Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings - Annotated & Explained

Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings - Annotated & Explained

by Christine Valters Paintner
     
 

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Timeless and contemplative sayings from the earliest Christian sages of desert spirituality can be a companion on your own spiritual journey.

The desert fathers and mothers were ordinary Christians living in solitude in the deserts of Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Arabia who chose to renounce the world in order to deliberately and individually

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Overview

Timeless and contemplative sayings from the earliest Christian sages of desert spirituality can be a companion on your own spiritual journey.

The desert fathers and mothers were ordinary Christians living in solitude in the deserts of Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Arabia who chose to renounce the world in order to deliberately and individually follow God's call. They embraced lives of celibacy, labor, fasting, prayer and poverty, believing that denouncing material goods and practicing stoic self-discipline would lead to unity with the Divine. Their spiritual practice formed the basis of Western monasticism and greatly influenced both Western and Eastern Christianity.

Their writings, first recorded in the fourth century, consist of spiritual advice, parables and anecdotes emphasizing the primacy of love and the purity of heart. Focusing on key themes of charity, fortitude, lust, patience, prayer and self-control, the Sayings influenced the rule of St. Benedict and have inspired centuries of opera, poetry and art.

This probing and personal SkyLight Illuminations edition opens up their wisdom for readers with no previous knowledge of Western monasticism and early Christianity. It provides insightful yet unobtrusive commentary that describes historical background, explains the practice of asceticism and illustrates how you can use their wisdom to energize your spiritual quest.

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Editorial Reviews

Spirituality & Practice - Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
During the fourth and fifth centuries, the workshops for Christian monasticism were in Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and Arabia. Many of these desert communities emphasized drawing closer to God through silence, solitude, and prayer. These monks and hermits were spiritual athletes who practiced fasting, renunciation, and other forms of asceticism.

Christine Valters Paintner, a Benedictine Oblate and author of five books including The Artist's Rule, has annotated and explained the early Christian wisdom sayings of the desert fathers and mothers in this paperback in the Skylight Illumination series.

In her absolutely brilliant introduction to the desert fathers and mothers, Paintner does a wonderful job explaining the desert as a place of deep encounter; the significant figures in this monastic tradition; the spiritual importance of the cell and the heart; the value of surrender and humility in relationship to the unceasing presence of God; and the challenges of viewing the wisdom sayings of the desert fathers and mothers as Zen koans — "texts to be pondered and chewed on slowly and then integrated into your life."

Paintner has divided these early Christian wisdom sayings, translated by Sister Benedicta Ward, into thematic sections:

• Give Me a Word
• Your Cell Will Teach You Everything
• Heart-Centered Spirituality
• Thoughts, Desires, and Passions
• Humility, Simplicity, and the Beginner's Heart
• Spiritual Elders and Soul Friends
• Tears of Compunction
• The Necessity of Practice
• Virtues, Charity, and the Service of Love
• Solitude, Silence, and Hesychia
• Three Essential Things
• Prayer and Differing Gifts
• How to Become a Monk

In her engrossing commentaries on these sayings, Paintner shares how they have influenced her life, such as her listening for a word from the world of nature; her adoration of trees and their connection with saints; her role as an urban monk; her frighteningly close encounter with death; her love of books and her sense of the shadow side of them; and the need to be very honest with herself as a teacher, writer, and spiritual director.

This is one of the brightest and best resources on the desert fathers and mothers.

From the Publisher
"Provides not only a wonderful introduction to a fascinating world (the opening chapter alone is worth the price of the book), but an invitation to seek our own 'word' from the abbas and ammas of Christian antiquity.... Offers one of the best guidebooks I’ve seen for those who’ve been called to the contemplative life."
Paula Huston, author, The Holy Way and Simplifying the Soul

“Offers the reader a good drink from the clear stream of desert wisdom. She honors the tradition while making it entirely relevant to our times.”
Mary C. Earle, writer and Episcopal priest; author, The Desert Mothers: Spiritual Practices from the Women of the Wilderness and Celtic Christian Spirituality: Essential Writings—Annotated and Explained

“A splendid introduction to one of the most essential periods of the Western contemplative tradition.... Offers insight into the austere and wondrous spirituality of the desert ... and why their pithy teachings remain so essential for the study and practice of Christian spirituality today. [The] commentary makes the wisdom of the desert come alive.”
Carl McColman, author, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism and Answering the Contemplative Call

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594734700
Publisher:
Longhill Partners
Publication date:
08/01/2012
Series:
SkyLight Illuminations
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
883,545
File size:
784 KB

Meet the Author

Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, a Benedictine Oblate, is author of Lectio Divina—The Sacred Art: Transforming Words & Images into Heart-Centered Prayer, Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings—Annotated & Explained (both SkyLight Paths) and The Artist's Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom among other books. She frequently leads retreats and teaches on the wisdom of Benedictine, Celtic and desert ways of praying. A writer, artist, spiritual director, retreat facilitator and teacher, she is the online Abbess of www.abbeyofthearts.com, a global online monastery dedicated to the integration of contemplative practice and creative expression.

Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, is available to speak on the following topics:

  • Desert Monastic Practices and Spirituality
  • Celtic Monastic Practices and Spirituality
  • Benedictine Monastic Practices and Spirituality
  • Lectio Divina and Contemplative Prayer
  • Spirituality and the Expressive Arts

Click here to contact the author.

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