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30 August 2023
Section Feasts and Weekdays was refreshed. There a story A book about general Ilya Leonidovich Tatishchev appeared

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Monastic Elders in the Urals

Perpetual subjects never get obsolete. And this is why, despite the fact that there is a multitude of books about elders and their spiritual principles, each new book about this is a big event. This year our monastery together with the Moscow publishing house "The Pilgrim" published the book "Monastic Elders in the Urals." This is a historical sketch, yet it addresses not just historians. Anybody who wishes to know about the spiritual principles of monastic elders, why this is important and how to have a sober attitude to spiritual guidance, can benefit from this book. The elders that the book talks about lived in different times, and their life circumstances varied: some lived in the XIX century, in coenobitic monasteries, secluded sketes, or in reclusion, whereas others had been forced to lead a monastic life in the Soviet era, staying amidst the world, subjected to persecutions. Yet, these outward differences only underscore the fact that the spiritual foundations of monastic principles of the elders are always one and the same.

The first part of the book comprises essays on the history of the elders in the Urals from the beginning of the XIX century to the end of the XX century. Here it mainly talks about the male and female ascetics who were carrying out the ministry of the elders in monasteries; yet, the book includes the lives of the elders who were pleasing God amidst the world. The second part of the collection includes the letters of the devotees of piety.

The main thing that this book gives is the clear understanding of what is an elder. An elder usually means a grace-filled ascetic who can see through the secret motions of a human soul and guides people toward salvation, knowing God's will with regards to them. This is true. Such people are true, spirit-bearing guides; elders from God. Yet, in monastic life the word "elder" is also used in a more modest sense. "An elder, - writes St. Ignatius (Bryanchaninov), - is a monk who has advanced in spiritual life at a monastery; to whom spiritual edification of the brethren is entrusted." The book "Spiritual Elders in the Urals" talks about both kinds of elders and helps orient a reader in discernment of a true, spiritually experienced teacher.

The holy fathers say that the most characteristic feature by which a spiritual person could be distinguished from the one fallen in spiritual delusion, is humility. The hagiography of the elders of the Urals gives a beautiful illustration to this patristic piece of wisdom. It is known that St. Vasilisk of Siberia would always reply to those who thanked him for his spiritual help: "To the Lord God be glory and praise, if He heals others by means of me: He, not me; for I truly know that I am a person of many sins and that I have nothing good in and of myself." St. Ilia of Verkhoturye would chiefly teach sincere prayer, repentance, and humility. Fr. Konstantin (Shipunov), foreseeing that in the future he would be venerated as an elder full of divine grace, precluded his spiritual children from carrying on the praise with which he would be praised in the future.

The book "Monastic Elders in the Urals" is an attempt of a study of the development of the prayer of the mind and the guidance of the elders in the Ural region, and the fruits thereof. Certainly, the principal moment in the book is the description of the living people, characters, and destinies of the elders themselves: an acquaintance that would be of interest and benefit to any reader.

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