Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What Can I Learn from a Desert Saint?

book cover

Water from a Deep Well

Christian Spirituality from Early Martyrs to Modern Missionaries

By Gerald L. Sittser
Foreword by Eugene H. Peterson

In Rome in A.D. 165, two men named Carpus and Papylus stood before the proconsul of Pergamum, charged with the crime of being Christians. Not even torture could make them deny Christ, so they were burned alive.

Is my faithfulness as strong?

In the fifth century, Melania the Younger and her husband, Pinian, distributed their enormous wealth to the poor and intentionally practiced the discipline of renunciation.

Could living more simply deepen my trust in God?

In the sixteen hundreds, Philipp Jakob Spener's love for the Word of God and his desire to help people apply the Bible to their life moved him to start "Colleges of Piety," or small groups.

In what ways could commitment to community make me more like Christ?

The history of the church has shaped what our faith and practice are like today===>Click headline for more information . . .

Q: [Interview with the author] What will people gain from reading Water from a Deep Well?

They will gain a wonderful sense of history, learn a great deal about the family of faith that has gone before them, and smile a lot at the idiosyncratic people we call our brothers and sisters in Christ. They will also be exposed to people, movements, ideas and spirituality practices that will really stretch them. I suppose that they will be set free from being prisoners to the immediate and contemporary. The church, after all, is bigger than just “now.” There is a great deal history can teach us about the spiritual life, much of it very practical too.

Q: Isn’t Christian spirituality essentially the same throughout history?

There is amazing variety in the history of Christian spirituality. Take the desert saints, that odd collection of Christians from the fourth and fifth centuries who withdrew into the desert to fight the devil and find God. They practiced severe forms of ascetic discipline. Yet I have found them to be insightful psychologists and spiritual mentors. Or take the medieval mystics. They have taught me that “knowing” involves far more than mere information. It involves experience too.

Q: Have you incorporated any of these practices into your own spiritual life?

The research and writing of this book has transformed my life. For example, the desert saints have shown me the important role the mind plays in driving me from God or drawing me to God. Monastic spirituality has taught me to strike a daily rhythm of prayer and work, so that my prayers serve my work and my work drives me to prayer. Eastern Orthodox spirituality has inspired me to meditate on the glory that is ours through Christ. Icons in particular have changed the way I view my own eternal destiny.

Q: Is there one question you wish someone would ask you about this book?

There are actually two questions. How can knowledge of history actually enrich our Christian faith? Why are we so unaware of this rich history?

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