Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Way of the Pilgrim

The Way of a Pilgrim is a spiritual classic, but its origins are shrouded in mystery. It came to a remote monastery in Greece in the 19th century and was first published in 1884. Whether it is literal, fictitious, metaphorical, or pedagogical is unknown. The story follows an itinerant spiritual wanderer, all the time practicing Saint Paul's exhortation to "pray without ceasing." Specifically, the pilgrim repeats one prayer unceasingly, the Jesus prayer, until it becomes a sort of mantra. Through repetition of the prayer and encounters with his fellow inhabitants of 19th-century Russia and Siberia, the wanderer finds a spiritual enlightenment. The Way of a Pilgrim is an oddity, but it can also be strikingly profound. In its sequel, A Pilgrim Continues His Way, the pilgrim engages an even richer dramatis personae in dialogues and spiritual lessons. Olga Savin's crisp, straightforward translation preserves the distinctive timelessness that makes the book great spiritual literature. This edition also includes three appendices that elaborate on the narrative's themes and a helpful glossary.

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