The Saints of the Orthodox Church are living examples of human nature transfigured by Divinity. Breathing forth a common spiritual fragrance of otherworldliness, humble sobriety, and love, they are also intensely individual, their individuality being ever more heightened and refined as they draw nearer to their Creator.
Mount Athos, a peninsula in northern Greece, is the world’s only monastic republic. For more than a thousand years it has been inhabited and ruled only by monks, setting the tone of Orthodox Christian spirituality worldwide, and producing a continuous stream of Saints. Contemporary Ascetics of Mount Athos describes the lives and spiritual portraits of ten Athonite elders of this century, who, although not formally canonized, are clearly seen to be in the spirit of all the Christian Saints since the time of the Apostles. Differing greatly from each other in their back grounds, characters, and ways of life- some were hermits, others members of large communities, yet others abbots and renowned spiritual fathers- they all bear the evident seal of the presence of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, testifying to a troubled world that the purpose of man’s existence is union with God.
“Do not forget that virtue is something hidden … mystically cultivated in the recesses of the heart.”
–Elder Callinicus the Hesychast
Contemporary Ascetics of Mount Athos describes the lives and the spiritual images of ten Athonite Elders of recent centuries, who, although differing greatly from each other in their backgrounds, characters and ways of life, all bear the evident seal of the presence of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, testifying to a troubled world that the purpose of man’s existence is union with God.
“Study, my child, to acquire in your life dignity, simplicity, understanding, continuous prayer, manliness, unfeigned love, wisdom, seemliness. Be sympathetic, love the poor. Attain silence and patient endurance. Do not slander, do not laugh at anyone. Acquire angerlessness, modesty, and humility, so that the Lord will glorify you before the angels and the saints.”
–Elder Athanasius of Grigoriou
The author, Archimandrite Cherubim Karambelas (+ 1979), lived on Mount Athos in his youth, and searched out firsthand sources and living witnesses for his information on these Elders. In Contemporary Ascetics of Mount Athos, the most exalted teachings on asceticism and the vision of God are seen practically applied in the persons of these new luminaries, stars in our midst.
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