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The personal tones of the translations, the blend of reverence and humor so characteristic of him, show how deeply Merton identified with the legendary authors of these sayings and parables, the fourth-century Christian Fathers who sought solitude and contemplation in the deserts of the Near East.The hermits of Screte who turned their backs on a corrupt society remarkablyThe personal tones of the translations, the blend of reverence and humor so characteristic of him, show how deeply Merton identified with the legendary authors of these sayings and parables, the fourth-century Christian Fathers who sought solitude and contemplation in the deserts of the Near East.The hermits of Screte who turned their backs on a corrupt society remarkably like our own had much in common with the Zen masters of China and Japan, and Father Merton made his selection from them with an eye to the kind of impact produced by the Zen mondo....

Title : The Wisdom of the Desert: Sayings from the Desert Fathers of the Fourth Century
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ISBN : 9781590300398
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 128 Pages
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The Wisdom of the Desert: Sayings from the Desert Fathers of the Fourth Century Reviews

  • BillKerwin
    2018-12-07 03:04

    This is a selection of the sayings of the Early Desert Fathers chosen by the Trappist monk Thomas Merton—poet, mystic, peace activist, and author of the classic spiritual autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain. Merton, who was a member of a contemplative community, is not interested in the colorful accounts of demonic temptations, questionable miracles, and extravagant penances—which, he says, were a later development, following the popularity of The Life of St. Anthony by St. Anathasius of Alexandria—and instead concentrates on the anecdotes contained in the Verba Seniorum.In his introduction, Merton makes it clear that these men were not rebels who rejected their civilization (although he concedes that “anarchist” would not be an inappropriate term for them), nor were they seekers after ecstatic experience; no, they were men who thought they could best honor their beliefs and traditions by perfecting themselves. The goal of all their striving was “’purity of heart’—a clear unobstructed vision of the true state of affairs, an intuitive grasp of one’s own inner reality as anchored, or rather set free, in God through Christ. “They had much in common,” Merton says, ‘with Indian Yogis and with Zen Buddhist monks of China and Japan.”Here follow 8 of the 150 anecdotes Merton has chosen—slightly less than 5% of this slim collection: XXI. A MONK ran into a party of handmaids of the Lord on a certain journey. Seeing them he left the road and gave them a wide berth. But the Abbess said to him: If you were a perfect monk, you would not even have looked close enough to see that we were women.XLV. IT WAS told of Abbot John the Dwarf that once he had said to his elder brother: I want to live in the same security as the angels have, doing no work, but serving God without intermission. And casting off everything he had on, he started out into the desert. When a week had gone by he returned to his brother. And while he was knocking on the door, his brother called out before opening, and asked: Who are you? He replied: I am John. Then his brother answered and said: John has become an angel and is no longer among men. But John kept on knowing and said: It is I. Still the brother did not open, but kept him waiting. Finally, opening the door, he said: If you are a man, you are going to have to start working again in order to live. But if you are an angel, why do you want to come into a cell? So John did penance and said: Forgive me, brother, for I have sinned.LXXII. ABBOT LOT come to Abbot Joseph and said: Father, according as I am able, I keep my little rule, and my little fast, my prayer, meditation and contemplative silence; and according as I am able I strive to cleanse my heart of thoughts: now what more should I do? The elder rose up in reply and stretched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire. He said: Why not be totally changed into fire?LXXXVI. TO ONE of the brethren appeared a devil, transformed into an angel of light, who said to him: I am the Angel Gabriel, and I have been sent to three. But the brother said: think again—you must have been sent to somebody else. I haven’t done anything to deserve an angel. Immediately the devil ceased to appear.CVI. ONCE Abbot Anthony was conversing with some brethren, and a hunter who was after game in the wilderness came upon them. He saw Abbot Anthony and the brothers enjoying themselves, and disapproved. Abbot Anthony said: Put an arrow in your bo and shoot it. This he did. Now shoot another, said the elder. And another, and another. The hunter said. If I bend my how all the time it will break. Abbot Anthony replied: So it is also in the work of God. If we push ourselves beyond measure, the brethren will soon collapse. It is rigfht, therefore, from time to time, to relax their efforts.CXII. THERE were two elders lving together in a cell, and they had never had so much as one quarrel with one another. One therefore said to the other: Come on, let us have at least one quarrel, like the other men. The other said: I don’t know how to start a quarrel. The first said: I will take this brick and place it between us. Then I will say: It is mine. After that you will say: It is mine. This is what leads to a dispute and a fight. So they placed the brick between them, one said: It is mine, and the other replied to the first: I do believe that it is mine. The first one said again: It is not yours, it is mine. So the other answered: Well then, if it is yours, take it! Thus they did not manage after all to get into a quarrel.CXXIX. ONE of the elders said: Either fly as far as you can from men, or else, laughing at the world and the men who are in it, make yourself a fool in many things.CXXXIX. AN ELDER was was asked by a certain soldier if God would forgive a sinner. And he said to him: Tell me, beloved, if your cloak is torn, will you throw it away? The soldier replied and said: No. I will mend it and put it back on. The elder said to him: If you take care of your cloak, will God not be merciful to his own image?

  • KamRun
    2018-11-23 04:52

    یکی از راهبان به نام سراپیون،کتاب انجیل خود را فروخت و بهایش را به گرسنگان داد و گفت : من کتابی را فروختم که به من گفت هر آنچه دارم بفروشم و به فقرا بدهم کتابی از راهب ترپیست و نویسنده ی کاتولیک،توماس مرتون در باب سخنان حکیمانه ی راهبان صحرانشین قرن چهارم میلادی که نمود بارز افکار،عقاید و شیوه زندگی آن هاست.نام آقای مصطفی ملکیان به عنوان ویراستار نهایی ارزش دو چندانی به این ترجمه از کتاب بخشیده است.کتاب سه بخش اصلی دارد.در بخش اول مترجم مقاله ای در باب آرا و خلاصه ای از عقاید مولف آورده است.در بخش دوم مولف درباره فلسفه رهبانیت،سنت و خاستگاه آن صحبت می کند.در بخش سوم که عمده ترین قسمت کتاب را تشکیل می دهد مرتون مجموعه ای از سخنان راهبان بزرگ آن دوران گردآوری کرده است.سخنانی که بعضی از آنان تامل برانگیز و نیازمند ساعت ها تفکر است.تعالیم این بخش از کتاب تضادی با کتاب مقدس ندارد(در عین حال که در بعضی از قسمت ها اصلا بر آن استوار نیستند).با این حال توصیه اکید این تعالیم به دیگران مصداق آن جمله از مسیح است که به فریسیان می فرماید: اي معلّمان شريعت، واي به حال شما نيز، چون بارهاي بسيار سنگين بر دوش مردم مي گذرانيد و خودتان يک انگشت هم به آن بار نمي زنيد. لوقا 11 : 46مرتون خود راهبی تراپیست بود.از دسته راهبانی که عهد می کنند تا پایان عمر سخنی بر زبان نرانند و سکوتی همیشگی اختیار کنند.مرتون در کمال وفاداری به کلیسای کاتولیک،دلبستگی شدیدی به عرفان شرقی و ذن داشت.تا حدی که این دلبستگی در آرا وی نیز تاثیرگذار شده بود و چه بسا در صورتی که بیش از این،زیست می کرد راست دینی وی مورد شک و سوظنی جدی قرار می گرفت. "وحدت در مسیح" گوهر مسیحیت و گرایش عرفانی آن است کولسيان 2 : 10و شما نيز به وسيله اتّحاد با او كه مافوق همه قدرتها و رياستهاست، كامل شده ايدافسسيان 5 : 8شما زماني در تاريكي بوديد امّا اكنون در اتّحاد خود با خداوند، در نور هستيد. پس مانند فرزندان نور زندگي كنيدافسسيان 2 : 22شما نيز در اتّحاد با او و همراه ديگران به صورت مكاني بنا خواهيد شد كه خدا به وسيله روح خود در آن زندگي مي کند عارفان مسیحی در طول تمام اعصار نه تنها وحدت بخشی به وجود خودشان را، وصال با خدا را، بلکه اتحاد با یکدیگر را در قالب روح می جستند و می یافتندغلاطيان 3 : 28پس ديگر هيچ تفاوتي ميان يهودي و غيريهودي، برده و آزاد، مرد و زن وجود ندارد، زيرا همه شما در اتّحاد با عيسي مسيح يک هستيدروميان 12 : 5ما نيز اگرچه بسياريم، در اتّحاد با مسيح، همه ما يک بدن را تشكيل مي دهيم و فرداًفرد نسبت به هم اعضاي يكديگريم.بااین وجود آن نوع از یگانگی و وحدت با خدا که باعث از میان رفتن شخص و فردیت وی می گردد و یگانگی نامحدود با وجود خدا را در پی دارد در مسیحیت بی معنا و یک بدعت است.آن دسته از گرایشات رهبانی که از جامعه به انزوا می گریختند،خود را برتر از مردم دیگر نمی دیدند یا به دنبال ساختن جامعه ای آرمانی نبودند.بلکه گریز آنها به مانند گریز از لاشه ای متعفن بود.آنان می گریختند تا از نابودی خود و جهان جلوگیری کنند.تا بنا به آنچه مرتون مرتبا تکرار می کند،از سلطه دیگران و تعلقات دنیوی و در نهایت خویشتن ظاهری خود رها گشته و خود واقعی باشند.آن خودی که با ایمان به مسیح مصلوب مرده و با قیام وی زنده شده و تولد تازه یافته است.نمي دانيد كه وقتي ما در اتّحاد با مسيح عيسي تعميد يافتيم، در اتّحاد با مرگ او تعميد يافتيم؟ پس با تعميد خود با او مدفون شديم و در مرگش شريک گشتيم تا همان طوري که مسيح به وسيله قدرت پر شكوه پدر، پس از مرگ زنده شد، ما نيز در زندگي تازه اي به سر بريم.زيرا اگر ما در مرگي مانند مرگ او با او يكي شديم، به همان طريق در رستاخيزي مانند رستاخيز او نيز با او يكي خواهيم بود. اين را مي دانيم كه آن آدمي كه در پيش بوديم با مسيح بر روي صليب او كشته شد تا نفس گناهكار نابود گردد و ديگر بردگان گناه نباشيم زيرا کسي که مرد از گناه آزاد شده است. رومیان 6 :3-7 آن گونه که درخت آفریده شده تا درخت باشد،انسان نیز آفریده شده تا انسان باشد و انسان زمانی انسان است که به شباهت "صورت خدا" باشد.نکته ی قابل ذکر دیگر این است که رهبانیت،شاخه ها و گرایش های گوناگونی دارد که زیر چتر ایمان مسیحی و البته عقاید مذهبی کلیسای کاتولیک قرار دارند.جز این،نقطه ی مشترک تمام این گرایشات،ساده زیستی و عدم دلبستگی به تعلقات دنیوی و عدم مالکیت یا مالکیت اشتراکی(در صورت زندگی اجتماعی) می باشد.با ان که گروهی از راهبان از طریق جمع آوری هدایا و نوعی گدایی روزگار می گذراندند،اکثریت آنان کار سخت جسمی و رنج را از واجبات زندگی رهبانی خود می دانستند.به صورتی که نه تنها بیکاری، حتی کار راحت و کوتاه را نیز مایه تباهی فکر و روح می دانستند.از این رو پیش فرضی که معمولا در مورد روحانیون وجود دارد (تنبلی،بیکاری و شکم بارگی) در مورد این افراد به هیچ عنوان صادق نیست

  • Feliks
    2018-12-04 22:53

    Surprisingly slim, brisk, read. Not 'difficult' study, as the title might imply. Everything is arranged in terse, pithy, succinct little aphorisms and anecdotes. Very rewarding overall; glad I sampled it. Monks, anchorites, copts, and hermits offer an example of spirituality and inner-guidance almost completely forgotten in the West these days; and (as the editor notes in his foreword) all the more neglected with the modern backlash against organized religions. But at the heart of these 4th c. ponderings is something very valuable: deep questions of 'how we treat others' and 'how others treat us'. It turns out that most religious hermits do not flee to the desert because they hate men or hate the society of men. Instead, they're desperate to find a place in which to re-cultivate love of both men and God. They want to find a way to 'get a hold of themselves' and behave steadily, devotedly, deliberately; and with forethought. They want to empty themselves of petty yearnings, distractions, and cravings. There's much in this to counsel us, today. How can we re-wrest control of our lives away from the usual to-and-fro of daily life? How can we attune our ears to listen to whats going on inside us, for a change? How do we divorce ourselves from the constant hurly-burly of ego, self-will, overly-righteous self-absorbtion? How do we stop 'taking offense' at the words of others? How can we stop over-valuing these absurd, puny, piddling little piles of material possessions we're always so obsessed with amassing (are we ants in an ant-mound, gathering grains)? Is 'putting ourselves first' the only way to go through the world? To all these questions, these long-forgotten monks demonstrate that yes, there is surely 'another way'.

  • Sonic
    2018-11-23 01:05

    An excerpt:It was told of Abbot John the Dwarf that once he had said to his elder brother: I want to live in the same security as the angels have, doing no work, but serving God without intermission. And casting off everything he had on, he started out into the desert. When a week had gone by he returned to his brother. And while he was knocking on the door, his brother called out before opening, and asked: Who are you? He replied: I am John. Then his brother answered and said: John has become an angel and is no longer among men. But John kept knocking and said : It is I. Still the brother did not open, but kept him waiting. Finally, opening the door, he said: If you are a man, you are going to have to start working again in order to live. But if you are an angel, why do you want to come into a cell? So John did penance and said: Forgive me, brother, for I have sinned.~UPDATE~Curious and deep nuggets of wisdom and devotion about and from some early Christians who actually tried to live according to the ideas of Jesus.Wonderful!

  • Anne
    2018-12-11 02:54

    CXLVII:"Abbot Hyperichus said: A monk who cannot hold his tongue when he is angry will not be able to control the passion of lust either." Thomas Merton has condensed the succinct shrewdness of the hermits of the desert into several powerful paragraphs, each separate and not connected. The effect manages to be bracing and soothing at the same time, unlike the writings of some, which serve mostly to chafe and guilt. While penitence has an undeniably central role in living the Gospel, the feeling of guilt is something unhealthy that racks apart the body and mind, shortens our lives, and limits what we are able to do. I was having a sick day when I read the following paragraph a couple weeks ago, and it is honestly one of the most encouraging things I have read in a long time. I can accept my pain, when it comes, as God's gift, and not feel guilty that I am not doing what another is able to do. XLVII"If there are three monks living together, of whom one remains silent in prayer at all times, and another is ailing and gives thanks for it, and the third waits on them both with sincere good will, these three are equal, as if they were performing the same work."

  • A.M.
    2018-12-04 21:53

    This is a Christian counterpart to Zen koans and parables and delightful collection of spiritual tales, wit and insight. One of my favorites is by Abbot Pastor: "Any trial whatever that comes to you can be conquered by silence."Or this one, also by Abbot Pastor: "Get away from any man who always argues every time he talks."And yet another involving Abbot Pastor: A Brother came to Abbot Pastor and said: "Many distracting thoughts come into my mind, and I am in danger because of them. then the elder thrust him out into the open air and said: Open up the garments about your chest and catch the wind in them. But he replied: This I cannot do. so the elder said to him: If you cannot catch the wind, neither can you prevent distracting thoughts from coming into your head. Your job is to say No to them."

  • Esteban
    2018-11-20 23:06

    En un ensayo extraordinario titulado Las direcciones del rechazo religioso del mundo, Max Weber contraponía al ascetismo y al misticismo entre sí, y a ambos con las "éticas sociales orgánicas" comprometidas la conservación y la reproducción de la vida social. Es curioso que una religión con una doctrina tan esperpéntica como la del cristianismo haya logrado cumplir ese último rol durante tanto tiempo. Al menos ese es el efecto que me produjo releer esta compilación abreviada de los Apotegmas de los padres del desierto , una miscelánea de la vida cotidiana de unos pocos individuos (místicos en el sentido de Weber) que abandonaron los compromisos mundanos para lanzarse a una lucha desgarradora con (sus propios) demonios en el desierto. Libres de teología, los apotegmas ocasionalmente tienen una gracia y sabiduría que los convierte en un libro interesante para los no creyentes. Muchos de esos episodios están excluídos por el recorte de Merton, que con el fin de hacer más atractiva la vida contemplativa desestima el aspecto agonístico de la vida de los monjes del Scetis. Apotegmas tampoco es un libro tan largo para justificar un ajuste tan brutal, así que al lector o la lectora interesada en estos extremos de la experiencia humana le conviene ir a traducciones completas del original, como la de Benedicta Ward.

  • Bobby Chastain
    2018-11-24 01:02

    I began this book as an observance for Lent this year. My goal was to read a quote per day (allowing chance to permit me to miss a day) and meditate on the meaning of the quote. I haven't finished it because it would probably take two Lenten seasons to get through it at that point. However, I think I will continue at the established pace. I walked away from this book realizing how difficult it can be to be truly "not of this world." However, as with all writings by/compiled by Thomas Merton, I find answers as to why I often feel so disconnected with society. Most notable practical lesson to learn from this book: Thank God for your suffering, your temptation, your weakness. Without these things, we are the rich man (who finds it harder to get to Heaven than fitting a camel through the eye of a needle), because we never feel that burning desire to reach out to God.

  • Adam
    2018-11-28 22:00

    In reading this, be aware that Merton was not seeking to present an in-depth analysis of the Apothegmata of the Desert Fathers, nor was he trying to gather together a comprehensive body of their words and sayings. Rather, think of this as a pieced-together collection of an old friend's favorite sayings by the wise early Christian monastics of the Egyptian and Palestinian deserts (all preceded by a short but profound introduction wherein said friend showcases their subtly brilliant understanding of the spirituality of said monks).Wonderful.

  • Ryan Milbrath
    2018-12-14 02:18

    A very good professor of mine gave this to me as a gift for working with him on the Tao Te Ching. The short, concise statements of wisdom will appeal to any one seeking spiritual and mental enlightenment. A reader can breeze through these nuggets of wisdom in a single sitting, but I would suggest digesting them slowely over time. I usually read only three a day. The depth of the message depends on the reader, but it's refreshing again to see wisdom coming from some of the oldest documents found on monks.

  • Nathan
    2018-12-01 00:00

    One of my favorite spiritual books of all time. Amazing, and fun, insights into the human spirit and the task of discipleship.

  • John McDonald
    2018-11-19 01:03

    They were known to early Christians as the "Desert Fathers". Although some came from religious orders where they were known as monks, they assumed the life of hermits living alone, praying the Psalms generally, working, and, of course, living by a strict code of celibacy where even thinking about a woman violated their consciences and perhaps even an oath some of them took. Thomas Merton--himself a monk at the Cistercian (Trappist) abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, points out that these men--all were men--were not aesthetics, but lived a sparse lifestyle in order to find humility and empathy, and, through all that humility engenders, find a freedom from the world that allows a person to love totally and unconditionally.Merton has taken a couple hundred anecdotal stories from the Verba Seniora, one of the volumes in the Latin Patrologies and formed this wonderful little book around these pithy anecdotes. I suspect that writing the book may have fulfilled a desire Merton had to research, to write, and to teach, activities he never ceased to do, despite his monasticism, over his short life of 53 years. Merton writing is a 24-page preface says the stories are distinctive because and distinguished by written a beautiful preface "their total lack of literary artifice, their complete and honest simplicity." In this assessment, Merton blasts it out of the park. The relationship of these monks to the world and of each monk to his brother monk is characterized repeatedly by the confusion monks, except the senior monks, displayed in identifying correct behavior, correct thoughts, correct involvement with others, and striving always to fend off the psychological and emotional demons that people are beset with, like revenge or backbiting. One monk described only as the Abbot Pastor told his monks "get away from any man who always argues every time he talks" and again "never despise anybody, never condemn anybody, never speak evil of anyone, and the Lord will give you peace." An elder monk was asked by his brother monk, 'what is humility' whereupon, he responded: "[humility occurs] when you forgive a brother who has injured you before he asks pardon." One of the elders opines, "If you want to have rest here in this life and also in the next, in every conflict with another, say: Who am I? And judge no one."Sound familiar, Pope Francis? Merton relates the story of the monk who boasted to a brother monk that he "was beyond all temptation", and the monk shrewdly told the boasting monk that, since he felt that way, he should pray to God for a few "good battles" in order for his life to continue to be worth something. Ouch, and, that sounds like the cure for complacency, for any aspect of our lives.What was the point of all this, Merton asks? For one thing, he says, "solitude and labour, poverty and fasting, charity and prayer" enable the "old superficial self to be purged away and [permit] the gradual emergence of the true self." Faith, humility, charity, meekness, discretion, self-denial through prayer allows one to achieve freedom. Forbidden were punishment and revenge since those qualities assumed a superiority of purpose and person that had no place in a life of humility.My favorite story, though, is one Merton tells about the two old monks who lived together in their cell or cave and had never quarreled. They allowed that in life, men quarreled and so they set out to have a quarrel. They tried and they failed to have a quarrel, so they went back to their mystical lives together.There are some pearls of wisdom in these few pages, some of which have become my favorites:"whatever you see your soul to desire according to God, do that thing and you shall keep your heartsafe."An elder monk told another, "go sit in your cell and your cell will teach you everything.""Never acquire for yourself anything that you might hesitate to give to your brother if he asked you for it . . . If anyone asks, give it to him, and if anyone wants to borrow from you, do not turn him away."And perhaps, in my view, the best lesson of all: "A man who keeps death before his eyes will at all times overcome his cowardice."

  • Zachary
    2018-11-15 04:22

    A fetching description of monastic life followed by casual translations from the Verba Seniorum by one of the great spiritual writers of modern Christianity. My favorite inclusion:"There were two elders living together in a call, and they had never had so much as one quarrel with one another. One therefore said to the other: Come on, let us have at least one quarrel, like other men. The other said: I don't know how to start a quarrel. The first said: I will take this brick and place it here between us. Then I will say: It is mine. After that, you will say: It is mine. This is what leads to a dispute and a fight. So then they placed the bricks between them, one said: It is mine, and the other replied to the first: I do believe that it is mine. The first one said again: It is not yours, it is mine. So the other answered: Well then, if it is yours, take it! Thus they did not manage after all to get into a quarrel." (CXII; p. 67)

  • Mohammad
    2018-11-18 04:03

    یک انسان بسیار بسیار منظم را تصور کنید که مقابل شما ایستاده است و به شما نگاه میکند. چهره اش چه حالتی دارد؟ کمی اخم کرده یا خندان و مهربان است؟حالا یک انسان بسیار بسیار مذهبی را تصور کنید که مقابل شما ایستاده و به شما نگاه میکند. چهره اش چه حالتی دارد؟فکر میکنم این سوال ها، و جواب هایی که به آن ها میدهیم باید مدتی ما را به خود مشغول کند.با خواندن این کتاب یاد زمان نوجوانی ام افتادم که داستان فرانسوای آسیسی را خوانده بودم و با لباس پاره در شهر میگشتم. قدیسان و راهب های مسیحی واقعا سبک جذابی دارند. نه میتوانی به راحتی آنها را محکوم به سطحی بودن کنی، نه میتوانی هر چه آنان کردند مو به مو اجرا کنی. اما من هرگز خودم را از چند صفحه مهمان حکمت ایشان بودن محروم نخواهم کرد.

  • Jeffy Joseph
    2018-12-01 22:22

    For a long time I assumed, wrongly of-course, Christianity to be of a monolithic tradition. This book with the sayings of 'Desert Fathers of fourth century' shattered my assumption. I liked many of the sayings. Even an irreligious person might find several of the sayings to be profound. I also like the aphoristic/anecdotal format. No beating about the bush.

  • Aaron Stokes
    2018-12-13 01:11

    A brilliant and succinct curation of Merton's favorite Sayings. The great value of the book, however, was the brief introduction provided by Merton in which he elaborates on the motivation of the hermits and their lifestyle. It almost acts as an apology for the monks (which is much needed in our current skeptical age). Merton writes that the hermits -- who have left a "strange reputation" -- fled to the desert in search of salvation. This is underscored by the belief that "Society . . . was regarded by them as a shipwreck from which each single individual man had to swim for his life" (paradoxically, this shipwrecked society had recently become Christian).The Empire from which these monks escaped was much like our present one: obsessed with the imposition of will and desire upon one another. The Desert Fathers were unconcerned with imposing any sort of spiritual will upon another human or having one imposed upon them. To that end, they sought the freedom to pursue God individually in the wilderness. Their example is especially timely in an age of hollow, popularized Christianity. The ship has run aground again and perhaps the only place in which to find the Divine (both within and without) is the wilderness. As one of the Abbots said: "The reason why we do not get anywhere is that we do not know our limits, and we are not patient in carrying on the work we have begun. But without any labor at all we want to gain possession of virtue."

  • Volkert
    2018-12-14 03:02

    There are several good books with quotes from the Desert Fathers (and Mothers). What sets this volume apart is that these are selected and translated by Thomas Merton, the influential Roman Catholic monk and peace activist, who also wrote an excellent introductory essay also entitled “The Wisdom of the Desert.”He talks about when Christianity was not only legalized by the Emperor, but made the official religion so that it became a means of temporal power. The monks fled into the desert to retain a purer expression of the faith. “In other words, for them the only Christian society was spiritual and extramundane: the Mystical Body of Christ (page 4).”“They were not rebels against society. True, they were in a certain sense ‘anarchists,’ and it will do no harm to think of them in that light. They were men who did not believe in letting themselves be passively guided and ruled by a decadent state, and who believed that there was a way of getting along without slavish dependence on accepted, conventional values (pages 4-5).”“What the Fathers sought most of all was their own true self, in Christ (page 5).”“In any case these Fathers distilled for themselves a very practical and unassuming wisdom that is at once primitive and timeless, and which enables us to reopen the sources that have been polluted or blocked up altogether by the accumulated mental and spiritual refuse of our technological barbarism. Our time is in desperate need of this kind of simplicity…The important thing is that they were lived. That they flow from an experience of the deeper levels of life (page 11).”Anyway, the quotes from the fathers that follow are usually brief, some one sentence long, most are a paragraph. The advice is often given as a story, but very succinctly. Some advice appears contradictory, what is good for one person may not be good for another. But altogether the virtues of humility, compassion, fasting, prayer, generosity, work, consistently shine through this short volume. As I read more and more books by and about Thomas Merton, it’s nice to know that he has built his spiritual foundation on the lives and teachings of these Early Christian Desert Fathers. We could all benefit from doing the same.

  • David Withun
    2018-11-15 03:04

    The sayings of the Desert Fathers are, of course, excellent; every Christian without exception should at some point read them. They are filled with spiritual wisdom that applies even today, more than 1500 years since these great heroes of the Orthodox Christian Faith fought the good fight in the deserts of Egypt. This particular translation, though, is lacking. For instance, I'm not sure why Merton chose to use the term "abbot" rather than the original "abba" or the English translation "father" to refer to the Desert Fathers, but it is distracting and its implication (namely, that all of these men were abbots in the modern Western sense) is incorrect. While the translation is lacking, the presentation is beautiful. The book features a very nice, easy to read font, a soft chord bookmark, and a layout that makes it both easy to read and a great overall experience. If someone combined the presentation of this book with the translation of another, it would be an A plus.

  • Dick
    2018-12-03 02:06

    This is a very readable collection of stories from the earliest stages of the monastic movement in the 4th century. The vignettes are variously clever, profound, ironic, humorous, and radical. Most are sound-bite brief or just a bit longer. None are comfortable for our self-indulgent generation.A few of these sayings have stuck with me over many years. For example, when I feel that familiar little temptation to bend the truth to burnish my reputation, I'm often haunted by this saying from 'Abbot John', We have thrown down a light burden, which is the reprehending of our selves, and we have chosen instead to bear a heavy burden, by justifying our own selves and condemning others.

  • Tariq
    2018-12-06 01:53

    Excellent read full of snippets of wisdom. I am not Christian but in general there is wisdom to be found and learnt. Obviously you can skip/read past the bits referring to Christianity specifically.This is the kind of book you need to take notes of while reading. A very easy read and can be finished very quickly.

  • Jason Townsend
    2018-11-17 00:12

    This book is little more then a collection of ancient monastic sayings compiled by Thomas Merton. By no means is this bad. But at 81 pages (25 of which make up a forward by Merton) it is kind of light.

  • Mark Baller
    2018-11-19 23:22

    Lots of saying that Merton translated some good most not

  • Catherine Corman
    2018-12-10 05:03

    whatever you see your soul to desire according to God, do that thing, and you shall keep your heart safe-The Wisdom of the Desert

  • Brian Tucker
    2018-12-04 03:21

    So so good for the soul

  • R.K. Cowles
    2018-12-15 01:10

    3 1/2 stars

  • Ian
    2018-11-27 00:07

    Very wonderful, very weird Zen Christianity hundreds of years before anything like it would have been thought trendy or even possible. Plenty to ponder here.

  • Janet
    2018-11-26 02:55

    Profoundly SimpleA few (and I wish there had been more included) sayings of the monks who chose to live in the desert during the 4th century.

  • Jodii
    2018-11-25 02:08

    Not a book for me as I'm not religious and the sayings were okay.

  • A.j. Nichols
    2018-12-02 22:14

    Excellent.This is a wonderful collection of sayings and stories of the desert fathers. Their words are a timeless treasure indeed.

  • Glen Grunau
    2018-12-05 05:08

    After reading this book, I can appreciate why it is included on some of the lists of classical Christian books. The theme repeated over and over again in this book is that the gospel of Jesus is not about words, it is not even about spiritual practices, it is about humility and love.I really get why these desert fathers recognized the need to escape the entrapments of the Christian church when it became an institutionalized product of Rome. I know that sometimes in recent years I have myself become quite critical of the Christian church. No doubt this is in part a reflection of my own idealism and the inevitable failures of the church to live up to my high and unreachable standards. Yet I am often greatly disturbed by how leaders of the church so often succumb to vainglory - the perks of a reputation that comes with positions and titles and the affirmation so often given to Christian leaders in high profile positions.This book shows a different way. It shows how contemplative believers shelter themselves from such public recognition in pursuit of a life of humility. Certainly, they no doubt have their own shortcomings, but the fact that their wisdom had such a great influence on people like Thomas Merton, and on so many other contemplative followers of Christ, affirms my conviction that they were on to something really important.To sum up this book in a phrase, it is probably more than anything a testament to the wisdom of those who forsake their false self in order to find their true self, what Paul speaks of as the self that is "hidden with Christ in God".But I will let the words of Thomas Merton, in his forward to this book, speak for themselves:"What the (Desert) Fathers sought most of all was their own true self, in Christ. And in order to do this, they had to reject completely the false, formal self, fabricated under social compulsion in 'the world' . . .He could not retain the slightest identification with his superficial, transient, self-constructed self. He had to lose himself in the inner, hidden reality of a self that was transcendent, mysterious, half-known, and lost in Christ. . . Though I might be expected to claim that men like this could be found in some of our monasteries of contemplatives, I will not be so bold. With us it is often rather a case of men leaving the society of the 'world' in order to fit themselves into another kind of society, that of the religious family which they enter. They exchange the values, concepts and rites of the one for those of the other. And since we now have centuries of monasticism behind us, this puts the whole thing in a different light.The social 'norms' of a monastic family are also apt to be conventional, and to live by them does not involve a leap into the void – only a radical change of customs and standards. The words and examples of the Desert Fathers have been so much a part of monastic tradition that time has turned them into stereotypes for us, and we are no longer able to notice their fabulous originality. We have buried them, so to speak, in our own routines, and thus securely insulated ourselves against any form of spiritual shock from their lack of conventionality. Yet it has been my hope that in selecting and editing these 'words' I may have presented them in a new light and made their freshness once again obvious."