Ecclesiastical writiers of the Orthodox Church


For Orthodox Christians today, we have many spiritual books that we take for granted, and such books many Saints in the past longed to have for their own spiritual benefit. The Holy Fathers of our Church collected many patristic writings with much labor and hardships for the spiritual benefit of future Orthodox Christians. Our Venerable Paisius Velichkovky is highly credited with being a talented ecclesiastical writer himself, and who labored many years of his life to collect, translate, edit and publish spiritual books. St. Paisuis had a big influence on Athonite and Russian writers, and a number of authors should be mentioned to demonstrate the dominating mark he left upon Orthodox spiritual literature. Below I have mentioned the major ecclesiastical writers in the Paisian tradition:

PARTHENIUS, Abbot of Guslits Monastery, an Athonite monk, was a Russian born and raised in Moldavia by Old Believer step-parents. After many years of monastic struggles among Old Believers, he became converted to Orthodoxy and became a fervent missionary. His four volumes (1076 pages in all) of Travels and pilgrimages in Russia, Moldavia, Turkey and the Holy Land (Moscow 1856) is a classic work on 18th and early 19th century monasticism in the Paisian regions, focusing on the Athonite Paisian tradition. As a writer he is warm, simple, human, and creates a vivid picture of the monastic mentality, its zeal, its contrition of heart and guilelessness; he gathered information concerning anchorites as Palladius did in his Lausiac History. He was not an educated man in the worldly sense, but he gives a profound psychological study of many true servants of God; his information is indispensable for the hagiography of this time.

SERAPHIM the Hagiorite (1814-1852), was the author of perhaps the most popular book in Russia on Mount Athos, Letters to Friends About the Holy Mountain, in which he gives not only the history of this monastic continent, but also various details of its life, past and present, its natural setting, monastic customs, etc. But above all he captured the Athonite spirit and transmitted his love for it. He had a poetic gift, and his warm, endearing language and his keen observations enhanced his popularity. Being a politic writer, he complied The Athonite Patericon, A History of Russian Monks on Mount Athos from the Tenth to the Sixteenth Centuries, a book of verse, and Akathists, etc. He died there as a Schema-monk and a recluse at a young age, inspiring a definite attraction for Mount Athos and the Paisian tradition.

NILUS, Shema-Hieromonk of St. Nilus of Sora Skete (1801-1870), although he never visited Mount Athos, definitely inherited from his beloved St. Nilus the Athonite spirit. From early childhood he was under the protection of St. Paisius, for his father was in correspondence with Blessed Paisius and gave lodging to his monks whenever they visited Russia. With such a background it is not accidental that he was drawn to St. Nilus and his Tradition of the Skete Rule. Elder Nilus revived the Sora Skete where he kept a strict Athonite typicon with all-night vigils, and painted icons in the strict Byzantine style. He wrote the popular Prayer to the Theotokos for Every Day of the Week, Sermons, and the original Service to St. Seraphim of Sarov, on whose day he died, according to his own wish.

BISHOP IGNATIUS BRIANCHANINOV (1807-1867), was the writer who resembled Paisius the most, both in his patristic urgency and his concern for the purity of Orthodox Spirituality, being himself in the direct line of Paisian discipleship through his Elder, Leo of Optina. He assimilated Paisius message and presented it in an accessible and most eloquent classical language to the leading society of Russia, which was then the protector of all Orthodox lands. The significance of Bishop Ignatius has not been properly recognized, simply because he, just like Paisius himself, was “ahead of time.” Some of his writings (such as On Miracles and Signs), and especially his little known letters, reveal insight which is directed a whole century ahead to our time of apostasy. The five volumes of his Ascetical Works (including the fifth known in English as The Arena) and a sixth volume. The Patericon (of his complication), are a treasure which is indispensable for a student of spiritual life today, for in them he expounds for modern man what Paisius had collected for St. Macarius Philokalia. No writer before or since in the whole Orthodox world has had such a profound knowledge of the Western mentality, combined with such a refined, noble taste and such grounding in the spirit of the Fathers. His treatment of subjects like the Jesus Prayer, the Pharisaical mind, Prelest, the state of the soul after death etc, comes directly from the Paisian teaching. Today even highly reputed academic theologians in the Orthodox world are surprisingly ignorant of the Orthodox teaching on these subjects. In his private life, Bishop Ignatius attained the heights of perfection of true Saint. As a proof of this, upon his righteous death he appeared in a dazzling light from the other world to his spiritual child, who was being attacked by demons. Dispersing the unclean power of darkness, he said: “All that is written in my books in the truth.”

SEDERHOLM, Hiermonk Clement (1828-1878), a Swedish Lutheran, after a visit to Mount Athos came to Optina, was converted to Orthodoxy, and took part in the translation of the Paisian texts into Russian. It was his idea to compile full biographies of the Optina Elders as carriers of the Paisian teaching in practice. He wrote the Lives of Elders Anthony and Leo and could not complete that of Elder Moses due to his early repose. He wrote a very important work on Russian hesychasts in the 18 century, Desert Dwellers of the Roslavl Forests, published in 1882.

THEOPHANES the Recluse (1815-1894). To him St. Tikhon of Zadonsk was what Paisius was for Biship Ignatius, for that Saint inspired him to go into retreat in order to dedicate himself entirely to repairing “spiritual food for the hungry.” In this respect he is very much in the spirit of Sts. Macarius and Nicodemus, for the translated into Russian the latter’s Unseen Warfare and was even intending to publish Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress, with an Orthodox content. From his reclusion he poured out an incredible amount of Partistric works. He translated the Philokalia into Russian, and enlarged it into five volumes, thereby continuing St. Paisius work on an even larger scale. He wrote especially valuable books as intermediary or preparatory texts, such as What is the Spiritual Life and How to Attune Oneself to it, The Path to Salvation, and numerous volumes of Letters designed especially for such a purpose. Just like Bishop Ignatius, he himself is unquestionably a Holy Father of the Church.

Among these brilliant writers of the Orthodox Church, we also have Ivan M. Kireyevsky, Theophanes the Archbishop of Potlava and Theodosius who translated the Evergetinos. All information about the ecclesiastical writers mentioned above is taken from the book called, “Blessed Paisius Velichkovsky,” published by St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood.

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1 Response to “Ecclesiastical writiers of the Orthodox Church”


  1. 1 Mark Guslits February 7, 2013 at 9:28 am

    My family name is Guslits. Could there be any connection with Parthenius? We’re Russian by origin.


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"A man may seem to be silent, but if his heart is condemning others, he is babbling ceaselessly. But there may be another who talks from morning till night and yet he is truly silent, that is, he says nothing that is not profitable."

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St. Paisius Velichkovsky

"Remember, O my soul, the terrible and frightful wonder: that your Creator for your sake became Man, and deigned to suffer for the sake of your salvation. His angels tremble, the Cherubim are terrified, the Seraphim are in fear, and all the heavenly powers ceaselessly give praise; and you, unfortunate soul, remain in laziness. At least from this time forth arise and do not put off, my beloved soul, holy repentance, contrition of heart and penance for your sins."

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

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