feature of this gentle spirituality traditionally attributed to Nil but vocalised rather by his followers, mercy towards heretics, distinguished him sharply from Iosif, who was an enthusiastic persecutor of the Judaisers. Nil was, however, equally keen to preserve the true faith, and the Predanie begins with a declaration of his orthodoxy and loyalty to the Orthodox Church. Nil is careful to cite the Fathers to support his declarations, and none of his spiritual writing can be deemed original. In brief, he advocated a flexible system of poverty, physical labour, abstinence (according to one's age and strength) and perpetual interior prayer.62 A more unusual trait was his belief that not all religious texts are of equal worth; that one should read critically, and that erroneous texts should be corrected.
IosifwasbornnearthetownofVolokolamskinto a devoutly religious family: one grandfather and both parents took monastic orders, as did two cousins and two brothers, one of whom became archimandrite of the Simonov monastery and archbishop of Rostov. Tonsured in the monastery of Pafnutii of Borovsk, he founded his own strictly cenobitic monastery near his birthplace. Donations from nobles and clerics such as Archbishop Gennadii of Novgorod (1484-1504) ensured that the monastery prospered materially. While Iosif is notorious for his political machinations, enthusiastic pursuit of heretics and support for monastic landownership, his ambitious programme of philanthropy included famine relief and the creation of services such as hospitals and orphanages - a programme which was followed by many of the large monasteries. Iosif was not amassing wealth for wealth's sake.
The most famous monastic dispute between those who aligned themselves with Nil Sorskii (and who came to be known as the Non-Possessors or TransVolga Elders) and those who fell into Iosif s camp was over church landholdings. This division was provoked by the activities of Ivan III, who was increasingly attracted by the large landholdings of monasteries and bishoprics. He was encouraged in this by the recently conquered Novgorodian nobility (subjugated by Ivan III in 1471), who urged him to take the lands of the church rather than their estates.63 Iosif argued that monasteries could and should own lands and villages, using surplus wealth created for charitable ends; Nil argued that monks should live by the labour of their own hands and that wealth in a monastery was a temptation. Both positions had precedents.64
62 Nil Sorsky: the complete writings, ed. and trans. G. A. Maloney (New York: Paulist Press, 2003), 40.
63 Skrynnikov, 'Ecclesiastical thought', 34.
64 S. Hackel, 'Late medieval Russia: the possessors and non-possessors', in Christian spirituality: high middle ages and Reformation, ed. J. Raitt (London: SCM Press, 1989), 223-35.
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