The Arena

I would like to recommend reading, The Arena: Guidelines for Spiritual and Monastic Life written by Ignatius Brianchaninov. Though the title seems to imply that it is written for monastics this isn’t entirely the case, but rather, it is written also for lay people who are interested in deepening their relationship with our Savior.

It is an extremely clear and concisely written guidebook in the spiritual life and the inner spiritual struggle, written by a Russian bishop as a summary of all that he had learned in his forty years of study in the holy Fathers, and through serving the church as a monk, priest, archimandrite, abbot and eventually as a recluse.

The majority of the text falls under his heading, ‘Counsels for the Spiritual Life…’ and consists of a comprehensive series of topics which each of us will face in our own spiritual life. Each chapter is quite short and can be read in a space of anywhere from a few minutes up to a half hour, so the book could be used as a devotional if one wanted to approach it in that way.

Here are the titles of some of the chapters to give you a brief idea of the scope and breadth of his instruction: On the Study of the Commandments of the Gospel…The [Spiritual] Life is Life According to the Commandments of the Gospel…Love for Our Neighbor Is a Means of Attaining to Love for God…On Prayer…On Divine Meditation…On the Remembrance of Death…Sources of Temptations…On the Necessity for Courage in Temptations…Concerning Human Glory…Concerning Resentment of Remembrance of Wrongs…Concerning the Fallen Angels…Struggling with the Fallen Angels…On the Close Affinity Between Virtues and Vices…Concerning Repentance and Mourning.

Most of us in today’s world lack a spiritual father, or someone who acts in our lives directly as a spiritual director. In absence of this we can find direction from the church Fathers and others who have written and been approved by the Church. As each of us strive to deepen our relationship with The Divine, we need guidance and direction, and thankfully the Orthodox Church has many who have gone before us and can show us the way. Bishop Ignatius has provided in this relatively brief volume just such direction for us, and I hope many will make use of his hard-fought wisdom.

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