Orthodox saints writings contain spiritual readings and brief biographies of their lives. Many of them also include an explanation of the major feasts. They blend historical research with idiomatic text, sparing the reader from the pietistic flourishes that adorn popular books. These books range from mediaeval saints, such as St Sabas of Vatopedi, to twentieth-century saints, such as Ignatius Brianchaninov.
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Ambrose is a very important figure in Christian history. He lived in a very humble manner and studied the Holy Scriptures. Besides his scholarly writings, Ambrose also wrote a number of hymns. His mother was probably a member of the Roman family Aurelii Symmachi. She was related to Quintus Aurelius Symmachus and the virgin Soteris. Ambrose was the youngest of three children. His siblings, Satyrus and Marcellina, were both saints.
Ambrose’s writings show that he was opposed to favoritism towards the Jews. However, he did not oppose punishing synagogue mobs. It is worth remembering that he argued against pagan dominance but did not advocate it.
St. Basil of Caesarea
During his lifetime, St. Basil fought for clerical rights and trained the clergy. He also got involved in controversial theological disputes. His teachings influenced people far and near. He traveled to many nations and cities and protected individual believers. His writings are still widely read today.
His Rulebook contains five treatises and twenty-four sermons on morals. Much of this material is spurious. He was particularly felicitous in spiritual instruction.
St. Gregory Palamas
One of the great patristic figures of the Church, St. Gregory Palamas expressed the very essence of Orthodox spirituality. He resisted the scholasticism and secularism of the times in which he lived and worked, and argued in favor of a more traditional, authentic interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. He was born in Constantinople and raised by devout parents. His father was held in high esteem by the Emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus.
Gregory studied Greek philosophy, grammar, and rhetoric. He then went on to follow the burning passion in his heart. He became thirsty for God and living water. Gregory sought refuge on Mount Athos, where he studied under the famous ascetic Nicodemus and Vatopedi Monastery.
St. Ignatius Brianchaninov
One of the most influential spiritual writers of nineteenth century Russia is Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov. He became a monk in 1831 and was later ordained as bishop of the Caucasus and Black Sea. During his lifetime, he dedicated himself to writing spiritual works. He was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1988 and many of his works have been translated into English. Some of his best-known writings are The Arena and On Prayer of Jesus.
In his writings, St. Ignatius promises to teach readers how to cultivate the heart. He describes his book as a legacy of soul-saving instruction, and promises spiritual riches to those who follow it. In the process of teaching, he challenges the modern, materialistic culture, and calls for people to deepen their spiritual lives.
St. Theophan the Recluse
For those seeking spiritual guidance, St. Theophan the Recluse’s writings are a great place to start. These writings contain many helpful spiritual principles, including the importance of being close to God. This writing is especially relevant for those who are on the path to enlightenment and a life of sanctity. Originally written in Greek, this book was later translated into English for the benefit of modern readers.
A collection of letters written by St. Theophan is titled “To a Spiritual Child,” and is addressed to a young woman from Moscow society. Upon reading the book, the young woman was struck by the immortality of the soul and decided to become a nun. Unfortunately, the original edition of this book is out of print, but a new edition is available from St. Paisius Serbian Orthodox Monastery.
In his writings, St. Nikodemos often cites Western sources. This is not surprising considering that he is considered to be one of the most learned people of his day, and his works can fill an entire library. However, his use of Western sources has been criticized by some scholars, and he is sometimes seen as an Orthodox alternative to the eighteenth century European cultural movements, such as the Enlightenment.
Although not a bishop or a priest, St. Nikodemos lived and died in the Orthodox Church. He was known for his profound concentration and mental abilities. He memorized the Holy Scriptures by heart, even the page numbers, and could recite long passages from the Holy Fathers. These are just a few of the many remarkable gifts that St. Nikodemos possessed, which make his writings invaluable to anyone who wishes to follow the Orthodox Church.