I’m afraid I must offer my apologies for the non-activity here the last couple of days. My family and I are staying with some cousins in Austin, TX, so we can visit the Orthodox monasteries of Texas this weekend—Holy Archangels for men, and St Paraskevi for women. In the meantime, I had brought my laptop and a couple of books with every intention of doing a post for the Synaxis of the Holy Optina Elders today, 11 October on the Church’s calendar, but, rather predictably I suppose, I’ve found myself with precious little time down here. Anyway, I refer readers to this post that I did for St Nektary of Optina, as well as to this one at another blog, where I posted an overview of the monastery written on the occasion of the glorification of the Optina Saints by the Russian Church Abroad, as well as links to other resources.
I was delighted to receive an e-mail greeting me with the feast today from Hieromonk Damascene of St Herman of Alaska Monastery, which monastery has done more than anyone to make the Optina Pustyn’ Monastery known in our day, certainly among English speakers, but even in Russia, where their publication of Russian-language materials on the monastery seems to have actually contributed to the contemporary renewal of monastic life there. Finally, as this is an unabashedly bookish blog, I cannot resist recommending one of my favourite books and one of the few English-language resources on the monastery not published by St Herman of Alaska Press—Leonard Stanton’s fascinating study, The Optina Pustyn’ Monastery in the Russian Literary Imagination: Iconic Vision in Works by Dostoevsky, Gogol, Tolstoy, and Others (NY: Peter Lang, 1995). Although Stanton’s account of Orthodox theology is flawed (the old bug-a-boo of ‘Neoplatonism’ puts in an appearance!), the book remains one of the most fascinating studies of theology and literature I’ve ever seen, and has been a major intellectual inspiration to me ever since my kindly Russian professor gifted me with it in 1996.