The Way Of A Pilgrim And The Pilgrim Continues His Way, translated by R. M. French
I really liked this book. I can’t say it’s a perfect book, but this book was really enjoyable to read. As someone who reads more than my fair share of books on interior prayer and Christian mysticism , I thought this book was a lot better than it had any right being, and in saying that I must give credit to the fact that had I not read a book on twenty-five supposed Christian classics I would never have heard of this book, as there is really no way I would have come across a translated work from a literate Russian peasant in the period between the Crimean War and the emancipation of the serfs that focused both on the need for mercy for sinners and the fact that those who love God will keep His commandments. This book also is encouraging me to read the Philokalia, the book along with the Bible that the anonymous peasant pilgrim of this book keeps reading to himself as he makes his way from one place to another, helping his fellow man while seeking to follow God’s will as he understands it.
This book is deceptively simple. In about two hundred pages, after a thoughtful introduction by Huston Smith that comments a bit too much on comparative world religion for my own personal tastes, this book consists of two related works, namely The Way of a Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way, both of which deal with an itinerant Russian peasant freed from servitude as a result of a disability suffered when he was attacked by his ne’er do well brother who later tried to kill him and steal his inheritance. Although he prefers the life of a hermit, the peasant finds himself continually drawn to seek spiritual insight from others and finds himself an expert enough reader of both the Bible and the Philokalia that he spreads an interest in both of these texts to those people he happens to meet in his journeys that vary from present-day Moldova to Siberia, through the pale of Russia, Ukraine, and a lot of other areas as well. Revealing his own stories as well as sharing the tales of those he meets, the pilgrim finds himself being an unusual light in an unusually dark world, and being a person of such simple and straightforward belief and gentleness of spirit that he is truly a welcome companion even as an imaginary fellow wanderer on the face of this earth.
Although there is likely a great deal that I would not agree with about the particular Russian Orthodox faith of the author/protagonist, and much that I find alien about Russian society as it is shown here, it cannot be emphasized just how pleasant this book is. The joy of this book consists in a few factors that are worthy of being celebrated: the pilgrim of this story is a person of straightforward faith who genuinely desires to obey God’s commandments and to develop a close relationship with Him. Despite his desire for solitude he is willing to serve others and deals graciously with seemingly everyone he meets along his travels. His winsome personality and his graciousness give him favor with everyone he meets, and he seems like he would have been a genuinely awesome person to know, the sort of friendly person who shines in a straightforward text about a hedgehog sort of fellow who does not know many things but happens to know a few very great and important things. The translation is an excellent one that allows the reader to feel as if they know the peasant at this story’s heart and have listened to him share a deeply poignant story before he and you continue your wandering again.
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