Thursday, June 28, 2012

E-Scribe to the Philokalia

"There is no other virtue that is either higher or more necessary than sacred Prayer, because all the other virtues--I mean fasting, vigils, sleeping on the ground, ascesis, chastity, almsgiving, and all the rest--even though they are ways of imitating God, even though they cannot be taken away from us and constitute the immortal ornaments of the soul--do not united man with God, but only render man fit to be united.  Sacred Prayer, and it alone, unites.  It alone joins man with God and God with man, and makes the two one spirit."

Nikodemos (Nicodemus) the Hagiorite (of the Holy Mountain) (1749-1809), a Greek Orthodox saint, wrote the above passage on the necessity of Prayer.  This view of the necessity of Prayer led to what is probably Nikodemos' most famous work: the Philokalia.  The Philokalia is a collection of texts by saints and other holy writers from the origins of Christianity until around the 15th century, compiled by Nikodemos and Makarios (Macarius) of Corinth (1731-1805), another Greek Orthodox saint.  The texts deal primarily with prayer and asceticism, often focusing on the Jesus Prayer ("Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner") and the tradition of Hesychasm related to it.  This work is one of the most popular spiritual works in the Eastern Church, often being called "the Bible of Orthodox spirituality."  Nikodemos himself called it "the treasury of watchfulness, the keeper of the mind, the mystical school of prayer of the heart...the paradise of the Fathers...the deep teaching of Christ, the trumpet which calls back the grace...the instrument itself of deification."

Most of the Philokalia consists of collections of short texts often called "centuries" (when in groups of a hundred texts).  Due to this, I think the Philokalia lends itself easily to a daily e-mail of spiritual fuel, just as the writings of St. Josemaría Escrivá do.  I am thus starting a new e-mail list: E-Scribe to the Philokalia.  Just sent me an e-mail if you want to be included on this list (my e-mail can also be found on my profile, if necessary).  Due to copyright concerns, this mailing list is no longer active.  The spiritual practices in the Philokalia can be difficult, but in the end I think they will be most rewarding; I also think it is always a wonderful thing to bring the treasures of the Eastern Church into the hands of the Western Church.  I will end with two quotes from Evagrios Pontikos (Evagrius Ponticus), a famous 4th-century monk and spiritual writer, to give just a hint of the contents of the Philokalia:

"Pray gently and calmly, sing with understanding and rhythm; then you will soar like a young eagle high in the heavens" (On Prayer §82).

"Prayer is the energy which accords with the dignity of the intellect; it is the intellect's true and highest activity" (On Prayer §84).

Thank you for reading, and God Bless.

Nota Bene: The quotes from Nikodemos come from his Proem. to Anthology from the Psalms of the Prophet-King David (quoted on Full of Grace and Truth) and a work on the Philokalia by Fr. Anthony Coniaris (quoted on Mind in the Heart).  The Philokalia quotes come from Vol. I, p. 65, of the edition I will use for the list: the four-volume translation by G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Bp. Kallistos Ware.

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