As part of my ongoing attempt to expand my understanding of Christianity I have been reading old books. To find out why I would do such a thing check out my previous post about that very thing.
While not nearly as old as our previous books, The Way of a Pilgrim, is considered a spiritual classic in the Eastern Orthodox Church which makes it different from the works we are used to reading and therefore able to widen our understanding just as well as an old book from within our tradition.
Nobody knows who wrote The Way of a Pilgrim (or even when it was written), but its mention of the Crimean War and some indicators that it was written before the Liberation of the Serfs makes it pretty clear it was written sometime between 1853 and 1861.
The book is different from previous Old Books because it is a narrative rather than a treatise. Broken into four sections called “narratives” it tells the story of a pilgrim as he attempts to understand what the apostle meant by “pray without ceasing.” He discovers a form of prayer called the Jesus Prayer which transforms him. Without knowing the author it is hard to know if it is a real account. Some scholars believe it was written as an allegory of the Christian life by a monk in a monastery on Mount Athos (where it was discovered). Nevertheless, the book has been popular outside of the Eastern Orthodox and is credited with bringing the Jesus Prayer to the west (in part from its importance in J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey).
The pilgrim carries with him a collection of the church fathers writings on prayer called the Philokalia. These texts are mentioned often and quoed extensively, so this an old book in side an old book, or as I’ve been calling it O L D C E P T I O N (please click that link).