Thursday, May 10, 2012

Love of the Beautiful

The Philokalia ("love of the beautiful", a love for everything of God, beauty’s source) is a collection of texts written between the fourth and fifteenth centuries by spiritual masters of the Eastern Christian contemplative, ascetic and hesychast tradition.  They describe the conditions most effective for learning what their authors call the art of arts and the science of sciences, a learning which is not a matter of information or agility of mind but of a radical change of will and heart leading man towards the highest possibilities open to him, shaping and nourishing the unseen part of his being, and helping him to spiritual fulfillment and union with God.   This blog is a personal journal of my reflections on these writings and their basic themes.  It was 25 years ago, as a young novice of the Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Pittsburgh, that I was first introduced to the Philokalia and have found myself deeply attracted to and profoundly influenced by this spiritual tradition that has been transmitted over almost two millennia.  Until recently, most of the writings of the Philokalia were only known in the West by a few specialists, but the hesychast current was by no means foreign to the Western spiritual tradition.  St. John Cassian transmitted the doctrine of the Desert Fathers and Evagrius Pontus to the Latin world and was read tirelessly by western monastics and other spiritually serious Western Christians, including St. Philip Neri.   These writings are the legacy we receive from the Fathers and our study of them fidelity to the Church’s call over the past fifty years to return to the sources (ressourcement) of the patristic tradition.

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