Religion Wiki
Part of the series on
Eastern Christianity
00058 christ pantocrator mosaic hagia sophia 656x800.jpg
Eastern Christianity Portal

Byzantine Empire
Ecumenical council
Christianization of Bulgaria
Christianization of Kievan Rus'
East-West Schism
By region
Asian - Copts
Eastern Orthodox - Georgian - Ukrainian

Eastern Catholic Churches
Eastern Orthodox Church
Oriental Orthodoxy
Syriac Christianity

Liturgy and Worship
Sign of the cross
Divine Liturgy

Hesychasm - Icon
Apophaticism - Filioque clause
Miaphysitism - Monophysitism
Nestorianism - Theosis - Theoria
Phronema - Philokalia
Praxis - Theotokos
Hypostasis - Ousia
Essence-Energies distinction

The Philokalia (Gk. φιλοκαλία, "love of the beautiful") is a collection of texts written between the fourth and fifteenth centuries by spiritual masters of the Eastern Orthodox hesychast tradition. They were originally written for the guidance and instruction of monks in 'the practise of the contemplative life'.[1] The collection was compiled in the eighteenth-century by St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain and St. Makarios of Corinth.

Although these works were individually known in the monastic culture of Greek Orthodox Christianity before their inclusion in The Philokalia, their presence in this collection has resulted in a much wider readership due to its translation into several languages, including a seven-volume translation into Russian (Dobrotolyubie) by St. Theophan the Recluse in the nineteenth-century; Romanian, English, Finnish, modern Greek and French translations.

In the words of the publishers of the current English translation, 'The Philokalia has exercised an influence far greater than that of any book other than the Bible in the recent history of the Orthodox Church'[2]

Philocalia is also the name given to an anthology of the writings of Origen compiled by Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory Nazianzus [3]

Nature, scope and intention of the collection

The Philokalia was first published in Venice in 1782.

The collection's full title is The Philokalia of the Niptic Fathers.[4] Niptic is an adjective derived from the Greek Nipsis (or Nepsis) referring to contemplative prayer and meaning 'watchfulness'.

Philokalia is defined as the "love of the beautiful, the exalted, the excellent, understood as the transcendent source of life and the revelation of Truth."[5] In contemplative prayer the mind is trained to become aware of God as a living presence as the source of being of all creatures and sensible forms. The writings of The Philokalia have been chosen above others because they " the way to awaken and develop attention and consciousness, to attain that state of watchfulness which is the hallmark of sanctity. They describe the conditions most effective for learning what their authors call the art of arts and the science of sciences, a learning which is not a matter of information or agility of mind but of a radical change of will and heart leading man towards the highest possibilities open to him, shaping and nourishing the unseen part of his being, and helping him to spiritual fulfilment and union with God."[6]

This listing of texts is based on the English translation, started by Bishop Kallistos Ware, G.E.H. Palmer and Philip Sherrard and published by Faber and Faber Ltd. The fifth volume has yet to be published. While there is no definite date set, it is predicted by the publisher to be made available sometime late in 2006. This translation uses the third edition published by the Astir Publishing Company.

Volume 1

  • St. Isaiah the Solitary
  1. On Guarding the Intellect: 27 Texts
  • Evagrius the Solitary
  1. Outline Teaching on Asceticism and Stillness in the Solitary Life
  2. Texts on Discrimination in respect of Passions and Thoughts
  3. Extracts from the Texts on Watchfulness
  4. On Prayer: 153 Texts
  1. On the Eight Vices
  2. On the Holy Fathers of Sketis and on Discrimination
  1. On the Spiritual Law: 200 Texts
  2. On Those who Think that They are Made Righteous by Works: 226 Texts
  3. Letter to Nicolas the Solitary
  • St. Hesychios the Priest
  1. On Watchfulness and Holiness
  • St. Neilos the Ascetic
  1. Ascetic Discourse
  1. On Spiritual Knowledge and Discrimination: 100 Texts
  • St. John of Karpathos
  1. For the Encouragement of the Monks in India who had Written to Him: 100 Texts
  2. Ascetic Discourse Sent at the Request of the Same Monks in India

There is also an appendix entitled "On the Character of Men and on the Virtuous Life: 170 Texts." Nicodemus attributes it to the model monastic Antony of Egypt; however the language and the general idea is not explicitly Christian. It was included perhaps because it had resonances of Christianity and Nicodemus thought that another work—from Peter of Damascus—quotes from this work and attributes it to Antony. However no such connection can be found.

Volume 2

  1. A Century of Spiritual Texts
  2. Theoretikon
  • St. Maximos the Confessor
  1. Four Hundred Texts on Love, with a foreword to Elpidios the Presbyter
  2. Two Hundred Texts on Theology and the Incarnate Dispensation of the Son of God (written for Thalassios)
  3. Various Texts on Theology, the Divine Economy, and Virtue and Vice
  4. On the Lord's Prayer
  • Thalassios the Libyan
  1. On Love, Self Control, and Life in accordance with the Intellect (written for Paul the Presbyter)
  1. On the Virtues and the Vices
  • A Discourse on Abba Philemon
  • St. Theognostos
  1. On the Practice of the Virtues, Contemplation and the Priesthood

Volume 3

  • St. Philotheos of Sinai
  • Forty Texts on Watchfulness
  • Ilias the Presbyter
  1. A Gnomic Anthology: Part I
  2. A Gnomic Anthology: Part II
  3. A Gnomic Anthology: Part III
  4. A Gnomic Anthology: Part IV
  • Theophanis the Monk
  1. The Ladder of Divine Graces
  • St. Peter of Damascus
  1. Book I: A Treasury of Divine Knowledge
  2. Book II: Twenty-Four Discourses
  • St. Symeon Metaphrastis: Paraphrases of the Homilies of St. Makarios of Egypt
  1. Spiritual Perfection
  2. Prayer
  3. Patient Endurance and Discrimination
  4. The Raising of the Intellect
  5. Love
  6. The Freedom of the Intellect

Volume 4

  • St. Symeon the New Theologian
  1. On Faith
  2. 153 Practical and Theological Texts
  3. The Three Methods of Prayer [attributed to him]
  • Nikitas Stithatos
  1. On the Practice of the Virtues: One Hundred Texts
  2. On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect: One Hundred Texts
  3. On Spiritual Knowledge, Love and the Perfection of Living: One Hundred Texts
  • Theoliptos, Metropolitan of Philadelphia
  1. On Inner Work in Christ and the Monastic Profession
  2. Texts
  • Nikiphoros the Monk
  1. On Watchfulness and the Guarding of the Heart
  • St. Gregory of Sinai
  1. On Commandments and Doctrines, Warnings and Promises; on Thoughts, Passions and Virtues, and also on Stillness and Prayer: 137 Texts
  2. Further Texts
  3. On the Signs of Grace and Delusion, Written for the Confessor Longinos: Ten Texts
  4. On Stillness: Fifteen Texts
  5. On Prayer: Seven Texts
  1. To the Most Reverend Nun Xenia
  2. A New Testament Decalogue
  3. In Defence of THose who Devoutly Practise a Life of Stillness
  4. Three Texts on Prayer and Purity of Heart
  5. Topics of Natural and Theological Science and on the Moral and Ascetic Life: 150 Texts
  6. The Declaration of the Holy Mountain in Defence of Those who Devoutly Practice a Life of Stillness

The Philocalia of Origen

Philocalia is also the name given to an anthology of the writings of Origen compiled by Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory Nazianzus in 358-9.


  1. ibid p.14
  2. Publisher's blurb, Volume One of the current English translation by G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard and Bishop Kallistos Ware, Faber & Faber, 1979
  3. English translation online here
  4. The Philokalia, Vol 1 p 367
  5. ibid p. 13
  6. Ibid p. 13

See also


  • Palmer, G.E.H; Sherrard, Philip; Ware, Kallistos (Timothy). The Philokalia, Vol. 1 ISBN 0-571-11377-X, ISBN 0-571-13013-5
  • Palmer, G.E.H; Sherrard, Philip; Ware, Kallistos (Timothy). The Philokalia, Vol. 2 ISBN 0-571-15466-2
  • Palmer, G.E.H; Sherrard, Philip; Ware, Kallistos (Timothy). The Philokalia, Vol. 3 ISBN 0-571-17525-2
  • Palmer, G.E.H; Sherrard, Philip; Ware, Kallistos (Timothy). The Philokalia, Vol. 4 ISBN 0-571-19382-X
  • Smith, Allyne. The Philokalia: The Eastern Christian Spiritual Texts -- Selections Annotated and Explained (SkyLight Paths, 2006) ISBN 1594731039. This contains selections from the Palmer/Sherrard/Ware translation, with facing commentary.

Popular culture

The Philokalia is featured prominently in a much shorter and well-known book called The Way of a Pilgrim. In this book a Russian traveler learns to pray from various people he meets on his travels and by reading the Philokalia.

Philokalia Music (BMI) is a producer of Baroque and neo-classical music:

External links