Monastic Wisdom: The Letters of Elder Joseph the Hesychast
Published by St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery, Arizona, 1998
Monastic Wisdom is a compilation of letters written by Elder Joseph the Hesychast to his spiritual children. Elder Joseph (1897-1959) was a spiritual father to many, and through his spiritual children, helped to revitalise spiritual life in many monasteries on Mount Athos.
One such spiritual child, Elder Ephraim, former Abbot of Philotheou, and the founder of St Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona where this book was published, writes in the foreword:
“We know that monastics will benefit from the Elder’s letters. We also know that many lay people who are “fighting the good fight” in the world will also be benefited… However, these things are not readily assimilated without a brave spirit nor can they be applied in our lives without a spiritual struggle and much toil.”
The letters in Monastic Wisdom are composed of responses by the Elder to his spiritual children, as well as an epistle to a hermit, to whom he gives not only practical advice regarding asceticism, but also provides answers on various theological issues. As such, these letters are full of spiritual insight from a great Elder of out times, possessing much grace and enlightenment.
Throughout these letters, Elder Joseph writes extensively about divine grace. He says to one spiritual child, a monk who asks for advice on temptation:
“Divine grace, my child, is like bait which enters the soul and without coercion attracts a person towards higher and superior things… If a novice exerts himself from the beginning and lights his torch of asceticism with his struggles before it is too late, it will not go out when grace withdraws and temptations come.”
Many teachings such as these can be found in Monastic Wisdom, with Elder Joseph’s deep spirituality present throughout. Each letter is a piece of advice that we can all heed, and the Elder’s words show great understanding of our human condition. Most inspiring however, is how Elder Joseph’s deep love for Christ and Panagia is captured in his counsels, and the sweetness of his words embodies true spiritual fatherhood.
Monastic Wisdom is a book for Orthodox Christians who wish to learn from a great ascetic of our time: Elder Joseph’s words inspire and urge us to action.
Source: April-May 2015 Lychnos Edition