Our alumnus Father John Mikitish—now a doctoral student in theDepartment of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Yale University and a priest in the Orthodox Church in America—recently gave me some soul-stirring news. He’s now the editor of a fresh SVS Press series titled, Treasures of Spirituality. The series unearths Orthodox spiritual literature from a variety of languages, periods, and local traditions and translates it into English for the first time.
As soon as the first volume came off the press, Jesus Crucified, which features the writings of St. Dimitri of Rostov (1651–1709) and was translated by Fr. John himself, I grabbed a copy. I wanted a glimpse into how my forebearers had followed Jesus Christ.
The book presented me with a broad selection of St. Dimitri’s prayerful and poetic works, focused on Christ’s Passion and written for private devotion. The late seventeenth and early eighteenth century world of Russian spirituality opened up to me as I read.
There were surprises—some devotions are clearly influenced by Latin works of piety and theology (well explained by Fr. John in his Introduction and notes). But the biggest surprise was how far afield my mindset, as a North American in a “consumer” society, was from my ancestors! St. Dimitri’s meditations reminded me how often I neglect to remember the Cross of Christ, and the lengths I will go in my own life to assure that I will not endure suffering.
Let me share just an excerpt from the chapter titled, A Thankful Recollection of the Sufferings of Christ and Prayerful Meditation. It’s apropos, I think, for the Nativity Fast (and something to think about on Thanksgiving Day, as well):
[1.] O how sweet and how beautiful is your coming, O Son of God, come down from heaven! For while seeking the lost sheep, the man who had sinned, you undertook many innumerable labors, many travels, and after these, you went to the Passion and voluntary death, for which, my Creator and Redeemer, I send up thanksgiving to you from my whole heart!
[21.] You who accepted striking on the head and breast, accept even the bowing of my head and fervent beating of the breast, just as you once accepted the publican’s; make me mighty with your most holy right hand, so that I may thankfully bear striking, and every sorrow and temporary burden; for all things whatsoever you wish, you arrange for the good. Glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, glory to you; make me worthy of your divine glory, I pray to you.
It’s sobering to hear these words, and gratifying to know that one of our alumni (Fr. John was co-Valedictorian of the Class of 2016) has brought them to light for English-speaking readers. His new series continues the mission of SVS Press to publish and distribute quality Orthodox Christian material, both on scholarly and popular levels—and his first book accommodates both categories of readers.
Lastly, please remember: SVS Press is just one of the many ways St. Vladimir’s Seminary serves the Church, and so, I’m asking once again for you to remember our school on #GivingTuesday by giving an online gift to support its ministry. Another one of our alumni, Pradeep Hatcher, who now works for SVS Press & Bookstore, lauds its publications and also talks about his formative seminary experience in this video. Please view the video, and please give2svots on Tuesday, November 28.