Literature Of The Eastern Tradition

In the Christian East the same period saw the flourishing of literature that dealt with progress in the spiritual life. Among the most important writers of the period were Saint John Climacus (525-606), whose Ladder of Divine Ascent is considered a classic of Orthodox spirituality, and Saint

The Canterbury Tales

One of the most celebrated classics of early English literature, Geoffrey Chaucer's (ca. 1340-1400) Canterbury Tales came out of the medieval tradition of pilgrimages, journeys made by people of diverse backgrounds to sacred places. Chaucer's tales relate the adventures of a group of pilgrims on their way to the shrine in Canterbury of the murdered archbishop Thomas à Becket.


In Orthodox Christendom the 18th century saw the publication of the monumental Philokalia, an anthology of spiritual literature derived from authors who lived from the fourth to the 15th century. This classic work quickly became a handbook of Orthodox Christian spirituality for both monks and ordinary Christians. It was compiled by Saint Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain (1748-1809) and published in Venice in 1782.

Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022), whose experiences of God as "divine fire" are based on the scene ofJesus's transfiguration before his disciples in the Gospel accounts.

In the 19th century the Orthodox Christian culture of Russia gave rise to some of the most monumental classics of modern literature. Great Russian authors such as Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-81) and Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) were preoccupied with religious questions. Their major works deal directly with religious themes and treat them in a way that is explicitly Christian.

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