THE ELDERS of Optina Monastery have had a tremendous impact on Russian society, evoking a nationwide blossoming of sanctity. During the course of a century, their prophecy and God-illumined counsel attracted spiritual seekers from far and wide. Elder Barsanuphius (1845-1913), a man gifted with great intelligence and compassion, came to monasticism only at the age of forty-five, after having served his homeland as a colonel in the army. During a near-fatal illness the grace of God touched him and, in the words of Elder Nektary, "From a brilliant soldier, in one night, by the will of God he became a great Elder." He made his way to Optina and met with Elder Ambrose, who, foreseeing his future greatness, blessed him to enter the Skete of Optina, where he became the disciple of Elder Anatole (Zertsalov). Due to his many talents and natural leadership, he was eventually made Superior of the Skete, and was a true father to the monks entrusted to his care. Especially touching was the paternal relationship he had with his diciple Nicholas, the future Elder and confessor Nikon. Like the other Elders, Fr. Barsanuphius was also a grace-filled guide for the enormous number of pilgrims who hastened to Optina for spiritual nourishment from every corner of Russia. He was clarivoyant to a remarkable degree, and was thus able to reveal the hidden and forgotten sins of those who came to him, enabling them to purify their consciences. This volume, comprising the largest collection of material on Elder Barsanuphius in any language, is one of the most fascinating studies ever printed on the inner makeup of a great Elder. Much of the information contained in this book comes from his own lips, in an engaging manner that draws us close to him, as to our own father.