The Optina Elders Series brings to light the lives and teachings of the great Elders of Optina for the English-speaking world. A long-standing monastery that was renovated at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as a center for Russian staretz (venerated elders and teachers), the monastery attracted crowds of Russian seekers including Fyodor Dostoevsky, Nikolai Gogol, Ivan Turgenev and Leo Tolstoy. Saint Paisius Velichkovsky was instrumental in bringing the virtually lost hesychastic tradition of Orthodox spirituality to Russia in the eighteenth century, and the Optina Monastery acted as nerve center for its spread throughout the Russian land. The volumes in this Series are compiled from personal memoirs of each elder or his disciples, journals, notes and correspondence.
In this short space, we offer only a tantalizing bit of the hard-won teaching which Volume 5 contains. On art and literature: ''There is great art and there is lesser art... There is one Creator, and men only dissolve the words and images of the Creator and then revive them by the power of the spirit given by Him. Thus it is with lesser art. But there is also a great art; there is the word, which gives life and takes it away (the Psalms of David, for instance); but the way to this art lies in the personal struggle of the artist...'' On the need for writers to consider every word: ''Before beginning to write, dip the pen into the inkwell seven times.'' 515 pp.
An Eighth Day View:
Optina Monastery began its revival in the early 1800's and was a thriving center of spirituality until 1923, when the Communists forcibly closed it. Elder Nektary was the last elder to live at Optina and he was arrested and expelled. His entire life is told here with emphasis on his development as an elder, and contains sections on his spiritual counsels through letters and anecdotes of his life.