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67 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Lent book, a book for longer, maybe a book for life., 5 Mar 2007
This review is from: Silence and Honey Cakes: The Wisdom Of The Desert (Paperback)
The first monks and nuns of the Christian era who lived in the inhospitable places of the Middle East have begun to experience something of a revival; Christopher Jamison in his excellent book Finding Sanctuary talks about them a lot, and gives tantalizing snippets from their lives. Is this the place to praise them, or to explain what a huge influence they have had on our culture? Probably only briefly: without them, there might have been no Augustine, that great philosopher and theologian from Roman N Africa; the work of the early monks in Europe such as Benedict are full of their wisdom; and without these two pillars, Europe would have looked very different. Even though they lived uncompromising lives of silence and poverty, their message, by and large, is homely, social and full of a trust in their vision of God. Williams' task - and he succeeds very well indeed - is to bring these people into his readers' world. His view of these men and women leads him to examine our conformist, manufacture-led culture, our reliance on the myths of choice.

Williams gives a methodical exposition of the message he takes from the lives of these eccentric and imposing individuals. The original stories can be witty, poignant, powerful; Williams chooses well from the collections of their sayings and weaves an engaging picture. Perhaps his depiction of these early desert monastics in Silence and Honey Cakes can be a touch too comfortable in parts; I wonder whether he is casting them after his own likeness at times, but this is Williams writing carefully between the pastoral and the academic, drawing on the ancient sources of the sayings of the desert monastics to present a modern moral: fidelity to our neighbour in the society in which we live may require a radical, contemplative commitment to faith and to honesty.

This is a very good book to read as an introduction to these early shapers of Christian spirituality; it is a challenging book if you want to look at how their message might still apply today.
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