This translation of the Vitae Patrum
has it all: comical stories, thwarted demons, sagacious aphorisms, and hard truths. Open the book at random and you'll find a pearl some fourth century monk sold all for and spent a lifetime seeking. Take Bessarion here, who on his deathbed said, ''A monk ought to be like the Cherubim and Seraphim, all eye.'' The pervasive and lasting influence these bands of men and women who forsook the world in the deserts of Egypt and the Middle East have had on Christianity and Christians would be difficult to overstate. Whether you come out agreeing with their methods, their theology or their practices, no contemplative or questing soul can avoid wrestling with these teachings. At the very least we are sharpened by them, for how else but by their example do we learn the potential depth of ''watchfulness'' and ''discernment,'' or accurately measure our own devotion to truth or desire for holiness save against a commitment so total? Even if we do not, like Bessarion, stand for 40 days and nights in a patch of thorns without sleep, are we not somehow better off for learning from a man who did? 201 pp.
An Eighth Day View:
The Desert Fathers were the first Christian monks, living in solitude in the deserts of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria. In contrast to the formalized and official theology of the "founding fathers" of the Church, they were ordinary Christians who chose to renounce the world and live lives of celibacy, fasting, vigil, prayer, and poverty in direct and simple response to the gospel. First recorded in the fourth century, their Sayings--consisting of spiritual advice, anecdotes, parables, and reflections on life--influenced the rule of St. Benedict, set the pattern for Western monasticism, and have inspired centuries of poetry, opera, and art.
Organized around key themes--Charity, Fortitude, Lust, Patience, Prayer, Self-control, and Visions--this edition of the Sayings is fresh, accessible, and authoritative.