Philokalia

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Front cover of Volume 1 in English, published by Faber and Faber Ltd.
The Philokalia is a collection of writings, mostly centering on practicing the virtues and spiritual living in a monastery. In recent decades it has become an important resource for Orthodox Christians, laity and clergy alike, in personal living and in some ways has achieved status as a major secondary spiritual written resource (after the primary one, Holy Scripture) along with St. John Climacus' The Ladder of Divine Ascent.

Contents

History of the Compilation

The Philokalia—Greek for "love of the beautiful/holy/exalted"—was first assembled at Mount Athos by Ss. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain and Makarios of Corinth. The first edition was published at Venice in 1782; a second was done at Athens in 1893, which included a prayer by Patriarch Kallistos; and a third at Athens between 1957 and 1963 by the Astir Publishing Company. All the original writings in the Philokalia were written in Greek with the exception of two, which were originally in Latin but then translated in Greek during the time of the Roman ("Byzantine") Empire.

Soon the Philokalia was translated into multiple languages. In 1793, a Slavonic translation done by St. Paisii Velichkovskii (1722-1794), was published at Moscow under the title Dobrotolubiye, and later reprinted in 1822. This would be the version carried by the unnamed central character in The Way of a Pilgrim and was responsible for a spiritual revival in 19th century Russia, impacting a lot of her people, including Fyodor Dostoevsky. A second translation was published in 1857 and was done by St. Ignatii Brianchaninov (1807-1867). A third one was done by St. Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894), but he included other texts not in the Greek original as well as paraphrases or omissions of other sections. This translation was published in five volumes under the auspicies of the Russian Monastery of St. Panteleimon at Mount Athos in 1877. A Romanian translation first appeared in 1946 with Fr. Dumitru Staniloae presiding as editor (the fifth volume appeared in 1976 and it's expected to be eight volumes). A French translation is currently in the works. Both of these use the Greek.

This article forms part of the series
Orthodox Spirituality
Holy Mysteries
Baptism - Chrismation
Eucharist - Confession
Marriage - Ordination
Holy Unction
Three Stages
Catharsis/Purification
Theoria/Illumination
Theosis/Divinization
Hesychasm
Nepsis - Metanoia
Hesychia - Phronema
Mysticism - Nous
Asceticism
Chastity - Obedience
Stability - Fasting
Poverty - Monasticism
Virtues
Humility - Generosity
Chastity - Meekness
Temperance - Contentment
Diligence
Prayer
Worship - Veneration
Prayer Rule - Jesus Prayer
Relics - Sign of the Cross
Church Fathers
Apostolic Fathers
Desert Fathers
Cappadocians
The Philokalia
The Ladder of Divine Ascent
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Contents of the Philokalia

This listing of texts is based on the English translation, started by Bishop Kallistos Ware, G.E.H. Palmer and Philip Sherrard and published by Faber and Faber Ltd. The fifth volume has yet to be published. While there is no definite date set, it is predicted by the publisher to be made available sometime late in 2006. This translation uses the third edition published by the Astir Publishing Company.

Volume 1

  1. On Guarding the Intellect: 27 Texts
  1. Outline Teaching on Asceticism and Stillness in the Solitary Life
  2. Texts on Discrimination in respect of Passions and Thoughts
  3. Extracts from the Texts on Watchfulness
  4. On Prayer: 153 Texts
  1. On the Eight Vices
  2. On the Holy Fathers of Sketis and on Discrimination
  1. On the Spiritual Law: 200 Texts
  2. On Those who Think that They are Made Righteous by Works: 226 Texts
  3. Letter to Nicolas the Solitary
  1. On Watchfulness and Holiness
  1. Ascetic Discourse
  1. On Spiritual Knowledge and Discrimination: 100 Texts
  1. For the Encouragement of the Monks in India who had Written to Him: 100 Texts
  2. Ascetic Discourse Sent at the Request of the Same Monks in India

There is also an appendix entitled "On the Character of Men and on the Virtuous Life: 170 Texts." Nicodemus attributes it to the model monastic Antony of Egypt; however the language and the general idea is not explicitly Christian. It was included perhaps because it had resonances of Christianity and Nicodemus thought that another work—from Peter of Damascus—quotes from this work and attributes it to Antony. However no such connection can be found.

Volume 2

  1. A Century of Spiritual Texts
  2. Theoretikon
  1. Four Hundred Texts on Love, with a foreword to Elpidios the Presbyter
  2. Two Hundred Texts on Theology and the Incarnate Dispensation of the Son of God (written for Thalassios)
  3. Various Texts on Theology, the Divine Economy, and Virtue and Vice
  4. On the Lord's Prayer
  1. On Love, Self Control, and Life in accordance with the Intellect (written for Paul the Presbyter)
  1. On the Virtues and the Vices
  1. On the Practice of the Virtues, Contemplation and the Priesthood

Volume 3

  1. A Gnomic Anthology: Part I
  2. A Gnomic Anthology: Part II
  3. A Gnomic Anthology: Part III
  4. A Gnomic Anthology: Part IV
  1. The Ladder of Divine Graces
  1. Book I: A Treasury of Divine Knowledge
  2. Book II: Twenty-Four Discourses
  1. Spiritual Perfection
  2. Prayer
  3. Patient Endurance and Discrimination
  4. The Raising of the Intellect
  5. Love
  6. The Freedom of the Intellect

Volume 4

  1. On Faith
  2. 153 Practical and Theological Texts
  3. The Three Methods of Prayer [attributed to him]
  1. On the Practice of the Virtues: One Hundred Texts
  2. On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect: One Hundred Texts
  3. On Spiritual Knowledge, Love and the Perfection of Living: One Hundred Texts
  1. On Inner Work in Christ and the Monastic Profession
  2. Texts
  1. On Watchfulness and the Guarding of the Heart
  1. On Commandments and Doctrines, Warnings and Promises; on Thoughts, Passions and Virtues, and also on Stillness and Prayer: 137 Texts
  2. Further Texts
  3. On the Signs of Grace and Delusion, Written for the Confessor Longinos: Ten Texts
  4. On Stillness: Fifteen Texts
  5. On Prayer: Seven Texts
  1. To the Most Reverend Nun Xenia
  2. A New Testament Decalogue
  3. In Defence of THose who Devoutly Practise a Life of Stillness
  4. Three Texts on Prayer and Purity of Heart
  5. Topics of Natural and Theological Science and on the Moral and Ascetic Life: 150 Texts
  6. The Declaration of the Holy Mountain in Defence of Those who Devoutly Practice a Life of Stillness

Guide to Reading the Philokalia

Like all spiritual readings, the Philokalia should be read under the guidance of a spiritual father as to avoid misinterpretations or malpractice of spiritual remedies. For those who are not practicing monastics, the idea of divorcing oneself from the normal life may seem extreme. Nevertheless, keep in mind that those who practice the monastic life are called to live a total Christ-centered life or to use Christ's words "becoming eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake" (Matthew 19:12). In spite of the audience, there are also sayings and writings that are relevant to those who are called to "remain in the world" such as the practice of virtues or the controlling, even extinguishing, of the passions.

Also, this work is not meant to be read all at once. It should be approached like a Merck's Medical Journal: look up the things that are relevant for whatever moment you as a reader need it. The English translations make it easier to use it in this way. For an example, if you are wondering about what patience is about, simply look at the index. If the page numbers are in bold, then it is a significant passage of text addressing that issue; otherwise it may appear as either one sentence or a small part of a larger context.

References

  • The English translation of the Philokalia, particularly Volume 1 (ISBN 057111377X)
  • Allyne Smith,The Philokalia: The Eastern Christian Spiritual Texts -- Selections Annotated and Explained (SkyLight Paths, 2006) ISBN 1594731039
  • Fr. Alexander Webster, parish priest of the Protection of the Holy Mother of God Orthodox Church, Falls Church, VA
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