November 15, 2013

Saint Paisius Velichkovsky: A Great Hesychast Father (1 of 8)

St. Paisius Velichkovsky (Feast Day - November 15)

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos 
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Saint Paisius Velichkovsky (1722-1794) was a great figure of monasticism who lived a few years on Mount Athos and communicated in Slavic lands, especially in Ukraine, Moldova and Wallachia, but he spread throughout the Balkan and Russian lands and other areas.

He was a great prophetic figure in the field of monasticism in the 18th century, having reintroduced to monasticism in the Balkans and Russia its ancient patristic sources, since monasticism had changed under the reforms made by Peter the Great, when Russia leaned towards the enlightening and romantic spirit of the West.

From my general studies I learned of the actions and teachings of Saint Paisius Velichkovsky, especially that he lived for a short time on Mount Athos, and translated into Ruso-Slavic the texts of the Holy Fathers of the Church that speak of the hesychastic tradition of the Church (the purification of the heart, the illumination of the nous and theosis), that is, texts which comprise the popular Philokalia. However, he was not satisfied to only discover and translate these important texts, but he also made practical application of them, thereby attracting many monks who desired to live this hesychastic tradition, to whom he also taught it, thus becoming their spiritual teacher in the hesychastic life.

The Emeritus Professor of the Theological School of Thessaloniki, Anthony-Emil Tachiaos, who taught for years the history of the Slavic and other Orthodox Churches, dealt particularly with the hesychastic tradition in the Balkans and Russia, since his doctoral thesis was on The Effects of Hesychasm in the Ecclesiastical Policies of Russia, and he even occupied himself with Saint Paisius Velichkovsky, since his habilitation thesis was titled Paisius Velichkovsky and his Ascetical-Philological School. These and other studies revealed the life and work of this great Ukrainian ascetic.

However, in 1933, the same professor released the book titled The Venerable Paisius Velichkovsky, published by University Studio Press. This book had already been published in other languages, that included the autobiography and biography of this great Ukrainian hesychastic monk, and with this publication it was translated into Greek in 2009.

Specifically, this book, which I consider very important, is divided into three chapters. The first presents the autobiography of Saint Paisius Velichkovsky, ending at the time he went to Mount Athos. The second chapter includes the biography of Saint Paisius written by his disciple Hieromonk Metrophanes, which begins at the point the autobiography ends until the repose of this great hesychastic Father. In the third chapter the narrative is published by the same Saint Paisius Velichkovsky to the abbot Theodosius in the Hermitage of Saint Sophronius of his discovery on Mount Athos of the writings of the Neptic Fathers and his translation of them in the Ruso-Slavic language.

In the Introduction, which precedes the whole work, Professor Anthony-Emil Tachiaos, with scientific precision and distinguished knowledge, makes accurate observations of the texts which follow, especially the autobiography of Saint Paisius Velichkovsky, which was discovered in Sekou Monastery by the late Valentina Pelin and translated by the Professor. Further important observations, which facilitate the reader, are recorded in the footnotes of the texts. The bibliographical survey at the end of the book shows the great heritage of Saint Paisius.

This work is very important and should be read by all who care about these issues, because they are connected with the revival of monasticism in Moldova, Romania, Russia, and the wider regions. It is known that the translation of these important neptic texts into the Ruso-Slavic language, which was done by Saint Paisius Velichkovsky, and from there into the Vlach-Romanian language, helped many monks to live this hesychastic tradition. Indeed, it was this Philokalia that the pilgrim had in mind in the famous book The Way of a Pilgrim.

We will proceed to identify five aspects of the life of this great Ukrainian neptic and hesychastic Saint of the Church.

Translated by John Sanidopoulos.