Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How Blessed We Are

It just dawned on me how blessed we are to be living in the age we are living in. I realized that as recently as the times of St. Theophan the Recluse (19th Century) books were still fairly expensive and hard to come by. St. Theophan himself, when he refers in his writings to the Philokalia, isn't referring to the five volume collection (currently in four volumes in English) that most of us today think of, but is rather referring to a one volume compendium. This compendium exists today under the title Writings from the Philokalia: On the Prayer of the Heart. Incidentally, it is also this volume that the "Pilgrim" refers to in the Russian spiritual classic The Way of the Pilgrim. But today we not only have this compendium available, but the entire collection of the Philokalia (although the highly anticipated fifth volume is still being translated). Not only is this collection available, but it is also rather affordable. I bought my set from Barnes and Noble, a very common bookseller here in the U.S.

But there's more! We not only have the writings contained in the Philokalia virtually at our fingertips, but we also have the writings of many of the great mystics, East and West, easily accessible, whether they be in books or online.

So what's the moral of this story? If we do not take advantage of this easy accessibility, then it is our own fault, and I believe that we will be held accountable for this failure. I can almost guarantee that if the great saints of times past had such writings so easily accessible to them, they would've rejoiced greatly and gone to great lengths to obtain these writings and study them closely.

In today's atmosphere, where true spiritual masters are few and far between, the writings of the great mystics of East and West are often times our only guide on the spiritual journey. Anyone who doesn't take advantage of these guides is in danger of getting lost on the way.


  1. Great post Phillip. The compendium is the only book I do not yet possess. I did purchase it a year ago but the american company never sent it.

    But as far as being led astray goes. We must remember that St.Gregory of Sinai tells us that a man who only gets his spiritual direction through reading will certainly lose his way. So I think its important that while we read that ( if possible ) we get a personal spiritual master to lead us also, otherwise we are more prone to losing our way.

    God bless

    1. Good points there Stephen. I think I need to write up a post on spiritual direction now. There are many elements to it that I believe are often overlooked. I was just focusing so much on reading here because St. Theophan the Recluse and St. Ignatius Brianchaninov both say that in the absence of experienced spiritual guides, books are the next best thing. And in this day and age there are by far more books than experience spiritual guides. :)

      ICXC + NIKA,