Paradise of the Fathers is an extraordinary collection of sayings taken from The Paradise, or Garden of the Holy Fathers, being histories of the Anchorites, Recluses, Monks, Cenobites and Ascetic Fathers of the deserts of Egypt between A.D. 250 and A.D. 400, compiled by Athanasius, Archbishop of Alexandria:Palladius, Bishop of Helenopolis: St. Jerome and others. These sayings were translated, out of the Syriac by Ernest A. Wallis Budge (1857-1934).
This book is an important contribution to the evolution of the spiritual life of the western world. It links the wisdom of the Greco-Roman world with the emerging world order that we today call civilisation – although it is fair to say that it is probably hateful to those who think of themselves as ‘children of the Enlightenment – sons and daughters of monkeys – as it were. Nevertheless, for those who are mystically inclined it is both a treat and a revelation.
In his translation of these early Christian texts Budge, who had been for thirty years Keeper of the Assyrian & Egyptian Antiquities in the British Museum, and was thus fully conversant with the complex intertwining of the ancient civilisations of the near East, opens a window on to a remarkable phenomenon that took place during the turbulent years of the declining Roman Empire. This phenomenon was the emergence of Christian monasticism and the development of formal spiritual disciplines as an integral part of Christian practice. In doing so he has provided a means for readers other than classical scholars to engage with an enigma that otherwise would remain forever obscure.
One cannot ignore the influence of Origen in these sayings, Origen was an exponent of the allegorical method of interpreting scripture. His methods, once considered orthodox, were condemned by the Council of Alexandria in 400 AD, from which point onward Origenism was deemed heretical. Nevertheless, his influence upon the desert communities during the 3rd and 4th centuries had been immense. The desert monks found great value in using allegories in their writings and it should be noted that many of the passages included in this volume have been chosen because of their allegorical and symbolic nature in which the influence of Origen’s method is obvious. It is the veiled allusory quality, more obvious in some passages than in others, which allude to a deeper understanding of the interior life of the soul, an understanding that was a central part of the life and work of the Desert Fathers in those formative centuries.
Paradise of the FathersISBN: 978-0-9568789-7-7257 pp. 3 b/w illustrations & maps£15.00
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