THE OPTINA ELDERS SERIES, VOL. II
What can I say about those long-awaited days when the Superior of the Skete, Fr. Anthony, would serve? His every move, every word and exclamation reflected purity, meekness and reverence, and at the same time a holy feeling of majesty. I have never seen anywhere else such church services, although I have visited many monasteries and churches.
- excerpt from Elder Anthony of Optina
Elder Anthony (1795-1865), born Alexander Ivanovich Putilov, came from a pious family in Russia and was raised in the fear of God. Of Alexander and his four brothers, three became righteous abbots of renowned monasteries. From his youth he dedicated himself to inner vigilance and prayer in the forests of Russia.
Through a life of terrible hardships and excruciating physical ailments, Elder Anthony acquired perfect spiritual freedom through the careful guarding of his soul and the humble acceptance of God's Providence. He remained joyful to the end, filled with tender compassion for all who came to him. His life and writings, included here in one volume, breathe this same joy and compassion.
...I know from the teachings of the Holy Fathers that every temptation or illness is sent to us by God as a cure for our infirm soul. For if our body suffers, God forgives our past and present sins and prevents us from sinning in the future. That is why we should wholeheartedly thank the Lord God Who is so merciful to us and turns everything to our benefit and permits us to be ill. Thus, we shouldn't grumble. This is the reason why I am trying, with the help of God, to endure my illness meekly... I have never had as much time for reading soul-profiting books as I have now in my prolonged illness, and therefore I wonder--how shall I thank my God for all He has granted me!
- from a letter of Elder Anthony
Elder Anthony of Optina is compiled not only from the information of his own personal notes, journals, and letters, but also from the recollections of his spiritual children, particularly those of a disciple of St. Herman of Alaska--the saintly Sergius Yanovsky--who became a monk and a disciple of Elder Anthony after returning to Russia from America.