Thursday, January 2, 2020

Reading the Philokalia

There is a curious debate going around in the American Orthodox Churches on whether or not people should read the Philokalia. The argument seems to come in various forms which I have heard. One, "I am a sinner and the Philokalia is for saints." Or two, "The Philokalia is like high-school reading material, whereas the Desert Fathers are like junior-high reading material. The Lives of Saints are elementary school reading materials... I am at a spiritual elementary school reading level." Over the last year, I have decided these are poor excuses and maybe a feeble attempt at humility or maybe worse: excuses to not push oneself in the Christian life.

Over the last year among monks, I was recommended certain segments of the Philokalia to read for my benefit. I was never told "You have to read the Philokalia." I was never told, "Find parts of it which you think will help you." This was never the approach anyone took. The Philokalia is a collection of spiritual writings by prayerful Fathers in no particular order, it seems. So, you pray, you struggle in asceticism, then someone more experienced than you says, "You should take a look at this specific text." So read it, then read it again, maybe read it a few times; and then receive much benefit from it. It is a very natural and organic approach to these writings based on one's own spiritual life of prayer.

That being said, this was my experience. Recently, I was given a very helpful guide which seems to be common practice for approaching these sacred texts. David (from here) has a few articles concerning this topic too. It is the approach with Fr. Maximos Constas gives us. He wrote the following:

Before reading any of the works in the Philokalia, it will be helpful to read the following two items. The first is St. Nikodemos’ outstanding summary of all the principle doctrines and practices that the reader will encounter on the traditional path of entry into the Philokalia. The second is his Introduction to the Philokalia, which was omitted by the English translators.
  • St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, “Guarding the Mind and the Heart,” in id., A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel, trans. P. Chamberas (New York, 1989), 153-172.
  • St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, “Introduction to the Philokalia,” trans. C. Cavarnos, The Philokalia, vol. 1 (Belmont, 2008), 27-40.

The following works constitute the traditional path of entry into the Philokalia. When read in this order, they gradually and wisely initiate the reader into the practices of inner attention, spiritual sobriety, and the Prayer of the Heart. Moreover, they amply demonstrate the Biblical and Patristic foundations of these practices, as well as their direct connection to the sacramental life of the Church. Because the mind must first be recalled from its many distractions, these works encourage the practitioner to use the breath as a way to lead the mind to the heart, and from there to invoke the name of Jesus Christ. Having read and understood the basic principles and practices presented in these works, one may afterwards move more freely throughout the other works in the Philokalia.

1. St. Nikephoros the Hesychast, On Watchfulness and the Guarding of the Heart (EPh 4:194-206).
2. Saints Kallistos and Ignatios, Directions to Hesychasts (WfPh, pp. 164-270).
3. St. Hesychios, On Watchfulness and Holiness (EPh 1:162-198).
4. Evagrios, On Prayer (EPh 1:55-71).
5. A Discourse on Abba Philemon (EPh 2:344-357).
6. St. Symeon the New Theologian, On Faith (EPh 4:16-24).
7. St. Symeon the New Theologian, The Three Methods of Prayer (EPh 4: 67-75).
8. St. Gregory Palamas, In Defense of Those who Devoutly Practice a Life of Stillness (= Triads 1.2) (EPh 4:332-42).
9. St. Gregory of Sinai, On the Signs of Grace and Delusion (EPh 4:257-86).

EPh = The Philokalia, vols. 1-4, translated by G.E.H. Palmer, P. Sherrard & K. Ware (London, 1979-1995). The 5th and final volume, containing the works of Ss. Kallistos & Ignatios and other writers, has yet to appear.
WfPh = Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart, translated from the Russian text by E. Kadloubovsky & G.E.H. Palmer (London, 1951).


Fortunately, if you do not have these two writings which contain St. Nikodemos' "helpful...items" to introduce you to the Philokalia, they have been digitized.
  • “Guarding the Mind and the Heart” by St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain is here.
  • “Introduction to the Philokalia” by St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain is here.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

My year long pilgrimage

So, if anyone actually follows this blog anymore, they will notice there has been very little activity for quite some time. Part of that is due to my pilgrimage which I did for a year. This involved six months with Geronda Ephraim at St. Anthony's in Arizona, followed by three months on the Holy Mountain of Athos, then another three months at St. Anthony's again. It was life-changing and brought me to understand the truth of this precious and most beautiful Orthodox Faith.

I developed a distaste for "head" knowledge about the Orthodox faith. Instead I found a love of "heart" knowledge of our Faith, which is found in the prayerful Holy Fathers. This has brought me to value silence (which is a most excellent teacher) much more and only want to talk/write about (when I must) three things:
  1. The Grace of God and Repentance
  2. Battling the Passions by Asceticism or through Trial
  3. The Jesus Prayer with Watchfulness
Nothing else really matters in the world; Careers, Politics, Money: all these are vanity and death comes to us all. The life of prayer and pursuit of God is the only thing which will save us in the end. Everything else is a distraction. The more God is made a part of our life, the more awesome and beautiful everything becomes. We just need some faith, hope, and love.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

St. John Chrysostom’s prayers for each hour of the day and night


(1) O LORD, deprive me not of your heavenly blessings.

(2) O LORD, deliver me from eternal torments.

(3) O LORD, if I have sinned in mind, in thought, in word or in deed, forgive me.

(4) O LORD, deliver me from all ignorance, heedlessness, cowardice and hard indifference.

(5) O LORD, deliver me from all temptation.

(6) O LORD, enlighten my heart which has been darkened by lust.

(7) O LORD, I, being human, have sinned; being God, forgive me in your compassion, for you know the weakness of my soul.

(8) O LORD, send your mercy to help me so that I may extol your glorious Name.

(9) O LORD, Jesus Christ, inscribe me, your servant, in the Book of Life and grant me a peaceful end.

(10) O LORD, though I have done nothing good in your sight, grant that through your grace I may now make a good beginning.

(11) O LORD, shower upon my heart the dew of your grace.

(12) O LORD of heaven and earth, remember me, your sinful, shameful and unclean servant, in your kingdom.


(1) O LORD, accept me in repentance.

(2) O LORD, do not leave me.

(3) O LORD, lead me not into temptation.

(4) O LORD, grant me good thoughts.

(5) O LORD, grant me tears, remembrance of death and humility.

(6) O LORD, grant me mindfulness to confess all my sins.

(7) O LORD, grant me humility, chastity and obedience.

(8) O LORD, grant me patience, courage and meekness.

(9) O LORD, implant in me the root of blessings – the fear of you in my heart.

(10) O LORD, grant that I may love you with all my mind and soul and that I may do your will in all things.

(11) O LORD, deliver me from evil men, from the devil, from bodily passions and from all unlawful things.

(12) O LORD, I know that you act according to your will; may your will also be in me, a sinner, for you are blessed unto all ages. Amen.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Recordings of Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou

I see no place that has a collection of his talks available online, so I’ll make a page that collects many of them...

I have a recommended order in which to listen to them, so that is how I will arrange them. The first few are very beneficial for understanding later lectures. These are available at Patristic Nectar Publications.

  1. The Ascetical and Pastoral Theology of St. Silouan the Athonite and Archimandrite Sophrony
  2. The Three Stages of the Spiritual Life
  3. The Hidden Man of the Heart
  4. The Christian Life is Impossible...All We are able to Do is to Die Daily
  5. The Fulfillment of Personhood or Personhood in the Life and Ministry of Elder Sophrony (Sakharov)
The next few are free. They are later lectures or teachings and follow the teaching found in the aforementioned lectures.
Fr. Zacharias is a true disciple of Elder Sophrony (Sakharov) of Essex. Elder Sophrony is a great luminary for our time that has given a wealth of theological insight into our theology and the problems of today. Among his significant contributions to Orthodox theological expression is: man's hypostatic principle, God revealed as personal through the revelation of I AM, the relation between asceticism and person, the Church as an extension of the life of the Trinity, and more. To understand traditional Orthodox teaching and authentic experience in the twentieth and beginning of the twenty-first century, having a grasp of Elder Sophrony's teaching and that of Archimandrite Zacharias is absolutely necessary.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Reading List (for Catechumens)

These are the initial books I draw from when recommending some initial books to introduce Orthodoxy to those who are curious about the Faith.

I.      General Information, Historical Background, and Convert Testimonies
·         The Apostolic Fathers (Light and Life Publishing Company)
·         Becoming Orthodox (Fr. Peter Gilquist)
·         Discovering the Rich Heritage of Orthodoxy (Fr. Seraphim Bell)
·         Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy (Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick)
·         My Exodus from Roman Catholicism (Bishop Paul de Ballester)
·         Rock and Sand (Fr. Josiah Trenham)
·         Know the Faith (Fr. Michael Shanbour)
·         Our Orthodox Christian Faith (Athanasios S. Frangopoulos)
·         The Orthodox Church – first half (Met. Kallistos Ware)
·         The History of the Church (Eusebius of Caesarea)
·         The Historical Road of Eastern Orthodoxy (Fr. Alexander Schmemann)
·         From Tibet to Mount Athos to Elder Paisius (Yanni Kotzampasis)
·         Practical Guide or Orthodoxy and Orthopraxia (Priest Michael)
·         Booklets:
o    Introducing the Orthodox Church
o    Picture of the Modern World (Met. Hierotheos Vlachos)
o    The Life in Christ (Fr. John Romanides)
o    Christianity or the Church (St. Hilarion Troitsky)
o    Holy Scripture and the Church (St. Hilarion Troitsky)
o    Tradition in the Church (Fr. Lazarus Moore)
o    Orthodoxy and Catholicism (Fr. Theodore Pulcini)
o    Hidden Fire: Orthodox Perspectives on Yoga (Joseph Magnus Frangipani)
o    Conciliar Press booklets

II.      Catechism
·         Catechetical Lectures (St. Cyril of Jerusalem)
·         The Truth of Our Faith (Elder Cleopa Ilie)
·         Entering the Orthodox Church: The Catechism and Baptism of Adults (Met. Hierotheos Vlachos)
·         The Precious Pearl (St. John of Damascus)
·         The Orthodox Faith, Worship, and Life (Hieromonk Gregorios)
·         The Faith of the Saints (St. Nikolai Velimirovich)
·         Orthodox Sacred Catechism (Vernardakis / Cavarnos)
·         The Law of God (Fr. Seraphim Slobodskoy)

III.      Lives of Saints, their writings, the spiritual life, other topics
·         Scripture Aids, Interpretations, and Context:
o    Explanation of the Holy Gospels (St. Theophylact)
o    Homilies on the Epistles of St. Paul (St. John Chrysostom)
o    Homilies on the Book of the Revelation (Archimandrite Athanasios Mitilinaios)
·         On the Incarnation (St. Athanasius of Alexandria)
·         Christology (St. Nektarios of Aegina)
·         Orthodox Spirituality (Met. Hierotheos Vlachos)
·         The Illness and Cure of the Soul in the Orthodox Tradition (Met. Hierotheos Vlachos)
·         A Night in the Desert of the Holy Mountain (Met. Hierotheos Vlachos)
·         Hymn of Entry (Archimandrite Vasileios)
·         An Indication of the Path into the Kingdom of God (St. Innocent of Alaska)
·         The Orthodox Veneration of Mary (St. John Maximovitch)
·         St. Seraphim of Sarov (Fr. Lazarus Moore)
·         Commonitory (St. Vincent of LĂ©rins)
·         God’s Revelation to the Human Heart (Fr. Seraphim Rose)
·         Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future (Fr. Seraphim Rose)
·         Genesis, Creation, and Early Man (Fr. Seraphim Rose)
·         On the Providence of God (St. John Chrysostom)
·         Three Treatises on the Divine Images (St. John of Damascus)
·         The Way of the Pilgrim (New Sarov Press)
·         The Art of Salvation (Elder Ephraim of Philotheou and Arizona)
·         Wounded by Love (St. Porphyrios)
·         Saint Silouan the Athonite (Elder Sophrony)
·         His Life is Mine (Elder Sophrony)
·         On Prayer (Elder Sophrony)
·         Our Thoughts Determine our Lives: the Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica (St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood Press)
·         The Way of the Ascetic (Tito Colliander)
·         Life of St. Anthony the Great (St. Athanasius of Alexandria)
·         For the Life of the World (Fr. Alexander Schmemann)
     PDF found here.