Archpriest Nicholas Deputatov
piety so characteristic of all levels of society in Holy Russia. was rapidly
evaporating from the 19th century high society intelligentsia when God raised up
from its very midst a true ascetic and Church writer, Bishop Ignatius
Brianchaninov. In him was combined a rare eloquence of style and a profound
understanding of the Christian life of struggle through which he was able to
inspire many souls, blinded by Western "enlightened" ideas, to return
to the saving enclosure of the Church. Bishop Ignatius was a prolific writer
best known in the English-speaking Orthodox world for his masterful work, The
Arena, in which he skilifully instructs those engaged in the arena of
spiritual combat-out of which he himself emerged such a glorious victor. A
chapter from Pr. Nicholas Deputatov's book, The
Awareness of God contains a brief life of Bishop Ignatius, together with
short selections from his writings. This has been translated below for the
edification and inspiration of those struggling in the arena of unseen warfare
into a noble family of wealthy landowners, Bishop Ignatius was sent as a youth
to the St. Petersburg Military School, a renowned institution which enjoyed the
patronage of Tsar Nicholas I. He was a brilliant student, but his heart was not
in his studies. Only a few years after graduation
as a commissioned engineer, he fell seriously ill and used this as an excuse to
request a discharge from the army. Drawn to religion from an early age, he was
now able to fulfill his childhood dream of entering upon the monastic life. He
spent four years in various monasteries as a novice, forming a close bond with
Elder Leonid of Optina, before being tonsured in a small monastery near his
native Vologda and ordained to the priesthood soon thereafter.
was not long, however, before the Tsar inquired about the officer whom we
remembered as such a gifted cadet. On learning what had become of him, the Tsar
immediately sent after him with the following instructions:
still like you; you are indebted to me for the education I gave you and for my
love toward you. You did not wish to serve me in the position I had intended but
chose instead a path of your own desires; in that case, repay me your debt on~
this path. I am giving you the St. Sergius Hermitage.
It is my wish that you would live there and transform it into an
exemplary monastery for the whole of Russia."
debt to the Tsar was paid in full.. Taking charge of the hermitage which was
located on the outskirts of St. Petersburg, the young hieromonk soon built up a
monastery with three churches, large living quarters, and a great number of
monks. After24years as Superior of St. Sergius, in 1857,he was consecrated
Bishop of the Caucasus and the Black Sea. Only four years later, however, he
retired and devoted the rest of his life to compiling writings on the ascetic
life and in editing and preparing for publication various articles he had
written over the years. In addition he conducted an extensive correspondence
with his spiritual children. He died in 1867 in the seclusion he had desired
since his youth.
A refined adornment of Orthodox monasticism, Bishop
Ignatius taught about the monastic life not only in his ascetical-theological
writings, but by his very life which presented a wondrous picture of self-denial
and struggle with sins, sorrows, and sicknesses. His numerous written works
include "Experiences from the Ascetic Life" (5 Volumes) "Patericon
," "A Word an Death;' and others. The hierarch himself acknowledged:
"The source of my writings is to be found in the Fathers; they belong to
the Fathers of the Orthodox Church..."
from the Ascetic Life
is a work of singular importance. "This is not my work," affirms the
hierarch, "that is why I am able to talk about it so freely. I was only the
instrument of God's mercy towards contemporary Orthodox Christians in desperate
need of a clear exposition of the principles of Christian struggle"... Experiences
may be read in place of the Philoka1ia
as being more understandable.
special value in my opinion are his numerous letters on various subjects and of
varied content. Like fire, they ignite cold hearts. Like light, they penetrate
the darkness of sinful thoughts.. They contain energy, calling to podvig, and
sweet, longed-for consolation for all those who sorrow...
Experiences you read the teaching of our Fathers on the inner life
of struggle. This teaching differs from that of Western writers in that the Holy
Fathers lead one to repentance and weeping over one's sins, whereas the Western
writer leads often to spiritual enjoyment and self-satisfaction...
spent my entire life in sickness and sorrows, but without sorrows, how can one
be saved? Illness is sent by God in place of and to make up for the deficiency
of our struggles. I see that my ill health is a gift of God -His epitimia, His
the foundation of his Experiences, one
may also cite the following remarkable words: "Orthodoxy is true knowledge
God and true worship of God. The Spirit is the glory of Christians. Where the
Spirit is absent, there is no Orthodoxy. It is essenfial for salvation to belong
to the Orthodox Church. Outside of obedience to the Church there is neither
humility nor spiritual discernment
"What is death?-the age with which our
true life begins. A man should not despair, no matter how great his sins, for a
man is not saved by his good deeds, but by his faith in Christ the Saviour; only
his deeds should manifest his faith.. Just think that the great Apostle Peter
himself wept bitterly...
chases away foul thoughts and fills us with jubilation... One mustn't give way
to despondency. On the contrary, one must thank God for sorrows as a Sign of
being chosen for eternal blessedness. Not
only does gratitude deaden the sharp sting of grief, it fills the heart of one
who is thankful with a heavenly, spiritual solace. Nowhere can one find such
solace as in patience which is born of humility. Humility consists in
considering ourselves worthy of sorrows which God's Providence allows to visit
us' Sorrows were always the lot of those on the path to salvation...
and no one can snatch out of God's hands a soul dedicated to His service. For
God gives to such a soul for the time of its earthly pilgrimage a narrow path
paved with diverse sorrows and deprivations, because it is impossible to come to
God along a broad way...
world lies in a state of spiritual deception and manifests an affinity for those
in the same state. But it despises and rejects those who serve Truth...
the Saviour and thus acquiring eternal blessedness is man's primary happiness on
earth, and his only treasure..,
and faster time passes, and the hour of our entrance into eternity draws nigh.
Make use of your days on earth to prepare for this. Such preparation dispels
temporal sorrows and brings consolation, thereby indicating that this
preparation is indeed a preparation for blessedness...
must never, for any reason, become despondent, for we are carried in the hands
of God's Providence. Our concern is to be true to the Lord. And the Lord
purposely reveals the weaknesses of him to whom He wishes to grant His gift of
discernment. For the beginning of a soul's enlightenment is the perception of
its own sins and its insignificance...
making prostrations for awhile; illness has taken their place. But do not stop
praying with heartfelt compunction.
the Lord teach you humility. the source of all calm. From humility peace and
quiet flow into the heart. If we are handed the cup of suffering, let us accept
it as the cup of salvation, as a pledge of eternal joy. He who refuses sorrows,
rejects also salvation God allows
the devil to strike us for the sake of our salvation and humility.
sincere desire is to end my days somewhere in solitude and anonymity, in
spiritual vigilance and repentance. One should not deceive oneself with false
expectations of a long earthly life... Everything passes, both the good and the
bad, and neither humans nor demons can overcome that which God does not allow.
of his letters and essays in Experiences are
indeed profoundly edifying and moving. They are written from the heart and are
penetrated by true faith and humble piety which distinguished this most highly
revered author throughout his entire life.
mercy., O Lord, on this zealous writer-ascetic of blessed memory, and through
him have mercy also upon us-tossed about on waves of sin in the stormy sea of
Archpriest Nicholas Deputatov