I have been reading Augustine Holmes’ A Life Pleasing to God. The Spirituality of the Rules of St Basil and was struck by his comment that Saint Basil has been badly served both in recent academic research on asceticism and also, particularly, in the recent upsurge in popular interest in monasticism. He writes:

A plethora of books have been produced, most notably perhaps those by Esther de Waal, to enable non-monastics to appropriate the spiritual riches of the rule of St Benedict. A similar phenomenon attends the pithy and down-to-earth sayings of the Egyptian Desert Fathers and also, more ambiguously, the strong monastic Celtic spirituality. This is part of a general return to the sources in contemporary Christianity and is a recognition both of the normative nature of sacred tradition and of the essential unity of Christian spirituality. The inadequacy of both modern liberal Christianity and the forms of piety of recent centuries has caused many to seek authentic spiritual teaching in the monastic tradition. …

Parallel to this academic work there is no popular interest in ‘Basilian Spirituality’. This is both strange and regrettable as Basil’s teaching is scriptural, practical and avoids the ascetic extremism of the Egyptians and Syrians. It also has a strong social and community dimension which should appeal to modern concerns.(xvi-xvii)

Father Holmes, a Benedictine of Pluscarden in Scotland, does not see his own work as either “a reworked doctoral thesis nor is it ‘popular spirituality’.” However, he hopes “that it will be of use … as an introduction to the ascetic teaching of St Basil for the student and as an initiation into Basilian spirituality for the thoughtful Christian.” (xviii)