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.
About the Author
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, a Benedictine Oblate, is author of Lectio DivinaThe Sacred Art: Transforming Words & Images into Heart-Centered Prayer , Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom SayingsAnnotated & 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.
Table of Contents
Give Me a Word 3
Your Cell Will Teach You Everything 7
Heart-Centered Spirituality 27
Thoughts, Desires, and Passions 37
Humility, Simplicity, and the Beginner's Heart 57
Spiritual Elders and Soul Friends 85
Tears of Compunction 93
The Necessity of Practice 101
Virtues, Charity, and the Service of Love 111
Solitude, Silence, and Hesychia 119
Three Essential Things 125
Prayer and Differing Gifts 129
Conclusion: How to Become a Monk 137
Suggestions for Further Reading 146