Item description for The Pilgrim's Tale (Classics of Western Spirituality) by Aleksei Pentkovsky & T. Allan Smith...
Overview A translation of the most widely read and important examples of Russian spiritual literature.
Publishers Description This is the first Russian Orthodox title ever for the Classics. Based on the Jesus prayer, The Pilgrim's Tale is the most famous example of Russian spiritual literature and should have a very wide readership. The volume is particularly important because this translation is based on the original manuscript, as oppose to many other current versions which are based on other translations.
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Studio: Paulist Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.98" Width: 6" Height: 0.65" Weight: 0.5 lbs.
Release Date Nov 1, 1999
Publisher Paulist Press
Series Classics of Western Spirituality
ISBN 0809137097 ISBN13 9780809137091
Reviews - What do customers think about The Pilgrim's Tale (Classics of Western Spirituality)?
For Safe Journeying on the Way Jul 23, 2006
This book, whose original author/s are speculated about but by no means known, recounts the tale - perhaps real, perhaps imagined - of one who is a pilgrim in mid-19th century Russia. He carries with him nothing but some dried bread crusts and his Bible; we meet him at the beginning of the book having just returned from the liturgy, where he heard St. Paul's exhortation to "pray without ceasing". The seven chapters of this book recount his journey across Russia seeking someone to teach him how to pray unceasingly.
Each chapter contains what might be called a different "tale", although they are all related. The introduction contains a very long and detailed history of the various manuscripts that now make up what has been published here as "The Pilgrim's Tale" and elsewhere as "The Way of the Pilgrim" (being the first four chapters), which is often joined to "The Pilgrim Continues His Way". Truthfully, it is entirely unnecessary to read the introduction; one can just as easily begin reading the narrative itself. And, unless one really wants to learn about the impossibility of determining the authorship/s of the tales, it is rather superfluous reading for it adds nothing of any spiritual weight to the book, although it does illuminate some of the historical context between the Orthodox and the "Old Believers" who were a schismatic - and perhaps even heretical - group (they are portrayed in the Tale as being the latter) in 19th century Russia.
"The divine name of Jesus Christ contains in itself all Gospel truths" (75). This is one of the themes that we hear most often repeated as the Pilgrim learns "the Jesus Prayer": "Lord Jesus Christ, Some of God, have mercy on me." The purpose of unceasing prayer - "the prayer of the heart" - is for this simple prayer to move from the mind and down into the heart, where it may reside united to the body. One learns in this wonderful little book the need for meditation in which one prays the Jesus Prayer according to the rhythms of one's breathing. In this way, through repetition, the prayer of the heart becomes a type of rhythmic reminder to turn one's self to God. "If day and night were spent in prayer, there would not be any time left over for works of wickedness" (54). "Frequency of prayer is the sole means of finding pure and true prayer" (189). The teaching on unceasing prayer, found in the Philokalia (a Greek word that means "the love of the beautiful", it is the title of a collection of Orthodox ascetic and mystical writings), is explained simply but in a step-by-step manner here. For those who own the Philokalia, they can turn to it as they read the Tale for additional insight.
We learn here that one must eschew all images in prayer. It is interesting that, in light of the Orthodox tradition, this image-less prayer is not actually connected to any theology of icons (that God's works may be portrayed in paintings) but to what might otherwise seem to be an actual iconoclasm. For in prayer we ought to be brought to the divine reality that God is beyond any and all images. The reason we do not entertain images in prayer is because if we do so, we are likely to grow more attached to the images than to the God whose face cannot be seen (to borrow a Biblical image).
Underneath is beguilingly simple narrative structure and the enjoyability of reading it, The Pilgrim's Tale is a tremendously deep read if one is willing to let it go "out of your head and into your heart" (61). It takes some practice, really, particularly for those of us that do not have the luxury of seeking holy men and women in holy places to teach us these things. But as the recollection of God is inseperable from the presence of God - which all Christians experience in Holy Communion - one finds that the head is also not so far from the heart in prayer: a state called Grace.