Monastic Wisdom: the Letters of Elder Joseph the Hesychast
Published by St Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery (Arizona US), 1999
Elder Joseph the Hesychast (†1959), a renowned holy elder of our times, is associated with the renewal of monastic life on Mt Athos, whereby many of his spiritual children and grandchildren have been instrumental in renewing six of its twenty monasteries.
One spiritual child, Elder Ephraim, became Abbot of Philotheou Monastery, and later founded several monasteries in North America, including St Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona, the publisher of Monastic Wisdom: The Letters of Elder Joseph the Hesychast. The book book is divided in two parts: part one contains eighty-one letters of the Elder addressed to his spiritual children, and part two contains the single ‘Epistle to a Hesychast Hermit’. Themes covered include the Jesus prayer, the struggle to attain Heaven, and the right way to love God. The letters contain the essentials of the spiritual life, as well as the therapies that can heal us from spiritual disease and set us on the path of purification, illumination, and perfection.
Elder Joseph writes that an un-submissive spirit requires hard mental work, the pain of repentance, and contrition in order to find humility. From humility, we can understand that reproaches and insults benefit us spiritually. When we are proud, everyone seems bothersome and bad. When we truly humble ourselves, everyone seems saintly. To seek God’s grace, we must endure temptations and afflictions no matter how they come. Temptations are medicines and healing herbs that cure our visible passions and our invisible wounds. Consolation in such trials should not be sought in people, but only in God.
Whoever has truly found the way of the Lord, has learned that these afflictions are gifts from God. Such a person eagerly waits for afflictions to come, because he/she knows they are purified through these, and by enduring these, is illumined and can behold God. The letters provide advice and spiritual guidance that is of invaluable assistance to all who have set out on the path to deeper repentance, prayer, and spiritual growth.
Source: Lychnos October/November 2017