A starets ( _ru. стáрец, fem. стáреца) is an elder of a Russian Orthodox monastery who functions as venerated adviser and teacher. "Startsy" are charismatic spiritual leaders whose wisdom stems from intuition obtained from ascetic experience. It is believed that through ascetic struggle and prayer (Hesychasm), and the leading of a virtuous life, the Holy Spirit bestows special gifts onto the "starets" including the ability to heal, prophesy, and most importantly, give effective spiritual guidance and direction. "Startsy" are looked upon as being an inspiration to believers and an example of saintly virtue, steadfast faith, and spiritual peace.

"Startsy" are not appointed by any authority; they are simply recognized by the faithful as being people "of the Spirit". A "starets", when not in prayer or in voluntary seclusion, receives visitors (some who travel very far) and spends time conversing with them, offering a blessing (if the "starets" is an ordained cleric) and confession, and praying. People often petition the "starets" for intercessionary prayers, believing that the prayer of a "starets" is particularly effective.

Personal confessions to "startsy" are encouraged, although not all of them are formally ordained to priesthood. Many of them have a reputation amidst believers of being able to know the secrets of a person's heart without having ever previously met the visitor, and having the ability to discern God's plan for a person's life. This, as all of the "startsy"'s gifts, is believed to come from the Holy Spirit acting through the "starets".

Derivation, history and application

The institution may be traced to the beginnings of Christian monasticism in the 4th century. The original Greek term "geron" (meaning "elder", as in gerontology) was rendered by the Russian word "starets", from Old Church Slavonic "starĭtsĭ", "elder", derived from "starŭ", "old". Sergius of Radonezh and Nil Sorsky were two most venerated "startsy" of Old Muscovy. The revival of staretsdom is associated with the name of Paisius Velichkovsky (1722-94), who produced the Russian translation of the "Philokalia". The most famous "starets" of the early 19th century was Seraphim of Sarov (1759-1833), who went on to become one of the most revered Orthodox saints.

The Optina Pustyn near Kozelsk used to be celebrated for its "startsy" (Schema-Archimandrite Moses, Schema-Hegumen Anthony, Hieroschemamonk Leonid, Hieroschemamonk Macarius, Hieroschemamonk Hilarion, Hieroschemamonk Ambrose, Hieroschemamonk Anatole (Zertsalov)). [ [ Optina Elders, Pravmir] ] [ [ Optina Elders in Orthodox World] ] Such writers as Nikolay Gogol, Aleksey Khomyakov, Leo Tolstoy and Konstantin Leontyev sought advice from the elders of this monastery. They also inspired the figure of Zosima in Dostoyevsky's novel "The Brothers Karamazov". Grigori Rasputin was styled "starets" by his followers, although he was not generally recognised as one. A more modern example of a "starets" is Archimandrite John Krestiankin (1910-2006) of the Pskov Monastery of the Caves who was popularly recognized as such by many Orthodox living in Russia.

The concept of the "starets" may be familiar to many Western readers through J. D. Salinger's "Franny and Zooey". In the novel, one of the characters refers to the 19th century anonymous Russian work, "The Way of a Pilgrim". The title character of "The Way of a Pilgrim" (ostensibly, the author) is advised in the progress of his spiritual life by a "starets", who uses the Jesus Prayer as a starting point forspiritual discipline.

Other meanings

In Bulgarian and several other southern Slavic languages the word translates literally to "old man". A word with a meaning closer to the translation in Russian would be "stareishina" ( _bg. старейшина).

ee also

*Desert Fathers
*Spiritual warfare
*Spiritual direction


External links

* [ What is an Elder]

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • starets — [stär′yəts] n. pl. startsy [stärt′sē] Eastern Orthodox Ch. a spiritual advisor …   English World dictionary

  • Stárets — San Sergio de Rádonezh fue probablemente el primer stárets ruso. Un stárets (vocablo ruso стáрец [stárets], pl стáрцы [stártsy], f стáрица [stáritsa]) es una persona de que desempeña su función como consejero y maestro en monasterios ortodoxos.… …   Wikipedia Español

  • starets — /stahr its, yits/, n., pl. startsy /stahrt see/. Russ. Orth. Ch. a religious teacher or counselor. [1915 20; < Russ stárets elder, deriv. of stáryi old] * * * ▪ Eastern Orthodox religion       (Slavic translation of Greek gerōn, “elder”), plural… …   Universalium

  • starets — sta•rets [[t]ˈstɑr ɪts, yɪts[/t]] n. pl. star•tsy [[t]ˈstɑrt si[/t]] rel a religious teacher or counselor in the Eastern Church, esp. the Russian Orthodox Church • Etymology: 1915–20; < Russ stárets elder, der. of stáryǐ old …   From formal English to slang

  • starets — noun (plural startsy) Etymology: Russian, from staryĭ old more at stour Date: 1917 a spiritual director or religious teacher in the Eastern Orthodox Church; specifically a spiritual adviser who is not necessarily a priest, who is recognized for… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • starets — Synonyms and related words: Methuselah, abecedarian, angel, antediluvian, antique, authority, back number, boss, bwana, certified teacher, chef, chief, church dignitary, conservative, dad, docent, doctor, dodo, dominie, don, ecclesiarch,… …   Moby Thesaurus

  • starets — Eastern Orthodox spiritual advisor Ecclesiastical Terms …   Phrontistery dictionary

  • starets — sta·rets …   English syllables

  • starets — noun a religious adviser (not necessarily a priest) in the Eastern Orthodox Church • Hypernyms: ↑adviser, ↑advisor, ↑consultant • Instance Hyponyms: ↑Rasputin, ↑Grigori Efimovich Rasputin …   Useful english dictionary

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