The Art of Salvation, by Elder Ephraim

Saint Nektarios Monastery Publications, Roscoe, New York, 2014

The Art of Salvation is a collection of thirty-three homilies given by Elder Ephraim, the father of American monasticism and spiritual child of Elder Joseph the Hesychast. The original audience of the first twenty-three homilies comprised lay people, and the latter ten homilies were delivered to the monks of the Holy Monastery of Philotheou, on Mt Athos.

This is a beautiful book in both its physical and spiritual content. The publishers have designed a high-quality book with Byzantine icons scattered throughout the pages, immediately drawing the reader into the deeper meaning of the text. The text itself is illumined by the spiritual strength of the Elder, compelling the reader to self-reflection. Each homily provides wise and practical counsel on a range of significant and relevant topics, including abortion, almsgiving, the conscience and suffering. The discursive style of the text makes it easy to read; the Introduction states that the homilies were delivered informally, with little preparation on the part of Elder Ephraim. Yet, each homily masterfully composes a journey, seamlessly weaving together the fundamental elements of Orthodox life. Repentance, humility, prayer and watchfulness comprise the central, recurring themes of the homilies. The temptations of laziness, self-indulgence and pride are addressed repeatedly, with reference to the life of Christ, the Saints and anecdotes from the Holy Mountain (Mt Athos).

Because Elder Ephraim resides in modern-day America, his advice is offered with an awareness of contemporary issues. The intensity and complexity of spiritual struggle is discussed with simplicity and sincerity. Real techniques to conquer egotism and distracted thoughts during prayer are detailed. For example, during prayer, he advises to “limit the mind to thoughts of the name of Christ, the hour of death, the beauty of Paradise, and the love of God” (p. 281). The tone of the homilies simultaneously challenges and encourages the reader. Elder Ephraim urges us to struggle daily, to fight our passions and to turn to God, pleading Him for mercy. The soul that has fought “like a warrior” will rejoice in the “eternal and incorrupt Kingdom” (p. 328).

Source: Lychnos June / July 2016