The Heart of Salvation: The Life and Teachings of Saint Theophan the Recluse

The Heart of Salvation: The Life and Teachings of Saint Theophan the Recluse
Life and teachings of Saint Theophan the Recluse - 1815 - 1894, the great Russian starets or spiritual elder of his century, a bishop and then a hermit who lived totally alone but taught thousands throughout 'Holy Russia' and beyond, giving perceptive and detailed spiritual advice by means of a voluminous correspondence.

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The life and teachings of Saint Theophan the Recluse, bishop, then a hermit in complete seclusion, and one of the greatest of Russia's masters of inner Christianity, compiler of the fullest version of the Russian `Philokalia.' The book draws on seven years of study in the ancient monasteries of the Middle East, and is rooted in the richly practical spirituality of 19th Century Russia. It is of great significance to serious students of hesychastic prayer.

From the back cover: First a schoolteacher, then a bishop, then a hermit, Theophan the Recluse was one of the Russian holy men canonized in 1988 and one of the greatest of the "startzi" - teachers of spirituality and of Prayer of the Heart - who have played such an important role in keeping the spiritual doctrines of the early Fathers alive in the Russian Orthodox Church. From his hermit's cell, Theophan aided thousands in their spiritual quest. When he died, the great Russian monastery of Saint Panteleimon on Mount Athos published his voluminous works and a book about his life. This book is based on that writing with additional commentary relating his ideas to the contemporary religious situation, as his work was of great importance in place, in time, and in its cogency to the whole question of the relation of early Christian thought to the modern situation. In addition to the contemporary relevance of his spiritual teachings, Theophan's protest against Russia's departure from the old Christian worldview for one based on the physical sciences... is all the more meaningful now that this process is beginning to reverse. 

From the editor's introduction: So that the reader can readily see for himself the great value of Theophan's writings, we have chosen a collection of Theophan's texts which have been arranged, with his life story, as follows: 

Part 1 - the background that makes sense of the later parts - describes Theophan's life in a way that illustrates how his ideas before he entered seclusion led naturally to his life as a recluse, revealing the intellectual clarity and moral and emotional simplicity of his character even in early life. We will support this with extracts from letters to his beloved nephew, and others describing his point of view on life in the world, marriage, education and the sciences. We will learn from these passages his keen sense of objectivity, and see that he possessed a deep interest both in history and in modern thought. We may also glimpse the man behind the ideas through many cheerful pages about his meticulous corrections of the proofs of his books, or about the way he remained smiling and fearless while suffering from a developing cataract of the left eye. 

Part 2 - the core of this collection - is formed by Theophan's detailed studies of the triple structure of the human being: body, soul and Spirit. To Theophan, human life has only one real goal beside which all other goals pale and appear as mere illusions. The goal is that man should follow the way to salvation, a term to which he assigns a very precise meaning, far from all ordinary moral exhortations or from catechismal definitions petrified with time. 

Part 3 - the denouement - concerns Theophan's teachings about prayer and repentance, teachings that lead us from the first signs of sanctity with the Fear of God to the highest pitch of ceaseless prayer and the depths of contemplation that he names `Walking with God'.