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  What can we learn from the Desert Fathers & Mothers? Back to the List of Slideshows
In the Heart of the Desert:
The Spirituality of the Desert
Father and Mothers

(World Wisdom, 2003)
was written by
Rev. John Chryssavgis
and has a foreword by
Benedicta Ward, SLG.

World Wisdom thanks reader Rebecca Alexander for writing the text of this slideshow.
slide 1 of 15

In these days of fast-paced living, instant information and entertainment, what relevance do the words and stories of hermit desert dwellers, who lived almost two thousand years ago, have for us today? Could it be that living as we do in a culture of excessive distraction, comfort, and immediacy, that the wisdom of the Desert Fathers and Mothers is even more relevant to a search for the heart of spiritual truth than in the past?

The “desert” as presented in the book In the Heart of the Desert: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers by John Chryssavgis is symbolic of many different levels—including not only the specific Egyptian desert where these hermits lived in the fourth and fifth centuries, but also the empty, desolate places of the soul.

As Barry McDonald writes in his preface to this book:
But the desert may also be understood as an inner geography of desolation and abandonment; it is the place, perhaps even in the midst of others, where we are most alone. It is the valley of our deepest solitude. Father John tells us that anyone who has experienced some aspect of deserted-ness, loneliness, brokenness, breakdown or break-up—whether emotionally, physically or socially—will connect with the profound humanity of the Desert Fathers and Mothersand the perennial message of these first Christian monks concerns the necessity of emptiness; the Fathers show us, by their examples, how to confront the chaotic impulses of the soul which drive us away from that still point where God is waiting.
Over many centuries Christians have periodically returned to the wisdom, inspiration, and healing conveyed by the sayings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers. This book by Rev. Chryssavgis is welcomed for pointing us once again to their timeless message. The book is additionally notable for its inclusion of some sayings by Abba Zosimas, here published for the first time in English, and for Rev. Chryssavgis' commentary that distills these ancient sayings into powerful messages for modern readers.
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