It is fashionable in our times to value youth over experience, novelty above tradition. This classic work stands in unmistakable contrast to this tendency. First published in its original Russian edition in the year of the author’s death, it is the summation of his more than forty years experience of Christian and monastic life.
Like the sayings of the Fathers of the Egyptian desert, offered by monks to their fellow strugglers, the wisdom offered in these pages is ageless and of wide application to every aspect of life. Tradition is revealed as an appropriation of Divine Life, passed on to others by both action and word.
The title given to the original English language edition The Arena has been kept as this aptly sums up its constant theme; the need for struggle if we are to progress in the spiritual life. Like the gladiatorial combat of the Roman arena this struggle is against wild beasts and well-armed foes. There are many watching; some shouting encouragement to the struggler and others cheering their foes. All of this is occurring within the arena of our own hearts as we do battle with the sin that prevents us from knowing God as He would be known. As the now Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) writes in his foreword:
Such, then, is Bishop Ignatius’ basic theme: he tells us of the struggle to be undertaken by every Christian in the spiritual arena. He speaks to us all, whether monks or not, explaining how we may tame, control, and transform the beast within – the lions and howling wolves of our inner jungle – and so build in our hearts Jerusalem, the city of peace and unity.