Writings of the Desert Abbas and Ammas

The Desert Fathers : Translations from the Latin (Vintage Spiritual Classics)
by Helen Waddell (Translator), M. Basil Pennington (Introduction)

The Desert Fathers is a handy introduction to the sayings and stories of the earliest contemplatives--the men and women who, in the fourth century, escaped towns and cities to seek God and wrestle with demons in the deserts of Africa and Asia Minor. Some of these stories (such as the life of St. Anthony, the first monk) read almost like sci-fi, with their exuberant miracles exploding in exotic locations. All of them help readers understand the value and danger of liberating oneself from the constrictions of society. --Michael Joseph Gross

By the fourth century A.D., devout Christians--men and women alike--had begun to retreat from cities and villages to the deserts of North Africa and Asia Minor, where they sought liberation from their corrupt society and the confining shell of the social self. The Desert Fathers is the perfect introduction to the stories and sayings of these heroic pioneers of the contemplative tradition. Selected and translated by Helen Waddell, The Desert Fathers opens a window onto early Christianity while presenting us with touchingly human models of faith, humility, and compassion. With a new Preface by the Cistercian monk, writer, and revered teacher of contemplative prayer M. Basil Pennington, author of O Holy Mountain and Challenges in Prayer.

"God is our home but many of us have strayed from our native land. The venerable authors of these Spiritual Classics are expert guides--may we follow their directions home."
--Archbishop Desmond Tutu

See Editorial Reviews for : Excerpt.

The Forgotten Desert Mothers: Sayings, Lives, and Stories of Early Christian Women

by Laura Swan

... about the early generations of female ascetics the Ammas of the desert.

In The Forgotten Desert Mothers, Laura Swan introduces readers to the sayings, lives, stories and spirituality of women in the early Christian desert and monastic movement, from the third century on. In doing so, she finally sets the record straight that women played an important and influential role in early Christianity, indeed a role that has been long overshadowed by men.

She begins with an exploration of the historical context and spirituality of the desert ascetics. Then she weaves together the sayings of the major desert ammas, or mothers, along with commentary that invites readers to reflect on their own spiritual journey as they share their wisdom. The book then journeys between desert, monastery and city to reveal the stories of ascetics and solitaries whose stories are rarely heard, organized in the author's own alphabetical collection.

The Forgotten Desert Mothers demonstrates, like no other work, that women have long had a history of leadership in Christianity. This engaging, eye-opening and insightful work targets all faith seekers looking to reclaim the history and spirituality of the women who came before them, as well as to understand their own inner journey. It will be a welcome addition to courses on early church history, women's studies and religious studies.

The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks
(Penguin Classics) by Benedicta Ward

Benedicta Ward is a reader in the history of early Christian spirituality at the Theology Faculty in Oxford. She has translated The Prayers and Meditations of St. Anselm for Penguin Classics.

The Desert Fathers were the first Christian monks, living in solitude in the deserts of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria. In contrast to the formalized and official theology of the "founding fathers" of the Church, they were ordinary Christians who chose to renounce the world and live lives of celibacy, fasting, vigil, prayer, and poverty in direct and simple response to the gospel. First recorded in the fourth century, their Sayings-consisting of spiritual advice, anecdotes, parables, and reflections on life-influenced the rule of St. Benedict, set the pattern for Western monasticism, and have inspired centuries of poetry, opera, and art.

Organized around key themes-Charity, Fortitude, Lust, Patience, Prayer, Self-control, and Visions-this edition of the Sayings is fresh, accessible, and authoritative.

Translated, edited, and with an introduction by Benedicta Ward.

The Book of Mystical Chapters

by John Anthony McGuckin

The Book of Mystical Chapters wants to slow you down. Its 300 brief meditations, drawn from the writings of the earliest Christian contemplatives, are meant to be read over the course of 300 days. The book's translator and editor, John Anthony McGuckin, explains that this is how early Christian pilgrims learned the wisdom of the Desert Fathers, ascending through three stages of spiritual understanding, from the practical to the transcendent. Pilgrims repeated these meditations until each one broke "like a fruit on the tongue of the monk and revealed its inner flavor to the searching mind." The Book of Mystical Chapters suggests that readers ask of each aphorism, "How have we already experienced it; how could it illuminate a truth about our own heart or the troubles of our friends' hearts or the secret ways that God wishes to develop our seeking soul?" If you're sick of wasting time waiting at the bus stop, waiting between appointments, or waiting to go deeper in faith, maybe this is just the thing for you. --Michael Joseph Gross

In the Heart of the Desert: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers (Treasures of the World's Religions)

by John Chryssavgis, Benedicta Ward (Foreword)

The words of spiritual counsel which form the heart of this book are as clear and timeless as the desert stars on a winter night. Not only do the sayings of the Desert Fathers possess the imprint of eternity, but the fresh and vital commentary by Father John Chryssavgis provides a key which unlocks their relevance for the reader of today.

The actual Egyptian desert to which these monks fled in the fourth and fifth centuries was, of course, an actual place. But, the desert may also be understood as an inner geography of desolation and abandonment. Father John tells us that anyone who has experienced loneliness, brokenness, breakdown, or break-up--whether emotionally, physically, or socially--will connect with the profound humanity of the Desert Fathers and Mothers. Various traditions from world religions teach that God enters into the empty soul. The universal and perennial message of these first Christian monks concerns the necessity of emptiness; they show us, by their examples, how to confront the chaotic impulses of the soul which drive us away from that still point where God is waiting.

In the Heart of the Desert portrays several of the key figures in early Christian monasticism including one of the Desert Mothers, Amma Syncletica. It also includes the first translation into English of the fifth-century text, The Reflections of Abba Zosimas. In a sense, this is not a book of the past, of the fourth or fifth centuries. It may be described as a book of the age to come, or of a new age. It speaks to our present age of an experience of a new life, of a fullness and renewal of life.

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