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The Book of Mystical Chapters: Meditations on the Soul's Ascent, from the Desert Fathers and Other Early Christian Contemplatives Paperback – July 8, 2003


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The Book of Mystical Chapters: Meditations on the Soul's Ascent, from the Desert Fathers and Other Early Christian Contemplatives + The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection + The Wisdom of the Desert (New Directions)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala (July 8, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590300076
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590300077
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #217,473 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Esoteric ReligionAlthough Shambhala usually publishes books on Eastern religions, particularly Buddhism, The Book of Mystical Chapters: Meditations on the Soul's Ascent from the Desert Fathers and Other Early Christian Contemplatives is a rare and well-conceived foray into Christian mysticism. Drawing from 300 short meditations by Christian mystics and contemplatives from the fourth to 11th centuries, John Anthony McGuckin's collection is arranged around themes of practice, theory and gnosis. He cautions that the book is not meant for a rapid half-hour read-through from cover to cover in one sitting, but is instead designed to be digested slowly and thoughtfully.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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Advice of this type is given in the 3rd section of the book.
Xenya
I highly recommend this book to all Christians, particularly those interested in early Christianity, early monasticism, and the Philokalia.
Pierian
This is the rare kind of book that speaks so powerfully to the depth of your soul that you feel privileged just to have read it.
Stephen Long

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Volkert Volkersz on December 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
These "chapters" range in length from one sentence to a page and a half, with most about the length of a short paragraph. They are arranged into three sections ("the threefold ascent") of 100 chapters each.
Don't be tempted, as I was, to read several each day. These chapters were designed to be memorized and then meditated upon, no more than one a day. This is what the translator, John Anthony McGuckin, suggests in his introduction, and his advice is sound.
While many of these spiritual statements are deceptively simple, each one is worthy of serious ruminating.
I recommend this volume highly, but please take your time.
Related titles worthy of consideration are: "The Illumined Heart," by Frederica Mathewes-Green; "The Mountain of Silence," by Kyriacos C. Markides; and "The Art of Prayer," compiled by Igumen Chariton of Valamo.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By matt on September 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a nice collection of short adages that are directed to the seeker of Christ. Assuming that we are created for union with God in Christ and the Spirit, the authors of this collection, all experts from experience, give practical wisdom and advice.
"If you are serious about the life of prayer, take care to be very merciful, for in this way you shall receive a hundredfold reward and even greater things in the future age," writes St. John Climacus.
I never allowed myself to go to bed while I still felt resentment against a person. And as far as I was able, I never allowed anyone else to go to bed either, as long as they still felt resentment against me," said Abba Agathon.
This is the sort of tenor of the book. Other really useful books in this regard would include bishop Kallistos Ware's classic "The Orthodox Way", along with Markides' "The Silent Mountain" and Robin Amis' "A Different Christinaity". If you like anthologies, a good one with useful notes is Olivier Clement's "The Roots of Christian Mysticism". Enjoy!
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on December 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Ably translated and with an informative introduction by Orthodox Christian Priest John Anthony McGuckin (Professor of Early Church History, Union Theological Seminary, New York City), The Book Of Mystical Chapters: Meditations On The Soul's Ascent From The Desert Fathers And Other Early Christian Contemplatives is a hallowed collection of more than three hundred short meditations written by Christians from the second through the fourteenth centuries. Many of these meditations were written by the Desert Fathers, monks who deliberately left behind the corruption of city life for the isolated deserts of Egypt and Palestine. These brief yet moving and heartfelt meditations focus upon practice, theory, gnosis, embracing spiritual enlightenment, and the expansion of one's mind and soul. The Book Of Mystical Chapters is very highly recommended reading for all serious students of Christian Theology, History, and Spirituality, regardless of denominational background or affiliation.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Xenya on May 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
In the bookstore my heart was really cold and depressed, and oppressed. I was saying the prayer, but not getting anywhere. I mean the prayer is always good, but I couldn't find any peace. This book helped to break through this malaise, and I was grateful. It helped me see my situation of truly needing help, and it was an avenue of receiving help.

Orthodox Christians believe that the saints write out of the direct experience of the Light of God, and they literally write words of light and love, the Love that the Lord Jesus has shared with them, which is Himself. It is the glory He shares with the Father, that comes from the Holy Spirit. This is given in a measure and type perfectly suited to each person. Father John, in the introduction, explains that the Holy Spirit usually reveals Himself to people just starting to seriously seek Him in a way that is different from people who have learned to humbly live for Him, who suffer in their life with Him. In trying to follow His commandments, they suffer at their inability to follow them, and at the obstacles they encounter, inside and outside, when they try to live out a command such as Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself. It is a kind of quiet war, sometimes. So the first stage, I think, is learning to live in this way, that makes you humble, because you see, with the help of grace, how you are not Holy like God, and you don't fit in with Him, and this makes you realize that you deeply need help, so you call out from your heart, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God have mercy on me a sinner." In the second stage He consoles and teaches by sometimes appearing, and sometimes withdrawing.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By S. Pompa on August 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
Christianity has long since forgotten the old saying, "God became what man is so that man can become what God is." Christianity is not merely about "getting saved" and essentially ending your walk with Christ right then and there. Christianity has always been about theosis, becoming holy as God is holy. "Salvation" cannot be reduced to a mere "get out of hell free card"; it is also healing. It is also transformation. Follow this book, and you are well on your way to becoming a Christian mystic; one who experiences God continually.
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