In 2023, 45 years have passed since the publication of the first and widely translated book by the Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agios Vlasios, titled, A night in the desert of the Holy Mountain.
This book, in which the hesychastic tradition of Mount Athos is presented, has been widely distributed throughout the world and circulates in numerous translations. On the occasion of this event, and also, to mark the Metropolitan’s continuous writing activity and mostly the translations into various languages of many of his books, the Birth of the Theotokos Monastery (Pelagia), which publishes his books, presents the following text, which focuses on the translation work of the author’s books.
Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos:
The most influential and widely translated author in the field of Orthodox theology
Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agios Vlassios, honorary Doctor of the Department of Social Theology of the Theological School of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, and of the Department of Medicine of the School of Health Sciences of the University of Ioannina, has a multi-dimensional activity: pastoral, social, teaching, research work as well as writing. Particularly important is his writing work, both in terms of its volume and its dissemination in Europe, Africa, America and Asia through a large number of translations.
The writing activity of Metropolitan Hierotheos began in 1978, when as a young archimandrite he wrote the book A night in the Desert of the Holy Mountain, in which he highlights in a vivid and experiential way, the hesychast tradition of Mount Athos, and introduces it to the wider realm of the faithful of the Church. Since then, the book has gone through 24 editions and, starting with its English translation in 1991, it has been translated into 22 languages: into all the European and Balkan languages, and into even some impressive ones, such as Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Swahili, Indonesian, and Urdu. The spread of this particular book to all continents by means of translations created a horizon of expectations for Orthodox theology throughout the world.
Moreover, this book was the starting-point for the author to write a series of works by which he penetrated into and analysed further hesychasm, with an emphasis on the tradition of the Holy Mountain, and drew attention to holy, hesychastic figures. Indicatively, the following books could be mentioned: St Gregory Palamas as a Hagiorite (1992) and Orthodox Monasticism (2002), each translated into 3 languages, as well as “I Know a Man in Christ”, Elder Sophrony the Hesychast and Theologian (2007), translated into 4 languages. Significantly, one of the languages into which these books were translated is English, and this ensures their accessibility to an immeasurably wide readership.
The next iconic period of Metropolitan Hierotheos’s writing activity was inaugurated with his book Orthodox Psychotherapy in 1986, which has been through 12 editions.
In this work, the author updates, by means of the key word psychotherapy, the neptic tradition of the Church Fathers, and succeeds in presenting it as a concrete therapeutic model for the human soul. The book has had a great impact in the Western world, most of all, perhaps, in America, where to this day it competes with secular psychotherapy, and it has been translated into 10 languages, including Chinese, Russian and Arabic. Through this book the heart and core of Orthodox theology, in dialogue with modern psychotherapy and psychiatry, reaches a huge audience, often not only Orthodox. Equally popular are the books that followed on from Orthodox Psychotherapy: The Illness and Cure of the Soul, 1987, and The Science of Spiritual Medicine, 2007, which have been translated into 7 and 4 languages respectively, including, apart from the main European languages, Arabic, Russian, and Hungarian.
Metropolitan Hierotheos’s continuous writing activity until today develops a fruitful dialogue between the teaching of the Fathers and the ancient and modern philosophical systems (The Person in the Orthodox Tradition 1991, given an award by the Academy of Athens) ; between theology and bioethics (Bioethics and Biotheology 2005) ; it enriches dogmatic studies with solid dogmatic works (Feasts of the Lord, 1995, Feasts of the Mother of God, 2016, Empirical Dogmatics volumes 1 and 2, 2010); it examines the relationship between history and the Church (Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Church of Greece, 2002); and it is concerned about contemporary social issues. As a result, his works as a whole form an unprecedented voluminous corpus of 120 books. Their wide-ranging subject matters respond to the search for self-awareness of modern Orthodox believers all over the world. This is evident, for example, in the book Orthodox Spirituality, translated into 6 languages, including Russian, Estonian, Slovak and Hungarian, as well as in Life after Death, 1994, translated into 6 languages, including Russian and Arabic, and also in the book, Feasts of the Lord, translated into English, Russian, Arabic, and Romanian.
In all, 33 titles from the total number of the author’s books have been translated into 27 languages, with the result that 100 translated books are in circulation on literally all continents. Nowadays, Metropolitan Hierotheos is a reference point on an international level regarding Orthodox theology, and it would not be an exaggeration to use the word ‘phenomenon’, not only for his writing activity, but especially for the translation work by means of which pure Orthodox theology is disseminated throughout the world.
If all this writing output of original and translated works undoubtedly makes the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos the most influential and most translated theologian-writer in the field of modern Orthodox theology in Greece, it also places him among the top four most translated Greek writers overall.
Efthymia Mavromichali, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens