Flames of Wisdom - Patristic Counsel for Contemporary Life
By David Beck

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    Flames of Wisdom, Patristic Cousel for Contemporary Life,  By  David Beck provides a glimpse into the patristic mind of the Church providing pearls of wisdom from the writings of the saints of the Church.  Contains chapters dealing with prayer,  reading scripture, humility, controlling the tongue, acquiring the Holy Spirit and Communion with God.   

Discussion will begin on October 21, 2009 to allow ample time to acquire the book.

It may be purchased on line at Orthodox Goods.Com.

 


Posts: 2
Comment
Chapter 8 - St Tikhon of Zadonsk - On Struggling Against Sin.
Reply #35 on : Wed December 16, 2009, 16:11:00
This final Chapter of Flames of Wisdom is indeed a jewel. It is no secret that we live in difficult times, and find ourselves struggling against sin. We find it a great challenge to be on the one hand in the world, but not of the world.

We are so blessed by Almighty God. We have been given the great gift of life and Eternal Salvation - we have been redeemed from the Curse of the Law by the Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have the potential to live forever in Paradise, where there is neither sickness, pain or mourning but life everlasting.

In order to saved, we must cooperate with the Grace of God, we must desire salvation above all else. We must also be committed to pursuing the path of holiness and avoiding the snares of the Evil One.

I found the writings of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk to be beautifully written and extremely instructive. I especially appreciated the reminder that "only those who have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires are Christians." That is unless we are willing to engage in spiritual warfare, we cannot be saved. We have to know the true state of our souls, and what vices and passions we need to struggle against, and then do so with Christ's help and by using the weapons of the Church, obeying scripture, prayer, remembering the presence of God, avoiding situations and persons that may lead us into sin and meditating on our own death and the final judgment.

I appreciated the author's pointing out that one of the grave dangers of our age is the need to choose carefully what we watch or hear on television, the internet, in movies and other forms of contemporary entertainment. These verbal and visual images can and do tempt us and provoke us to sin. This is of course easier said than done.

What we need to remember, however, is that we are not alone in our struggle. We have the Church to guide us and as we have seen in our reading of this wonderful book, we have the writings of the saints of the Church to turn to. Their timeless wisdom is a great treasure for us to discover. They may have lived in a different era, but nonetheless experienced the same passions and temptations. As St. Tikhon reminds us, we need to take time to meditate on the precious gift of life, and how fragile it is and fleeting, and the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven which is without end. Yes meditating on our own impending death is sobering, however, on the other hand it reminds us of the joy that awaits us if we journey on the road less traveled that leads to the Kingdom of God.

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book with all of you who have participated in this book club. I ask that you post your reflections both on St. Tikhon's writings in the eighth and final chapter, and the book "The Flames of Wisdom" as a whole. I look forward to responding to your remarks and observation. Feel free to offer any feedback that you might have regarding the Orthodox Book Club as well as any suggestions you might have for for future books to be discussed in this forum.

May the Blessing of the Lord Be Upon All of You!

Fr. Peter Paproski
Last Edit: December 16, 2009, 16:18:22 by *  

Posts: 16
Comment
Re: Interesting Comment
Reply #34 on : Wed December 16, 2009, 09:45:07
I too, was struck by the same quote, regarding not condemning our neighbor. I took it to mean that we should be careful not to judge our neighbor when we may also be guilty of the same sin or a worse one.

Posts: 8
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Interesting Comment
Reply #33 on : Tue December 15, 2009, 20:45:39
I especially was struck by one of St. John's quotes: "whatever sin of body or spirit that we ascribe to our neighbor we will surely fall into ourselves" (96). I've heard the saying, judge not lest you be judged, but St. John here appears to be saying that in judging others we ourselves will commit the same sins.

Posts: 16
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Chapter 7 - St. John of the Ladder - Controlling the Tongue
Reply #32 on : Thu December 10, 2009, 14:14:29
This chapter has much to offer to us who live in a noisy and talkative world. It seems we just can't escape it. It struck me that talkativeness is akin to noise pollution... When we talk to much we pollute the air, even if what we say is harmless, eventually it can be destructive to our soul and those around us.

St. John cautions us to be careful about what we say and advises that we think before we speak.
As our tongue can cause us to sin, through saying hurtful or sinful things, or slandering someone else. So he says that we need to consider our motives before we speak. Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking we are speaking about someone's problems out of concern, when we are really engaging in gossip.

I appreciated St. John's practical advice on how we can overcome and control the sin of talkativeness. He reminds us that if we can restrain our bodies through fasting, we will also be able to restrain our tongue - so therefore ascetical labors are key. Also when we are tempted to speak about the sins of others, we should look for the good in the person that sins.
And finally we should not even listen to someone who is gossiping but instead, remember that we too are sinners and have no right to condemn another person.

Let us for a moment consider the opposite of talkativeness - silence. The fruits of silence are many with the chief among them being it draws us closer to God.

The timeliness of this chapter is incredible being that we are now in the midst of the Nativity Fast. What a perfect time for us to control the appetite of our tongue as we do the same for our body! By denying ourselves of the excesses of the body and the tongue, we will receive the delectable "fruits" of the Holy Spirit.

I welcome your questions, comments and insights.

Posts: 16
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Chapter 6 - St Dorotheos of Gaza
Reply #31 on : Thu December 03, 2009, 20:25:18
I apologize for taking a week off --- it was hectic with the Thanksgiving Holiday... but am back on track. I wish all of you a peaceful and spiritually profitable season of Advent (The Nativity Fast)

On to Chapter 6 - St. Dorotheos of Gaza on Humility.

This chapter is short and sweet and deals with one of the most powerful weapons in the arsenal of the Church for being victorious in spiritual warfare. As St. Dorotheos writes: "Nothing is more powerful than humility"

St. Dorotheos' teachings are similar to that of St. Silouan who also taught that humility is the key to self-knowledge, and the pre-requisite of the knowledge of God.

Why humility? It is the antidote to the poison that Satan laces his darts that he shoots at us. Satan is the Father of lies, deceit, pride and arrogance. When we ourselves give into these passions, then we become like Satan.

St. Dorotheos tells us what humility is not... it is not self-justification, self-will and obstinacy. It is not merely an external attitude, but is a state of the heart.

I found it helpful when the author gives us practical ways in which we can foster a contrite and humble heart: That we should pray for it and we should practice lowliness of heart, and be open to correction and advice from others, and consider others to be of more importance than ourselves. Thus, we need to adopt a new attitude one of service of others before ourselves. As the author points out, we can practice humility by allowing others to go in front of us in line and by denying our self some creature comforts and pleasures.

Your insights and questions please....

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St. Isaac the Syrian
Reply #30 on : Sat November 21, 2009, 21:17:28
The chapter on St. Isaac the Syrian reminds me of Lectio Divina (Holy Reading) and the four steps attributed to it: Lectio, Meditatio, Oratio, Contemplatio. I remember having read that monks under the Rule of St. Benedict read Scripture several hours daily, and even more on Sunday! It appears that this practice of sacred reading is a universal tradition of the Church.

Recently, I heard an interesting story on the importance of reading Scripture. The story also relates to St. Isaac's words concerning how the reading of Scripture purifies the heart.

The story goes that a monk went to his elder and complained over the usefulness of reading Scripture. He explained how every day he read Scripture but forgot everything shortly after. The elder in response told the monk to take two bowls. Every day the monk would fill the one bowl with water but empty it at the end of the day. The other bowl he would always keep empty. After doing this for some time, the monk brought the results to the elder. Both bowls were empty, but the bowl in which the water was placed every day though emptied was clean on the inside. The other bowl was altogether filthy. The elder said, so too with the reading of Scripture and the heart.

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To Will: Re: St John of Krondstadt
Reply #29 on : Fri November 20, 2009, 15:57:56
You made an excellent point regarding prayer. If prayer is true, it will be reflected in our life. If it is just words to us, then it will have no power. Few people realize the practical fruits from prayer... far from being a compulsory, "drudge" activity meant to teach us discipline - it can and actually does have the power to bring us the "peace of God that passes all understanding" The calm and peacefulness it brings us to can be sustained in our lives. This is why the fathers caution us to remain quiet for a bit after prayer before beginning other tasks - so that that this state of peace will take root in our hearts and stay with us throughout the day.

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St. Isaac the Syrian
Reply #28 on : Fri November 20, 2009, 00:26:54
To be honest, in the amount of time I've spent on the Church Fathers, St. Isaac has unfortunately not been one of the ones whose teachings I've studied intensely... but I'm learning more about 'new ones' almost every day!
I do love the emphasis he places on reading scripture, something I wish I applied more of. The way he spoke of it reminded me of the way St. Seraphim of Sarov taught; I remember that St. Seraphim would instruct others to read the bible always standing up in the presence of Christ, much in exactly the same way that we should pray.

Posts: 9
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St. John of Kronstadt
Reply #27 on : Fri November 20, 2009, 00:16:36
I will say that here at the Broome Community College library, there are few books that are of Eastern Orthodox publication, but one does happen to be My Life In Christ, which is how I began to learn more about St. John. I have found him to be an ENORMOUS help with learning how to pray, especially the emphasis on speaking a prayer slowly and with thoughtful conviction that it may sink in; as opposed to the fast-moving quality of our everyday language. When I started to pray like this, I found that my everyday language actually started to take on a like quality.

Posts: 16
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Chapter 5- St. Isaac the Syrian: On Reading Scripture
Reply #26 on : Thu November 19, 2009, 13:17:01
This chapter does a great job explaining the Orthodox Christian approach to reading Scripture.

It is important to note that Orthodox Church has a deep reverence and devotion to Holy Scripture. St. Isaac the Syrian is but one example of a saint whose ardent love for Scripture was well known.

St. Isaac rightly points out that as Orthodox Christians we read Holy Scripture not for gaining intellectual knowledge but to commune with God. Therefore we are to read scripture with much reverence and the spirit of prayer.

Therefore, we must read scripture when we are in a prayerful state, in "...complete stillness, freed for excessive cares of the body and the tumult of daily affairs"

St. Theophan suggests we read scripture early in the morning before becoming busy or right before bed so that the words of scripture may sink into our hearts.

I was especially struck by how St. Isaac pointed out the therapeutic benefit of reading sacred scripture. He mentions the fact that if our mind is troubled by evil or lustful thoughts, then the more we read sacred scripture, the more positive and godly thoughts are able to take root within us.

Know the impatient nature of humanity and possessing an uncanny understanding of our present hurried, fast-paced life style, St. Isaac cautions us not to expect fast results in transforming our lives, through reading Holy Scripture. Instead he reminds us that the changes that will be lasting in our lives are those that come about after much labor and struggles.

Lastly, we are reminded that sacred scripture, although playing an extremely important role in the daily Christian life, must never be divorced from the living tradition of the Church. Spiritual knowledge is also contained in the practicing of good works and in the practical living of the faith, within the context of the Church.

Sacred scripture, from the Orthodox Christian perspective, can bring about spiritual growth and enlightenment when read and interpreted in the mind of the Church.

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Your Comments Please....
Last Edit: November 19, 2009, 13:18:25 by *  

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St. John of Kronstadt
Reply #25 on : Mon November 16, 2009, 20:20:11
St. John's comments on the difficulty of prayer during times of illness particularly struck me. I know that, when I am sick or suffering, it is very difficult for me even to pray.

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Chapter 4 - St. John Of Krondstadt: Counsels on Prayer
Reply #24 on : Sat November 14, 2009, 21:03:44
First, my apologies for being a couple days late in posting......

This chapter discusses the writings of one of my favorite saints, St. John of Krondstadt. His words resonate with me, because of course, he was a priest and also because he is a contemporary having lived in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I also relate to him as one can see in his life an understanding of what today's hurried christian is going through.

St. John was a very busy man... busy with doing the work of the Lord... but busy none-the-less. Therefore, especially in his counsels on prayer, we see one who is completely sympathetic to the struggles of today's Orthodox Christian who is struggling to be in the world and not of the world... finding both the time and inclination to connect with God in Prayer.

I was especially struck by his ability,in the words of the author, to "baptize his activities in a strong life of prayer"

He cautions us never to be too busy for prayer ... if we feel rushed in the mornings for prayer, then we should get up early to allow sufficient time. By doing this, we will be more productive, less rushed and stressed and our day will go much better.

I also was struck by his comment that we need to pray with faith and to feel the truth of our prayer in our hearts... that is not to just say the words but let their meaning sink into our hearts. He encourages us to pray slowly, so that we hear the words echo in our hearts. From personal experience, I know this to be absolutely true... when I am in a rut in prayer, I pray the Lord's prayer slowely, quietly and deeply, and the rhythm of prayer returns.

His warning that we pray in a state of humility is crucial... we must never pray expecting spiritual experiences or great sweetness. If when in a state of humility we do experience the profounds sweetness of prayer, rather than being puffed up, we realize that it is a gift from God and it moves us to even greater sense of humility.

Lastly, I appreciated his teachings regarding the interconnection between private prayers at home and communal/liturgical prayer in Church. Our communal prayer is given great power when we are people of prayer and bring our prayerfulness with us to Church. Even when we pray at home, we pray as part of the Church, and praying for others, leads us to peace and joy. Prayer then is the foundation of everything good in life.

There is much meat in the teachings and writings of St. John of Krondstadt, and when we read him we also get a sense of his pastoral sensitivity and concern and understanding for our struggles in our hurried and stressful age. His life is an inspiration to us, a living example of the power of prayer that is humble, heartfelt, and filled with faith and love.
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Discussion Starter:

Your comments on any aspect of St. John's counsels on prayer are welcome. Is there something in his teachings that struck a chord with you? Please share.

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More on Chapter 3
Reply #23 on : Wed November 11, 2009, 22:17:19
Thanks Father Peter for your response regarding dark night of the soul. I really like your expression "mountain of the Liturgy." It draws to mind so many connections.

I like your point Will about the feelings one gets as a gift of the Holy Spirit. In the summary, what particularly strikes me is David's sentence, "St. Theophan's teaching on this subject is charismatic in nature." Usually, "charismatic" today suggests "Pentecostal" speaking in tongues, prophesying, being slain in the spirit, etc. But David here indicates true charismatic teaching of a deepened prayer life in the Orthodox tradition.

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Response to Will, Chapter 3
Reply #22 on : Tue November 10, 2009, 23:27:24
Good points Will! I think we have to be careful in speaking about the feelings one experiences when encountering the Holy Spirit- it is probably better to speak of being present to the movement of the Holy Spirit. To quote a Protestant neighbor of mine who I am slowly introducing to Orthodoxy through this same book, In the Protestant tradition, the experience of the Holy Spirit is characterized by a feeling of spiritual frenzy and such things as Holy Laughter, and being slayed by the Spirit. How refreshing it is that the Orthodox Church teaches to be still in the presence of the Holy Spirit and experience the still- small inner voice and intense peace.

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Response to St. George re: Chapter 3
Reply #21 on : Tue November 10, 2009, 23:23:07
Great points! Thanks for writing. In response to the point about the dark night of the soul. Sometimes the Lord does indeed allow us to feel a separation so that we appreciate the communion - kind of like the distinction between apophaticism and catophaticism. We know peace and joy to be fruits of the Holy Spirit. And the extent to which we experience them in this life, it is a reflection of what is to come in its fullness in the Kingdom of Heaven.

About contemplation after Liturgy. As a priest, I know what you mean, I need to decompress before going down to Coffee Hour, I do not wish to leave the mountain of the Liturgy, and I have to slowly transition myself, to hear the Lord in the still small voice. Contemplation and meditation, vary by the individual, there is no teaching of a method in Orthodoxy - I experience it more as a word-less experience of the nearness of God. I just like to be in His Presence and clear my mind of thought and experience a little bit of the Eternal Now....

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Natural and Spiritual, unopposed
Reply #20 on : Mon November 09, 2009, 22:38:48
Perhaps what struck me at a certain point was on pg 44; the quote by St. Theophan, "By the law of reciprocal action, those who enter energetically..."

I like reminders that God is consistent as law, not an arbitrary super-being. He is unchanging, unceasingly in love with us at all times and to be anything else would be against the very definition of Himself, which is as unwavering as law.

I also liked how in the summary the author mentioned how much emphasis St. Theophan places on the feelings one gets as a gift of the Holy Spirit...in my mind, something that is usually more commonly pinned with Protestant Christian experience.

Posts: 8
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Chapter 3
Reply #19 on : Mon November 09, 2009, 12:26:15
On page 35, David quotes what I see as a central point of St. Theophan: "Prayer is a way of being." David quickly links this with St. Theophan's belief that Christians ought to be in a constant state of communion with God.

What strikes me here is that prayer is not time set aside for God, but the complete transformation of every moment towards the glory of God. With the word "being," I am reminded of the struggle of Christians, human beings, through prayer becoming more like Christ, the divine being, who is the perfection of prayer to the Father, and who himself is in perfect hypostatic communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

I underlined the last line on page 36: "In other words, if we no longer sense the presence of God--His peace and joy--then our priorities are out of order." I personally have wondered about this. In the Western Church, in which I grew up, there is what is called The Dark Night of the Soul, a purifying state in which a Christian suffers loneliness and a feeling of separation from God. What can be said of this in relation to Orthodoxy, to the teaching of the Church Fathers? Also, what is the relationship between peace and joy and divine consolations?

On page 45, David writes that, according to St. Theophan the Recluse, after prayer we should commit a few moments of contemplation before returning to normal activities. This seems a good rule. I remember a church where my friends devoted several minutes to reflection following Divine Liturgy before heading downstairs for coffee and doughnuts. :)

Further in the chapter, David describes St. Theophan's teaching that one should meditate on the attributes of God. In reading this, I asked myself how does one go about doing this. To me, there seems to be many ways of going about it. Does the approach of meditation for each person vary? Is there a standard which to follow?

That's all for now. I may write more after work.

Posts: 16
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Chapter 3- St Theophan the Recluse on Communion With God
Reply #18 on : Thu November 05, 2009, 19:36:42
There is enough to speak about this week on a single chapter, Chapter 3 which recounts some of the teachings and spiritual counsels of St. Theophan the Recluse.

Again it is helpful when studying the teachings of the fathers and mothers of the Church, to have knowledge about the specifics of their life situation. In reading about St. Theophan's life we discover his fidelity to the patristic writings of the Fathers of the Church and his successful struggle to put them into practice.

Thus in writing about communion with God, St. Theophan speaks from experience having a rich prayer life and the fruits that come from acquiring the Holy Spirit.

We see many similarities between St. Theophan and Sts. Seraphim of Sarov and St. Silouan the Athonite. He regards prayer as being the doorway to communion with God, and is quick to point out it is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.

He urges us to be faithful and zealous in living the teachings of the Church, but cautions us not to merely go through the motions. As Orthodox, we sometimes can fall into the dangers of being overly concerned with being "Orthodox" of having the most correct icons, most complete liturgy, etc, and yet not be prayerful, not be filled with love.

St. Theophan speaks of stages of achieving communion and progressing in the spiritual life. He also speaks of roadblocks placed by Satan, remind us the quest for communion with God requires that we be prepared to go to battle.

I appreciated that he reminds us that the first step is zeal - a desire to grow in Grace and Holiness and enter into communion with God.

This has to be our primary goal in life, our chief focus. He acknowledges the distractions and struggles we face in life and tells us we need to struggle to keep God foremost in our hearts, and minds. He gives us practical suggestions, praying short prayers, frequently during the day, and very importantly consecrating every act we do during the day to God.

There is so much meat in this chapter, for us to chew on, to pray about and implement in our daily lives. Now I would like to give you a chance to comment on what struck a chord with you in this week's reading.

Your comments, questions and thoughts please!!!

Posts: 16
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Reply To St. George
Reply #17 on : Mon November 02, 2009, 22:28:17
Great response. This is indeed how we stay connected and remain open to the Holy Spirit.

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Acquiring Holy Spirit
Reply #16 on : Mon November 02, 2009, 22:21:25
I believe non-monastics acquire the Holy Spirit by frequenting confession and Holy Communion, offering morning and evening prayers, reading spiritual works, attending services, and living the Christian life by providing for the needy and serving family and neighbors in charity.

Posts: 2
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Acquiring Holy Spirit
Reply #15 on : Mon November 02, 2009, 22:20:44
I believe non-monastics acquire the Holy Spirit by frequenting confession and Holy Communion, offering morning and evening prayers, reading spiritual works, attending services, and living the Christian life by providing for the needy and serving family and neighbors in charity.

Posts: 16
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Re Will's Question on the Soul
Reply #14 on : Sat October 31, 2009, 14:08:48
Hello Will, I had to check on this one before answering. The Greek term for soul is "psyche" which is feminine in gender. This is in keeping with the Orthodox understanding of union with God... the soul's only desire is union with Christ the bridegroom and hence the soul is the bride. An excellent observation!

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The soul
Reply #13 on : Sat October 31, 2009, 09:33:53
As I was reading through the passage of St. Silouan, I noticed the references to the soul as 'she.' I've seen this only a few times before and have been very curious about how this is...does it have anything to do in relation to the Church being the bride of Christ?

Posts: 16
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Re: Will's Comment
Reply #12 on : Thu October 29, 2009, 23:28:51
Thanks for adding your thoughts. Very well said. St. Seraphim has a very positive approach. Trade in the virtues, keep your eye on the prize - stay focused on Christ - the icons and prayer ropes all remind us of who and what we are, and who we aspire to be - Christ-like.

Posts: 9
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Great Question...
Reply #11 on : Thu October 29, 2009, 23:09:21
This is one question I've had more struggles with than most other questions, especially in the dog days of college. I spend a large majority of my days (and some nights) studying and reading materials I might have nothing to do with otherwise, and of course the housework, cleaning, and cooking comes to no end, but I make sure to keep some books and icons in my vision and a prayer rope in my pocket to serve as reminders to pray at all times possible. It's always difficult to set aside time, but I've found that Anthony Bloom's book "Beginning to Pray" has helped. If anyone has anything else that might help, I ask for it...

I can remember reading a long time ago a lesson from St. Seraphim that one should, like the dealings of merchants, use one's skills and virtues as means to attaining the Holy Spirit. It helped me enormously, considering I was immersed in business studies at the time.

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Week 2 - Chapters 1 & 2
Reply #10 on : Thu October 29, 2009, 21:28:39
Good evening Everyone!

I hope you found the first two chapters spiritually profitable. Personally I loved both of them.

Chapter 1 deals with St. Seraphim of Sarov's teachings regarding the Acquisition of the Holy Spirit.

The life of St. Seraphim of Sarov is very interesting and in it we see his profound experience of the inner spiritual life. His attaining of the vision of the Uncreated Light was something that was the natural outflow of his deep piety and ascetic labors. He spent much time in silence and in reading of Scripture, one gospel a Day and the entire New Testament in a week. He spent long hours in vigil and prayer - in fact at one point, a thousand days and nights kneeling on a stone praying the Jesus Prayer.

For those of us who struggle in the world to remain in prayer for mere minutes a day - St. Seraphim is an inspiration, an example to emulate.

I find St. Seraphim's teachings so comforting, especially in his conversation with Motovilov. He tells us that prayer is not an end in and of itself but a means of communing with God and acquiring the Holy Spirit.

Each of us is different and has our own gifts and struggles and therefore, what motivates one of us spiritually may not motivate another. Therefore we should concentrate on doing whatever brings us spiritual profit.This of course requires self-knowledge, discernment and spiritual direction from a trusted confessor.

Of course all are called to prayer and St. Seraphim reminds us that this "gives us the Holy Spirit most of all because it is accessible." But when we feel the warmth of the Holy Spirit in prayer, worship or practicing the virtues we should stop and commune with God in silence and allow the peace of the Holy Spirit to reign within our hearts and illumine us on the path we must walk upon.

The wisdom I gained from St. Seraphim was that we should be sincerely struggling to lead a Christian life, rooted in prayer and contemplation of God, so that the Holy Spirit may abide with us. If we do not experience the presence of the Holy Spirit, we should ask the Lord why and pray for His Mercy.

Chapter 2 - St. Silouan: On Knowing God

Again we have received pearls of wisdom from the mouth of a truly remarkable Saint - One who had a checkered past, and truly repented, changing his mind, heart and soul after receiving a vision of the Mother of God.

St. Silouan's experience left him a burning desire to know God - to intimately commune with Him.

For those of us who struggle and have glimpses from time to time of the Glory of God and the awesomeness of His presence, especially those who by the Grace of God, unworthily stand before the Holy Altar, there is indeed an inner longing to experience His Love more deeply.

This requires struggle and openness to the Holy Spirit. St. Silouan reminds us of the necessity of humility of achieving a contrite and humble heart. Humility is one of the greatest virtues, one that frees us from our illusions of grandeur, and allows us to see ourselves as God sees us. Only when we acquire self-knowledge will we be able to acquire knowledge of God.

So humility coupled with obedience is the sure pathway to spiritual peace, the acquisition of the Holy Spirit and the knowledge of God which will illume, sanctify and save our souls.

Food For Thought - Discussion Questions.
Given that those of us participating in this forum are not monastics, and have to live and interact in the world, how is it possible for us to acquire the Holy Spirit, given the hectic and fragmented lives we live?

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So Relevant...
Reply #9 on : Thu October 29, 2009, 15:39:04
Fr. Peter, I feel that the relevancy of their teachings surpasses time and culture, as through the ages, our human passions and temptations remain the same, if not more intense. That is why so many times when we read the counsels of the Church Fathers, we can quickly relate them to our own daily struggles of a life in Christ.

For example, in Chapter 2 St. Silouan stresses how through love for our enemies, we can know God... we must not yield to the tempation to hate our enemies, but we must pray for them... St. Silouan suggests, "It is a great thing in the sight of God to pray for those who hurt our feelings and injure us." A great thing that is quite a struggle to incorporate into our daily routines in this "lets get 'em" society...

Posts: 16
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Fighting Against the Passions
Reply #8 on : Fri October 23, 2009, 19:14:32
Thank you for your post. You raise a great point, the battle against Satan and the war with the passions is universal and is the same no matter what age we live in. It is just, to quote a web technology term, the "skin" that changes over time, that is how the Evil One presents himself to us.

Posts: 8
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First Post
Reply #7 on : Fri October 23, 2009, 18:39:47
Hello, this is my first post. I just found out about this book club the other day and will be receiving the book in the mail soon.

While the earlier Fathers lived in a different culture and time, the struggles they address take place in the heart of man. Cultures and times have changed, habits and peculiarities of their age may strike us as odd compared to those by which we live, but the struggle itself in overcoming the passions, acquiring virtue and eliminating vice has not substantially changed the past 2000 years.

Posts: 16
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Great Insight
Reply #6 on : Fri October 23, 2009, 08:10:48
Will, you "hit the nail on the head" the Holy Fathers were inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth. Their relevance is precisely because they reflect the mind of the Church. The Holy Spirit guides the Church and shapes Holy Tradition giving it the eternal breath of relevance.

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Always relevant, but never unmoved
Reply #5 on : Thu October 22, 2009, 23:57:56
I think one of the most beautiful parts of having a living, historical Faith is how connected it is from beginning to end. Truth is always relevant, but what makes it understandable from one generation to the next is the constant, living tradition of making it understandable.

Beautiful book, very 'readable' :)

Posts: 16
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Our Discussion Begins!
Reply #4 on : Thu October 22, 2009, 17:24:03
Welcome to the Orthodox Book Club! As promised today we will begin our discussion of Flames of Wisdom - Patristic Counsel for Contemporary Life.

Lets try to read two chapters a week. Therefore, today, I will make some general comments on the book and in particular the introduction. During this coming week please read Chapters 1 & 2 and I encourage you to post any comments you might have on what I have written today. To start the discussion, I will end my commentary with a food for thought question.

Here Goes....

The introduction calls to our attention the need for sound spiritual direction. We live in challenging times and are flooded with information which is available with the click of a mouse. Yet all of this can be confusing. We are all in need of wisdom that comes from experience and in particular those who have intimate knowledge of God.

In Orthodox cultures it was common that lay people and priests would seek out the advice of monastics skilled in the art of prayer, repentance and humility to guide them.

Today and especially in America, it is difficult to find such spiritual elders who are accessible to us.

The author, points out to us that in times such as these, we should take heart in the fact that we can turn to the writings of the God-bearing elders who lived and taught in the tradition of the Church. He very wisely quotes St Seraphim of Sarov who said " If one cannot find an instructor able to direct one into the contemplative life, in this case one must be directed by the Holy Scriptures... and endeavor to read through the writings of the Fathers, and strive to fulfill what they teach."

During our reading and discussion together, we will strive to do just this.

Food For Thought: Question for Discussion:

Given that most of the Fathers we will read lived in a different culture and time, how relevant do you think they are in addressing our contemporary struggles?

Posts: 9
Comment
Re: Flames of Wisdom - Patristic Counsel for Contemporary Life<BR> By David Beck
Reply #3 on : Wed October 14, 2009, 22:39:51
Can't wait to get started with the readings!

Posts: 1
Comment
first post
Reply #2 on : Wed October 14, 2009, 12:15:11
Book is on order and looking forward to the book club.
ppaproski
Posts: 1
Comment
Introductory Remarks From the Moderator
Reply #1 on : Thu October 08, 2009, 15:10:59
Welcome to the Orthodox Book Club, an outreach of the Christian Education Apostolate of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the U.S.A. My name is Fr. Peter Paproski, I am the pastor of St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church of Stratford, CT, and I will be serving as moderator for our collective reading of the excellent book, Flames of Wisdom: Patristic Counsel for Contemporary Life. Beginning on October 21, 2009 I will post commentary on each chapter, on a weekly basis and I encourage you to respond with any questions or comments that you would like to make. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at infotech@acrod.org
Last Edit: October 10, 2009, 15:34:13 by ppaproski  


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