Books on Eastern Saints/Spirituality?

Does anybody have any books suggestions that is on Eastern Christian spirituality practice or any books on Eastern saints? Thank you!

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Feel free to change the category, not sure if this should be in spirituality or eastern catholic

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Moved this to Eastern Catholicism…

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Thank you! This seems like the perfect suggestion.

God With Us Publications has lots of good books. I personally recommend these:

Life and Worship: Mystery of Christ Among Us (free):

Shown To Be Holy: Introduction to Eastern Christian Moral Thought (free):

To paraphrase St. Paul, The Philokalia seems like eating a 10-course meal when one needs to start with something easier first. The God With Us series is a good place to start imo.

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St. Seraphim of Sarov is one of the most beloved saints in the Eastern Church. I have learned that he also venerated in the Catholic branch.

Here is a good biography. The link is to Amazon, but I am sure you can purchase it elsewhere:

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Agreed - I once heard that some spiritual fathers don’t permit reading of the Philokalia without a blessing.

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The Way of a Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way is a well-known classic which I have read several times. This book helped to make better known the Jesus Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, Have mercy on me, a sinner. Since the pilgrim’s dedication is a little intense and probably unrealistic for most of us living ordinary lives these days, this book is a good companion piece:

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My go-to recommendation is always The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology. I’ve given away several copies of it over the years. The Introduction by Met. Kallistos Ware itself is worth the price of the book. The majority of the book is excerpts from the writings of St. Theophan the Recluse, although there are also excerpts from St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, St. Seraphim of Sarov, St. Isaac (the Syrian) of Nineveh, and many others. It’s a well-ordered/structured book suitable for the beginner, but with material deep enough to engage someone already experienced in the spiritual life and give him/her plenty of food for thought.

The next book I’d recommend is Writings from the Philokalia on the Prayer of the Heart. I recommend this book if for no other reason than exploring the very helpful writings of Sts. Ignatius and Kallistos Xanthopoulos. They provide some really solid monastic rules that can be pretty easily adapted to the lay state and/or married life.

In general, Eastern Christian spirituality tends to be much more closely tied to the primitive spirituality of the Desert Fathers than does the spirituality of the West (a huge generalization, I know). In fact, if memory serves me correctly, the compilers of the Philokalia actually recommended studying the Desert Fathers before attempting to read the texts contained in the Philokalia. So any book of sayings and stories from the Desert Fathers is helpful, but my personal favorite is the two-volume collection of works under the title Paradise of the Holy Fathers. I find myself returning to this work over and over again. You could also check out the multi-volume Evergetinos, but the size itself is a little offputting. I’ve read through the whole thing, and find that I prefer the Paradise of the Holy Fathers over it.

And, of course, the primary source for spirituality in the Eastern Christian tradition is the Bible. Without fail you’ll find that the Eastern Fathers recommend daily, even constant, reading of the Scriptures. Truth be told, I’ve found that I didn’t really deeply comprehend the teachings of the Desert Fathers until I’d committed to daily Bible reading. But when you know the Scriptures, the teachings of the Desert Fathers and other Eastern monastics really come to life.

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As a side note, while the Philokalia is certainly a classic in the Eastern (particularly Byzantine) spiritual tradition, it’s not really a good starting place for learning about Eastern Christian spirituality - especially for those of us who are not living in a monastery and/or don’t have a spiritual father or mother to guide us. Since the series isn’t systematic in its approach, but rather simply gathers up tidbits of spiritual wisdom that were scattered across the centuries, a beginner could easily read something in the text that was meant for someone experienced in the spiritual life and be led into prelest (i.e. spiritual delusion) by it. Probably the most common example are the various breathing techniques and prayer postures mentioned in the texts.

From a practical perspective, the five-volume weightiness of the Philokalia simply makes it impractical for the beginner.

Interestingly, both St. Theophan the Recluse and St. Ignatius Brianchaninov recommend that beginners (and, by extension, those looking for an introduction into Eastern/Byzantine spirituality) start by reading more modern spiritual masters that are closer to one’s own culture - e.g. reading the Russian spiritual masters before attempting to tackle the Greek masters of the Philokalia.

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Do you think I as a beginner can read the Paradise of the Holy Fathers?

Yeah I guess you are right, I will read books more suited for beginners first.

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Absolutely!

You’ll have to use some discernment to figure out what you can apply to your own life, but I’d definitely encourage you to read it.

Here’s a breakdown of a few things that are in the compilation: It starts with St. Athanasius’s life of St. Antony of Egypt. It then moves on to the Lausiac History written by Palladius. There are a few “rules” by, I believe, St. Pachomius. At some point in the series the History of the Monks of Egypt is included as well. It’s really like having a small library at your disposal.

According to one introduction I’ve read, Coptic monks at one point used to say the only books you needed to advance in the spiritual life were the Scriptures and the Paradise of the Holy Fathers. Not being as much of a minimalist as the Desert Fathers or Coptic monks, my own library is substantially larger. :rofl:

EDIT/Caveat - the only existing translation of the Paradise was done, I believe, in the 1820s (possibly the 1840s) by E. A. Wallace-Budge. The translation is rather archaic, so it can make for difficult reading if you’re not used to it. But the stories and sayings are rather simple, so you don’t have to worry about translating in your head from archaic English to more modern English too terribly much. :wink:

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I’m a solid Roman through-and-through, but have always been keenly interested in Eastern/Orthodox spirituality. We have a common patrimony, but there’s been a broad divergence over the centuries, to say the least.

As others have noted in this thread, the Philokalia is essentially “graduate level” research. Not something a novice should attempt without having a solid grounding. I’ve read all 4 volumes twice (haven’t gotten the newly published volume 5 yet)…and they have immensely enlightened me. I certainly don’t recommend them to anyone as a first choice.

For those of us approaching Eastern/Orthodox spirituality from a Western, “Roman” perspective, I’d suggest the following as a possible course:

  1. read Part 4 of the CCC (“Christian Prayer”)

  2. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (cheap paperback edited by Benedicta Ward). Good place to start.

  3. Life of St. Anthony by St. Athanasius (numerous free online versions, as well as published by various editors in cheap paperback).

  4. The Conferences by St. John Cassian (can be found on the internet for free, but printed versions are expensive).

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@bpd_stl Excellent suggestions for encouraging both Roman Catholic and Eastern Catholics dive back into our common (ancient) spiritual patrimony.

Interestingly, I learned from a professor of mine when I was a student at Franciscan that Part 4 of the CCC was actually written by Fr. Jean Corbon, a Melkite Greek Catholic priest and member of the Dominican order. It, along with the section on the Liturgy (also written by Fr. Corbon) reflect a very Eastern ethos.

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:wink: Yup…he did. Author of “Wellspring of Worship”…a very good book that I recommend.

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:+1::+1: :heart:

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