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Beyond hustle culture: Ancient Christian practices for the modern world

MOUNT ATHOS

Саша Шљукић I CC BY 3.0

Daniel Esparza - published on 11/29/23

In an era dominated by constant digital chatter and the pursuit of economic and social success, turn to the lessons in this collection known as "Love of the beautiful"
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In an era dominated by constant digital chatter and the pursuit of economic and social success, the need for silence, prayer, and introspection has perhaps never been more crucial. Amid the relentless cacophony of contemporary life, ancient Christian spirituality manuals offer a profound guide to rediscovering purpose.

Among these manuals, the invaluable lessons found in the Philokalia and the Sayings of the Fathers of the Desert stand out, for many different reasons.

The name Philokalia is composed of two Greek words, philía and kalós, “love” (or, perhaps more accurately, “friendship”) and “beauty,” respectively. When together, these two words suggest love of the beautiful – much as philosophy means love of wisdom. The Philokalia is a compilation of texts crafted by spiritual masters within the mystical hesychast tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Spanning from the 4th to the 15th centuries, these writings were initially intended to guide and instruct monks in the practice of contemplative life. In the 18th century, two monks compiled this collection based on manuscripts from the library of the Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos.

Soon enough, the writings that make up the Philokalia evolved into a significant influence within the Eastern Orthodox Church. It serves as a principal spiritual text, holding a position of paramount importance comparable only to the Bible – at least within the Eastern Orthodox tradition.

In fact, some of its most relevant teachings were included in the famous Russian devotional book The Way of a Pilgrim which helped popularize the Philokalia and its teachings not only in Russia, but in the Christian world in general.

For those seeking a clear mind

A treasury of wisdom compiled by these Eastern Orthodox Christian monks, the Philokalia unlocks the transformative power of inner silence. At its core we find the practice of the Jesus Prayer – a repetitive invocation that serves as a gateway to build a habit of finding oneself constantly in the presence of God.

In our contemporary world, saturated with distractions, the practices found in the Philokalia (and the Jesus Prayer in particular) provide a timeless manual for those seeking a clear mind and spiritual depth. By embracing the ancient discipline of the Jesus Prayer, individuals can navigate the tumult of modernity and cultivate a resilient inner stillness.

Purpose-driven life

The Sayings of the Fathers of the Desert, on the other hand, offer practical insights for a purpose-driven life. These ancient sages emphasize virtues such as humility, obedience, and detachment from vain pursuits. In a society often driven by materialism and the relentless pursuit of accomplishment, the Desert Fathers’ wisdom serves as a guiding light.

By integrating their fairly commonsensical, down-to-earth teachings, seekers can find meaning beyond the superficial, fostering a balanced and intentional approach to contemporary challenges. The timeless anecdotes from the Desert Fathers resonate with the complexities of human nature, providing profound (and radically simple) guidance on the journey to a purposeful existence.

In combining the contemplative practices of the Philokalia with the practical wisdom of the Desert Fathers, a contemporary path to spiritual awareness can be forged. The call to embrace silence, prayer, and intentional living becomes a transformative blueprint for navigating the demands of the modern world.

As we rediscover the value of inner stillness and purposeful living, these ancient Christian manuals emerge as beacons, offering an antidote to the noise of our time and a roadmap to a more meaningful and fulfilling existence.

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Spiritual Life
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