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The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection Paperback – 1984
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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.Read more ›
The book is organized by individual "Abbas" in alphabetical order (Greek alphabetical order, that is). The sayings are numbered and readers should probably read the sayings individually rather than as a biography. I have found that reading them in conjunction with prayer is helpful. I will usually read the various passages until one sticks with me and leads to reflection. The words can have a certain power to them that can both challenge and encourage a reader. Some sayings may say nothing to a reader, but eventually one will stumble upon something that captures one's attention.
Modern readers will find the wisdom of these ancient Christians thought provoking. Readers get little tidbits about early Christianity and see how many of the challenges to the spiritual life are anything but new. Readers will want to keep certain things in mind when reading this volume. The writers were not writing for a twenty-first century audience.Read more ›
The monks we hear in this book are the first exemplars of what would become monastic life. They are also the model for innumerable parodies of `wise old men on the mountain', most familiar from the recurring character in the Ziggy© cartoons in our daily and Sunday comic sections. The original motivation for these hermits, living primarily in the semi-desert climates of Egypt and Syria, was to escape the intermittent persecutions of Christians by Rome and the local populations, up to the Emperor Constantine's proclamation of religious tolerance throughout the empire in 313 CE. In this book, we discover several things which run against the modern stereotype.
There were at least three different types of 'solitary monks' in the Egyptian desert. The most famous prototype of the hermit life in lower Egypt was St. Anthony the Great, a Copt (in antiquity, a word meaning Egyptian. In modern usage, and Egyptian Christian) and an unlettered layman. He began his hermit life about 269 CE, and had many disciples and imitators.
The second style of desert monk was the cenobite, the same term St. Benedict uses to describe followers of his rule. These lived in a less remote part of Egypt, where groups of monks gathered around a spiritual father and performed communal work and prayer. The leader of this group, and the monk generally credited with founding coenobitic monasticism was St. Pachomius, who lived ca. 290-347 CE. The early style had no formal rule and no spiritual father. It may have been similar to 1960s counter-cultural communities. Both rebelled against established values and `persecution'.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Can't say anything other than I love it. The sayings are very moving, of course I haven't seen if they were confirmed sayings of the fathers, but they seem to be in line with... Read morePublished 18 days ago by Jacob G.
Priceless insight from real Christians and from a time when it was possible to seek Christ in such a glorious manner as these desert monks did.Published 1 month ago by James
Excellent. An interesting glimpse into the lives of saints, applicable to distressing times, like ours!Published 2 months ago by Louis Cenac MD
Some of the sayings are interesting but I was hoping for something a little more insightfulPublished 6 months ago by westcoaz
Very difficult sentence structuring. Gave it to a pastor and told him to give me the cliff notes on it.Published 9 months ago by Michael Ablan
I love it! Give this book a try if you always wanted to read about the Desert Fathers.Published 11 months ago by suikojay
This book is the finest work available on this subject. Benedicta Ward goes right to the heart of the lives and extraordinarily simple revelations of these ancient holy teachers.Published 12 months ago by dianne benedict