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Friday, November 27, 2015

"In God's Holy Light" (Joan Chittister)

TITLE: In God's Holy Light: Wisdom from the Desert Monastics
AUTHOR: Joan Chittister
PUBLISHER: Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2015, (144 pages).

Much have been written about the wisdom of the desert monks. Known for their short pithy sayings and simple stories, in the early common people from the urban centers would often make their way to the desert to learn from these desert fathers. Beginning in the third century, after the Edict of Milan which made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, many pious and religious individuals make their way to the deserts in order to escape the corruption and materialism happening at urban religious centers. In seeking a life of simplicity, they have abandoned worldly pursuits in order to seek God more intently. Many of them literally obeyed Jesus' call to the rich young man to sell all his possession, give away to charity, and to follow hard after Jesus. As the world dominates the church, many people especially the disillusioned would go to the desert fathers for spiritual advice.

In this book, a collection of 35 stories have been put together with a commentary from Joan Chittister, a Benedictine monk who has written a lot on all things spirituality and a respected voice for justice and peace. Each chapter can stand on its own. There is no necessity to read straight through from cover to cover in order to be touched by the wisdom in the pages. Imagine a room with thirty five doors in front of us. It does not matter which door we opened for every door opened will shine light on the path ahead and behind us. More importantly, it shines into our hearts to reveal our weaknesses and the need for us to remain humble. Here is how I would recommend the use of this book.

At the start, read the short story and pause. Do not be distracted by technicalities or words that you are not familiar with. Some of the things may appear quite bizarre like Serapion who gave away everything including the Word. It is not the things he did outside but what is motivating his outward actions that matter more. Slowly but surely, the unassuming and gentle advice given by the desert fathers help us see ourselves more clearly. When ready, go ahead to read Chittister's commentary on the story. There are lots of gems and insights which should stretch our mind and our learning. If we think we have understood the sayings of the desert monks, let Chittister show us another perspective or more. The stories and the lessons are easy to read. Letting the truth sink into our hearts is not so easy.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Franciscan Media and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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