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Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings—Annotated & Explained

Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings—Annotated & Explained

Christine Valters Paintner

| SkyLight Paths | 2012

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The desert fathers and mothers—ordinary Christians living in solitude in the deserts of Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Arabia—chose to renounce the world in order to deliberately and individually follow God’s call. They embraced lives of celibacy, labor, fasting, prayer and poverty, believing that by denouncing material goods and practicing stoic self-discipline, they would find unity with the Divine. Their spiritual practice formed the basis of Western monasticism and greatly influenced both Western and Eastern Christianity.

Their writings, first recorded in the fourth century, consist of spiritual advice, parables, and anecdotes emphasizing the primacy of love and the purity of heart. Focusing on key themes of charity, fortitude, lust, patience, prayer, and self-control, their works influenced the rule of St. Benedict and have inspired centuries of opera, poetry, and art.

This edition opens up their wisdom for readers with no previous knowledge of Western monasticism and early Christianity. It provides insightful yet unobtrusive commentary that describes historical background, explains the practice of asceticism, and illustrates how to apply their wisdom.

Author Bio

Christine Valters Paintner holds a PhD in Christian spirituality from the Graduate Theological Union and is an adjunct faculty member at Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry. She is also a registered expressive arts consultant and educator, art editor for Presence Journal, and author of Water, Wind, Earth, and Fire: The Christian Practice of Praying with the Elements and Lectio Divina: Contemplative Awakening and Awareness.