on December 30, 2006
This book is volume 4 of what was a 7 volume series, but now is part of a larger series. All the books were edited by the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, about the elders of Optina which were from a Russian Orthodox monastery southwest of Moscow. The most famous of the elders was Elder Ambrose, who was born November 23, 1812 & died October 10, 1891. He was a disciple of Elder Macarius, who's biography is contain in volume 3.
An Elder of the Russian Orthodox tradition is not an Abbot, which is the leader of a monastery, rather is the foremost spiritual counsel or confessor normally a Staret, a humble monk who by the grace of God can reveal & cure human souls. Elder Ambrose was also a Schema monk, the highest & hardest form of the monastic order. In his later life He was bed ridden most of the time, but many people including the famous Dostoyevsky & Tolstoy visited him for spiritual guidance. Dostoyevsky even created the character Elder Zosima as an example of Elder Ambrose in his book "The Brothers Karamazov".
In his last years Elder Ambrose blessed & consecrated the church & woman's convent in Shamordino where he died. He was later buried beside Elder Macarius in Optina monastery.
Some of the books in this series can be a little flowerily for some readers, yet the spiritual wisdom gain out weighs this slight problem. The author Fr. Sergius Chetverikov may not be the best writer, but he had the right heart to reveal Elder Ambrose in the best way he knew how.
I found the introduction a little strange starting with a Russian monk in America & sometimes the chronological order got lost jumpimg back & forth between Elder Ambrose or the monastery, but over all a good book & a must read within this series.
on May 31, 2011
All the books in the "Optina series" provide insight into the aescetic path. The life and teachings of Elder Ambrose stand out for many persons because his mission was to provide spiritual guidance to not only novice monks but to lay persons of all stations in life. His approach to inner peace and spiritual enlightenment was very "eastern," and this book explains it well. To get the most out of the book, one must not become caught up too much in the descriptions of the conventions of the historical time period (the ways people thought and lived in 19th century Russia) but analyze the bigger picture to find the teachings of spiritual truth that are timeless.