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If you read my blog regularly, you know I’ve been on a bit of a prayer kick lately.

It started with The Way of a Pilgrim and the notion of unceasing prayer. I was fascinated with the idea of “interior prayer” and wanted to find out more about that. So I turned to the book on interior prayer: The Cloud of Unknowing.

While the author of The Cloud of Unknowing is anonymous, most people assume he was a Carthusian Monk. This is, as well as the larger  Christian culture of the 14th century, are key to understanding the thinking of The Cloud of Unknowing.

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As part of my ongoing attempt to expand my understanding of Christianity I have been reading old books. To find out why I would do such a thing check out my previous post about that very thing.

The Way of a Pilgrim bookWhile not nearly as old as our previous books, The Way of a Pilgrim, is considered a spiritual classic in the Eastern Orthodox Church which makes it different from the works we are used to reading and therefore able to widen our understanding just as well as an old book from within our tradition.

Nobody knows who wrote The Way of a Pilgrim (or even when it was written), but its mention of the Crimean War and some indicators that it was written before the Liberation of the Serfs makes it pretty clear it was written sometime between 1853 and 1861.

The book is different from previous Old Books because it is a narrative rather than a treatise. Broken into four sections called “narratives” it tells the story of a pilgrim as he attempts to understand what the apostle meant by “pray without ceasing.” He discovers a form of prayer called the Jesus Prayer which transforms him. Without knowing the author it is hard to know if it is a real account. Some scholars believe it was written as an allegory of the Christian life by a monk in a monastery on Mount Athos (where it was discovered). Nevertheless, the book has been popular outside of the Eastern Orthodox and is credited with bringing the Jesus Prayer to the west (in part from its importance in J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey).

The pilgrim carries with him a collection of the church fathers writings on prayer called the Philokalia. These texts are mentioned often and quoed extensively, so this an old book in side an old book, or as I’ve been calling it O L D C E P T I O N (please click that link).

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As part of my ongoing attempt to expand my understanding of Christianity I have been reading old books. To find out why I would do such a thing check out my previous post about that very thing.

AthanasiusThe introduction to this month’s book is what started this whole project so I figured I should read it.  Also, being a vocational Christian thinker and not having read On the Incarnation is like being an American Lit professor and having not read Grapes of Wrath. This book is just that big and important (for a 70 page book).

Just like any great classic it is timeless, but is best understood by knowing the time it came from. So, just like always, we start with a little cultural context for St. Athanasius.

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It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones. -C.S. Lewis

Recently someone asked me which books and authors have been most influential in my spiritual development at different stages of my life. I answered Soren Kierkegaard, C.S. Lewis, Rob Bell, and Jacques Ellul.

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