Friday, September 30, 2016

Striving Toward God (Holy Trinity Publications)

Anna Mikhailovna Sebriakova joined the Ust'-Medveditskii convent at the age of 17. She was tonsured with the name Arsenia and served as abbess of the monastery for 41 years. Her writings were influenced by St. Ignatius Brianchaninov (author of The Arena and On the Prayer of Jesus). Holy Trinity Publications has recently translated her writings and compiled them in a book entitled Striving Toward God. The book is approximately 100 pages and is composed of the following sections:

1. The Notes of Abbess Arsenia
2. The Letters to Peter Alexandrovich Brianchaninov
3. Letters to Other Individuals

Like every Orthodox book I have ever read, the book begins with a short biography on who Abbess Arsenia was. This is a feature I wish more genres would adopt as it proves useful in setting the context of the work. Her notes then begin by speaking on humility. "Humility is the only state of the spirit through which all spiritual gifts are able to enter an individual. There is also talk of a natural yearning for goodness and being still to know God's presence. The whole section is only seven pages long, but contains a depth of wisdom.

Part Two, Letters to Peter Alexandrovich Brianchaninov, is the bulk of the book at over 50 pages and 93 letters. The letters date from 1870 to 1890. These letters cover topics such as the path to salvation, faith, prayer, etc. Her letters seem to offer him spiritual counsel and advice along the difficult journey that life can sometimes be. I would have liked to read his letters too for better frame of reference, but the letters from other people are never provided when you publish someone's letters. The last section is another set of letters, but this one being to various individuals. A lot of these letters have recipients who are only identified by initials, probably to protect their identity. Just like the other letters, we see great spiritual wisdom and depth.

I really enjoyed reading this book, as it introduced me to a holy woman I was previously unaware of. It was also spiritually edifying to read as it provided practical daily advice, which is something we all can use. Lastly, is was interesting to see how useful her advice still proved to be, even though I am in a different country and two centuries removed from her time period. It just goes to show that good spiritual wisdom is timeless.

This book was provided to me for free by Holy Trinity Publications in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!