Way Of The Ascetics by Tito Colliander | Book Review
Way of The Ascetics, by Tito Colliander, is a profound little book that should be a required reading for every Christian. Simple and clear, Colliander proffers the experience of the Orthodox Church together with the fathers about the inner life of the Christian. The book begins with an exhortation to rise to the challenge of living the Christian life, for “Faith comes not through pondering but through action” (Colliander, 1).
The “action” he is referring to is the practice of asceticism. Asceticism, far from being a practice that applies only to monks, is the practice whereby we put to death our selfish will in order to offer ourselves to Christ. And in this sense, ascetic effort constitutes the entire Christian struggle. In this book, Colliander walks the reader through practical steps that can be taken by anyone who wants to decrease so that Christ can increase. This book, composed of a mere 101 pages, is a masterpiece; his words cut straight to the heart. For instance, in only a few sentences he reveals the source of impetuous irritation:
Take a look at yourself, therefore, and see how bound you are by your desire to humour yourself and only yourself. Your freedom is curbed by the restraining bonds of self-love, and thus you wander, a captive corpse, from morning till eve. “Now I will drink,” “now I will get up,” “now I will read the paper.” Thus you are led from moment to moment in your halter of preoccupation with self, and kindled instantly to displeasure, impatience or anger if an obstacle intervenes.
Colliander highlights the fact that our will is bound up with our own selfish desires and must be trained to ascend God’s will. This is achieved through asceticism. The first step is to limit our indulgence in our selfish desires. Colliander says we can practice this by only drinking one cup of coffee when we want to drink two. Secondly, we need to subject our will to our brother. This is practiced in monasteries through obedience to a spiritual father but can be practiced with spouses, siblings, and parents. Finally, once we become sensitive the will of our brother, we will begin to be sensitive to the will of God. This book is a must read and a must re-read. It highlights the importance of struggle against the sinful passions and gives practical ways to train for the fight. It’s only 101 pages. You won’t be sorry.