'God is our home but many of us have strayed from our native land. The venerable authors of these Spiritual Classics are expert guides--may we follow their directions home.'--Archbishop Desmond Tutu The Vintage Spiritual Classics present the testimony of writers across the centuries who have pondered the mysterious ways, unfathomable mercies, and deep consolations afforded by God to those who call upon Him from out of the depths of their lives. These writers are our companions, even our champions, in a common effort to discern the meaning of God in personal experience. The questions, discussion topics, and background information that follow are designed to enhance your group's reading of the six works that make up the first series in Vintage Spiritual Classics. We hope they will provide you with a variety of ways of thinking and talking about these ancient and important texts. We offer this word about the act of reading these spiritual classics. From the very earliest accounts of monastic practice--dating back to the fourth century--it is evident that a form of reading called lectio divina ('divine' or 'spiritual' reading) was essential to any deliberate spiritual life. This kind of reading is quite different from that of scanning a text for useful facts and bits of information, or advancing along an exciting plot line to a climax in the action. It is, rather, a meditative approach, by which the reader seeks to taste and savor the beauty and truth of every phrase and passage. There are four steps in lectio divina: first, to read, next to meditate, then to rest in the sense of God's nearness, and, ultimately, to resolve to govern one's actions in the light of new understanding. This kind of reading is itself an act of prayer. And, indeed, it is in prayer that God manifests His Presence to us.
Three centuries after the death and resurrection of Christ, devout Christians began increasingly to renounce the corrupt world in which they lived and sought solitude and the contemplative life. These were the desert fathers - and mothers - who would spend years in single cells, praying and fasting in an effort to become more holy. This edition of the classic, together with a preface by the Cistercian monk M Basil Pennington, tells the stories of the first hermit Paul, John Moschus, the 'monks of Egypt', and Mary and Pelagia, both prostitutes who became believers. This is an absorbing, intriguing and sometimes amusing account of those who spent much of their lives pondering its deepest questions. (Kirkus UK)