26 June 2012

Brief Hiatus & Monastery Books

I just returned from Holy Archangels Monastery in Texas yesterday evening, and will already be leaving again tomorrow for Nashville, TN, for a close friend's ordination in the Catholic Church. Along the way, of course, I will visit the usual folks in Memphis, TN, and hope to hook up with good old Maximus Daniel Greeson in Nashville itself.

While the return from our pilgrimage gave me a chance to post my big piece on St Cyril's definition of philosophy, today promises to be quite busy, and I won't be returning from the Nashville trip until Sunday. That means that there likely will not be another substantial post until next week. But assuming that our Internet connection holds good, I should be able to do something after the trip. 

In the meantime, I acquired two new books at Holy Archangels that I thought I'd mention. The first, a gift of the abbot, was my very own copy at long last of Elder Sophrony's St Silouan the Athonite, tr. Rosemary Edmonds (Crestwood, NY: SVS, 1991). The book's a bit expensive (the bookstore price was $29), and I had put off buying it in part because I already had an old copy of The Monk of Mount Athos: Staretz Silouan 1866-1938, tr. Rosemary Edmonds (London: Mowbrays, 1973), and a newer one of Wisdom from Mount Athos: The Writings of Staretz Silouan 1866-1938, tr. Rosemary Edmonds (Crestwood, NY: SVS, 1995). But someone informed me (I think it might have been Christopher Veniamin) some years ago that St Silouan was not merely a combination of the two smaller volumes but had been expanded and edited by the Elder himself and had substantially superseded the other two. It had been on my wishlist for some time, and only the price and the pressing needs for other volumes had delayed my purchasing it. 

At any rate, Elder Sophrony's biography of his own Elder, St Silouan, is perhaps one of my favourite works of hagiography. As much as I enjoy ancient hagiography, like St Anthony's Life or St Benedict's, there is something very appealing about Elder Sophrony's ability to address the mindset, concerns, and interests of that sort of modern reader who may perhaps be more intellectual than pious. For those who have not read it, I highly recommend that they do so. Here is a little sample passage: 

Beholding beauty, the Staretz would look at the clouds, the sea, the mountains and forests, meadows and a lone tree. He used to remark that the glory of the Creator shone with splendour even in this visible world but to behold the glory of the Lord Himself in the Holy Spirit was a vision infinitely transcending any human conception. Once, watching the movement of the clouds across the emerald Attic sky, he remarked, 
'How sublime our Lord is! What beauty He has created to His glory, for the good of His people, that men might joyously glorify their Creator...O Sovereign Lady, make all peoples to behold the glory of the Lord!' 

Thus having briefly contemplated the visible beauty before him and the Divine glory in it, he would return anew to pray for the people. [1] 

The other book with which I returned was Monk Basil's Reflections of a Humble Heart: A 15th-c. text on the spiritual life, tr. Mary Mansur (Richfield Springs, NY: Nikodemos Orthodox Publication Society, 2007). I believe I came across this one a few years ago in the blogosphere or something, and had made a mental note to get hold of a copy. It's a slim little volume and was only $10, so I grabbed it. A little prefatory note explains: 

Among the Byzantine manuscripts in the Vatican library there is this portion of the notes of a certain monk Basil concerning his discussions with an elder whose name did not reach us. Either the monk Basil, who recorded the words of the elder of blessed memory, assumed that everyone knew about whom he was speaking, or the elder's name was mentioned in earlier notes that have been lost. It is supposed that the blessed elder was a renowned ascetic of one of the monasteries near Constantinople, and that he lived in the early fifteenth century. [2] 

Mansur has translated the text from the Russian translation by Archimandrite Ambrose (Pogodin) published at Jordanville in Pravoslavnaya Put' in 1999. 

Well, I look forward to a triumphant return to blogging sometime next week! 

[1] Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov), St Silouan the Athonite, tr. Rosemary Edmonds (Crestwood, NY: SVS, 1991), p. 97. 

[2] Monk Basil, Reflections of a Humble Heart: A 15th-c. text on the spiritual life, tr. Mary Mansur (Richfield Springs, NY: Nikodemos Orthodox Publication Society, 2007), p. 6.


Jason said...

"Reflections of a Humble Heart" is a terrific little book. I would recommend it to anyone.

Aaron Taylor said...

Well, I just started it today, and am enjoying it so far. I was a bit surprised at the heavy eschatological bent in the first section. I look forward to seeing where it's going though.

Jason said...

That took me off guard as well, however he leaves eschatology all together after that section and gets into some really deep spiritual inspiration.