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18th-century portrait of St Paisius of Neamt.

Saint Paisius Velichkovsky or Wieliczkowski (Paisie de la Neamţ in Romanian; Паисий Величковский in Russian; Паїсій Величковський in Ukrainian; 1722-1794) is the person who transmitted Eastern Orthodox staretsdom or the concept of spiritual guidance to the Slavic world.

A Ukrainian by birth, Pyotr Velichkovsky was born in Poltava, where his father, Ivan, was a priest. At the age of 17 he took monastic vows and went to Mount Athos, where he established a separate hermitage for himself and his followers. It is there that he came across the Greek tradition and practice of spiritual guidance through charismatic elders.

In 1764 Prince Grigore III Ghica of Moldavia asked Paisius to revive the monastic life in his country. Thereupon Paisius and 64 other monks went to Iaşi. While living in the principality, Paisius administrated several cloisters, notably the Neamţ Monastery.

Paisius wrote theological epistles to his disciples and translated into Russian a great number of Greek theological writings, including the Philokalia. He exerted immense influence on the startsy of the Optina Monastery both through his translations and through his personal disciples, such as Feodor Ushakov. Paisius's translation of Philokalia was one of the favourite books of saint Seraphim of Sarov, who received blessing to go to Sarov for spiritual devotion from the Paisius's monastery close friend abba Dositheus near Kiev.

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