A book that I have been reading, here and there, is one I received from Holy Trinity Publications (here) in the Russian Monastery in Jordanville. It’s entitled “Light Invisible: Satisfying the Thirst for Happiness” by M. V. Lodyzheskii. This post can’t – and shouldn’t! – be treated as a book review since firstly, I haven’t finished reading the book and secondly, as I stated, I’ve been reading it here and here, picking up other things and then going back to it.
Needless to say the book truly deserves one’s full attention. The subject of the book is divine mysticism as it is experienced in the East compared to the West. St. Seraphim of Sarov (whose feast day is today, by the way) is used as the Eastern example and Francis of Assisi is used t0 exemplify the West. As I said, this post is in no way a full review of the author’s work but I did want to share one point, one difference the author notes (and there are many throughout the book) between the two saints.
He writes about how St. Seraphim, in his spiritual struggle, stood on a rock for a thousand days crying out, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” An example is given of how Francis of Assisi repented of his sins. Namely, it happened that he, for whatever reason, abandoned the strict rule of fasting and therefore considered himself in need of purification:
“[Francis] ordered that people be gathered on the street in Assisi for a sermon. Finishing the sermon, he told the people not to disperse until he returned, then went himself into the cathedral with many of the brethren and Peter de Catani and told Peter under a vow of obedience and without contradiction to fulfill what he would tell him. The other answered that he neither could nor should desire or do anything against his will, neither with him nor with himself. Then Francis took off his tunic and ordered Peter to tie a rope around his neck and pull him half-naked into public to the same place where he had been preaching. Francis ordered another brother to fill a cup with ashes and , ascending the elevated place from which he preached, poured these ashes on his head. The brother, however, did not obey him because in his compassion and devotion to Francis he was too grieved by this order. So Brother Peter, taking the rope in his hands, dragged Francis behind him as he had ordered. Meanwhile, he himself wept bitterly and the other brothers shed tears of pity and sorrow. While Francis was thus being dragged half-naked before the people to the place where he had been preaching, he said, ‘You and all those who by my example abandoned the world and lead the life of brotherhood consider me a holy man, but before the Lord and before you I repent that during my illness I ate meat and meat broth.”
A bit extreme to say the least. I hope to be able to post more from the book. It’s a very interesting study.