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The Illumined Heart: Capture the Vibrant Faith of the Ancient Christians Paperback – June 1, 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Frederica Mathewes-Green, whose books on Eastern Orthodoxy have popularized ancient Christian practice for a modern audience, beautifully underscores the importance of following the precedent of the earliest Christians in The Illumined Heart: The Ancient Christian Path of Transformation. Too often, she argues, contemporary Christians bend to the "confusing winds" of change, subordinating Christian tradition to popular ideas. (So stubborn is she in her claim for the superiority of ancient wisdom that she offers an unusual disclaimer at the outset: "I hope not to say anything original. If I do, ignore it.") Mathewes-Green thoughtfully reflects upon how 21st-century Christians can incorporate early spiritual practices, such as continuous prayer, spiritual direction, fasting and communal worship.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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

From Booklist

Advocating a return to the universal spirituality that characterized early Christianity, Mathewes-Green urges readers to seek out their historic Christian roots. Arguing that contemporary Christianity is increasingly culture dependent, she attempts to rediscover a unifying faith that transcends all modern cultural messages. To truly live in Christ, current believers must travel the often-arduous mystical path of the ancient church. To achieve an illumined heart, one must pray, fast, and repent as vigorously as did the initial generations of Christians. Recommended for larger theology collections, this conservative blueprint attempts to respond to a set of timeless questions regarding spiritual enlightenment. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 111 pages
  • Publisher: Paraclete Press; Reprint edition (July 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557255539
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557255532
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 4.5 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #143,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I began to explore the mysteries of Eastern Christianity in 1997, as well as to look more closely at some of the documents of the early Church, I encountered terms and concepts that were foreign to my thinking. I also saw familiar biblical and theological terms used in similar, yet different, ways.
In my puzzlement I wondered, how could I--someone who had read a fair amount of Church history and Christian classics--be in such foreign territory? Was this yet another way of viewing the Christian faith (like the many theological streams I'd encountered in Protestant writings)? Or were these writings espousing not merely different, but erroneous, views of Christianity? Or was there something missing (or even erroneous) in my Western view of the faith that needed clarification?
Many of the growing number Eastern Christian books available to Western readers (some of which I have recommended elsewhere here at Amazon), might cause the reader the same kind of puzzlement mentioned above.
Along comes this wonderfully simple gem, "The Illumined Heart," by renowned author and commentator Frederica Mathewes-Green, who gently invites the reader to explore "the ancient Christian path of transformation" in an unthreatening manner. Here Frederica introduces us to a fictitious "Christian of another era, perhaps from the fifth or sixth century, living in the Middle East," called Anna.
By introducing us to Anna, and her family, we catch a glimpse of how Christians of another time and place lived out their faith on a daily basis. While I was a bit leery of how this fictional approach would work, I felt that this woman and her family accurately resembled the historical non-fiction accounts I've read of this era.
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By A Customer on January 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover
-- THIS is the book that every Christian should be reading! Ms. Mathewes-Green does an excellent job of distilling the timeless wisdom of the early Church into a wonderful introduction to traditional Christian life and spirituality. This approach to the Christian life has stood the test of time for centuries, and is a welcome corrective to the faddish pop-spirituality that fills the shelves at Christian bookstores. But be warned! Despite being an easy read (about 100 pages; I read it in an hour and a half) it presents some very challenging concepts. Not in terms of understanding them, but in terms of living them out. When was the last time you heard a sermon on "praying without ceasing?" How about "loving your enemies?" The early Christians took Biblical concepts like these at face value, and so does Mathewes-Green.
So be prepared to be confronted with the greatest challenge of the Christian life: to be transformed into the image of Christ. But the greatest challenge is also the greatest joy!
Buy this book, read it, and pass it on. You won't be sorry.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a small book. I thought I could knock it off in one setting. Two months later...
I did not expect it to become a book I'd have to slam down every other sentence for the richness of what I read. This is one of those books. Once again, I'm rearranging my "Top Ten Most Influential" book list. I heard this woman, who should be feted and bedecked with Mallowcups, speak at a conference; I remember thinking she was a soft-spoken woman I would not want to meet in an alley for the tough truth she owned. This book confirms that thought.
This book took me back to some hallowed basics of Christianity. It took me back to a simplicity I have long looked for without knowing. Here's a few things it did: 1. It reminded me that my other enemy is the devil (the first being myself.) That's not popular, Frederica, to own the devil as an enemy. Mallowcups for speaking truth. 2. It reminded me of fasting. Thanks a WHOLE LOT for that one--even my hair shrieks at the thought of missing a meal. But the truth of fasting, the realization that it is a sacrament and that I've been missing out, is louder than the shrieking. 3. It reminded me that I am a sinner. The tacit understanding is that we are NOT sinners. We are saved by grace, skip the sinner part. We think the grace part erases the sinner part. Owning the sinner part again is...huge. And, last, #4: The Jesus Prayer.
The idea of chanting a prayer over and over is anathema to many believers. It's too fearfully close to vain repetition. But there is something about "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner." It's aligning. Frederica says, "Do not be deceived into thinking that the words have magic of their own...that is the kind of thing Jesus meant by "vain repetition."...you do it in vain if you don't mean it."
So for those four things, plus the reprint of the prayer of Nikolai Velimirovic (where did you dig that up? another thing that had me slamming the book down...)...Mallowcups, Frederica.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful book! It reminds us modern, Western Christians that we focus too much on "debt paid" theology. There is so much more to following Jesus Christ than simply being forgiven. You can live in Him and be transformed into His likeness. The book may be hard for those not at least familiar with some elements of Eastern Orthodoxy and at times implies at a certain superiority of Orthodoxy. However, the author's true purpose and heart are to present the wonderful and COMPLETE message of Christ in our time.
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