Posted by: oldbelieving | January 19, 2012

Orthodox Spirituality Part 6: What is Spiritual Direction? What is Spiritual Deception?, by Fr. Alexey Young

Lesson 6: What is Spiritual Direction? What is Spiritual Deception?

-spiritual deception= prelest (Russian), plani (Greek) – delusion or illusion, but closest English word is actually beguilement- almost like a spell has been cast – “I was beguiled by her blue eyes”

-various forms: 1. Imagination: more ready to believe our imagination than reality, refuse to be corrected

-Fathers say this can even lead to suicide- become so wrapped up in delusion that it leads to despair

-2. fancy: feelings of delight, pleasure; not as ruinous as imagination but can lead to frightful delusions

-everything in life predicated on whether it will bring pleasure- another form of self-deception

3. opinion: hold opinion unwaveringly, w/ conviction even though may lead to grave trouble

-if your opinion is unOrthodox it can lead you out of the Church

-very easy to be deceived in our fallen state, we often deceive ourselves by trying to understand wahts going on, thus very important to have spiritual father

-basic cause of deception, despair is lack of repentance – proper repentance leads to joy bc gotten into touch with your true self as a creature, God is creator

St. John Climacus: Ladder of Divine Ascent: repentance causes joyful sorrow- a spiritualized emotion

-joy bc in touch with what you really are, sorrow bc what you are is unimpressive- but no despair bc now youre on the path of salvation, grace is starting to work

-our culture feeds our need to feel special

-in large family parents don’t always have time to make all kids feel special, but those kids are often more emotionally healthy- realize theyre just one of the group and need to get along with normal feelings- more realistic sense of what life is about

-uncorrected spiritual deception can lead us out of the Church

-Church is spiritual hospital, not association of pious ppl – its Body of Christ where healing happens

-primary physician is Christ Himself, priest represents Him

St. Gregory the Theologian calls priest therapists bc they are to cure men’s souls, so priest himself must be well on way to healing- cant give what you don’t have

-priest doesn’t give out tickets to Heaven, he’s there to assist in spiritual and sometimes physical healing

-priest is spiritual father, therapist but NOT psychologist

-psychologist’s approach is man-centered, priest’s approach is God-centered

St. Gregory the Theologian: first principle of spiritual direction is to affirm that ppl are different in temperament and circumstance-tailor to individual needs

-have to know about family of person who came to you

-ppl develop differently at different speeds

-spiritual director must be empathetic, have genuine compassion w/out entering into their illness or tragedy to such a degree that is ability to help is weakened

-ppl often looking for priest to be father they never had- generally not good idea to work out history with your father with your priest- not fair to him and he might not have tools to do that – let him be the priest

-don’t enter co-dependent relationship with priest- don’t define well-being by whether he talks to you that week

-not priest’s job to be your friend but to give spiritual authority – don’t need rich, full relationship with him

-in 12 yrs Fr. Alexey never had more than half-dozen long convos with Fr. Seraphim but he got wonderful advice from him, never thought of him as friend, never expected more than that of him

-parish priest is automatically spiritual father of his flock unless parishioner specifically arranges to go elsewhere, not good to go shopping around though for priest that will be nicest or whatever- need a priest who will tell you the truth, be severe when necessary – not looking for friend but spiritual director

-priest tries to give good remedy, but he’s not infallible, he can make mistakes but they don’t mean harm

-fringes on bottom of epitrachelion symbolize priest’s spiritual children that he carries around his neck as Christ carries sheep on His shoulders

-spiritual father leads you to God-centeredness – ppl may resist this- enjoy their web of prelest

-spiritual life is full of contradictions, ups and downs –spiritual father calls us back to reality

-no better knowledge than to know how you stand before God- science of sciences bc if well with God then well with everything, if not well with God then not well no matter how you have in eyes of the world

-wrong ways of trying to find out how you stand with God – to pester spiritual father about it

-there may be small signs of grace that priest can help you see:

1. if discontented with spiritual state then be thankful to God– one of best gifts is to be dissatisfied, good spiritual father keeps children in state of dissatisfaction- don’t rest on laurels – we’re always either progressing or digressing

2. sign of growth that we make new beginnings, fresh starts– start again no matter how many times you have to do it, don’t get discouraged

-making new beginnings is not being fickle if its about true return to God

3. sign of progress when we have something definite in view: not just vague concept of spiritual direction

-priest ought to have some sense of where you’re going, what your spiritual gifts are, discernment of how to use them to find fulfillment

-to overcome vice or habit it helps to have particular goal, work on with spiritual father – by this day I will stop doing x, y, or z

-being too vague is like attacking no particular part of enemy’s line, shooting without taking aim

4. strong feeling that God wants something particular from us: even if don’t know what it is- means theyre not self-satisfied, really struggling for discernment and focus- external or internal calling

-sometimes called having a “spiritual attraction” – what direction the heart is leading, pulling- very great gift to have these attractions- important to share them with spiritual father

5. active desire for holiness: contact with genuine holiness hurts bc we’re so wretched, self-centered, spoiled, ungrateful

-canonization of St. John Maximovitch was a blessing, but a blessing that hurt- pain of heart that reminds how far from holiness you are

-Fr. Alexey converted bc came into contact with holiness- specifically St. John, and others- Fr. Alexey wanted what he had so had to live his life – meant becoming Orthodox

St. Theophan the Recluse:  think of toothache before its fixed- it hurts but must carry on with regular life- constantly there nagging in the background- that is what pain of heart, longing for God, desire for holiness should be like – always there nagging in the background- constant reminder – Its later than you think!

-desire for holiness, even if comes and goes, is sign of progress- has nothing to do with pride- desire for holiness means awareness of how unholy we are, means we’re not lukewarm – thank God!

-spiritual father can be very helpful in this regard

-short time on earth, but on this time eternity depends- give account to Christ for every moment

-much work to do –dangers to face, difficulties to master, etc – no room for laziness, even days of rest like Sunday should involve acts of Christian mercy

-life should be arranged to be perpetual service to God, begin every work with invocation of Trinity

-be mindful of God in all you do- babas and yiayias even bless oven when cooking, etc- even food was kind of sacrament- kind of temporal communion

-recognition that we’re only here at His disposal

St. Innocent: if examine ourselves more attentively it becomes clear that its not bc way is difficult that we don’t enter Heaven, but bc we have no real desire to do so, don’t want to trouble ourselves about it, he who earnestly desires will always seek despite obstacles, he who goes on path fervently for every victory, every sorrow, every victory over himself, every restraining of himself, for every act and good desire, intention will be rewarded 70 x 7 even in this life, what awaits in Heaven cant even be told or imagined, so don’t be afraid to follow Christ, don’t delay, go while Doors are still open, even while still a long way off our Father will come to meet us on the way, kiss us, put on garment and lead us to wedding room where He dwells with Apostles, martyrs, all Saints- you will dwell with true and eternal joy; BUT when Doors of Kingdom are closed to you- if die w/out repentance then however much you want or try to enter you wont be admitted, you knock and say Lord we know Thee, we were baptized in Your name, we have worked miracles, etc but Christ will say “I dont know you, youre not Mine, depart into eternal fire prepared for devil and his angels, weeping and gnashing of teeth. Amen, amen.

Q: despair is lack of repentance, knowing that despair is bc of lack of repentance leads to more despair, how to break cycle?

A: spiritual father leads to true repentance- real turning away from sin

-often have regret over what we did but didn’t turn away from it- this often causes despair

Q: insight into Fr. Seraphim Rose

A: convert from southern CA, died at 48, converted into ROCOR in early 60’s, met St. John from whom received spiritual direction

-trained in theology by St. John at cathedral

-met Fr. Herman, blessed by St. John to form lay brotherhood of Fr. Herman, started Orthodox Word with blessing of St. John

-Fr. Alexey met Fr. Seraphim in ’65 or ’66 as Catholic laymen searching for truth, running Eastern Orthodox Books and Icons, printing OW on hand-press in back

-shop smelled like incense and cabbage soup- smells he now associates with holiness (!)

-Fr. Alexey was searching but thought he could take what he liked from Orthodoxy and apply it to Catholicism, have best of both worlds – Fr. Seraphim perceived this quickly, insightfully- had had almost no conversation but he looked at him and said “you cant be both” – Fr. Alexey was offended by his “intolerance,” then he said “you don’t even have correct understanding of Mother of God”- again offended bc as Catholic he had high view of Theotokos – Fr. Seraphim didn’t engage in small talk, just went to heart of matter- nothing frivolous

-suggested book “Against False Union” by Kalomiros- Fr. Alexey didn’t know what to make of it, knew he wasn’t on Fr. Seraphim’s level and couldn’t discuss it with him

-later Fr. Alexey met St. John, went to his funeral which was incredible, continued contact with Fr. Seraphim- was always troubled by what he said to him- he needed an answer and couldn’t figure it out in his own, knew he had to take seriously his words that you cant be both or you’ll become neither and be very unhappy

-‘66/’67 Fr. Seraphim and Fr. Herman moved to Platina, later tonsured

-Fr. Alexey and family converted – attributed it directly to St. John; Abp. Anthony appointed Fr. Seraphim as his spiritual father- lasted next 12+ years


  1. What great notes! Thanks for this.

    • no prob bob!

  2. Do you find that you and your right conception of holy Orthodoxy is the majority viewpoint at your seminary? I mean, for instance, your interest in the teachings of the fathers, or your belief in the patristic view of Creation?

    I have been thoroughly impressed by Dr. Veniamin, among others there. Over all, do you think St. Tikhon’s seminary has been a worthwhile venture for you?

    • St. Tikhon’s has definitely been a worthwhile endeavor! I can honestly say I’ve learned a lot and realized that I don’t know nearly as much as I thought I did! and one of the great things about St. Tikhon’s is having the monastery here, and the profs really emphasize that our knowledge cant just be in our heads — we have to take it across the street to the monastery in prayer. of course its not perfect here, but we definitely have some solid profs, solid students, and a solid spiritual life at our disposal.

      Certainly most, if not all of the students are interested in the teachings of the Fathers, although there is variance at times on what their teaching is or how faithful we must remain to it today, but i think overall there is a general agreement about the importance of the Fathers. regarding Creation specifically, most people are not as interested in it as I am, but every prof that I have asked about it has said they don’t believe in evolution, and many of the students dont either. some are more on the fence — they understand how the Patristic and scientific teachings differ but they haven’t been able to totally reject evolution yet, and i can think of one student who leans in favor of science on this issue, but yet is still willing to dialogue and try to learn more — so overall i think we’re definitely in good shape in this regard!

      • That’s wonderful to hear. I hope your Lent is spiritually profitable. Please pray that mine is, too.

      • Thank you for your prayers, and may God grant you a profitable Lent as well! Lord have mercy!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: