5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 21 December 2011
The following extract is from the introduction written by Kallistos Ware, who was a only a Hieromonk at the time.
"What is prayer? What is it's essence? How can we learn to pray? What does the spirit of the Christian experience as he prays in humility of heart?
Such are the questions which this book sets out to answer. It presents a picture of prayer in its various degrees, from ordinary oral prayer to unceasing prayer of the heart; above all, however, it is concerned with one particular prayer, known in the Orthodox Church as the Jesus prayer. One of the simplest of all Christian prayers, this consists in a single brief sentence, 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me' Ten words in English, in other languages it is even shorter - in Greek and Russian, no more than seven words. Yet around these few words many Orthodox over the centuries have built their spiritual life, and through this one prayer they have entered into the deepest mysteries of Christian knowledge. The present Anthology helps to explain how men have come to discover so much in so short a phrase."
When I bought it I assumed it was simply a compilation of texts from the English translation of the Philokalia. The reason I still went ahead and bought it was that my main interest in the Philokalia comes from a desire for a deeper prayer life and thus through that to a deeper experience with God. I was surprised that this book is a book in it's own right. It was compiled by Igumen Chariton of Valamo and was published in 1936.
Here is what Kallistos Ware has to say about it, again from the introduction:
"On the whole, however, he does not include many extracts from the Philokalia, perhaps out of a desire to keep his anthology as simple and intelligible as possible: he may have feared that the Philokalia would have proved too difficult for many readers. He turned, therefore, to the works of Theophan and Ignatii, which contain precisely the same basic teachings as the Greek texts in the Philokalia, but present it in a form that can be more easily assimilated by Christians of the twentieth century. In Bishop Ignatii's own words (of course he is not in fact speaking of himself, but what he says applies also to himself and Theophan): 'The writings of Russian fathers are more accessible to us than those of the Greek authorities, owing to their particular clarity and simplicity of exposition, and also because they are closer to us in time'"
So, I happily discovered that this book is not just a selection on prayer from the Philokalia as I thought, but a book in it's own right.
I will finish with this last quote from Kallistos' introduction:
"The basic definition of prayer laid down in Father Chariton's anthology is exceedingly simple. Prayer is essentially a state of standing before God. In the words of St. Dimitri of Rostov (17th century): 'Prayer is turning the mind and thoughts toward God. To pray means to stand before God with the mind, mentally to gaze unswervingly at Him and to converse with Him in reverent fear and hope.'"
Simply said, but not simply practiced as the monks and fathers of the Orthodox Church testify in their lives and writings! Let us attend to this one thing: to pray unceasingly. This book is the place to start.