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The Northern Thebaid: Monastic Saints of the Russian North Paperback – Jan 1995

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
A compulsory book 28 Oct 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
When the great founders of monasticism in the East, Sts. Anthony and Pachomius, desired to leave the world and lead a life in worship and prayer in solitude, they turned to the Egyptian desert, founding both the hermitage and the monastery.
When the first ascetics of Russia wanted to follow in the footsteps of the Great Fathers they didn't have a sunny heated and dry unfruitful desert, but instead they could turn to the vast cold and often inaccessible Siberian forests; "the desert of the North"!(Though not entirely restricted to Siberia). In these areas, under harsh conditions, they co-founded the Russian monasticism and spirituality as we know it today, though under circumstances often incomprehensible to modern man. The book is as exciting as any modern fiction "thriller" novel.
This collection of the lives of many of the most important followers of the Desert Fathers who in turn became Desert Fathers themselves(many a hermitage ended up as a flourishing monastery) would have been a great loss, if the editors hadn't compiled them from the Russian originals to this one book. This is THE Lives of the Saints of the North.
The book ought to be a "must" reading to all those seeking the true spirituality of Christianity.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
The Northern Thebaid: Monks and Hermits in the Arctic Circle 12 July 2004
By zonaras - Published on
Format: Paperback
_The Northern Thebaid: Monastic Saints of the Russian North_ is a collection of Saints' lives edited by Fathers Seraphim Rose and Herman Podmoshensky of Platina, California and first published in 1975. Most of the source material in this book derives from old Russian texts of the Lives of Saints from the 19th century preserved after the Russian Revolution in America's émigré community. This book refers to the period between the fourteenth and early eighteenth centuries until Peter I and Catherine I closed down many monasteries during their "enlightened" reforms of the 1700s. The "Northern Thebaid" derives from the early Egyptian Thebaid, the desert to where hermits and monks would flee in order to live with Christ alone and be free of worldly pressures. Russia's conversion to Orthodox Christianity began during 988 AD under the reign of St. Vladimir. In the subsequent centuries, a repeat of the phenomenon of desert monasticism that had occurred during the Roman Empire beginning with St. Anthony the Great of Egypt in the fourth century AD. A monk would venture into the desert by himself, separate from the world, and would later attract followers. These disciples would collaborate and establish an official monastery. The next generation of hermits would leave monastic settlements and venture into the woods and later attract his own following, thereby repeating the process. In this way monasticism spread through the vast forests and wilderness of northern Russia and Siberia. The Russian Orthodox ascetic struggle involved fasting, labor, chastity, humility, obedience and prayer. The first Orthodox missionaries to America in the 18th century were monks; the most noted of whom is St. Herman of Alaska. The first Saint discussed in this volume is Sergius of Radonezh who lived as a hermit and monk during the 1300s, founding monasteries and was renowned as a spiritual teacher. St. Sabbatius of Solovki founded a monastery on an island in the Arctic Sea, which was later headed by St. Zosimas, and developed into a noteworthy center of Orthodox piety in the far north. Unfortunately, Solovki was dismantled and used as a Communist prison after the Revolution. The lives of most of these Saints, notes the authors, follow a similar pattern. They look for solitude and prayer in the wilderness and face a variety of temptations, both physical from the demanding environment and supernatural evil powers. After their deaths, many miracles and healings were attributed to these Saints, some even appearing in person after death to guide future ascetic saints in the Orthodox faith. A few chapters address the Lives of female saints. The authors note that there is much less material on female Saints because of the humility of Russia's holy women. However, many of the Saints' Lives and Church records of similar type were written by women. _The Northern Thebaid_ is almost a first volume of a two volume series. It does not continue in depth with the history of Blessed Paisius Velichovsky and the Hesychast revival after Russian monasticism's nadir under Peter I and Catherine I. Fr. Seraphim, in his epilogue, notes that by the time of Blessed Paisius, Russia had developed its own tradition of Orthodox sanctity equal to that of old Byzantium.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A classic of Orthodox spirituality 26 Sep 2012
By cornutus - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book tells the stories of a number of courageous souls who took to the Russian wastelands in order to find God. The writing follows the style of hagiography and works to bring the reader cloer to the awareness of God. I have reread this book many times and it always moves me. Highly recommended.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Very beautiful and inspiring biographies of Russian Orthodox mystics and saints 27 Dec 2013
By Andrew Yachad - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very moving and inspiring collection of biographies of Russian Orthodox ascetic and mystics who left the world to devote themselves to the service of God and to grow in His grace and knowledge. Fascinating and detailed biographical sketches of people who drove themselves seemingly beyond human endurance and ability to make the ultimate spiritual life their daily reality. Very rewarding and enjoyable to read.
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