness or pride, we don't recognize as common sense stuff.  Like, removing ourselves from tempting situations.  We can gain strength by owning up to our weaknesses.
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« Reply #20 on: January 26, 2004, 04:44:21 PM »

Nicodemus, I totally agree with you.  I think the hard part is seeing ourselves as we really are, admitting it, and then, through God's grace *doing* things to struggle against these passions and then to overcome and get up each time we don't.  "Letting go and letting God" is very dangerous, as it seems to me to fall into the faith vs. works argument that Protestants often fall into--that idea that you can separate faith from action or works.  They think that God's going to do *all* the work, while we don't have to do anything, including learning (through God's grace and the Church) to learn to discipline our bodies and souls.  We do gain strength by owning up to our weaknesses, both to ourselves and to our priest/spiritual father, who can then help us to overcome them too.  We're both accountable to him through confession, and he can counsel us on how to overcome.
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« Reply #21 on: January 27, 2004, 02:48:47 PM »

Well, even despite your busyness, Nicodemus, I'm still wondering why no one else has chimed in with at least some remarks about the introduction or the opening chapter.  Can they do nothing without a syllabus?  Have they no ideas, questions, or respones to the wisdom of Theophan?  Was it something I said?  

Back in December, I asked a friend with a good library to lend me this book, and mistakenly, I ended up with a book called The Heart of Salvation, the Life and Teachings of St Theophan. So, I'm not sure I'll be chiming in, but I decided to read this book concurrently, and I'm checking the thread.

Just wanted you to know there is more appreciation... some of the threads on this forum, church history, etc, are beyond me, and I appreciate this one diverting me from the political threads.
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« Reply #22 on: January 27, 2004, 03:48:18 PM »

I would love to participate.    I look forward to this group.  Thanks for being here.
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« Reply #23 on: February 11, 2008, 05:09:57 PM »

whatever happen to this group???
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« Reply #24 on: February 12, 2008, 12:45:54 AM »

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