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Paperback Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection Book

ISBN: 0879079592

ISBN13: 9780879079598

Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection

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Book Overview

'Give me a word, Father', visitors to early desert monks asked. The responses of these pioneer ascetics were remembered and in the fourth century written down in Coptic, Syriac, Greek, and later Latin. Their Sayings were collected, in this case in the alphabetical order of the monks and nuns who uttered them, and read by generations of Christians as life-giving words that would help readers along the path to salvation.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Best Book to read if you are interesting in learning more about your faith

This is the best book I have ever read, excluding the bible. It is so helpful and gives you the greatest advice. When reading about what the desert fathers have to say, you get so intuned with it and makes you to try to live a good life. It has helped me fight temptation. I will recommend this book to anyone who wants to change their old lifestyle and live a better one that makes you closer to God.

few better places to start on desert monasticism

For thirty years now Sister Benedicta Ward's translation of the sayings of 131 of the earliest monastics has served as an indispensable text for English speakers. In addition to her brief foreword and short biographical introductions (when they are known), the book includes simple maps on the inside front and back covers, a short glossary of terms, a chronological table of key events in the development of desert monasticism, a bibliography that is all too short and badly dated, and then two indices of key concepts, people and places. The sayings themselves stand alone without commentary. For contemporary extrapolations one can turn to the fine books by Archbishop Rowan Williams (Where God Happens, 2005) and John Chryssavgis (In the Heart of the Desert, 2003). For more complete primary resources, see the two works by John Cassian (360-435), Institutes and Conferences (900-plus pages), in which Cassian relates what he learned from and about the earliest monastics. Beginning in the third century, three monastic experiments emerged in Egypt. St. Anthony (251-356), an uneducated Copt, is generally hailed as the father of the hermit monasticism centered in lower Egypt. Thanks to The Life of Saint Anthony by Athanasius, we know as much or more about Anthony than any other of the early ascetics. Other monks cooperated and collaborated in "cenobitic" monasticism. Pachomius (290-347) is generally credited with instigating this communal form of flight to the desert. Finally, in Nitria and Scetis small groups of monks lived near one another under the direction of an elder or "abba." In addition to Egypt, desert monasticism flourished in Syria, Asia Minor and in Palestine. It's easy to dismiss the eccentricities of a Simon the Stylite (d. 459), who sat atop a fifty-foot pole outside of Antioch for forty years, or the ascetic excesses of food and sleep deprivation, but we honor these saints for their unique experimental spirituality that explored just what the words of Jesus might mean: "Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me." They stopped at nothing in "their lifetime of striving to re-direct every aspect of body, mind, and soul to God, and that is what they talked about" (Ward) in these "sayings." In these sayings we are taught to "expect temptation until your last breath." That means doing battle with one's inner appetites, drives, thoughts, attachments (for example, to wealth) and desires. It also means the further you travel on the Christian journey the more you realize the breadth and depth of the struggle. Consequently, these monastics were above all things modest, non-judgmental, and deeply tender in regard to our human weaknesses. They were reluctant to take Christian office, made the certainty of their death a force for good in life, modest in what they thought they might know about Scripture, eager to keep silent, and appreciative of the diverse ways that each monk worked out his salvation. Ultimately,

Accessible, Succint, Sublime

If you enjoy religious mysticism but don't feel a great need to sweat in order to understand it, if you are looking for a piece of beauty and simplicity in this world, if you wnat to know in a straightforward manner, how to rise above: this is the book for you. Accessible, succint, sublime.

Delving into the Sources

Ward has produced a clear, highly readable translation that makes the thoughts and sayings of the Fathers and Mothers of the Desert (first few centuries of our era) available to a readership with no background in classical languages. Her work enables us to draw on the simplicity and depth of early Christians, providing a refreshing perspective on spirituality and religion.

excellent spiritual reading

Having read this book when it was first published, I find I continue to return to it over and over again for my own prayer and reading and as a book I suggest to others. The simple stories and sayings have a wonderful depth and we can see these ancients committed to simplicity, prayer, and a life of being non-judgmental, hospitable and loving. Excellent.
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