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A penetrating discussion between "The Atheist and the Archbishop" - Anthony Bloom's famous television discussion with Marghanita Laski - on the essence of Christian faith and life opens this book of five selections.
Mother Raphaela assesses and addresses all the failings and spiritual detours that keep us from having the character of our Lord Jesus Christ — everything from false piety to heads swollen with knowledge.
Contemplation, prayer, spirituality — these words have become popular in our day among those despairing at the banality and emptiness of the contemporary scene. But popular as well are a myriad of pseudo-spiritualities, each offering its own shortcut to spiritual satisfaction. His Life is Mine is a refreshing contrast. The book deals with prayers, and especially with the "Jesus Prayer" of Orthodox monasticism.
In his meditations, Fr. Hopko draws on his long experience as a pastor and teacher, working with young and old throughout the country, to present to the modern reader the relevance of the Church's two-thousand-year-old tradition of preparing to greet our Lord's Resurrection.
St Isaac's monastic anthropology has a major influence on all of Byzantine spiritual literature. The way toward God, in his writing, was threefold: the way of the body, the way of the soul, and the way of the spirit.
This collection of articles on prayer and the spiritual life, together with some of the author's own prayers, is a moving testimony to the relevance of Christ, who, for Archimandrite Sophrony, is "all, and in all, the beginning and the ending" of all things (cf. Colossians 3:11; Revelation 1:8).
Saints who experience the power of prayer say it gives them wings to fly: wings of elation from being in proximity with Jesus Christ and relief from the burden of a sinful conscience. Once engulfed in the grace of the Holy Spirit, the person in prayer experiences death to sin, resurrection in the Spirit, and mystical ascension to the Father. The visible touches the Invisible, and joy wells up in the human heart.
This volume evolved experientially: the fruit of fifty-five years of solitude by a contemporary desert monk besieged by prayer. Father Matta's prayer life initially was formed under the direction of the sayings of the Russian Fathers, and later expanded under the direction of other Fathers, both Eastern and Western. He spent whole nights in prayer, reciting one or two passages from these luminaries and begging these saints to enlighten his understanding.
Father Matta discloses:
Whenever physical hunger turned cruel against me, I found my gratification in prayer. Whenever the biting cold of winter was unkind to me, I found my warmth in prayer. Whenever people were harsh to me (and their harshness was severe indeed) I found my comfort in prayer. In short, prayer became my food and my drink, my outfit and my armor, whether by night or by day.
Desiring to share the lessons he learned, and compelled by the Holy Spirit to do so, he wrote this volume so that he might impart to his readers "a whole course" on the life of prayer.
Father Matta El-Maskeen (Matthew the Poor) is a monk in the Monastery of St Macarius the Great, Wadi El-Natroun, Egypt. He also is the author of Communion of Love, published by St Vladimir's Seminary Press.
Way of the Ascetics is a rich, compact introduction for modern readers to the Eastern Christian spiritual tradition that has been an inspiration to millions for centuries. These compassionate and insightful reflections on self-control and inner peace are meant to lead the readers to fuller union with God.
The author states that "freedom carries with it the ultimate possibility of taking precisely this risk: that man should deny his own existential truth and authenticity, and alienate and distort his existence, his being." Morality reveals what man is in principle, as the image of God, but also what he becomes through the adventure of his freedom: a being transformed, or "in the likeness of God."
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