The Sunflower by St John of Tobolsk


The beginning of all wisdom, given to us by the most exalted Divine Wisdom, our Lord Jesus Christ, is our faithful fashioning of ourselves – in all actions and words – to the will of God. So begins The Sunflower, a guide on how to turn the human will towards God.

It starts by focusing on understanding what the will of God is, including why God allows evil, and how the human will can conform to the will of God. It turns to the benefit for humanity of conforming to God’s will and how to remove any obstacles to fashioning the human will to that of God. It then concludes with an examination of how the human will can learn to act in conformity with the divine will.

The Sunflower has a very different origin to most Orthodox books, as it is derived from the seventeenth century Heliotropium (Latin for sunflower), which was written by a Roman Catholic Jesuit named Jeremias Drexelius. St John (Maximovitch) of Tobolsk (1651-1715), Archbishop of Chernigov and ancestor of St John Maximovitch of Shanghai and San Francisco, read this book and decided to make it Orthodox in the same way St Nicodemus the Hagiorite and St Theophan the Recluse did for Unseen Warfare. The result is a deeply Orthodox book, quoting heavily from the Scriptures and the Church Fathers.

One striking aspect of the book is how comprehensively it delves into the finer aspects of both the human and divine wills, answering many of the questions that we might have about divine providence such as how to determine God’s will in all events or actions, and what signs indicate that our will agrees with God’s will. This is a valuable resource that one can turn to when times are easy or tough.

Despite the depth of the messages being conveyed The Sunflower is well written, easy to read and to comprehend.


Source: Lychnos August–September 2020