- Paperback: 204 pages
- Publisher: Birth of the Theotokos Monastery Greece; 2nd English edition (2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9607070313
- ISBN-13: 978-9607070319
- Package Dimensions: 7.6 x 4.8 x 0.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #512,087 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Night in the Desert of the Holy Mountain: Discussion with a Hermit on the Jesus Prayer Paperback – Unabridged, 2003
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The author, Metropolitan Hierotheos, is a bishop in the Orthodox Church of Greece, and the author of many books on Christian spiritual life and theology. He is one of the most highly respected and widely read ascetical theologians in the Orthodox Church today. The Holy Mountain is Mt. Athos, a 40 mile long peninsula in northeastern Greece which is home to several thousand Orthodox monks, whose chief work is "praying without ceasing" using the Jesus Prayer, handed down from the early Church. The "desert" refers to the some of the very isolated places on Athos populated by hermit monks living hidden away in little huts or caves (as opposed to the large ancient monasteries on Athos). If we say that the Church is the spiritual army of God, then the monks are the Marines and the hermits are the Green Berets of prayer. interceding for the world and defeating the demons. The bishop is a frequent pilgrim to the Holy Mountain, the spiritual heartland of the Orthodox world. After a particularly fruitful visit with a hermit monk (a God-bearing elder who prefers anonymity), he wrote down their discussion about the Jesus Prayer and published it in Greek (now in over 9 Greek editions). It appeared in English in 1991, with six reprints and a revision, as well as in French, Spanish, Russian, and Arabic. This fascinating conversation has become a modern classic of Orthodox Christian spiritual literature, in the tradition of the Philokalia. Imported from Greece.
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1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner
A night in the desert of the Holy Mountain records a conversation on the Prayer of the Heart - the Jesus Prayer between the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, Hierotheos and an Athonite Hermit.
The book begins with a very vivid and truly magnificent description of both Holy Mount Athos, and what it means to be an Orthodox Christian Monk. "The chorus of Holy Ascetics flees from what is contrary to nature, salvages what is according to nature and becomes worthy of the gifts which are beyond nature...[Y]ou regard them as dressed in rags, as unapproachable because of their lack of regard for tidiness and the ascetic practise of not washing, yet you very soon see them as 'undying plants producing splendid fruit, lillies evergreen and always fragrant' whose fragrance always satisfies you! And all this because Christ the True Life lives in them...[I]n every Athonite monk who follows in the footsteps of the Holy Fathers and lives according to their teachings, you can discern, if you have the Spirit of God within you, the coexistence of two seemingly opposite states - death and life. Life springs from a daily death and death becomes more dead from enjoyment of Life. The more death (sin) is put to death, the more the life of Christ is experienced..."
The discussion which follows on from this is literally life changing. Whilst a lot of books tend to focus on the mechanisms of prayer, and how to attune oneself to a life of prayer, what separates this book is that we are blessed to read the words of a living saint who literally lives and embodies what it means to pray the Prayer of the Heart. The hermit explains how the Jesus Prayer consists of two basic points: Dogma - acknowledging the Divinity of Christ and entreaty - supplicating the Lord for our salvation. He explains how this confession is an acknowledgement of our inability to save ourselves, our faith in Christ and an awareness of our sinfulness. "So we acknowledge and confess the power of Christ, as well as our own weakness and acquire in this way the blessed state of humility. Where there is humility, there also is the grace of Christ." He goes on to discuss in great detail the power of God's grace in this Prayer. His explanations are such that you come to the realisation of why the Prayer of the Heart is given such prominence by the Fathers of the Church.
The Hermit addresses all aspects of the Jesus Prayer, including how the devil wages warfare against those who pray and how to counteract this, the fruits of the Prayer, errors in practising the Prayer and why this Prayer is necessary for clergy and laymen, and not just for monastics.
Words cannot begin to describe just how amazing and beneficial this book is. It has literally changed my life, and given me new impetus to persevere in prayer, so as to obtain communion with the Lord. Afterall, as the Hermit says, after Holy Communion, the second most important way to communion with God is through prayer. It is prayer that cleanses the heart when Christ comes to dwell therein, and thereafter Christ's words become reality - the Kingdom of God is within you.
The Metropolitan of Nafpaktos is truly a blessed man. There are very few people whose works have touched my life in the way his have, and I highly recommend each and every one of the books he has written, which are written with love for God and neighbour. The website greekorthodoxbooks . Com offers all of the Metropolitan's books - many are at far more reasonable prices than those offered on Amazon, and I would recommend looking at their website before purchasing here.
By the end, we indeed feel that we have spent a night in heaven. Mt. Athos is described as a regained Eden of beauty and divine silence. The thought that such a place, with such inhabitants, still exists in the world today moves me with awe at the grace of God.
One problem, though: the book is full of typos and formatting problems, which, while generally not obscuring the meaning of the text, can be distracting nonetheless. Sometimes it is unclear who is speaking. The phrase "Jesus Prayer" appears in quotes sometimes, sometimes not (I would say the quotes are unnecessary)- and, as you can imagine, they say "Jesus Prayer" a lot in this book! Punctuation is often missing or misplaced. There are many parts where the poetry of Saint Symeon or other Fathers is quoted, and the line-breaks are garbled. The publishers badly need to get some proofreaders on this book before they issue another edition.
If ever one finds themselves grieving, this work offers comfort; if ever in a dry barren desert, this work offers a deep well of life, love and motivation to live the life God has created us to live.
A very compelling book!
George Papageorge MFT
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist