Modern Orthodox Saints

Dr Constantine Cavarnos, head of the Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studes in Belmont, Massachusetts, has for a number of years been a writer of discernment on matters Orthodox, with a special emphasis on traditional expressions of Orthodoxy in Greek culture. His books are numerous (see those listed on the IBMGS site), and all the ones I’ve read have always been as informative as they are edifying. It’s a rare talent to accomplish the two regularly, but Dr Cavarnos succeeds entirely.

His series on Modern Orthodox Saints is a case in point. The series is up to 15 volumes now (short descriptions here). The first of these that I ever picked up was volume six, on Saint Arsenios of Paros (whom I’ve mentioned here before). I’ve appreciated the quality of both the writing and the books ever since. On the quality of the books, it is perhaps sufficient to note that the paper is a thick, smooth, and creamy, obviously acid-free, with sewn bindings in both hardcover and softcover. The softcovers have particularly sturdy cardstock for covers, thicker than is usual. The quality of the book production is suitable to its subject, honoring these saints with a quality setting for these modern lives. On the writing, it is a pleasure to say that Dr Cavarnos is a believer as well as an academic. The books are well-organized and full of information, but they are not merely academic treatises on the sources and lives of the saints. They are modern hagiographies. As these saints are all relatively recently reposed, some indeed very recently, there are numerous sources available to give satisfactory detail to their lives, including photographs of the saints and their surroundings, where available. Several of the saints were even interviewed by Dr Cavarnos during the struggles of their waking lives among us, and so we benefit from his sharing this primary source material. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Here is the list of volumes:
1: St. Cosmas Aitolos
2: St. Macarios of Corinth
3: St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite
4: St. Nikephoros of Chios
5: St. Seraphim of Sarov
6: St. Arsenios of Paros
7: St. Nectarios of Aegina
8: St. Savvas the New
9: St. Methodia of Kimolos
10: Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene of Lesvos
11: Blessed Elder Philotheos Zervakos
12: Blessed Hermit Philaretos of the Holy Mountain
13: Blessed Elder Gabriel Dionysiatis
14: Blessed Elder Iakovos of Epiros, Elder Joseph the
        Hesychast, and Mother Stavritsa the Missionary
15: Saint Athanasios Parios

The Modern Orthodox Saints volumes are all available from the Institute itself, though without an online ordering system. One may also find the volumes at Saint Nectarios Press and Eastern Christian Supply, both of which have online ordering, and both of which I highly recommend, as I’ve only had good experiences with both.

I thoroughly enjoy reading the lives of the saints. I recommend stocking up on them. Saint Nectarios Press has an unsurpassed collection of Lives of Groups of Saints and Lives of Individual Saints offered, some of them very inexpensive indeed.

It is certainly worth noting that a consistent feature of saints is that they enjoyed reading the lives of the saints! Archimadrite Nektarios Serfes has written a fine article on the value of reading the lives of the saints. Whatever lives of the saints you have at hand, make use of them, particularly during the Great Fast of Lent. Fast from worldly novels and distractions, and feast your eyes and minds instead on the lives of the Saints approved by God.

14 Replies to “Modern Orthodox Saints”

  1. Excellent post, Kevin. If I had my own blog I would have posted something about this series myself. I’ve found the series to be uniformly excellent- especially the (first) volume on Saint Cosmas and the tenth on Sts. Raphael, Nicholas & Irene- particularly essential for its portrayal of a modern instance of deceased and otherwise unknown (martyred) Saints revealing themselves in the here & now- the story is amazing, and it is reported ‘live’ by Cavarnos, who is truly blessed to have been involved in this discovery. Everyone will have their own favorites, of course. I will also have to second your estimation of both St. Nectarios Press and Eastern Christian Supply- both eminently trustworthy, and recommended to all. I’ve been using them for years, and have yet to find cause for complaint; on the contrary: both businesses have exceeded my expectations for what a good bookstore service can be! Sorry for using your comment section for advertising- but I just had to second the above. Good books and good booksellers are rare enough. Blessed Lent!

  2. We completely agree! I am happy to hear of another sharing such fine opinions of the books and bookstores. I’ve been using Saint Nectarios Press for years, but have only just happily discovered Eastern Christian Supply.

    My only regret: I need to buy more bookshelves!

    Blessed Lent to you too! Feast in the Spirit as you fast in the flesh!

  3. Hey, neat post! I too am a huge fan of these books. I’ve occasionally ordered IBMGS books directly from them, and spoken to Dr Cavarnos on the phone. Once I received a book that was missing a section, and I called to inform them. Dr Cavarnos answered and when I told him about the problem, he sounded like he was actually heart-broken. His voice kind of wavered, and he asked, obviously dismayed, ‘A whole section, you say?’ I thought he was going to cry. I tried to say that it wasn’t that big of a deal, and he said, ‘But we’ve never had this problem before! It must be an error at the bindery, I just can’t believe it!’ I asked if I should send him the defective book, and he said no, just to keep it, and he would immediately find another, check it himself for the missing section, and send it free of charge. I love the guy!

  4. Aaron, that is not surprising at all. Dr Cavarnos’ writing shows a caring soul lies behind it. I’ve also just gotten his books (not part of this series) on St Mark of Ephesos, St Photios the Great, Byzantine Sacred Art, Meetings with Kontoglou, and Fine Arts and Tradition. There there is also Fr Gerostergios’ book on St Photios the Great, too. All of those are from the Institute.

    And I am completely absorbed (thanks, Symeon!) with reading the volume on Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene of Lesvos. I started last night, and time flew by, so that I was up much too late. It was well worth it, though.

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