Well, yes, I know it’s not Monday. Travel has bumped my schedule around. We return to blogging my way through, by reading and commenting on the four volumes of the English translation of the Philokalia. This work is, to quote wiki, “Other than the Bible, and a handful of writings by early Christian Fathers, the Philokalia is by far the most influential and widely admired example of Eastern Orthodox piety in print today. It is featured prominently in another much shorter well-known book called The Way of a Pilgrim, in which a Russian traveler learns to pray from various people he meets on his travels and by reading the Philokalia.” This work is a collection of writings from the fourth through at least the 15th centuries. The length of excerpts included in the Philokalia is somewhat indicative as to how large an impression they have made on the theology as practiced by the Orthodox. Our next author for today and the upcoming few weeks is Evagrios Pontikos.
The next author included in the collection has a substantially more influence and on offer for the reader. Evagrios the Solitary also known as Evagrios Pontikos was born in about 345. He was ordained reader and then deacon in modern day Georgia. He was a student/follower of St. Basil and Gregory of Nazainzos (two of the Cappadocian fathers). Evagrios was not a Saint, unusual for this collection. The reason for that is that of his writings, those of a more theoretical “speculative” basis rely heavily on Origen influenced theology which was rejected as, well, wrong. However, his “practical” advice drawing heavily on the desert fathers with whom he spent the latter part of his life, is quoting the Philokalia, “He possessed to an exceptional degree the gifts of psychological insight and vivid description, together with the ability to analyse and define with remarkable precision the various stages on the spiritual way“. These writings are highly valued … and influenced many later writers … unlike his speculative writings.
The first work is entitled “Outline Teaching on Asceticism and Stillness in the Solitary Life”. This work is direct, simple and straighforward. It begins outlining Scriptural reasons for the monastic life. He details the things such a life entails, solitude, poverty, reliance on self (no servants for example), be careful of your associations, and oddly enough not to become “attached to your cell”, and to welcome exile. He warns against the things that will tempt those who make this choice most.
Alas, I have little time (and energy) for more tonight as this week as the work I’d really like to complete is daunting. So, until next Monday (!?) when we return to blogging through the Philokalia.