The question for me becomes one of joining up the dots, of working out if and how there is a continuum of Russian spirituality. What is there, if anything, that joins Antony to Serguei to Nil to Tikhon and so on? I note that of the saints I mentioned above, Antony, Nil and Paisius were essentially imports, having developed their mature spirituality outside Russia: only Serguei, Tikhon and Serafim being totally ‘made in Russia’.
Another way of putting the question is perhaps: what was happening in the monasteries during all this time? Can we talk of tradition, in the sense of handing down of Christian teaching, of a spiritual way of being, from one generation to another, within the monasteries? Hardly, one suspects, as the great spiritual men seem to arise pretty much out of nowhere, by the grace of God. They have a generation, or maximum two, of disciples, and then all momentum dies out until by the grace of God, a new such saint arises three or four generations later.
Where, if any, is the continuum? Or is it in fact provided essentially by the rite, the obrad, enacted carefully from one generation to another as something felt to be precious and valuable, even if not always fully understood?