Theophan the Recluse

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Theophan the Recluse
Born January 10, 1815
Chernavsk, Russian Empire
Died January 6, 1894
Vysha Monastery, Russian Empire
Venerated in Eastern Orthodoxy
Canonized 1988 by Russian Orthodox Church
Feast January 6 or 10

St. Theophan the Recluse, also known as Theophan Zatvornik or Theophanes the Recluse (Russian: Феофан Затворник), (January 10, 1815 – January 6, 1894) is a well-known saint in the Russian Orthodox Church. He was born George Vasilievich Govorov, in the village of Chernavsk. His father was a Russian Orthodox priest. He was educated in the seminaries at Livny, Orel and Kiev. In 1841 he was ordained, became a monk, and adopted the name Theophan. He later became the Bishop of Tambov.

He is especially well-known today through the many books he wrote concerning the spiritual life, especially on the subjects of the Christian life and the training of youth in the faith. He also played an important role in translating the Philokalia from Church Slavonic into Russian. The Philokalia is a classic of orthodox spirituality, composed of the collected works of a number of church fathers which were edited and placed in a four volume set in the 17th and 18th centuries. A persistent theme is developing an interior life of continuous prayer,[1] learning to "pray without ceasing" as St. Paul teaches in his first letter to the Thessalonians.

Books in English translation[edit]

  • The Spiritual Life and How to Be Attuned To It
  • The Path to Salvation: a Manual of Spiritual Transformation[2]
  • Turning the Heart to God(Partial translation of The Path to Salvation)
  • Kindling the Divine Spark: Teachings on How to Preserve Spiritual Zeal
  • Four Homilies on Prayer[3]
  • Psalm 118: A Commentary by Saint Theophan the Recluse : ISBN 978-1-928920-87-8

The Spiritual Life and How to Be Attuned To It[edit]

The Spiritual Life and How to Be Attuned To It was originally written in response to Theophan's encounter with a young woman. While at a ball, this upper class Moscow woman began having irrational thoughts about the meaning of life and the immortality of man. After contacting Theophan, the two began corresponding through letters, the lady writing on her spiritual difficulties and Theophan responding with spiritual advice. This correspondence had a significant impact on the woman; she later became a Catholic nun.[4] The Saint Herman Press, the publisher of the illustrated edition of The Spiritual Life and How to Be Attuned To It, notes that it was of great importance to Theophan that the young woman should "be able to keenly hear the right "tone" of spiritual life."[5]

Famous sayings[edit]

  • "Descend with your attention into the heart, stand there before the Lord and admit nothing sinful to enter there. In this is the entire activity of inner warfare."
  • "Attention to that which transpires in the heart and proceeds from it  – this is the chief activity of the proper Christian life."
  • "God abandons no one. For Him all are children. None are stepchildren. And the hard occasions and situations  – all is sent for our benefit."
  • "By the very fact that you have conceived a different view of things than that which is maintained in the Church, you have already separated yourself from the Church."[6]
  • "You must kill egoism. If you don't kill it yourself, then the Lord, hammer-blow after hammer-blow, shall send various misfortunes, so as to crush this stone."
  • "A Christian without zeal is a poor Christian."
  • "Mercilessness to oneself, readiness to perform any favor to others and the surrender of oneself entirely to the Lord with a prayerful abiding in Him  – these are the creators of the spiritual life."
  • "Self-pleasing and self-pity testify that in the heart abides the ego, and not the Lord."
  • "Vain fussing about is not made up of many tasks, but of the manner in which they are carried out. When one is being carried out and hundreds jostle in your head. You must chase all those out, and carry out the one task, and do it with your hands at that, while with your mind abide in your place."
  • "Divine determination depends on the life of a man, and not his life upon the determination."
  • "It is a great error to think that you must undertake important and great labors, whether for heaven, or, as the 'progressives' think, in order to make one's contribution to humanity. That is not necessary at all. It is necessary only to do everything in accordance with the Lord's commandments."[7]
  • "He who believes in God, but does not confess Him as the Father of the Son, does not believe in a god that is the true God, but in some personal invention."[8]
  • "You ask, will the heterodox be saved... Why do you worry about them? They have a Saviour Who desires the salvation of every human being. He will take care of them. You and I should not be burdened with such a concern. Study yourself and your own sins... I will tell you one thing, however: should you, being Orthodox and possessing the Truth in its fullness, betray Orthodoxy, and enter a different faith, you will lose your soul forever."[9]

Veneration as a saint[edit]

Theophan was canonized by the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church of 1988. The act of canonization declared that his "deep theological understanding of the Christian teaching, as well as its performance in practice, and, as a consequence of this, the loftiness and holiness of the life of the sviatitel' allow for his writings to be regarded as a development of the teaching of the Holy Fathers, preserving the same Orthodox purity and Divine enlightenment." His feast day is celebrated January 6 or January 10.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A Prayer Rule by St. Theophan the Recluse
  2. ^
  3. ^ Four Homilies on Prayer by St. Theophan the Recluse
  4. ^ "Spiritual Life - And How to be Attuned to it". Writings of St. Theophan the Recluse. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  5. ^ "The Spiritual Life: And How to be Attuned to it". Amazon. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  6. ^ What is an Anathema? by Bishop Theophan the Recluse
  7. ^ Quotes of St. Theophan the Recluse
  8. ^ Thoughts for Each Day of the Year according to the Daily Church Readings from the Word of God By St. Theophan the Recluse
  9. ^ "Will the Heterodox Be Saved". Retrieved 5 January 2014. 

External links[edit]