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In the Heart of the Desert: The Spirituality…

In the Heart of the Desert: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and… (edition 2008)

by John Chryssavgis, Benedicta Ward (Introduction), Kallistos Ware (Foreword)

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Title:In the Heart of the Desert: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers (Treasures of the World's Religions)
Authors:John Chryssavgis
Other authors:Benedicta Ward (Introduction), Kallistos Ware (Foreword)
Info:World Wisdom (2008), Edition: Revised Edition, Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library

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In the Heart of the Desert: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers by John Chryssavgis



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I purchased this thinking it was an exploration of the theology and practices of the desert Fathers and Mothers. It wasn't quite that. It was less hardcore theology and practices and more a fluffy expose on the sayings. From the beginning the author made it clear that while this was based entirely on early Christian monks, the teachings are intended for anyone seeking spirituality, Christian or not. This is probably because it is part of the Treasure of World Religion Series and is intended for a wider audience that just those of the Judeo-Christian Traditions. Because of this, often advice and prose felt less based on Christ and more like nebulous hippie advice. Additional, Chryssavgis's prose felt loosely organized and disconnect – more esoteric verbal vomit than concise study. It read like a companion to the actual Sayings of the Desert Fathers, almost a study guide of sorts. Having never read the Sayings, I felt occasionally lost as to the point.
That being said, Chryssavgis made some important points, particular his section on passion. He explained that some say we are to kill passions, but Chryssavgis said the desert fathers taught passion was good as long as it was directed in the right direction (p. 58). While I am uncertain as to the theological veracity of this teaching, it’s unique and worth further studying. The other idea he spoke about was this concept of Detachment (Ch. 10) and that it isn’t removing oneself from the world, but rather the ability to live in the world without being affected by the desire for its offerings (p. 69). And while I thought his words on prayer were mostly fluff’n’nonsense, I liked the following, “Prayer is the acceptance of frailty and failure – in ourselves and then in the world around us” (p.98). Again, not sure this is true, but it’s worth further investigation.
The supplemental information adds to the book. Along with Chryssavgis’s words, he included a translation of Abba Zosimas’ Reflections, a map of where these venerated monks lived, pictures of icons and monasteries, and an extensive bibliography for further study.
In conclusion, while this is not what I’d hope for and is much more esoteric and nebulous for my taste, if used as a companion to the Sayings of the Desert Fathers or as an introduction to the basic feelings of their teaching, then it is worth reading. ( )
  empress8411 | Jan 10, 2016 |
  abbaarsenius | Jun 16, 2012 |

Several years ago I read the collected sayings of the Desert Fathers (and Mothers); this is an introduction to their spirituality by an Australian theologian, who at least I suppose has some insight into deserts. I must say I have been spoiled for this sort of thing by my recent reading of Rūmī, who was able to develop profound philosophical insights while living his daily life without fleeing from society or concerning himself too much with mortification of the flesh. Again I observed that there is a certain amount of eremitical one-upmanship here, and while there are many reflections on how to set one's soul right within oneself and with God, there's not a lot about other people, who are usually an important part of whatever problems one may have. So I fear that the Desert fathers may not be for me. ( )
  nwhyte | Apr 11, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Chryssavgisprimary authorall editionscalculated
Zosimassecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Zosimas, Abbasecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ward, Benedictasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ware, KallistosForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0941532518, Paperback)

Words of spiritual counsel from the heart of early Christian monasticism.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:06 -0400)

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