Writing from within the Orthodox Christian tradition, Mathewes-Green offers a description of the foundations of the spiritual life with remarkable conversational clarity and concision. Much of this book hinges on a fundamental contrast between modern and ancient Christianity concerning the means and ends of Christian life -- the questions timelessly similar, the answers often radically different -- as refracted through the prism of a representative fourth- century family. This device allows Mathewes-Green to define terms of crucial yet complex spiritual experience -- repentance, the passions, the heart, prayer of the heart -- and others not easily translatable -- theosis, nous, nepsis, prelest -- in terms of the common experiences and struggles of a woman, her husband, and her children in a local church. Here is a primer on the teachings of the ancient Church that can be read in a single sitting, yet returned to repeatedly as a bracing reminder of that to which we are essentially committed if we claim the name Christian. 112 pp.
An Eighth Day View:
Why are modern Christians so indistinguishable from everyone else?
How come Christians who lived in times of bloody persecution were so heroic, while we who live in safety are not?
How could the first Christians fast valiantly, but we feel deprived without dessert?
How did New Testament believers pray without ceasing?
How could the early Christian martyrs actually forgive their torturers?
What did the Christians of the first centuries know that we don't?
That's what this book is about.
From the author:
When I look back at the process of writing "The Illumined Heart," I'm amazed all over again at how God directed it. I wrote the whole thing in a week, the week before Christmas, in fact, which is so typically congested with last-minute errands, unpredicatable weather, aches and sniffles. For Orthodox Christians, it's also a week that we fast from meat and dairy, adding another ball to the juggling act. Yet somehow I started writing the book on Monday morning and completed it Sunday night, just fourteen minutes after the Christmas Eve service began. (I kept wondering where in the week I'd dawdled and lost that fourteen minutes.)
It's no wonder that I look at "The Illumined Heart" as the one out of all of my books that felt the most God-directed. Mostly, he told me when to shut up. For a cup-runneth-over writer like me, starting a book is like moving into mid-pregnancy and putting on those stretch-front trousers for the first time; they're like a license to eat. And knowing that I have room to write on and on, whatever comes to mind, makes for abundant, wandering prose. Yet "The Illumined Heart" is quiet, proportional, just-enough; it's like a jewel. It's no wonder that this is a personal favorite among my own books, and the one I must urge people to read. I'm pleased by the amount of good work it's done so far, and hope that it will continue to do much more.