Reflections on a Saying of a Desert Christian: a modern spiritual man

“A spiritual man living in our times said: “Our spiritual Fathers are mostly books. This has a disadvantage, in that we never see flesh-and-blood spiritual guides. It has an advantage, in that flesh and blood guides sometimes die. Books do not.

“Moreover, while especially holy men do not abandon us when they repose, our impurity prevents us from seeing them with our own eyes. But even our impurity cannot prevent us from seeing what they have written in books.”

As these Sayings are from an Eastern Orthodox website, I was surprised to read this as I had thought spiritual direction was as much a part of the east as it is in the west so I googled and discovered, yes, spiritual directors and spiritual guides are very much a part of Eastern Orthodoxy. So I am at a loss when the man says we never see them in the flesh. Then I read the whole thing.

Seems to me he provides the reason we don’t see them in the flesh and that is our own issues or our own sins prevent us from recognizing one when we come across one. Which is our loss.

As a lifelong bibliophile, I love what he writes about books. Books have lasted for a long time. This spiritual man believes that what we read has more of an impact upon us than a living person. This is certainly true for me. But I don’t think it is true for everyone because some people are not visual learners.  Some learn by listening, some by doing.

What is your best learning style and how does it help you to seek a holy life?


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