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Father Arseny 1893-1973: Priest, Prisoner, Spiritual Father (by Alexander Boutenoff)


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#1 Anna Stickles

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Posted 03 January 2009 - 12:30 AM

Title: Father Arseny 1893-1973: Priest, Prisoner, Spiritual Father
Author(s): by Alexander and Vera Bouteneff
Publisher: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY
ISBN: 0881411809, or 9780881411805
Pages: 279
Price: $18.00
Links: Amazon.com, Archangels Books, St. Vladimirs
Description: It is one of the great mysteries of life that in atmospheres of the harshest cruelty, a certain few not only survive but emerge as beacons of light and life. Father Arseny, former scholar of church art, became Prisoner No. 18736 in the brutal "special sector" of the Soviet prison camp system. In the darkness of systematic degradation of body and soul, he shone with the light of Christ's peace and compassion. His sights set on God and his life grounded in the Church, Father Arseny lived by injunction to "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2).

This narrative, compiled from accounts of Father Arseny's spiritual children and others whom he brought to God, gives stirring glimpses of his life in prison camp and after his release. It also tells the stories of people whose lives, often during times of almost unimaginable crisis, were touched and transfigured through their connection with Father Arseny.

Emerging from the context of the particular tragedies of Soviet Russia, this book carries a universal impact certain to be felt by readers in the West today.
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#2 Anna Stickles

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Posted 03 January 2009 - 12:46 AM

This is a series of first hand recollections of interactions with the priest Fr. Arseny who lived for 12 years in a Soviet special camp and then continued his ministry of spiritual direction for another number of years after he got out. The style is unassuming and simple, almost understated and yet contained in these simple, bare bones accounts is the depth of the riches of true Christian wisdom and virtue birthed out of a heart of faith, humility and love. This simplicity makes the book very engaging and the fact that it is broken up into short vignettes makes it great for a family read aloud. It is one of those books that the more one learns what true Christian virtue consists of, the more one sees it exemplified here.

"For the person who desires [Christ's perfect] love and looks to the promise above does not stand elated by things that have been set right by fasting or by keeping vigil or by zealously pursuing any of the other virtues. Being full of divine longing and looking anxiously toward the one who is calling, he considers all that he suffers in attaining Him small and unworthy of the prize. He struggles valiently to the end of his life, matching toil with toil and virtue with virtue, until he establishes himself as an honor to God because of his deeds, not thinking for a minute that he mas made himself worthy of God. This is the greatest achievement of philosophy, that it subordinates excellence in deeds to excellence of heart...

When the love of God is present among you, the other virtues will necessarily follow along with it: love of one's brother, gentleness, honesty, sufficiency, earnestness in prayer, and simplicity in virtue." On the Christian Mode of Life, St Gregory of Nyssa, Ascetical Works


In the grand scheme of what is usuall written in history books, Fr Arseny did little indeed. He did not overthrow Stalin, nor do any particular thing that helped break Soviet power, nor free anyone from the camp. Rather he freed souls. This is the type of victory that only God sees, but it is a victory that has eternal consequences. He had excellence of heart and leaves for us an example of what it means to love one another with the love of Christ and be a true Christian. Out of all the Lives I have read so far this is probably my favorite.

#3 Vasiliki D.

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 11:39 PM

I love this book .. there is something mystical about this story that sinks into the hearts of anyone and everyone I know who has read this story (or biography). This book made me cry ... the humility of this priest is so overwhelming and so beautiful and the story of the people is so real how can someone not feel God working through the story ... this is of one of my three favourite books and I highly recommend it for any level.

#4 Michael 'Anthony' Cornett

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Posted 28 December 2010 - 10:03 PM

For clarification sake, the author/compiler is a man named Alexander, with no known surname. Vera Bouteneff translated it from Russian to English. She is also known as the mother of Dr. Peter Bouteneff of St. Vladimir's Seminary. As Dr. Peter mentions in an Ancient Faith Radio podcast, the original Russian compilation was published as 1 book, but in translating to English, the publisher has separated them into 2. The other title is A Cloud of Witnesses.

#5 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 04 April 2011 - 01:45 PM

Recently I was given the fifth edition in Russian of the book- Father Arseny (Orthodox Theological Institute of St Tikhon 2003). In it is found the Foreword which had already appeared in the fourth edition. I present it here in translation because even in Russia there has been great uncertainty over whether Fr Arseny actually existed. Whether he was more a collection of the experiences of different Christians in Russia during the years of persecution. So much more here then has there been a question about Fr Arseny's existence. So I thought it would be a consolation to read the below.

For those who speak or are learning Russian I have bracketed certain phrases from the Russian original in order to indicate a nuance that is a challenge to express clearly in English.

Forward to the Fourth Edition


Seven years passed after the first edition of the book “Father Arseny”.. During this time it was reprinted many times in the Russian language, three times in Greek, twice in English, and it was also prepared in other languages. Its beneficial effect on the souls of our contemporaries has been enormous, and thanks to this book many found their way to the Christian faith.

But there were skeptics, who declared even in print that the book was a novel, the protagonist compiled out of many characters (собирательным образом), and the stories of which the book was composed- fiction. This doubt, which was allowed by the providence of God, prompted someone who personally knew Fr Arseny - Vladimir Vladimirovich Bikov- to write his memoirs, and place them in the present book as an Afterword.

During the last years of his life Fr Arseny continually blessed his spiritual children to write the accounts of those who came to him and their own memoirs recounting how God had helped them to find faith and to go along the path of life. The Elder was confident that in time these written accounts would help other people to find God, and expressed his wish for a future book to be called: ‘The Path to Faith’.

With such a title was published the fourth part of the third edition of the book that was released in 1998. The material of the fourth part was compiled and given to the Orthodox Theological Institute of St Tikhon by V. Bikov. But Vladmir also made known that there were still other accounts which the authors or their descendents had not yet submitted for publication. In response to our fervent requests Vladimir once again began to persistently encourage those who had very valuable accounts of the Elder to pass these along for a new edition of the book.

It was in this way that the fifth part of the book appeared which we named: 'Love Your Neighbour’. This contained 16 previously unknown accounts about Fr Arseny by his spiritual children, of those who lived with him in the prison camps, and his own accounts. In these are found many new details about the life of Fr Arseny, and there appear the genuine names of those people who were close to him: A. F. Baturina, A. F. Berg, Yuri & Kira Bakhmat, and others. These first published texts tell us of the trips of Fr Arseny to Bishop Afanasy (Sakharov) and of his connection to Protopriest Sergei Orlov (in secret monasticism- Hieromonk Seraphim), with Protopriest Alexander Tolgsky, and with Protopriest Vsevolod Shiller. It turns out that there were a whole range of people, all well known to us, and now already reposed, who were close acquaintances of Fr Arseny and who secretly communicated with him- D. N. Melikhov, T. N. Kameneva, L. A. Diligenskaya, and others.

Such skillful and strict secrecy (конспирация) should not surprise us. In the new accounts it is told how the spiritual community (духовная община) of Fr Arseny lived during the years of persecution and of how during the last period of his life in Rostov the Great it strove to protect his secrecy

This secrecy has not yet even now been completely lifted. We do not know the actual name of Fr Arseny in the world, nor have we discovered the name of the church where he served in Moscow. But we thank God for the grace filled gift which was devoted to the great pastoral labour/podvig of the remarkable elder and wondrous wonderworker, who was so close to us in time.

#6 Johannes Martin

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 12:47 AM

we could make a wondeful movie out of this book...

#7 Arsenios

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Posted 23 December 2014 - 04:25 PM

Father Arsenii was the second Orthodox book I ever read, and my response to it caused the Priest who baptized me to name me after Arsenius the Great...  That was some 12-13 years ago, and we recently began reading it aloud in our weekly parish book-read gatherings, where Father reads aloud from good Orthodox books... And I must say, I had forgotten how good it is...  Almost better the second time through...  And yes, I wept again as he read the stories, and I could see even deeper into them as time in this Faith afforded the Grace to do so...

 

The veil of secrecy surrounding his worldly and familial identity is not hard to understand - Solzhenytsin carefully crafted such caution wherever he went, and even here when he was in the US... 

 

(For those who might be interested, the first book I read was The Way of a Pilgrim, and the third, vol. 2 of The Philokalia...

 

All three were pivotal in my conversion...)

 

Arsenios



#8 Salaam Yitbarek

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Posted 24 December 2014 - 08:31 PM

Father Raphael,

 

I can't believe I missed your post of four years ago!! I've always been looking for further books on Father Arseny, apart from the two translated into English. Do you know if any of the other three have been translated?

 

Thanks.



#9 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 27 December 2014 - 05:05 PM

Dear Salaam,

No- I don't think that any other of these books have been translated into English.



#10 Salaam Yitbarek

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Posted 29 December 2014 - 07:01 PM

Thank you, Father.

 

Perhaps then you might know where I can find the Russian versions.



#11 Dusja

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Posted 14 April 2015 - 12:23 PM

Christ is Risen!

 

Dear Salaam, I just noticed your post. You'll find the book Otets Arseny at www.idrp.ru. Отец Арсений. В пяти частях.

 

 The book contains 864 pages and consists of five parts, if I remember correctly, they include the Cloud of Witnesses etc. It is frequently reprinted, so if they suddenly have sold it out (I checked the website today and it was still available), you can request them to inform you when it'll be available next time. The bookshop is very reliable and you can pay through Visa (at least recently I still could do it).

 

But due to the sanctions against Russia, you might find it a bit difficult to get the book (someone said that Mastercard cannot be used any more, I don't know about Visa right now). 

 

I used to order books freely from Moscow to the nearest post office in Finland, but last autumn the Finnish customs office became interested and started requiring a customs fee to be paid, so I started ordering books to my friend's address in St. Petersburg and other friends bring them across the border to Finland :) . The price of the book is 320 rubles, but the postal fee probably doubles it (right now the exchange course is 51 rubles per USD).



#12 Ben Johnson

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Posted 18 April 2015 - 04:20 PM

Inspirational book.



#13 Salaam Yitbarek

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Posted 09 July 2015 - 12:52 PM

Christ is Risen!

 

Dear Salaam, I just noticed your post. You'll find the book Otets Arseny at www.idrp.ru. Отец Арсений. В пяти частях.

 

 The book contains 864 pages and consists of five parts, if I remember correctly, they include the Cloud of Witnesses etc. It is frequently reprinted, so if they suddenly have sold it out (I checked the website today and it was still available), you can request them to inform you when it'll be available next time. The bookshop is very reliable and you can pay through Visa (at least recently I still could do it).

 

But due to the sanctions against Russia, you might find it a bit difficult to get the book (someone said that Mastercard cannot be used any more, I don't know about Visa right now). 

 

I used to order books freely from Moscow to the nearest post office in Finland, but last autumn the Finnish customs office became interested and started requiring a customs fee to be paid, so I started ordering books to my friend's address in St. Petersburg and other friends bring them across the border to Finland :) . The price of the book is 320 rubles, but the postal fee probably doubles it (right now the exchange course is 51 rubles per USD).

Thanks very much, Dusja. I will try and order from them. And then try to get it translated!






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