One of the central sacred texts of the Eastern Orthodox Church is the Philokalia, an anthology edited by Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain (1749 - 1809) and Markarios of Corinth (1731 - 1805). Philokalia is a Greek word meaning "love of the beautiful." This ancient collection of sayings on prayer, watchfulness, and stillness was first published in 1782. For this edition, the selections have been annotated and explained by Allyne Smith, an Orthodox priest who writes and lectures on Orthodox theology, ethics, liturgy, and spirituality, both in the U.S. and abroad; he teaches theology at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. The passages have been translated by G. E. H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Bishop Kallistos Ware.

Smith has identified seven themes that recur throughout the Philokalia — repentance, the heart, prayer, the Jesus Prayer, the passions, stillness, and theosis or deification. Various monks share their views on prayer, the practice of guarding the heart, the transfiguration of the entire universe with the glory of God, the importance of the mindfulness of death, clairvoyance as part of the gift of the discernment of spirits, the heart as the spiritual center of the person, combating the demons of gluttony and avarice, seeking the favor of others, the art of doing good in secret, and silence as the mother of all the virtues.