Russian monastic founder and spiritual writer; b. Poltava, in the Ukraine, Dec. 2, 1722; d. Sekoul, Moldavia, 1794. He was attracted to the asceticism of the desert Fathers, and after attending the ecclesiastical academy of Kiev, tried monastic life at Lubetch near the Polish border, in the monastery of St. Nicholas in Moldavia, in the Pecherskaia Lavra of Kiev, and in the skete of St. Nicholas in Treisteny, Valachia. At 24 in 1746 he found his vocation as a hermit on Mt. athos. His austerity attracted other Russian and Rumanian monks, and soon his monastery of St. Elias had grown so large that he was forced to transfer it to Moldavia. At Bukovin, near Dragomira, he organized a monastery along the lines of the Mt. Athos cenobitic rule of St. Basil and St. theodore the Studite. His community expanded into two monasteries, one at Sekoul with 300 monks, the other at Niametz with 700. For occupation he encouraged translators, copyists, and correctors to produce revisions and translations of the Greek and Latin Fathers. He translated the Philocalia of Macarius of Corinth and nicodemus the Hagiorite into Slavonic (1793) and called it Dobrotoliubie, i.e., love of the good. These hesychastic writings, dealing mostly with the jesus prayer, formed a type of inward piety guided by spiritual devotion and provided, along with Holy Scripture, the spiritual food for monks and laity in Russia and other Slavic countries for two centuries. Through his writings and formation of disciples who became spiritual guides and monastic superiors in Russia and Rumania, Paissy Velitchkovsky started a spiritual revival that continued until the Russian Revolution in 1917 and that is still influential among the Startsy of the Optina Pustyn' tradition. He also passed on the Oriental spirituality of the Fathers of the desert, of the hesychastic writers of Mt. Sinai, Mt. Athos and of St. Nil Sorskii (d.1508) to the Slav Christians.
Bibliography: k. onasch, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart 3 6:1252. l. mÜller, ibid. 4:1664. e. kadloubovsky and g. h. palmer, trs. and eds., Early Fathers from the Philokalia (London 1954), contains selections from the Dobrotoliubie. La Prière de Jesus (Collection Irénikon, NS 4; Chevetogne, Belg.1951). v. v. zen'kovskii, History of Russian Philosophy, tr. g. l. kline, 2 v. (New York 1953) 1:63–64. v. lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (London 1957).
[g. a. maloney]