Kallistos, Bishop of Diokleia

The inner unity of the Philokalia and its influence in East and West



A Book for all Christians 1. The inner unity of the Philokalia 2. The Basic Aim: Deification 3. The Means: Continual Invocation of the Holy Name 3.1. The Evagrian -Maximian Tradition 3.2. Palamism 3.3. Absence of Western Influence The Philokalia yesterday and today


A Book for all Christians

In the year 1782 a massive folio volume was published in Greek at the city of Venice, bearing the title Φιλοκαλία τῶν Ἱερῶν Νηπτικῶν, Philiokalia of the Holy Neptic Fathers1. At the time of its first appearance this book seems to have had only a limited impact upon the Greek Orthodox world, while in the West it remained for a long time totally unknown. Yet in retrospect it is clear that the Philokalia was one of the most significant Greek books to be published during the whole period of the four centuries of the Turcocratia; indeed, arguably it was the most significant and influential of all. Today, after two centuries, it is still in print, both in the original Patristic Greek and in a modern Greek version; and it is available in translation, not only in most of the languages used in countries that are traditionally Orthodox, but also in virtually all the languages of Western Europe. Alike in the original and in translation, it has been regularly reprinted in the past forty years, and in Britain and the United States, not to mention other countries, the sales are increasing every year. In many circles, non-Orthodox as well as Orthodox, it has become customary to speak of a characteristically ‘Philokalic» approach to theology and prayer, and many regard this ‘Philokalic» standpoint as the most creative element in contemporary Orthodoxy.

There are some books which seem to have been composed not so much for their own age as for subsequent generations. Little noticed at the time of their initial publication, they only attain their full influence two or more centuries afterwards. The Philokalia is precisely such a work.

What kind of a book is the Philokalia? In the original edition of 1782, there is a final page in Italian: this is a licenza, a permission to publish, issued by the Roman Catholic censors at the University of Padua. In this they state that the volume contains nothing «contrary to the Holy Catholic Faith» (contro la Santa Fede Cattolica), and nothing »contrary to good principles and practices» (contro principi, e buoni costumi)2.But, though bearing a Roman Catholic imprimatur, the Philokalia is in fact entirely an Orthodox book. Of the thirty-six different authors whose writings it contains -dating from the fourth to the fifteenth century- all are Greek, apart from one, who wrote in Latin, St John Cassian (d. circa 430) or "Cassian the Roman» as he is styled in the Philokalia; and this exception is more apparent than real, for Cassian grew up in the Christian East and received his teaching from Evagrios of Pontus, the disciple of the Cappadocian Fathers.

Who are the editors of the Philokalia? The 1782 title page bears in large letters the name of the benefactor who financed the publication of the book: ... διὰ δαπάνης τοῦ Τιμιωτάτου, καὶ Θεοσεβεστάτου Κυρίου Ἰωάννου Μαυρογορδάτου (this is perhaps the John Mavrogordato who was Prince of Moldavia during 1743 – 47). But neither on the title page nor anywhere in the 1.206 pages of the original edition are the names of the editors mentioned. There is in fact no doubt about their identity: they are St Makarios of Corinth (1731–1805) and St Nikodimos the Hagiorite (1749–1809), who were both associated with the group known collectively as the Kollyvades3.

What was the purpose of St Makarios and St Nikodimos in issuing this vast collection of Patristic texts on prayer and the spiritual life? The second half of the eighteenth century constitutes a crucial turning-point in Greek cultural history. Even though the Byzantine Empire fell in 1453, it can justly be claimed that the Byzantine -or, more exactly, the Romaic- period of Orthodox history continued uninterrupted until the late eighteenth century. The Church, that is to say, continued to play a central role in the life of the people; despite Western influences, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, theology continued to be carried out in a spirit that was basically Patristic, and most Greeks, when looking back to the past, took as their ideal the Christian Empire of Byzantium.

During the later decades of the eighteenth century, however, a new spirit began to prevail among educated Greeks, the spirit of modern Hellenism. This was more secular in its outlook than was Romaic culture, although -initially, at any rate- it was not explicitly anti-religious. Its protagonists looked back, beyond the Byzantine period, to ancient Greece, taking as their ideal the Athens of Pericles that was so greatly admired in the West, and their models were not the Greek Fathers but the authors of the classical period. These exponents of modern Hellenism were inspired, however, not simply by the Western reverence for classical studies, but more broadly by the mentality of the Enlightenment (Aufklärung), by the principles of Voltaire and the French Encyclopedists, by the ideologists of the French Revolution (which began only seven years after the publication of the Philokalia), and by the pseudo-mysticism of Freemasonry.

Needless to say, we are not to imagine that at the end of the eighteenth century there was a simple transition, with the Romaic tradition drawing abruptly to an end, and being totally replaced by the outlook of Neohellenism. On the contrary, the Romaic standpoint has continued to coexist, side by side with Neohellenism, in nineteenth and twentieth century Greece. The two approaches overlap, and there has always been – and still exists today – a subtle and complex interaction between the two. Alexander Solzenitsyn remarks in The Gulag Archipelago that the line of demarcation separating good and evil runs through the middle of every human heart4. By the same token it can be said that the line of demarcation between the Romaios and the Hellene runs through the middle of the heart of each one of us.

If Adamantios Korais is the outstanding representative of modern Hellenism at the end of the eighteenth century, then the outstanding spokesmen of the Romaic or traditional Orthodox spirit during the same epoch are the editors of the Philokalia, St Nikodimos and St Makarios. They and the other Kollyvades were profoundly disturbed by the growing infiltration of the ideas of the Western Aufklärung among their fellow-countrymen. They believed that the regeneration of the Greek Church and nation could come about only through a recovery of the neptic and mystical theology of the Fathers ‘Do not set your hope in the new secularism of the West; that will prove nothing but a deceit and a disappointment», they said in effect to their fellow-Greeks. «Our only true hope of renewal is to rediscover our authentic root in the Patristic and Byzantine past’. Is not their message as timely today as ever it was in the eighteenth century?

The Kollyvades proposed, therefore, a far-reaching and radical programme of ressourcement, a return to the authentic sources of Orthodox Christianity. This programme had three primary features. First, the Kollyvades insisted, in the field of worship, upon a faithful observance of the Orthodox liturgical tradition. Among other things, they urged that memorial services should be celebrated on the correct day, Saturday (not Sunday); hence the sobriquet »Kollyvades». But this was far from being their main liturgical concern. Much more important was their firm and unwavering advocacy of frequent communion; this proved to be highly controversial, and brought upon them persecution and exile. Secondly, they sought to bring about in theology a Patristic renaissance; and in this connection they undertook an ambitious programme of publications, in which the Philokalia played a central role. Thirdly, within the Patristic heritage, they emphasized above all else the teachings of Hesychasm, as represented in particular by St Symeon the New Theologian in the eleventh century and by St Gregory Palamas in the fourteenth. It is precisely this Hesychast tradition that forms the living heart of the Philokalia, and that gives to its varied contents a single unity.

Such, then, is the cultural context of the Philokalia. It forms part -a fundamental and primary part- of the Patristic ressourcement that the Kollyvades sought to promote. The Kollyvades looked upon the Fathers, not simply as an archeological relic from the distant past, but as a living guide for contemporary Christians. They therefore hoped that the Philokalia would not gather dust on the shelves of scholars, but that it would alter peoplés lives. They meant it to have a supremely practical purpose.

In this connection it is significant that St Nicodimos and St Makarios intended the Philokalia to be a book not just for monks but for the laity, not just for specialists but for all Christians. The book is intended, so its title page explicitly states, «for the general benefit of the Orthodox» (εἰς κοινὴν τῶν Ὀρθοδόξων ὠφέλειαν). It is true that virtually all the texts included were written by monks, with a monastic readership in mind. It is also true that, with the exception of seven short pieces at the end of the volume, the material is given in the original Patristic Greek, and is not translated into the Demotic, even though St Nikodimos and St Makarios used the Demotic in most of their other publications. Nevertheless, despite the linguistic difficulties in many Philokalic texts, more especially in the writings of St Maximos the Confessor and St Gregory Palamas, the editors leave no doubt concerning their purpose and their hopes. In his preface St Nikodimos affirms unambiguously that the book is addressed »to all of you who share the Orthodox calling, laity and monks aliké5. In particular, St Nikodimos maintains, the Pauline injunction, «Pray without ceasing» (1 Thessalonians 5:17), is intended not just for hermits in caves and on mountain-tops but for married Christians with responsibilities for a family, for farmers, merchants and lawyers, even for »kings and courtiers living in palaces"6. It is a universal command. The best belongs to everyone.

St Nikodimos recognized that, in thus making Hesychast texts available to the general reader, he was exposing himself to possible misunderstanding and criticism. Thus he writes in the preface:

Here someone might object that it is not right to publish certain of the texts included in this volume, since they will sound strange to the ears of most people, and may even prove harmful to them7.

Indeed, is there not a risk that, if these texts are made readily accessible for all to read in a printed edition, certain people may go astray because they lack personal guidance from an experienced spiritual father? This was an objection to which St Nikodimos» contemporary, St Paissy Velichkovsky (1722–94), was keenly sensitive. For a long time he would not allow his Slavonic translation of the Philokalia to appear in print, precisely because he feared that the book might fall into the wrong hands; and it was only under pressure from Metropolitan Gabriel of St Petersburg that he eventually agreed to its publication8. St Makarios and St Nikodimos were in full agreement with St Paissy about the immense importance of obedience to a spiritual father. But at the same time they were prepared to take the risk of printing the Philokalia. Even if a few people go astray because of their conceit and pride, says St Nikodimos, yet many will derive deep benefit, provided that they read the Philokalic texts «with all humility and in a spirit of mourning»9. If we lack a geronta, then let us trust to the Holy Spirit; for in the last resort He is the one true spiritual guide.

1. The inner unity of the Philokalia

How far does the Philokalia possess an all- embracing unity and coherence? Are there common themes which bind together the thirty-six authors that it contains? Are we entitled to speak of a distinctive and characteristic «spirituality» of the Philokalia?

At first sight it might appear that there is no underlying unity, no specifically »Philokalic» spirituality. The different texts are given simply in chronological order, with no attempt at systematic classification, no grouping of topics, and no clear indication which writings are considered suitable for «beginners» and which for the more »advanced». In this connection it is relevant to keep in mind the meaning of the title » Philokaliá. This can certainly be given a spiritual sense: it may signify love for what is beautiful and good, love for God as the source of all things beautiful, love for whatever leads to union with the divine and uncreated beauty. Yet the term » Philokaliá can also mean merely an "anthology», a collection of good and beautiful things. Is that perhaps the true character of the Philokalia of St Makarios and St Nikodimos? Is it no more than a selection of disconnected texts, chosen more or less at random?

If we look deeper, however, we find that the Philokalia is in reality far more than a series of unrelated writings, bound up for convenience between the covers of the same volume. There are certain dominant motifs, certain master-themes, which give to the Philokalia a coherent unity and a definite purpose. Let us consider in particular three basic themes, pervading the whole work, and after that three further features that are more specific in character.

1. The General Scope of the Philokalia: Inner Action

The primary concern of the texts in the Philokalia is with » inner» rather than Outer» action. It deals, not with that the Desert Fathers term » bodily toil», but with » the guarding of the intellect«10. It does not concentrate upon detailed regulations concerning the observance of fasts, the hours of sleep, or the number of prostrations, but it looks beyond the letter of these outward rules at their inner spirit, at their spiritual purpose and effect. What it reveals to us, says St Nikodimos in his preface, is »the kingdom of God that is within yoú (see Luke 17:21), «the treasure hidden in the field of the heart» (see Matt. 13:44)11.

This »kingdom within us» is characterized according to the Philokalia more particularly by two virtues: by νῆψις, a term denoting sobriety, temperance, lucidity, and above all vigilance and watchfulness; and by ἡσυχία, which signifies not so much exterior silence as inner stillness of heart. Key concepts in Eastern spirituality as a whole, these two connected qualities are key concepts more specifically in the Philokalia. If we are asked to sum up the message of the Philokalia in not more than two words, the best way to do so would be to use the terms nepsis and hesychia. The central!ty of nepsis is indicated at the very outset in the Greek title of the book, Φιλοκαλία τῶν Ἱερῶν Νηπτικῶν, Philokalia of the Holy Neptic [Fathers]. St Nikodimos in his preface describes the Philokalia as a » treasury of watchfulness» (νήψεως ταμεῖον)12. Interpreting the word in a wide-ranging sense -he refers to it as «all-embracing watchfulness» (ἡ καθόλου νῆψις) -he links it with two other basic notions in Orthodox ascetic theology, »attentiveness» (προσοχή) and «keeping guard over the intellect» (φυλακή τοῦ νοός)13. It is nepsis that secures our entry into the inner kingdom; in the words of an author included in the Philokalia, St Philotheos of Sinai, it is »a path leading to the kingdom – both to that which is within us and to that which is to bé14. The second key term, hesychia, is understood in the Philokalia chiefly in the Evagrian sense of «pure prayer», that is to say, prayer in which the intellect is »naked» and free from all images and discursive thinking. Towards the end of the Philokalia the basic sense of the word is well summed up in an epigrammatic phrase of St Gregory of Sinai: "Hesychia is a shedding of thoughts» (ἡσυχία γάρ εστιν άπόθεσις νοημάτων)15.

2. The Basic Aim: Deification

If such is the general scope of the Philokalia, in what way does the work envisage the basic aim and purpose of the spiritual life? St Nikodimos provides a clear answer in the very first sentence of the preface: "God, the blessed nature, perfection that is more than perfect, the creative principle of all that is good and beautiful, Himself transcending all goodness and all beauty, in His supremely divine plan preordained from all eternity the deification (θέωσις) of humankind’16. Such, then, is the purpose for which humans were created, and such is the supreme end of the spiritual life: theosis. It is no coincidence that theosis should be mentioned by Nikodimos not only in the opening sentence of his preface, but on no less than five other occasions on the first page alone. This ideal of theosis, of direct, transforming union with the living God, constitutes a unifying thread throughout the Philokalia as a whole.

3. The Means: Continual Invocation of the Holy Name

Having indicated in the first sentence how humans were created for theosis, Nikodimos goes on to speak in the preface about the Fall, Christ's Incarnation, and the gift of the Holy Spirit conferred at Baptism. This grace of Baptism, bestowed on us in infancy, has been obscured by worldly cares and passions. How can it be reactivated? Nikodimos answers:

The Spirit... revealed to the Fathers a method (τρόπος) that is truly wonderful and altogether scientific (έπιστημονικώτατος), whereby grace can be rediscovered. This was to pray continually to our Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God, not simply to pray with the intellect and the lips alone (for this is something obvious to all in general who choose the life of devotion, and is easy for anyone); but to turn the whole intellect towards the inner self, which is a marvellous experience; and so inwardly, within the very depths of the heart, to invoke the all-holy Name of the Lord and to implore mercy from Him, concentrating our attention solely on the bare words of the prayer, not allowing anything else whatever to gain entry from within or from without, but keeping the mind totally free from all forms and colours17.

This «spiritual and scientific work» (πνευματικὴ καὶ ἐπιστημονική εργασία), if accompanied by the practice of the commandments and the acquisition of the virtues, will burn up the passions and enable us to »return to the perfect grace of the Spirit that was bestowed upon us in the beginning through Baptism«18. To help us with the invocation of the Name, St Nikodimos adds, several Fathers have recommended» a practical method through the use of certain physical techniques» 19.

Such, then, are the means proposed in the Philokalia whereby the supreme goal of theosis is to be achieved. The »scientific method» envisaged by St Makarios and St Nikodimos may be summarized in five points:

i. to pray without ceasing;

ii. tο pray in the depths of the heart;

iii. during prayer to exclude all images and thoughts;

iv. to invoke the Holy Name of Jesus;

v. to use, if so desired, the physical technique (head bowed on chest; control of the breathing; inner exploration). This technique may assist us, but it is not essential.

St Nikodimos makes it abundantly clear in his preface that the invocation of the Name of Jesus is one of the fundamental themes in the Philokalia. We must be careful, however, not to exaggerate its place in the work as a whole. Some of the selections from the Philokalia published in the West give the misleading impression that the book is predominantly a manual on the practice of the Jesus Prayer, with little else besides. But in fact the two authors to whom the greatest amount of space is allotted in the Philokalia, St Maximos the Confessor and St Peter of Damaskos, nowhere mention the Jesus Prayer at all. It is only in the final part of the work that it occupies a central position. When the Philokalia is read in its entirety, it becomes evident that the editors were far from regarding the invocation of the Name as a «spiritual techniqué, to be practised in isolation, but they were concerned always to place it in a wider ascetic and »neptic» context, such as would involve a personal relationship with Christ at every level. Yet, even though «Philokalic» spirituality cannot be reduced simply to the practice of the Jesus Prayer, the invocation of the Holy Name certainly forms a significant unifying thread within the Philokalia.

The characteristics of a distinctly »Philokalic» spirituality are now beginning to emerge. There are three other features that call for special mention:

3.1. The Evagrian -Maximian Tradition

Although the works included in the Philokalia reflect a variety of viewpoints, the predominant influence is that of Evagrios and St Maximos. There is nothing from the Apophthegmata, from the Greek version of St Ephrem, from St Gregory of Nyssa, St Dionysios the Areopagite, St Varsanuphios or St Dorotheos. There is, it is true, a relatively long section of Makarian material, in the version of Symeon Metaphrastis. But it is the Evagrian terminology and classification that prevails, and this is apparent particularly in the texts from St Maximos the Confessor, which occupy a central place in the Philokalia.

3.2. Palamism

How far is it legitimate to regard the Philokalia as a work reflecting, not only the Evagrian-Maximian approach to the spiritual life, but more specifically the theology of St Gregory Palamas? Any answer requires to be carefully qualified. The Kollyvades were definitely upholders of Palamism, and St Nikodimos himself prepared an edition, never in fact published, of Palamas» collected works in three volumes (the Greek press in Vienna, to which St Nikodimos had sent the manuscript of this, was closed by the Austrian authorities in 1798, following the arrest of Rhigas Velestinlis; a small part of the manuscript was saved, but most of it was destroyed by the Austrian police, or otherwise dispersed and lost)20. On the other hand, fourteenth century Hesychast writings occupy no more than a quarter of the Philokalia; moreover, the Hesychast texts included by the editors are for the most part pastoral and non-polemical, and there is relatively little that alludes explicitly to the technical Palamite teaching concerning the divine light and the distinction between the essence and the uncreated energies of God.

In a broader sense, however, the Philokalia is certainly a work conceived and executed in a Palamite spirit. The basic antinomy which the essence-energies distinction seeks to safeguard underlies the Philokalia from one end to the other: that God is at the same time unknown and yet well known, both transcendent and immanent, both beyond all being and yet everywhere present. On the one hand, the apophatic approach to the divine mystery is repeatedly emphasized in the texts selected by St Makarios and St Nikodimos; God, to quote from the writings of St Maximos the Confessor included in the Philokalia, is the «supremely unknowablé, »infinitely transcending the summit of all spiritual knowledgé, apprehended only by faith «in a manner beyond all unknowing»21. On the other hand, the Philokalia constantly affirms that it is possible, even during this present life, to attain an unmediated, divinizing union with the infinitely transcendent Deity. To use the daring phrase of St Maximos, through deification the saints are granted «identity with respect to energy» with the triune God, although not identity of essence22. If, then, the essence-energies distinction (itself much older than Palamas) is seen not simply as a piece of philosophical speculation but in its true experiential dimensions -as a way, that is to say, of expressing the living experience of the saints during prayer- then the Philokalia should indeed be regarded as fundamentally »Palamité in its orientation.

3.3. Absence of Western Influence

The works included in the Philokalia all belong to the tradition of Eastern Christian spirituality. In other publications St Nikodimos was prepared to adapt for an Orthodox audience Roman Catholic works such as the Combattimento Spirituale of Lorenzo Scupoli, the Esercizi Spirituali of Giampetro Pinamonti (based on Ignatius Loyola), and Il confessore istruito and Il penitente istruito of Paolo Segneri23. St Nikodimos seems to have valued the psychological insight displayed by these Western authors, and the sense of "feeling», the fervent, affective tone, that distinguishes their works. Doubtless he also felt that the methods of discursive meditation, centred especially on the Passion, which these writers advocate, might be of assistance to Orthodox readers who experience difficulty with the imageless, non-iconic prayer recommended in the Evagrian tradition; yet even so he considered it necessary in Unseen Warfare to add a chapter -not to be found in his source, Scupoli- on the control of the imagination and the memory24. In the Philokalia, however, St Nikodimos and St Makarios restricted themselves exclusively to the traditional spirituality of the Christian East, without any borrowings from Roman Catholic sources. Although the Philokalia contains a number of texts involving imaginative meditation on the life and Passion of Christ -a notable example occurs in St Mark the Ascetic» s Letter to Nicolas25– the manner of praying that is normally proposed is the Evagrian «shedding of thoughts».

Such, then, are some of the unifying threads within the Philokalia, which justify us in claiming that there is indeed a distinctively »Philokalic» spirituality. As a book devoted primarily to inner action -to the «inner kingdom» of the heart -the Philokalia ascribes particular significance to the two connected qualities of nepsis and hesychia. The basic aim set before the spiritual aspirant is nothing less than theosis, direct participation in the uncreated energies and glory of God. The chief means whereby this aim is to be achieved is through the unceasing invocation of the Holy Name, accompanied when appropriate by the »physical techniqué; but the Philokalia does not emphasize the Jesus Prayer in a one-sided or exclusive manner. It is a work basically Evagrian and Maximian in its orientation; a work which presupposes the Palamite essence-energies distinction; a work which makes no use of Western Counter-Reformation spirituality, but which nowhere attacks Western Christendom; a work intended for all Christians, monks and laity alike. Without being exhaustive or systematic, the Philokalia possesses none the less a genuine unity and coherence of its own. Far more than a group of disparate texts bound together at random in a single volume, it is indeed what its editors St Makarios of Corinth and St Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain claim it to be: «a mystical school of noetic prayer»26.

Sometimes I am asked: in what order should the writings of the Philokalia be read? Should we start at the beginning, on page one, and read straight through to the end? Probably that is not the best method. To one who is unfamiliar with Hesychasm but who has a serious and deep longing to discover its true meaning, I sometimes suggest the following sequence of texts:

i. St Kallistos and St Ignatios Xanthopoulos, Directions to Hesy-chasts (Philokalia IV, 197–295, English translation Kadloubovsky and Palmer, Writings from the Philokalia, 164–270)27.

ii. St Hesychios the Priest, On Watchfulness and Holiness (Philokalia I, 141–73, English translation I, 162–98).

iii. Evagrios the Solitary (alias Neilos the Ascetic: i.e. Evagrios of Pontus), On Prayer (Philokalia I, 176–89, English translation I, 55–71).

iv. A Discourse on Abba Philimon (Philokalia II, 241–52, English translation II, 344–57).

v. St Gregory of Sinai, On the Signs of Grace and Delusion; On Stillness; On Prayer (Philokalia IV, 66–88, English translation IV, 257–86)28.

But here I strongly recommend readers not to attempt the physical technique mentioned by St Gregory, unless they are under the direct instruction of an experienced spiritual teacher.

The Philokalia yesterday and today

Such is the character of the Philokalia: what, then, has been its influence? In the Greek world the book had initially only a limited impact, in part perhaps because (as already noted) almost all the texts were given in the original Patristic or Byzantine Greek, not in a neo-Greek paraphrase. More than a century passed before a second Greek edition appeared in 1893; and it was not until 64 years later that another Greek edition commenced publication in 1957. Thus, during the first 175 years of its existence, the Greek Philokalia was printed only three times; it was not exactly a best seller! It is significant that a standard work of reference in the 1930's, the multi-volume Great Hellenic Encyclopedia, under the heading "Philokaliá mentions only the Philokalia of Origen, edited by St Basil the Great and St Gregory the Theologian, while making no reference at all to the Philokalia of St Makarios and St Nikodimos29.

In the Slav world, on the other hand, the Philokalia enjoyed a markedly different fortune. The Slavonic translation by St Paissy Velichovsky published in 1793, and the enlarged Russian edition by St Theophan the Recluse which began to appear in 1877, were both regularly reprinted, enjoying during the nineteenth century an influence vastly more extensive than that of the Greek original. To mention only three examples of its popularity, the Slavonic Dobrotolubiye was read and quoted by St Seraphim of Sarov; it was used and recommended by the startsi of Optina; and it was carried in his knapsack by the anonymous author of The Way of a Pilgrim as he wandered through the Russian forests with the Jesus Prayer on his lips and a komvoschoinion in his hand.

Yet the true era of the Philokalia came neither in the eighteenth century world of the Kollyvades nor in the "Holy Russiá of the nineteenth century, but in the latter half of the twentieth century, following the Second World War. The third edition of the Greek Philokalia, issued in five volumes by the publishing house Astir-Papadimitriou (1957–63), was widely distributed, and it was reprinted in 1974–76; and the Philokalia in its entirety has also been translated into Modern Greek. Until forty years ago knowledge of the Philokalia in the Greek world was limited almost entirely to certain monasteries, but today it is being studied and appreciated to an ever-increasing degree by members of the laity – which is exactly what St Makarios and St Nikodimos had intended.

Another Orthodox country which has been profoundly influenced by the Philokalia since the Second World War is Romania. A Romanian translation began to appear in 1946, under the editorship of the eminent theologian Archpriest Dumitru Staniloae (1903–93). By 1948 this had reached its fourth volume, when publication had to be suspended because of pressure from the Communist authorities. Thirty years later it proved possible to resume publication, and during 1976–81 a further six volumes were issued, making a total of ten volumes (amounting in all to more than 4.650 pages)30. In comparison with its Greek prototype, the Romanian Philokalia contains a greatly expanded selection of texts; in particular, Fr Staniloae has added many further works by St Maximos the Confessor and St Gregory Palamas. He has also rewritten the introductory sections before each author, and has added numerous footnotes; these take full account of critical scholarship in the contemporary West, but the results of this scholarship are always carefully assessed by Fr Staniloae from an Orthodox standpoint. This Romanian Philokalia has contributed, in a decisive and creative manner, to the spiritual renewal which is today plainly manifest in Orthodox Romania. Under Fr Staniloaés inspiration, there has emerged an impressive group of younger bishops and theologians who are deeply "Philokalic» in their orientation. In Romania today, as in contemporary Greece, the effect of the Philokalia is by no means restricted to monastic circles but extends to the life of the Church as a whole.

If the recent influence of the Philokalia in Romania is indeed striking, yet more remarkable is the widespread success of the Philokalia in the Western world during the past fifty years. The first edition, published at Venice in 1782, was sent almost in its entirety to the Levant, and few indeed were the copies to be found in the libraries of Western Europe. The learned Dom Pitra and the other editors of the Patrologia Graeca published by J.-P. Migne had access to the Greek Philokalia only from volume 85 onwards, and they emphasize the extreme rarity of the work: »... ex libro inter rariores rarissimó(PG127: 1127).

A pioneer role in the transmission of the Philokalia to the West has been played by Britain. In the early 1950s a selection of material, translated from the Russian Dobrotolubiye of St Theophan, appeared under the editorship of the Russian Orthodox Evgeniya Kadloubovsky and the English Orthodox Gerald Palmer. Two volumes were issued: Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart in 1951, and Early Fathers from the Philokalia in 1954. These enjoyed an unexpected success: Writings from the Philokalia was hailed by a leading Roman Catholic journal, The Catholic Herald, as ‘one of the most important spiritual treatises ever to be translated into English’, and both volumes have been frequently reprinted.

It is interesting to note that the publishers of the English Philokalia, Faber and Faber, would never have accepted the work but for the support given by T.S. Eliot, who was one of the directors of the firm. So favourably impressed was he by the teachings of the Philokalia that he insisted in its publication by Fabers, even though he in common with the other directors expected that it would incur a serious financial loss. In fact it proved an outstanding commercial success. «We have never lost money on an Orthodox book», a member of Fabers said to me not long ago. The late Philip Sherrard told me that one day, when in the library of George Seferis, he noticed a copy of the English volume Writings from the Philokalia on the shelves; taking it down, he found that it had been sent to Seferis by Eliot, with the inscription in Greek »τὰ σὰ ἐκ τῶν σῶν». I do not know if Seferis actually read the book, but I am reasonably sure that Eliot had done so with some care.

In 1979 a new English rendering commenced publication. This second version contains not just a selection from the Greek Philokalia but all the works included there; and it is based not upon the Russian version of Theophan but upon the original Greek, using modern critical editions where these are available. This integral English translation is now approaching completion: the fifth and final volume is in preparation. Like its two-volume predecessor, the new translation has appealed to a surprisingly large English-speaking readership, and the earlier volumes have been regularly reprinted. From the correspondence that the English editors have received, it is clear that the circulation of the English Philokalia has not been limited to members of the Orthodox Church, or indeed to the Christian world; it is appreciated also by followers of other faiths and it has proved attractive to "seekers» who do not yet belong to any religious tradition. In this way the translation is performing an important missionary function.

Britain's example has been followed by other Western countries. From 1953 onwards, translations from the Philokalia began to appear, first in French, then in German, Italian, Spanish and Finnish. At first these versions contained only selections, and were not always based on the original Greek. But the last twenty years have witnessed the appearance, not only in English but in several other Western languages, of complete editions translated directly from the Greek prototype. As in Britain, these translations have been widely distributed, far beyond the initial expectations of the editors.

Alike in Orthodox countries and in the West, as we embark upon the third millennium the voice of the Philokalia is being heard more and more widely. It is surely remarkable – and, to me, profoundly encouraging – that a collection of texts intended for Greek Orthodox Christians living in the eighteenth-century Turcocratia has in fact achieved its main impact some 200 years later, in the utterly different milieu of a post-Christian Europe that is becoming radically secularized. The teachings of Orthodox Hesychasm, so greatly loved and so faithfully transmitted by St Nikodimos the Hagiorite and St Makarios of Corinth, have not lost their relevance for the contemporary world.

* * *


On the original publication of the Philokalia and on later editions and translations, see Kallistos Ware, «Philocalié, in Dictionnaire de Spiritualité 12 (1984), 1336–52. The present lecture incorporates in revised form material from two of my articles, where fuller bibliography may be found: »The spirituality of the Philokaliá, Sobornost incorporating Eastern Churches Review 13(1991), 6–24; «Possiamo parlare di spiritualità della Filocalia?» in Olivier Raquez (ed.), Amore del bello: Studi sulla Filocalia (Atti del »Simposio Internazionale sulla Filocaliá, Pontificio Collegio Greco, Roma, novembre 1989: Communità di Bose, Magnano 1991), 27–52.


Φιλοκαλία τῶν Ἱερῶν Νηπτικῶν (Venice 1782), 1207. For obvious reasons the licenza does not appear in the later editions of the Philokalia published at Athens.


On St Makarios, whose memory has been largely overshadowed by that of his collaborator St Nikodimos, see Constantine Cavarnos, St Macarios of Corinth (Modern Orthodox Saints 2: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, Belmont 1972); Konstantinos K. Papoulidis, Μακάριος Νοταρᾶς (1731–1805) Ἀρχιεπίσκοπος πρώην Κορινθίας (Apostoliki Diakonia, Athens 1974). The fullest study on St Nikodimos is by Italo Citterio, L'orientamento ascetico-spirituale di Nicodemo Aghiorita (Alessandria 1987). There is a good overview by Daniel Stiernon, "Nicodème l'Hagiorité, in Dictionnaire de Spiritualité 11 (1981), 234–50. See also Constantine Cavarnos, St Nicodemos the Hagiorite (Modern Orthodox Saints 3: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, Belmont 1974). The best-known work of St Nikodimos, A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel, has been translated into English by Peter A. Chamberas, with an introduction by George S. Bebis (The Classics of Western Spirituality: Paulist Press, New York/Mahwah 1989). On the movement of the Kollyvades, the monograph of Charilaos S. Tzogas, Ἡ περί τῶν μνημοσύνων ἔρις ἐν Ἁγίῳ Ὄρει κατά τον ιη’αἰῶνα (Ἀριστοτέλειον Πανεπιστήμιον Θεσσαλονίκης, Ἐπιστημονική Ἐπετηρίς τῆς Θεολογικῆς Σχολῆς, Παράρτημα 3: Thessaloniki 1969), while well documented, is somewhat hostile to the movement. More sympathetic to the Kollyvades is the brief study of Konstantinos K. Papoulidis, Tὸ κίνημα τῶν Κολλυβάδων (Apostoliki Diakonia, Athens 1971). For further bibliography on the Kollyvades, see Enrico Morini, ‘Ιl Movimento dei «Kollyvadhes». Rilettura dei contesti più significativi in ordine alla rinastità spirituale Greco-Ortodossa dei secoli XVIII-XIX», in Olivier Raquez (ed.), Amore del Bello (note 1), 137–77.


The Gulag Archipelago, vol. 2 (Collins/Fontana, Glasgow 1975), 597.


Philokalia I, xxiv. References to the Philokalia are to the volume and page of the third Greek edition (Astir/Papadimitriou, Athens 1957–63), followed (where relevant) by a reference to the English translation (=ET), not yet complete, by G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard and Kallistos Ware (Faber & Faber, London/Boston 1979–95). This last does not contain the introduction by St Nikodimos.


Philokalia I, xxii. No doubt St Nikodimos has here in view the dispute between St Gregory Palamas and the monk Job: see Patriarch Philotheos Kokkinos, Encomium on St Gregory of Thessaloniki (PG [=Patrologia Graeca] 151:573B-574B), cited in Philokalia V 107.


Philokalia I, xxiii.


Dobrotolubiye (Moscow 1793). See Antonios-Aimilios N. Tachiaos, Ὁ Παΐσιος Βελιτσκόφσκί (1722–1794) καὶ ἡ ἀσκητικοφιλολογικὴ σχολή του (Ἑταιρεία Μακεδονικῶν Σπουδῶν, Ἵδρυμα Μελετῶν Χερσονήσου τοῦ Αἴμου 73: Thessaloniki 1964), 113–14.


Philokalia I, xxiii-xxiv.


Compare the analogy of the foliage of a tree and its fruit in the Gerontikon, Alphabetical Collection, Agathon 8 (PG 65:112AB).


Philokalia I, xxiv.


Philokalia I, xxiii.


Philokalia I, xx.


Forty Texts on Watchfulness 3 (Philokalia II, 275; ET III, 17).


St Gregory of Sinai, On Prayer 5 (Philokalia IV, 82; ET IV, 278). The phrase comes from St John Climacus, Ladder 27 (PG 88:1112A), who is adapting Evagrios, On Prayer 71 [70] (Philokalia I, 182; ET I, 64).


Philokalia I, xix.


Philokalia I, xx.


Philokalia I, xxi. Compare St Kallistos and St Ignatios Xanthopoulos, Directions to Hesychasts 4 (Philokalia IV, 199; ET E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart [Faber & Faber, London 1951], 166).


Philokalia I, xxi.


See Citterio, L’orientamento (note 3), 349–52.


Maximos, On love 3[99]; Various chapters 3 [1](Philokalia II, 40, 91; ET II, 99, 164).


Maximos, Various chapters 6 [4](Philokalia II, 150; ET II, 240); cf. To Thalassios 59 (PG 90: 609A; Corpus Christianorum 22, 53, lines 137–8).


See Citterio, L'orientamento (note 3), 112–36.


See H.A. Hodges, introduction to Unseen Warfare: Being the Spiritual Combat and Path to Paradise of Lorenzo Scupoli as Edited by Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain and Revised by Theophan the Recluse, translated by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer (Faber & Faber, London 1952), 49–51.


Philokalia I, 134–5; ET I, 155–6 (PG 65:1041B-1045A). Mark the Ascetic, also known as «Mark the Hermit», is more correctly designated »Mark the Monk».


Philokalia I, xxiii.


See Kallistos Ware, A Fourteenth- Century Manual of Hesychast Prayer: the Century of St Kallistos and St Ignatios Xanthopoulos (Canadian Institute of Balkan Studies, Toronto 1995).


See Kallistos Ware, "The Jesus Prayer in St Gregory of Sinaí, Eastern Churches Review 4(1972), 3–22; David Balfour, Saint Gregory the Sinaite: Discourse on the Transfiguration, offprint from Θεολογία 52:4– 54(1981–3).


Μεγάλη Ἑλληνική Ἐγκυκλοπαίδεια, vol. 24 (Athens 1934), 8.


Two further volumes have since then been added.

Источник: Edit. Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, Athens 2004.

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