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mango
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« on: May 14, 2005, 07:22:37 PM »

I ve been Katechumen for over 6 years. I love the (orthodox) church since it has given me life, and each day strengh to live. My spiritual father is a holy man and I trust and understand his decision to make me wait until I shall recieve the holy sacrament of babtisem.
In these years I ve been learning a lot, and my love towards God has grown- however again and again I fall back into the livestyle that I practced when younger and nurtured by a liberal western understanding.

So, whenever I commit a grave sin, I prolong the period of my exclusion for so much longer, since I need to change first, as not to -then, once, later- right away spoil the new and bright garment of babtism. (Don't know how to put it better- sorry) I know I should not fall into despair. But when and how will God help me through strenghing my faith, not to commit the same sins again and again since they are so deeply rooted in my proud and selfl- loving beeing? Especially since I don't recieve the aid of holy communion.

How come, with some of you converts, that you got to know the right faith and then clung on to it, and followed it without looking back? How did you manage?
Why am I putting myself through such agony, by not doing what I'm supposed to do.

Please pray for me
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« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2005, 07:37:34 PM »

Sister Mango,

can you please specify your age and which Church have you submitted yourself under.


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« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2005, 07:45:38 PM »

Sure, Brother Ipap,

I am 25, and once recieved I would belong to the serbian orthodox curch
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« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2005, 08:14:07 PM »

You need to talk to another Orthodox priest ASAP.  I have never heard of people having to wait six years to be received into Orthodoxy.  Back in the early Church people had to wait 3 years and this guy is making you wait twice as long. 

The Church is a hospital for sinners.  It's not a secret club only for the holy and sinless. 

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« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2005, 09:03:02 PM »

Sister mango,

I share with you my experiences, I am not a spiritual father, I am a sinner.

You must be honest with yourself in your decision.

You do not have to be sinless in order to be baptised, but you have to be in balance regarding what you want. If your left foot is outside of the church and your right foot is inside the church you must come to a decision to follow the step that your heart is after.

What is important is not whether you will be baptized tomorrow or after some months, but to be present as a whole entity before you “dive” into the Holy Waters and after you come out of them as a member of the body of Christ. All your sins will be washed away and you will be free of any charges against you.

Some Christian saints had to wait for many years in the status of catechumen until they actually were baptized. After their baptism they lived a blessed life and they are today glorified as saints of the Church. I pray that you follow their example.

Now let me share with you some moment of my personal history.
 
When I tried to enter into the faith, at the age of 17 (I was already baptised from childhood) I made a mistake to think that I had to be perfect. Nobody was asking of me to be perfect, but I believed that they did. So I made a decision to become sinless. Of course I failed again and again and again. I though in myself that I will never achieve what I though my goal was. So I became angry and frustrated from my failures. My problem was that I tried not to be myself; I tried to be like someone I was not.

Then for a period, I left the church and then I return back and then I left again and then I return back because each time I was trying to live inside the church I failed, and every time I was trying to live out of the church I missed her so badly.

For a period I thought that it was my spiritual father’s fault that I failed in such a way.

After several years (11-12 years), I realised that the “problem” was my illusive self. I had lived a life of instability because I was afraid to make an honest decision. If I was to leave the church lifestyle then I would seemed non-perfect as a sinner, if I was to join the church lifestyle then I would seemed incapable of such a life.

I realised at that time that I was not really living a true life. Yes, I was here or there, I was doing this or that, but I never got involved in real, honest, personal relations with other persons. I was just trying to be both a better myself (according to faith) and a worst myself (according to my desires). As I came to this self-realization things started to become crystal clear in front of me. Every time I got involved in a situation I asked myself: is this who I really am or not - why am I here for ?

There were situations that I honestly answered to this question as “yes this is really me”. And I am talking of sinful situations. Then I went into Church and I told Christ, “this is who I am, I do not have to lie to you anymore, I do not have to lie to myself, I am ME”. Of course being this sinner ME had to present myself to my priest in all honesty as such.

To my surprise I was not rejected as a sinner, I was on the contrary promised of a place in heaven, and I was offered the therapeutically means that Church gifts so that I would become “healthy” real person.

I realized that each time I was recognized my self in a sinful situation I actually lived a non personal relation. In such a relation my self was so absolutely alone (among other lonely entities) that I was a shadow of myself, as the testimony of the absence of my personality.  

I learn to live the “true life of mine” through the personal relationship with others.

This is why I am answering your question. Through our personal communication you are sharing with me in our hearts the honest future that you prepare for yourself.

Tonight I meet you, with gratitude for being yourself.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2005, 09:09:05 PM by lpap » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2005, 09:37:21 PM »

Dear Mango,


I am a catechumen as well. I also fall again and again in some horrible and self-destructive sins that actually had developed into true addictions. I know your feelings quite well.

Everything I can tell you from my experience is: no matter the profundity of the abyss in which we are thrown by our sins, where there is true repentance, there is still hope.

Refraining from sins, specially from certain addictive sins, is almost impossible -- but the keyword is "almost": you can always count on God's help if you really want to stop. Try to pray, to fast and to be merciful to other people as seriously as you can. Talk to your priest about the specific nature of the sins you are fighting against and ask for his help so that you can draw an efficient strategy of struggle against the passions that disturb you most. This good article here can also be helpful. I know there are Orthodox monasteries in England; try to find an experienced and wise monk or nun and ask for his/her help as well. (You may ask your priest if he knows a good monastery or monastic in England.)

And do not worry about the lenght of your catechumenate; this kind of concern may be a distraction from the true problem. My priest usually requires long catechumenates. Some friends of mine were catechumens for many years and now they are good and practising Orthodox Christians; none of them is unhappy because they had to wait a long time. If you trust your priest, understand his decision and it makes sense to you, so that's enough.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2005, 09:46:40 PM by Felipe Ortiz » Logged
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« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2005, 09:04:46 AM »

You need to talk to another Orthodox priest ASAP.  I have never heard of people having to wait six years to be received into Orthodoxy.  Back in the early Church people had to wait 3 years and this guy is making you wait twice as long. 

The Church is a hospital for sinners.  It's not a secret club only for the holy and sinless. 

Hmmm...while it's clear you're struggling with this in your own life, Jennifer, I don't think it's really your, my, or anybody else's place to give such a blatant suggestion.  Depending on the lifestyle she keeps falling into it may be wise for her priest to have her wait, as such a lifestyle may be completely incompatible with Orthodoxy.

And, for the record, some in the Early Church waited TEN years....

At any rate, mango, like I said, perhaps your spiritual father is wise working with you in your constant relapses into whatever it is.  While (I hope) he's not expecting you to be sinless, the catechumenate is often a place where we face many of our demons before full entrance to the Church--though you are very much a member RIGHT NOW.  Maybe that will serve as some comfort.

I'd encourage you to not be so hard on yourself in your shortcomings; it's been said that in between the despair of failure and the indifference of apathy and resignation lies the divine virtue of patience. One of the reasons the Divine Liturgy says "Again and again in peace let us pray to the Lord" (which is what I thought your topic was about at first! Smiley) is because She recognizes that we do the same things over and over again and need the constant repetitive prayer before God.

Also, something that might help: you're in good company, as St. Paul says:

"For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do." (Romans 7:19)

Peace,

Pedro
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« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2005, 12:57:07 PM »

There's nothing wrong with suggesting that she speak to another priest.  There might be something weird going on here.  She should speak to another priest to get his perspective on the situation just in case there is some kind of clergy abuse of authority here.  And if her priest objects to her speaking to another priest then it's an indication that there is definitely something wrong here. 
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« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2005, 09:43:24 AM »

This is the problem with people airing out things like this on these forums - we end up only hearing part of the story, so even if we did have the wisdom to offer some meaningful advice, it would be irrelevent given that we'd be operating on only partial information.

While six years certainly is strange (even in the old days, it was three years, and this was for people coming from pagan backgrounds), for all we know there could be a reason for this.  But it's hard to say, without knowing just what the situation is (what these "sins" are that are being mentioned, etc.?)

But then again, do we really want to know what someone is up to, what their sins are?  Honestly, I don't.  That's not a "I can't be bothered", but simply "I don't want to be tempted to judgement."  I know what I'm about, I don't pretend to be a confessor.  I have a hard enough time overlooking people's obvious faults, let alone their most hidden sins.

The only thing I'd suggest, is that if this person is concerned that their Priest is doing something improper in delaying their Baptism, that they should talk to their Bishop about this.  That would be the proper "order" to go in, rather than "shopping around" for a Priest.

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« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2005, 09:58:00 AM »

And, for the record, some in the Early Church waited TEN years....

Yes, but this was because there were other reasons; people did not have access to reading materials about the faith, or they could not read. So the materail could only be taught one on one.
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« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2005, 12:14:51 PM »

 So the materail could only be taught one on one...................where did you get this from? 
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« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2005, 12:29:03 PM »

Catechumen in the Church would be dismissed from the Divine Liturgy after the liturgy of the word to go receive personal instruction in the faith. Most common people could not read during this time, nor was there a Bible to read for the first 300+ years of Christianity. Learning came through individual instruction, reading the scriptures and other sources of Christian teaching when possible, and through the visual theology of the Church, iconography.
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« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2005, 12:49:59 PM »

TomS,

Quote
Yes, but this was because there were other reasons; people did not have access to reading materials about the faith, or they could not read. So the materail could only be taught one on one.

Not quite. The lengthy catechumate had to do with, frankly, more rigor being taken in the preparation of catechumen for their Baptism. While it is a matter of the Church's economia to be increasingly lenient in this regard, it has a trade-off; people are very often reaching the Baptismal font incapable (by lack of preparation/personal-disposition) to get the "full benefit" of the Holy Mystery (or at least a fuller benefit, if that makes any sense.)

If one thing can be said about western Christianity (particularly Roman Catholicism, since it's closer to the "Orthodox root" so to speak, where as the various Protestantisms are spin offs of this), it is that it is a reduction and secularization of Orthodox Christianity. Thus, it's got a lot of the basics right - the ideas of priesthood, sacraments, etc. But these are all understood only in a narrow, superficial way. This is where the legalism comes from - legalism is the interpretation of reality minus substance... our idea of how all of these things ought to be, rather than the reality of them, and splitting hairs and coming to all sorts of rationalizations.

A proximate danger of the various expressions of leniency in the Church's economia (which literally refers to Her authority to "govern the household"), whether it be in regards to the manner of receiving converts from heterodox sects, or in things like the catechumate itself (or the many other examples one could perhaps think of), is that worldliness enters into the thinking of the Church's members, or that spiritual understanding which is only possible through struggle and experience is replaced by "book learning" (which of itself isn't always a bad start) or worse yet, rationalism.

A big problem right now, is that the Church's "lightening of the burden" so to speak, is being thoroughly confused by many souls (including those in pastoral-type positions, or at least in positions where people place some creedence in what they say, like professors at seminaries or theological institutes) with "the reality", and is being given a sort of ontological/rational that it does not in fact merit. This is a process I'm now convinced is older than the "ecumenical movement" as we know it, and is one of the bitter fruits of the "western captivity" that many contemporary Orthodox scholars (and better yet, men of sanctity) speak of.

IOW, there is a price to be paid for the "lightening of the burden" - but the price is paid, because a prudential judgement has been made that more will be saved through such leniency...in other words, there is a greater good at work, or perhaps a lesser evil (depending on how one looks at it.) We're a faithless bunch - I don't know if many of us would be willing to not only stick out a three year catechumate, but to be involved in one as complete as it was in the past (where one was expected to live near the Bishop, attend services throughout the week, even daily, etc.) But obviously there were those who did.

Thus, one can make the catechumate not only brief, but of almost no consequence - read a few books, get Baptized/Chrismated. One can put pews in the Church (because people are lazy, and we'd rather keep them in the Church than have them grumble and be scandlized.) You can truncate services, for the same reason. You can make the clergy look identical to their Protestant and Roman Catholic neighbours. You can make all possible exceptions for fasting (civil holidays, family events, etc.) You can change the ecclessiastical calendar. The list goes on and on. But at a certain point, it's worth asking "what exactly is left"? I guess this is the logic/linguistic problem, of just when a "big" pile of sand becomes a "small one", if one is removing one grain of sand at a time (is it at ten grains subtracted? 100? 101? 102?) There is no legalistic answer for this I suppose. Smiley


(sorry for rambling Tom...I know this goes well beyond what you in fact said) Smiley

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« Reply #13 on: May 16, 2005, 12:53:14 PM »

So the materail could only be taught one on one...................where did you get this from?

Bad choice of words - what I meant to convery is that the knowledge was passed along verbally - from one person to another, whether that be a group or just one person. This type of teaching takes a lot longer than if the student could read supporting/additional material.

You can make all possible exceptions for fasting (civil holidays, family events, etc.) You can change the ecclessiastical calendar. The list goes on and on. But at a certain point, it's worth asking "what exactly is left"?

Faith in Christ, as opposed to faith in RITUALS.
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« Reply #14 on: May 16, 2005, 01:36:13 PM »

Tom,

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Faith in Christ, as opposed to faith in RITUALS.

That's just Protestant jingoism, ala "no popery" and other "no-nothing-isms".

If you want to continue understanding Orthodoxy through a fundamentally Protestant prism (which is inherently rationalistic, even if dressed in the guise of pietism), then I don't think you'll ever understand why the great fasts are important, why we do things in a certain way (in imitation of the Holy Apostles and the latter Apostles and Fathers in our tradition), etc.  You'll remain forever a stranger to them all, and sadly, receive no benefit from them either.

If one does not have ascescis, then one cannot partake of the Holy Mysteries profitably, and perhaps not even "worthily" (not that anyone is ever really "worthy" - but rather by "worthy" I mean in the sense that they do not bring condemnation upon us.)  The two are wedded together.  And this ascescis is found within the Liturgy (understood in the broad sense - that is to say, not simply the Divine, Eucharistic Liturgy, but all of the public services of the Church), within the Fasts (obviously), and the pious customs which have formed in the Church.

Thus, the Orthodox life is not a museum piece, or something precious for "Church-geeks" and  ritual-fetishists who pride themselves on having the "good taste" of being Orthodox (since if that's their thinking, any sort of "high church" style religion will do) - it is something which helps us to become a fruitful recipient of the living waters of grace, rather than simply being a "straight pipe" for it to pass through (if God chooses to be merciful!*)

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« Reply #15 on: May 16, 2005, 02:08:01 PM »

There is nothing inherently wrong with the OC's man-made rituals. They serve a purpose - but they must not be confused with Faith.
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« Reply #16 on: May 16, 2005, 02:46:36 PM »

I'm going to agree with Augustine's lean on this one.

Quote
There's nothing wrong with suggesting that she speak to another priest.

I would agree and suggest Mango go to a Serbian priest. Since Mango's already there I'll diasgree. Grin


I didn't think Mango was complaining about the priest's actions, but Mango's own actions. It sounds to me as though Mango is saying that she has excluded herself by actions.

Mango,

I suggest you lay down a rule of prayer in your life. We have one in our home. When you fail to achieve this ideal, tell your priest. Constantly pray. That's the only way you can get out of this rut. Watch what you read. Fast from popular culture for a while and immerse yourself in the Faith. If you can, go to a monastery to pray. Read the writinings of St. Velimirovic, such as http://www.sv-luka.org/praylake/index.htm.

You can't defeat your nature yourself, but you do have to give it your best struggle. Don't worry about time.

If you would like, I can forward my family's "rule of prayer" for our home as a starting guide.

You can also go to http://www.sv-luka.org/prayers/index.htm.
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« Reply #17 on: May 16, 2005, 02:51:32 PM »

I have to add that I don't think I did manage it.  I don't look back in that I don't doubt my decision.  But I have, on occasion, "returned like a dog" to my vomit. 

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« Reply #18 on: May 17, 2005, 06:00:56 PM »

Dear Friends,

I thank you for all your good thoughts and knowledge that you put into this discussion!
You are quite right, cizinec, I would not dare to criticise my priest, but only and solely myself. I do have a prayer rule, but I would be interested to have a look at yours, also because translations differ so greatly.

I have also come across the discussion of ritual versus faith, and in my simple understanding I fully agree with Augustine, that the ritual bears the essence of our faith. So in a way, I am very happy that my spiritual father is taking matters seriously and will not 'water down' the precious practice of the orthodox faith to accomodate lazy and stubborn people like me.

To you dear Jennifer, I have spoken to other priests, simply because I often change location within europe. Both priests are abbots of monastaries, and the second very much respects the choices the first makes. They know eachother and although belonging to different churches (greek/ russian/ serbian) agree. After all, as far as I know, obidience to the spiritual father is one of the most important things. -even if it is only that I will not try and seek the easy option with someone who would be willing to perform the rite of baptism. And no, no one expects me to be sinless, not even my self, because that much I have understood, that we will never, and thanks to Christ's mercy, dont have to achive this impossibility.

At last, please pardon if I do not further ellaborate on the nature of my life style, but this is not the place to name and burden others with sad details. The specail thing about this forum is, that although no one is a priest, you share your knowledge and oppinions with me and others. Hence, I don't feel left alone, and can filter out the information I need to rekindle my hope-
so again and again let us pray to the Lord
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« Reply #19 on: May 17, 2005, 07:05:40 PM »

cizinec,
I must say that the St. Luke's site has some of the awesomest chant on it's links. A lot of the sheet music is fortunately transliterated out such that I could probably make a reasonable attempt to pronounce it (although I would prefer English) - and much even has the ison written in! My priest bought a record around 20+ years ago while in Greece that has the "Tsar Nicholas the Serb" Cherubic Hymn on it (click on Medieval chants - third song from the top). He loved it so much that he transcribed it off the record and it is a regular in our choir books. The other Cherubic Hymn halfway down on the other page (mix of solo and polyphonic, with a "bigger" sound) is great as well. Kelfar loved it too (he occasionally posts).

But the site seems to say everything but where the heck St. Luke's is located?!?
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« Reply #20 on: May 17, 2005, 09:11:36 PM »

There is nothing inherently wrong with the OC's man-made rituals. They serve a purpose - but they must not be confused with Faith.

Ya see Tom, statements like this only point to the reasons why the Catechumate needs to be more rigorous Wink
What you seem to be suggesting here is the Protestant notion of a duality between "Faith" vs. "Works"- a duality which does not exist in Orthodoxy.
The etymology of the word "Liturgy" comes from "laos" ("people") and "ergos" ("work").
Whether "man-made" or not, Liturgy is the common "work" of worship which is an expression of Faith.
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« Reply #21 on: May 18, 2005, 08:39:48 AM »

Ozgeorge,

You're correct, in Orthodoxy this "opposition" doesn't exist, between "faith" and "works", particularly if one is talking about the faith which comes by illumination, as opposed to that earlier faith which comes by hearing.

Though the word occurs again and again in the New Testament, "faith" has different meanings depending upon it's context.  The form that the western (Protestant vs. Roman Catholic) controversies focused on is what would be called "faith that comes by hearing."  It is this faith, which must be accompanied by works.  And what are the "works" for?  To give substance to this type of faith (otherwise it's just pious words), and to cut away the debris and choking vines which wind through our souls, to let some Light in.

OTOH, there is another faith, one which St.Paul speaks a great deal of, which comes via illumination.  In the spiritual life there are different stages - the earlier part being mainly purification, the latter being more direct illumination (revelation, communion with God - basically, the business of living Saints.)  This "higher" faith, so to speak, is founded more upon direct experience, and belongs to those who have purified their spiritual vision/mind, a composite idea summed up in the greek term "nous".  This is why St.Paul often says things which at first are hard to understand - and as St.Peter indicates in his second Epistle, are prone to be misunderstood by those who are spiritually unstable.  This is why most of the early gnostic-libertine sects, as well as their later successors (in the form of "sola fides" Protestantism), often cited St.Paul as their primary authority.  They confused his faith founded upon illumination, with the earlier faith of neophytes (and frankly, most men throughout their lives, particularly in this age), with the "faith" spoken of elsewhere, such as by St.James, the "faith by hearing", the creedal faith we come to because it was preached to us by someone, and which we accept on the basis of another's authority.

Thus, St.Paul says things like "all things are lawful to me, but not all things are convienient" - a statement which, if not understood correctly, can be truly perplexing, since this doesn't seem to square well with observance of the law of God, accepting instruction obediently, etc.

Though I've cited him many times, once again I must point to Metropoiltan Hierotheos - he writes about these different types or "levels" of faith, such as in his book of the catechumate (which is really a useful read for both Priests and laymen - particularly catechumen.)

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« Reply #22 on: May 18, 2005, 10:49:04 PM »


After all, as far as I know, obidience to the spiritual father is one of the most important things.

Actually, no, obedience to a spiritual father is not essential to Orthodoxy.  Obedience as it is typically understood is intended for the monastery where you have both mature spiritual fathers and mature 'penitents.' 

Obedience is a virtue that we should strive to acquire but submitting yourself to holy obedience is not absolutely necessary for being Orthodox. 

The reason why maturity is needed is that there is great temptation for an 'immature' spiritual father to abuse his authority.  The 'penitent' must also be mature because only a mature penitent can understand can truly understand what it means to be under holy obedience. 

BTW, I read something on-line about catechumens who seek out holy elders instead of going to their parish priest for guidance.  The writer contended that the catechumenate process is better suited in a parish than a monastery.  I'm inclined to agree with him.  But of course it's much more 'exotic' to have a monk as a spiritual father than a boring old parish priest. 

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« Reply #23 on: May 18, 2005, 10:55:44 PM »

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Obedience is a virtue that we should strive to acquire but submitting yourself to holy obedience is not absolutely necessary for being Orthodox.

Jennifer,

Did you read this somewhere? If so, could you provide the source? I haven't done a ton of Orthodox reading so it is very possible I missed this, but to be honest you are the first person I have heard it from, so I am curious. Thank you.

In Christ,
Donna Mary
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Jennifer
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« Reply #24 on: May 18, 2005, 11:07:43 PM »


Did you read this somewhere? If so, could you provide the source? I haven't done a ton of Orthodox reading so it is very possible I missed this, but to be honest you are the first person I have heard it from, so I am curious. Thank you.

In Christ,
Donna Mary

I've read it in Ascending the Heights by Fr. John Mack. 
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« Reply #25 on: May 18, 2005, 11:10:00 PM »

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I've read it in Ascending the Heights by Fr. John Mack.

Thank you - I will have to pick it up at some point. Smiley
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