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Tikhon.of.Colorado
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« on: March 08, 2010, 09:29:54 PM »

I have begun rading the writings of the saints.  I find them truly wonderful models to hold out lives to.  I have heard the Philokalia spoken of in The Way of a Pilgrim.  I have been thinking that I'd pick up volume 1 at church next month, after I get some money.

are there any things I should know before embarking on this spiritual treasure?
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« Reply #1 on: March 08, 2010, 09:54:59 PM »

I'd read the Sayings of the Desert Fathers before I read the Philokalia.  You can read those in several different collections:

http://www.ctosonline.org/patristic/EvCT.html   (Complete)

http://www.ctosonline.org/patristic/FD.html (Excerpts)

http://www.amazon.com/Desert-Fathers-Sayings-Christian-Classics/dp/0140447318/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1268099670&sr=8-2  (Excerpts)

http://www.amazon.com/Sayings-Desert-Fathers-Cistercian-studies/dp/0879079592/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1268099670&sr=8-1  (Excerpts)
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« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2010, 10:03:32 PM »

There are also excerpts from the Sayings up for free at http://goarch.org/ourfaith/monasticism
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« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2010, 11:23:31 PM »

I have heard the Philokalia spoken of in The Way of a Pilgrim.  I have been thinking that I'd pick up volume 1 at church next month, after I get some money.

Ask your pastor about that, because it might be a bit early for you to read some of that material.  The problem with reading it as a young Christian is that it can potentially fill you with pride and delusion to read such exalted material, and thus it can actually be a stumbling block rather than a blessing.
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« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2010, 11:35:00 PM »

I have heard the Philokalia spoken of in The Way of a Pilgrim.  I have been thinking that I'd pick up volume 1 at church next month, after I get some money.

Ask your pastor about that, because it might be a bit early for you to read some of that material.  The problem with reading it as a young Christian is that it can potentially fill you with pride and delusion to read such exalted material, and thus it can actually be a stumbling block rather than a blessing.

I see, thanks for this.  I'll pick up  copy when I'm more mature in my Orthodox faith.
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« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2010, 01:02:40 AM »

I would have to agree....you don't wade into calculus before you've got a handle on basic math.  The best reading material for new believers, so I've heard, is the lives of saints, plus a little theology and Scripture. Things like sayings of the desert fathers, way of the pilgrim, way of the aesetics, etc. are really helpful in trying to build an Orthodox world view. The thing to be careful of, especially with saint's lives is discerning how to emulate them without imitating them.  The latter is just insanity. That is to say draw the lessons and encouragement from them so far as you can as is appropriate to where you are at this stage of your walk, but don't try to undertake the types of labors that they did...you can't do it and neither can most anyone else apart from great preparation and great grace.  You will just exhaust yourself trying to measure up to standards and a quality of inner life far beyond you.  Grace will enable you more and more over time to follow as is appropriate for who God wants you to be and to become, but each thing in its time and season.  

So, find the lives that make you sigh after God, whose faith inspires you to draw on that nectar to strengthen you on your journey....and above all run the type of reading you are doing by your priest. Many priests actually have reading lists for new converts to help them get grounded. He will have a better sense of what things are good to read right now and what might be better in a few months or couple of years.

The other thing to remember is to read purposefully, not just as spiritual snack food.  As for the Philokalia, I've read monastic instructions which discourage reading most parts of it unless one is of a mature age (40ish) and of a very serious aescetical disposition...like a monastic. After all it was written by monks primarily for monks and was meant to inform their way of life and struggle not that of the workaday Christian struggling in the world.

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« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2010, 01:56:43 AM »

As for the Philokalia, I've read monastic instructions which discourage reading most parts of it unless one is of a mature age (40ish) and of a very serious aescetical disposition...like a monastic. After all it was written by monks primarily for monks and was meant to inform their way of life and struggle not that of the workaday Christian struggling in the world.


Would you mind sharing with us those monastic instructions if you have them at hand? I've heard occasionally (here included) the idea that laypeople shouldn't read the Philokalia. But the monks I've run that by have never heard such a thing, and encourage lay people to read the Philokalia (but with the caveats you described in your post in mind, such as after having read other things and been prepared). So I am kind of curious who has written on this topic of avoiding the Philokalia and what the context is and justification is.

I don't really think much of what is written in the Philokalia, at least in Volume 1, is inapplicable to the workaday Christian in the world; in fact, I think much of it is quite relevant.  You just have to be aware that it was written by monks for monks as you note.  So the degree will obviously be different, but it's quite a valuable treasure of material, one which I certainly profit from. Naturally one should consult his spiritual father for input and with any difficulties encountered in the text.
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« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2010, 02:26:00 AM »

Do you know a place I can download a copy of this philokalia? I would like to put it in my reader and have a look.
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« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2010, 02:32:10 AM »


I seem to recall that Constantine Cavarnos quotes one Athonite monk as saying the Lives of the Saints is Grammar School, Evergetinos (The Desert Fathers) is High School, the Philokalia is the University.
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« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2010, 09:20:21 AM »

Fr. Anastisios,

Bless.  I wish I could help you, but what I read on that line was very long ago.  If I recall correctly it involved other general cautions about idle curiosity concerning spiritual matters. One should read those things one needs, not just what one is curious about. That said, I do recall once seeing a subdivision of portions of the Philokalia in to selections that were appropriate to people of various levels of spiritual life and experience.  There were some things for beginners at one end of the spectrum and a few selections at the other end that were suggested as best read by seasoned monastics with permission from their spiritual fathers. I have also encounter similar warnings concerning the reading of the Ladder of Divine Ascent and the Rudder.
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« Reply #10 on: March 09, 2010, 04:11:14 PM »

Would you mind sharing with us those monastic instructions if you have them at hand? I've heard occasionally (here included) the idea that laypeople shouldn't read the Philokalia. But the monks I've run that by have never heard such a thing, and encourage lay people to read the Philokalia (but with the caveats you described in your post in mind, such as after having read other things and been prepared). So I am kind of curious who has written on this topic of avoiding the Philokalia and what the context is and justification is.

I've heard the same kind of things said about the Philokalia. I think the caution that is taken by some is so people immature in the faith don't pick up the Ladder or Philokalia and try to become a hesychast overnight since I've been told that some people do try to achieve divine vision overnight and when they do not, they despair and they end up doing more harm than good. I think it is to make sure that overly zealous converts (who are new to the Faith) do not try to take on some sort of ascetic discipline that they simply cannot handle which would actually end up damaging them rather than helping them. I've heard something along these lines said by Metropolitan Jonah who does not recommend the Philokalia to be read by lay people.
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« Reply #11 on: March 09, 2010, 04:26:34 PM »

Would you mind sharing with us those monastic instructions if you have them at hand? I've heard occasionally (here included) the idea that laypeople shouldn't read the Philokalia. But the monks I've run that by have never heard such a thing, and encourage lay people to read the Philokalia (but with the caveats you described in your post in mind, such as after having read other things and been prepared). So I am kind of curious who has written on this topic of avoiding the Philokalia and what the context is and justification is.

I've heard the same kind of things said about the Philokalia. I think the caution that is taken by some is so people immature in the faith don't pick up the Ladder or Philokalia and try to become a hesychast overnight since I've been told that some people do try to achieve divine vision overnight and when they do not, they despair and they end up doing more harm than good. I think it is to make sure that overly zealous converts (who are new to the Faith) do not try to take on some sort of ascetic discipline that they simply cannot handle which would actually end up damaging them rather than helping them. I've heard something along these lines said by Metropolitan Jonah who does not recommend the Philokalia to be read by lay people.

Don't most of these writings (at least the Evergetinos, and a few others I've come across, such as in St Theophan the Recluse) also contain warnings against trying to be a hesychast overnight?  I'm not sure about the Philokalia, as I've heeded the oft repeated warnings I've seen just about everywhere against one still spiritually immature from taking it up (and it has been an immense struggle against my curiosity).

Perhaps most of all one should try to strengthen reading comprehension before attempting any holy work (even/especially the Bible). 
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« Reply #12 on: March 09, 2010, 10:17:44 PM »

Remember that The Way of a Pilgrim is the autobiographical account of a simple Christian man who desired to learn the meaning of the biblical command to "Pray without ceasing." So he ventured out with only a staff, a Bible, and little bread for his journey. Along the way he met a holy Christian (maybe a monk?) who told him about the Philokalia. He obtained portions of the Philokalia along the way and read them with devoted interest. Of course, God directed him to different people as he journeyed who were learned in the art of prayer and the ascetic life; and these people gave him guidance and instruction in the meaning of the Philokalia and the practice of prayer and asceticism.

So, my humble opinion is that spiritual truth is for all people, not just the "enlightened." But, no one should presume to interpret and apply spiritual truth on their own. That's why we have the Church to teach us the meaning of the Scriptures, and that's why we have Spiritual Fathers to guide us and encourage us as we endeavor to grow more disciplined in our Christian practice.   

If you want to read the Philokalia, then by all means read it. There are many simple but profound teachings that will benefit anyone. Absorb that which is clear, and don't obsess over the parts which are difficult to understand. And don't try to become a monk overnight.

And as always, seek the advice of your Spiritual Father.

That's my 2 cents, from a layman's perspective.


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