Thursday, October 29, 2009

Post Twenty-Five: "Orthodox Spiritual Life According to Saint Silouan the Athonite" by Harry Boosalis

(click on images to enlarge)

Dr. Harry Boosalis actually came to my home parish of St. Paul the Apostle Orthodox Church the last Nativity season to do a presentation on this book. I was unable to attend but interestingly, just when I learned he was to visit us, I had just picked up his book to read as my next in line. His book was on top of my stack and I began reading it and shortly after it was announced that the Las Vegas Orthodox Clergy would be hosting Dr. Boosalis as our speaker.

I remember not being too deeply drawn in at that time when I read it, but looking back, I was not able to engage the work with all my attention at that time.

Looking over it now preparing to offer some short comments on it I recognize its worth more.

One of its chief strengths is that the author accepts the Saint's writings and life and does not attempt to dissect him and his writings with the aim of critiquing him and finding where the Saint is in error or perhaps uninformed by modern scholarship's findings.

It is to Harry Boosalis' credit that he urges the reader to emulate him and the other Saints.

He writes in the Prologue,

The Saints do not follow after the ways of the world. They follow only the person of Christ. Thus they are prepared to die for their faith. Yet even after their deaths, their messages and ministries live on, still exerting an influence on the lives of the faithful. This especially holds true with regard to St. Silouan the Athonite.

In his Introduction, Dr. Boosalis takes note of the general increase in the interest in "spirituality" in the Western world but notes it is a spirituality that seems to be more at home divorced from communion with God as

commitment to Christ is seen as a relic of an antiquated morality that deprives modern man from his 'true' calling toward fulfillment in worldly pleasures and carnal pursuits.

He also observes how many who have become disenchanted with the juridical and legalistic tendencies of the Western confessions are seeking outside these confessions and he says,

A growing number of believers see the Saints of the Orthodox Church as examples on which to base their own spiritual lives. For these faithful, the Saints and their teachings are the criteria that point toward the true meaning of life and the ultimate direction that they are to follow as they seek to live according to Christ.

and he continues further down,

This is one reason why so many people are attracted to the Orthodox Faith. They are coming to realize that the Saints and the Fathers of the Church give definitive guidance on how to base one's life in Christ.

I so much wish to underscore the following also found in the Introduction,

The Fathers are not historic personalities confined to a bygone era. They are not simply relics of an antiquated past. On the contrary, they live among us. They live within the Church, pouring out the light of the Gospel of Christ. Through the continuous operation of the grace of the Holy Spirit, in synergy with man's free-will, the Church is preserved throughout history as a living divine-human or 'the-anthropic' communion.

as this beautiful little thought speaks so well to the ills of doubt and skepticism and the assumed a priori "need" to find fault with the Fathers and their writings which seems so prevalent in so many writing today on the Holy Fathers and their writings.

Not able to devote much more to describing this book, my hope is that my post provides the reader with the outlook of the author and that the author attempts not to overly "spin" Saint Silouan but rather presents him and his writings as faithfully as possible for the hope of a closer look into the Saint's life and what he had to say.

I will here post the Table of Contents thereby giving the reader a more full idea of what is contained in the book.


The Teaching of Saint Silouan

I. The acquisition of the grace of the Holy Spirit

1. Preliminary points of Orthodox anthropology
2. The goal of the life in Christ: the deification of man
3. The synergy of divine grace and human freedom
4. The experience of divine grace and its effect on man
5. The loss of grace

II. Spiritual warfare

1. The deceit of the enemy
2. Methods and means of defense
3. The danger of delusion
4. Discernment and the role of the spiritual father

III. Suffering

1. The cause of suffering
2. Suffering as an unavoidable aspect of the life in Christ
3. Suffering as a Christ-centered experience
4. The fruits of suffering
5. The importance of courage

IV. The virtue of humility and the passion of pride

1. The meaning and importance of humility
2. Christ-like humility
3. Luciferian pride
4. Christ-like humility as the way of victory over pride
5. The war against pride
6. 'Keep thy mind in hell, and despair not'

V. Universal love

1. Love for God
2. Love for neighbor
3. Love for enemies
4. Love for all creation

Conclusion—Prayer for the salvation of all mankind


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