How to Read the Philokalia

Hey, welcome back to the Practical Catholic. I want to share a bit on Eastern Spirituality this year, and since I got the Philokalia for Christmas, that’s what we’ll look at.

So, the Philokalia has come to your attention, and mayhap you’re curious or excited. Maybe you just want some insight into how to read a book that can be strange to Western eyes.

Let’s get one thing straight: It will not be easy.

The Philokalia is a strange and wonderful book, it is full of knowledge, much useful for spiritual development and interior life. However, it is not for beginners. Reading the Philokalia is an exercise of the heart. It is to change our innermost selves and turn us towards God.

The emphasis of these works is not then, on a spiritual high, but on cleaning the inside of the cup that the outside also might be clean (Matt 23:26). It is on a focused and precisely honed interior life. With all that said the following guidelines are how I have decided to approach these readings

So with all that said, here are my guidelines on How to Read the Philokalia:

1. Take a Pilgrimage Approach to Reading

Instead of taking “snapshots” of certain things in the Philokalia, learn lessons. This is about a moral and spiritual growth of the heart. See this as following the footsteps of the saints and enjoining yourself to their project.

2. Participate in Philokalia itself

Participate in Philokalia, Love of the Beautiful/exalted&holy. Be humble and follow.

Basically if we were to transliterate Philokalia for this audience it would something like: Love of The Divine Beauty, namely Christ. If you love Jesus you will pierce the inner mysteries of Philokalia, even if you do not grasp every phrase. It is not meant to be read that way.

3. The Philokalia is a Type of Icon

To read the Philokalia is not to figure out an external method of holiness, or procedures to be followed in a step-by-step order unto perfection. Rather, the Philokalia is an icon. It is to be contemplated, beheld and meditated on in pursuit of Jesus. It presents to us the type of life it seeks to create. The authors of this work are a single icon of life intoxicated with the Holy Spirit. In other words it is an icon of being a beloved disciple.

4. Take it Easy

You will not understand anything if you try to understand everything. Take it easy and journey with dedication and contemplation. Do not stress. The journey is long, be humble, and take it easy. Enjoy the journey and contemplate the mysteries, in the presence of all the saints.

Well, that’s what I have worked out from my initial readings. Just wanted to share that with you all. That’s the word from the Practical Catholic. Peace be with you all, may Christ illuminate your journeys.


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