Theophan Dort

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O Theophan, thou man of God and faithful servant of Christ,

Lover of stillness, who didst converse alone with the one God:

Be thou mindful of us who honor thy holy memory,

And bear thy fervent supplications to the Lord,

That he may save our souls.

(From the Canon of St. Theophan the Recluse, from the Praises.)

Writings of St. Theophan the Recluse

Collected WorksListed below are all of the writings in English that I have found so far of St. Theophan's. When he died, the Russian Monastery of St. Panteleimon on Mount Athos published a 5- or 6-volume collection of his written works, and I've read that his correspondence alone was "partially published in ten volumes," so there must be many treasures that have not yet been translated into English.

I am tantalized and frustrated to learn that there now is a 26-volume set of St. Theophan's collected works published in Moscow, but I can't read Russian, so they will do me no good even if I could purchase them. Here follows, in rough order of my own personal favorites, what I have.

The Art of Prayer - An Orthodox Anthology

Art of PrayerThis was the book that introduced me to St. Theophan the Recluse, and that prompted me to embark on the path of Orthodox Christianity. It is a kind of "prayer manual," compiled by the abbott ("igumen") of a revered Orthodox monastery who collected his favorite writings on the interior life, those he felt would be most helpful for his monks. The very great majority of these writings were from letters of spiritual direction written by St. Theophan the Recluse. I love this book!

The Art of Prayer - An Orthodox Anthology, Igumen Chariton of Valamo, compiler, Faber and Faber, London, 1997.

Unseen Warfare

Unseen WarfareUnseen Warfare's "first author" is not St. Theophan but a Roman Catholic writer, Lorenzo Scupoli. But St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain, an Orthodox saint, found Scupoli's book wonderful and adapted it for Orthodox readers, also adding many notes and illustrations from Scripture and the Fathers of the Eastern Church. Then,

Bishop Theophan the Recluse, a director of souls and an ascetic theologian of note, who was acquainted with Nicodemus' writings, was moved by his admiration of them to translate the Unseen Warfare from Greek into Russian. Like Nicodemus, and on an even greater scale, he allowed himself in translating it to make various changes and adaptations. The resulting version, supported by the double authority of Nicodemus and Theophan, took an assured place in the spiritual literature of the Russian Church. [From the Introduction to the book.]

The title, in our mostly Protestant culture, is potentially somewhat misleading. It's a wonderful manual on the inner life.

Unseen Warfare - as edited by Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain and revised by Theophan the Recluse, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY 2000.

The Path to Salvation - A Manual of Spiritual Transformation

Path to SalvationThis is the third book of St. Theophan's that I read, and his magnum opus. I understand that it was originally published as three separate books that later were combined into one. the major sections are, "How Does the Christian Life Begin in Us?", "On Repentance and the Sinner's Turning Toward God," and, "How the Christian Life is Lived, Ripened and Fortified, and About the Order of a God-Pleasing Life."

The Path to Salvation - A Manual of Spiritual Transformation, St. Theophan the Recluse, Fr. Seraphim Rose & St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, trans., St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, St. Paisius Abbey, 1998.

Four Homilies on Prayer

Four Homilies on PrayerI LOVE these homilies! They are very simple, but wonderful. St. Theophan wrote these four homilies for some nuns. I originally found them in a book, but I had some reservations about that book (see The Path of Prayer below in this list). Now I have found that the same homilies have been translated into English, and by an Orthodox priest! They have been published on an Orthodox web site. I have no concerns about "chaff" in the "wheat" here, and I heartily recommend these instead of the book, The Path of Prayer:

Theophan the Recluse, On prayer, Homily 1

Theophan the Recluse, On prayer, Homily 2

Theophan the Recluse, On prayer, Homily 3

Theophan the Recluse, On prayer, Homily 4

Psalm 118 - A Commentary by Saint Theophan the Recluse

This is new in 2014, I only learned about it and purchased it recently, and I have just begun reading it, but what I have read so far is wonderful!

Psalm 118 - A Commentary by Saint Theophan the Recluse, St. Theophan the Recluse, Archpriest Gleb Wleskov, trans., revised by Seraphim Englehart, Archpriest Gregory Williams, ed., St. John of Kronstadt Press, Liberty, TN, 2014.

The Spiritual Life - and How to be Attuned to It

The Spiritual LifeThis was the second book I read of St. Theophan's. It is a collection of letters to one of his spiritual children, a young woman of Moscow society who, while at an annual ball, was struck by the thought of the immortality of the soul and the futility of everything around her at the ball, and began the correspondence with then-Bishop Theophan. She eventually became a nun. For some reason the original edition from the St. Herman's Press seems to be out of print, but the same translation now is available in a very slightly different (3rd) edition, with different introductory materials, from St. Paisius Serbian Orthodox Monastery.

The Spiritual Life - and How to be Attuned to It, St. Theophan the Recluse, Alexandra Dockham, trans., St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, St. Paisius Abbey, 1995.

The Spiritual Life - and How to be Attuned to It, St. Theophan the Recluse, 3rd Eidtion, Alexandra Dockham, trans., St. Paisius Serbian Orthodox Monastery, 2003.

A Spiritual Psalter

A Spiritual PsalterThis book wasn't actually written by St. Theophan, but it was compiled and edited by him. I include it mostly because I really like the book, and it was a labor of love by St. Theophan. From the Preface:

This publication, which includes selected prayers that St. Ephraim the Syrian offered up to God, is called a Psalter because the Psalter is a book of praises to God; they both contain prayers offered up to God. St. Ephraim was filled with the grace of God and, moved by it, he poured out his heartfelt prayers to God.

A Spiritual Psalter, or Reflections on God - excerpted by Bishop Theophan the Recluse from the works of our Holy Father Ephraim the Syrian, Antonina Janda, trans., St. John of Kronstadt Press, Liberty, TN, 1997.

Thoughts for Each Day of the Year According to the Daily Church Readings from the Word of God

Thoughts for Each Day of the YearFor a few years, at least, this was only available on a Russian site online (click on the link to the calendar on that page), but at last in 2010 the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, in collaboration with the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow, has published this book in English!

... St. Theophan takes us through the yearly cycle of Gospel and Epistle readings, humbly and reverently offering us brief but powerful daily meditations on the word of God. He also addresses the problems of his day -- lack of faith, coldness of heart, trust in the rational mind rather than in the revealed Truth of God -- which are problems for our day as well.

Kindling the Divine Spark

Kindling the Divine SparkThis slender book is a collection of homilies that St. Theophan wrote for female monastics.

Kindling the Divine Spark - Teachings on How to Preserve Spiritual Zeal, St. Theophan the Recluse, St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, St. Xenia Skete, 1996.


MatericonThis book was not written by St. Theophan, but he apparently highly valued it, translating it into Russian for his spiritual children. It contains a brief introductory preface by St. Theophan and an appendix containing some of his correspondence from the last year of his life. The body of the book is instructions from Abba Isaiah to the Honorable Nun Theodora.

Matericon - Instructions of Abba Isaiah to the Honorable Nun Theodora, St. Paisius Serbian Orthodox Monastery, Safford, AZ, 2001.

On Prayer

On PrayerThis is a small booklet containing a number of excerpts from some of St. Theophan's letters.

On Prayer - From the Writings of Bishop Theophan the Recluse, St. John of Kronstadt Press, Liberty, TN.

Psalm 118/119

Psalm 118This is a booklet that contains "A summary of this Russian Orthodox commentary," a verse-by-verse commentary on Psalm 118 (as numbered in the Septuagint -- Psalm 119 in Western Bibles), "Blessed are the blameless in the way...," by St. Theophan the Recluse. It is a very brief summary of a much longer discourse that at last has been published in English (see above). There is no information in the booklet about who translated or published this aside from "F. Gleb" on the front cover.

Psalm 118/119 Based on the Septuagint Version and Commented by Bishop Theophan the Recluse - A Summary of This Russian Orthodox Commentary, F. Gleb.

The Heart of Salvation - The Life and Teachings of Saint Theophan the Recluse

Heart of SalvationThis book, like The Path of Prayer mentioned below, is published by people who are interested in so-called "esoteric" Christianity, which makes me quite hesitant about their books, concerned about the possibility of Theosophical, "Gnostic" or other heterodox "tares" being perhaps unintentionally mixed in with the Orthodox "wheat" of the book. It is unfortunate, because I am not aware of another source so extensive about St. Theophan's life.

The Heart of Salvation - the Life and Teachings of Saint Theophan the Recluse, Esther Williams, Trans., Praxis Institute Press, Newbury, MA, (no date listed).

Turning the Heart to God

Turning the Heart to GodThis is different translation of the middle portion of St. Theophan's The Path to Salvation. I bought it because I was eager to buy anything that he wrote, but I must confess that I only read some bits and pieces of this, and so greatly preferred the Seraphim Rose translation that I had enjoyed so much that I didn't wind up even finishing it.

So far as I can see, the translator, Father Ken Kaisch, is not Orthodox, but a clinical psychologist and Episcopal priest. Obviously that doesn't mean he didn't necessarily do a faithful job of translating this book by an Orthodox saint. But by contrast, I love the image of Father Seraphim Rose, of blessed memory, an Orthodox hieromonk who I understand is beloved in Russia, working on his translation of St. Theophan's work in the prayerful and austere monastic atmosphere of the skete of St. Herman. Father Seraphim, like St. Theophan, burned with holy zeal for Christ as he labored, a recluse himself, with only one or a few others at the skete. And Father Seraphim had a very clear and strong "feel" for the Orthodox phronema or mind set, which can be very different from our normal Western way of thinking and perceiving things. So I have a special fondness for Father Seraphim's translation of The Path to Salvation, published by the St. Herman's Press (see above), which includes a different translation of the same original work of St. Theophan's.

Turning the Heart to God, Saint Theophan the Recluse, Father Ken Kaisch and Igumen Ioana Zhiltsov, trans., Conciliar Press, Ben Lomond, CA, 2001.

The Path of Prayer

Path of PrayerThis is a wonderful little book, a kind of "primer" on prayer that I have read many times, finding each time I have reread it that it was still good for me to read it again, and helpful. Unfortunately, this book is printed by an organization that seems oriented toward a "Gnostic," or so-called, "esoteric" Christianity that I believe St. Theophan would have found deeply misguided. This little book, however, I considered a gem.

I no longer recommend it, however, because of a much better alternative (see above, the "Four Homilies on Prayer," which are a different translation of the same texts by an Orthodox translator).

The Path of Prayer - Four Sermons on Prayer, Theophan the Recluse, Williams, Esther, trans., Praxis Institute Press, Devon, England, 1992.

Preaching Another Christ

Preaching Another ChristThis is a booklet, a little over 40 pages, with a very brief history of St. Theophan and an essay of his on how he perceived Evangelicalism as it was in Russia in his time.

"Preaching Another Christ" - An Orthodox View of Evangelicalism Through the Eyes of Saint Theophan the Recluse, St. Theophan the Recluse, Orthodox Witness, Maryville, IL, 2001.

Is It Sufficient Only to Believe in Christ in Order to be Saved?

Is It SufficientThis very brief pamphlet summarizes some teachings of St. Theophan about the Protestant view of salvation contrasted with the Orthodox view.

Is It Sufficient Only to Believe in Christ in Order to be Saved?, Bishop Theophan, originally published in Orthodox Life, Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, NY., Reprinted by Eastern Orthodox Books, Willits, CA.


Kontakion III

The power of God made of thee, a weak human vessel, a well-spring of wisdom, O holy hierarch Theophan, and gave thee to the people as a good shepherd who giveth up his life for their salvation and unceasingly crieth to the Lord: Alleluia!

Ikos III

Having the Lord alone in thy heart, O favorite of God, with great joy thou didst commit all the treasures of thy soul and mind to the service of the Church, teaching and instructing all who had recourse unto thee. And, blessing thy labors, we cry out to thee thus:

Rejoice, thou whose thirst the Lord quenched with great wisdom;

Rejoice, thou who wast nourished amid ascetic labors!

Rejoice, hierarch chosen by God;

Rejoice, untiring advocate for us before the Lord!

Rejoice, humble bearer of the rank of bishop;

Rejoice, faithful teacher of the knowledge of God!

Rejoice, uprooter of schisms harmful to the soul;

Rejoice, zealot of the Orthodox faith!

Rejoice, O holy hierarch Theophan, all-wise teacher and instructor in the Christian life!

(From the "Akathist Hymn to the Holy Hierarch Theophan" from The Book of Akathists, Isaac Lambertsen, trad., Holy Trinity Monastery, 2008, p. 443.)