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Desert Fathers And Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings Annotated & Explained (Skylight Illuminations) Paperback – 24 Jan 2013

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During the fourth and fifth centuries, the workshops for Christian monasticism were in Egypt, Syria, Palestine and Arabia. Many of these desert communities emphasized drawing closer to God through silence, solitude and prayer. These monks and hermits were spiritual athletes who practiced fasting, renunciation, and other forms of asceticism.

Christine Valters Paintner, a Benedictine Oblate and author of five books including The Artist's Rule, has annotated and explained the early Christian wisdom sayings of the desert fathers and mothers in this paperback in the Skylight Illumination series.

In her absolutely brilliant introduction to the desert fathers and mothers, Paintner does a wonderful job explaining the desert as a place of deep encounter; the significant figures in this monastic tradition; the spiritual importance of the cell and the heart; the value of surrender and humility in relationship to the unceasing presence of God and the challenges of viewing the wisdom sayings of the desert fathers and mothers as Zen koans "texts to be pondered and chewed on slowly and then integrated into your life."

Paintner has divided these early Christian wisdom sayings, translated by Sister Benedicta Ward, into thematic sections: Give Me a Word Your Cell Will Teach You Everything Heart-Centered Spirituality Thoughts, Desires, and Passions Humility, Simplicity, and the Beginner's Heart Spiritual Elders and Soul Friends Tears of Compunction The Necessity of Practice Virtues, Charity, and the Service of Love Solitude, Silence, and Hesychia Three Essential Things Prayer and Differing Gifts How to Become a Monk

In her engrossing commentaries on these sayings, Paintner shares how they have influenced her life, such as her listening for a word from the world of nature; her adoration of trees and their connection with saints; her role as an urban monk; her frighteningly close encounter with death; her love of books and her sense of the shadow side of them and the need to be very honest with herself as a teacher, writer, and spiritual director.

This is one of the brightest and best resources on the desert fathers and mothers.--Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat"Spirituality & Practice" (09/26/2012)"

"Provides not only a wonderful introduction to a fascinating world (the opening chapter alone is worth the price of the book), but an invitation to seek our own 'word' from the abbas and ammas of Christian antiquity.... Offers one of the best guidebooks I've seen for those who ve been called to the contemplative life." Paula Huston, author, The Holy Way and Simplifying the Soul

"Offers the reader a good drink from the clear stream of desert wisdom. She honors the tradition while making it entirely relevant to our times." Mary C. Earle, writer and Episcopal priest; author, The Desert Mothers: Spiritual Practices from the Women of the Wilderness and Celtic Christian Spirituality: Essential Writings Annotated & Explained

A splendid introduction to one of the most essential periods of the Western contemplative tradition.... Offers insight into the austere and wondrous spirituality of the desert ... and why their pithy teachings remain so essential for the study and practice of Christian spirituality today. [The] commentary makes the wisdom of the desert come alive. Carl McColman, author, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism and Answering the Contemplative Call"

About the Author

Christine Valters Paintner, a Benedictine Oblate, frequently leads retreats and teaches on the wisdom of Benedictine, Celtic and desert ways of praying. A writer, artist, spiritual director, retreat facilitator and teacher, she is the online Abbess of, a global online monastery dedicated to the integration of contemplative practice and creative expression.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x90e04c60) out of 5 stars 17 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90c97750) out of 5 stars Don't judge a book by its cover! 20 Nov. 2012
By Mark S. Beatty - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I decided to purchase this book based on a recommendation from another book I was reading and because I enjoy Christine Valters Paintner's style of writing and her focus on wisdom teaching. There are so many wonderful quotes and comments hidden inside these pages. Paintner has taken ancient sayings from seemingly austere origins, then masterfully brought them into our century. Ancient truths, simply, are truths in any time. I recommend reading this book each morning, move throughout the day meditating on the passage and let it become part of you. Good reading!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90e9e324) out of 5 stars A Resource to Have on Hand 28 Jun. 2013
By Suzanne Ryder - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a book that calls us back to the essential wisdom discovered by those brave early Christians, who found something ever ancient and ever new in the deserts. A wonderfully presented volume, it reminds me of the basics of life. It is a resource for all who wish to make their lives centred on the will of the God of many names.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90e9e2e8) out of 5 stars Good job overall 20 July 2014
By Michael B. Reed - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
well done, BUT, with a modern view, in a few cases. I know the writings of the Fathers well, and some of the comments were just not according to history. Other than that it is mostly well-written. Good job overall.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90e9d690) out of 5 stars Deep ideas. Worthwhile exploring 7 Feb. 2014
By Homewood - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book introduced me to a segment of Christian thought I was unfamiliar with. The introduction to this book is outstanding. Some of the commentary by Christine Paintner was obviously biased by her own views, and missed the mark. But overall,
a book that is worth reading for Christians who want to go deeper, and enjoy contemplation.
HASH(0x90e9d72c) out of 5 stars Good explanations of words and culture 20 Jan. 2016
By Paulette Boyt - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book went way beyond my expectations (I have read other books on this subject) and I found myself underlined something on almost every page. Good explanations of words and culture. Paintner is an artist with words. Her books always inspire me. Paulette
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