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Spiritual Diary

Spiritual Diary

By Sergius Bulgakov

Translated by Mark Roosien and Roberto J. De La Noval

238 pp

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About the Book

Who was Fr. Sergius Bulgakov, the pastor who stands behind the epochal theology of Eastern Orthodox sophiology? What better place to look than his own Spiritual Diary, which opens to us the mind and heart of this prolific and original theologian of the twentieth century? This volume, the first of his diaries to be published in English, depicts in illuminating detail Bulgakov’s daily life as a priest ministering in exile, the exultations and desolations of his personal prayer life, and his confoundment and pain towards the fate of his homeland ruled by the aggressively atheist Soviet state. In these personal reflections we discover the pastoral matrix from which arose such distinctive features of Bulgakov’s mature theology as his theology of Sophia, the Divine Wisdom, as God’s mystical presence in creation. Beyond this, however, at its core the Diary is a work of spiritual edification and meditation meant to draw the reader into contemplation. Together with biographical and theological introductions provided by the translators, this volume will serve scholars of Bulgakov and Orthodox theology as well as Christians of all traditions who wish to unite their theology with prayer.


“Bulgakov’s Spiritual Diary is a uniquely precious document. Here we glimpse, not events, but, traced on his soul in prayer, his inner life of exile, unworthiness, overarching providence, and constant recourse to the Mother of God—all disclosing the ‘sophianic’ as inner truth. A superb translation, greatly enhanced by the translators’ introductions and notes.”


author of Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology

“We owe these two translators our thanks for bringing this remarkable document into English. Bulgakov’s metaphysical genius is beyond question, the profundity, rigor, and comprehensiveness of his thought unparalleled in modern theology; but here is something more. In these pages, one is granted entry into his private devotions, meditations, and prayers, and one discovers that the source of his majestic intellectual achievement was a fervent (and mystical) inner spiritual life. The genius is still on full display, but in a new and especially affecting register.”


author of Kenogaia (A Gnostic Tale)

“This translation of Sergius Bulgakov’s Spiritual Diary is a precious gift to Christians of all traditions, especially to those who have already discovered him as one of the preeminent theologians of the 20th century. Written in 1924–1925, it reveals Bulgakov’s intimate conversations with God at the crucial stage in life when he found and followed his calling to be a loving pastor with personal ‘colorful’ relationships, and not some ‘self-appointed prophet.’ At the same time, his ‘prophetic thirst for Truth’ engendered real dialogue between Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Churches. This emphatic translation of the Spiritual Diary, together with the insightful memoirs of his spiritual daughter Sr. Joanna Reitlinger and the brilliant biographical and theological introductions, dispels any misattribution to Bulgakov of philosophizing theorization or neglect of the gravity of sin. If Bulgakov is right that holiness does not mean sinlessness, but rather fulfilling one’s calling by resisting the great sin of despair in the face of evil and one’s own sinfulness, his Spiritual Diary is itself an outstanding example of just such ‘holiness at work.’”


University of Fribourg

“A particularly lustrous offering to our present golden age of Bulgakov studies comes in the spiritual diaries of Bulgakov himself, newly available in English. Bulgakov is revealed for the reader in his ministrations to the dying, his ecstatic thoughts on and experiences with prayer, his self-doubt, his devotion to the Mother of God, and his intimacy with the liturgy. The result is a fuller, richer understanding of Bulgakov than his scholarly works alone can afford, but which complements and illumines that work. Translators Roosien and De La Noval offer a beautiful portrait of Bulgakov as a man whose creative intellect was, in his own words, one with his ‘enflamed heart.’”


Western Washington University


“This spiritual diary offers a truly personal insight into the reflections of one of the profoundest theologians of the twentieth century. It unveils the inner dimensions of Bulgakov’s spiritual life, enabling us to appreciate ever more the depths of his theological vision. Consider it a necessary companion to any study of Bulgakov.”


University of Aberdeen

“Sergius Bulgakov’s Spiritual Diary is at once demanding and generous, learned and plainspoken, stricken and full of real hope. It will provide both provocation and consolation to those trying to understand what it might mean, in this modern world, to live a life in Christ. The editors have done a great service in making this book available to an English-speaking audience.”


Yale Divinity School 

About the Author

FR. SERGIUS BULGAKOV (1871–1944), a luminary of twentieth-century theology, was a Russian Orthodox priest, public intellectual, and ecumenist, whose works continue to impact Christians of diverse traditions.

About the Translators

ROBERTO J. DE LA NOVAL is assistant professor of theology at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, MD. A systematic theologian and scholar of Russian religious thought, his publications include Sergius Bulgakov, The Sophiology of Death (Cascade Books, 2021) as well as other translations and essays in academic and popular journals.


REV. DR. MARK ROOSIEN is lecturer in liturgical studies at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and Yale Divinity School and is an ordained deacon in the Orthodox Church in America. He has also translated Sergius Bulgakov, The Eucharistic Sacrifice (University of Notre Dame Press, 2021).

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