kaelan's Reviews > The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks

The Desert Fathers by Benedicta Ward
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Nov 17, 12

bookshelves: religion-mythology
Read from August 27 to November 17, 2012

I don't come from a religious background, and I stumbled upon this book rather by accident; but I found parts of it sagacious and insightful. As a collection of aphorisms from many different authors, it is often repetitive or contradictory. Yet I can't help but think that if contemporary Christians acted—in any small degree—like the desert fathers (and mothers), the world would be changed for the better.

In our present times, there is a baffling overlap between Christianity and capitalism. Maybe all the covetous Catholics and the pleonectic Protestants should take the words of the hermit Syncletica to heart:
Merchants toil in search of riches and are in danger of their lives from shipwreck; the more wealth they win, the more they want; and they think what they have already is of no worth but bend their whole mind to what they have not yet got. But we have nothing, not even that which we ought to seek; we do not even want to possess what we need, because we fear God.

This passage is representative of the book as a whole: while not particularly original (I've read something similar in a book of Sufi proverbs), you can't ignore the fact that precepts such as this one formed the basis for an actual way of life. The desert fathers and the desert mothers were real people, isloated from the rest of society, for whom religion was no weekend trip—it was hard, gritty, dirty and socially peripheralized. That's something you don't need to be a Christian to respect.

A brief word on my rating: I would rate the "sagacious and insightful" parts higher, but these comprise only a fraction of the entire work.
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09/19/2012 page 32
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