by David G. R. Keller.
This book is a rich assemblage of the stories, sayings, and insights of the so-called desert fathers and mothers, men, and to a lesser extent women, who went into the deserted areas of Palestine, Sinai and Egypt, to find God and themselves. The Bible itself was their inspiration. There was, of course, the example of Jesus, who, after his baptism, '...was led into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights...' (Matthew 4.1-2). Behind that, though, lay words like these from the prophet Hosea: ' Therefore, behold, I will allure her [Israel] and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her...And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt' (Hosea 2.14-16).
Writing about these spiritual adventurers, Sr. Benedicta Ward explains the two sides to the experience of the desert which Desert Banquet's selections illustrate: the words spoken, and the actions performed. "Speak a word, father" was the request of those who sought practical wisdom for following Christ from the desert's spiritual athletes. The second request, oriented to action, was this: "What shall I do to be saved?". It was, and is, an holistic spirituality in which attitudes and action matter, and in which (as we explored in the previous book, Body) the whole human being is the place of spiritual integration and transformation.
David Keller's book is designed to provide a reading for each day of the year. He has also, helpfully, gathered stories monthly around a theme of this desert tradition. Over the next few months we will reflect together on selections under the themes of 'withdrawal', 'the cell', and 'caring for one's soul'. If we decide to carry on with this book, then we will take up other themes.
The schedule of readings is for our shared discussions. You may decide to read more systematically through the book. Great! However that may be, the 'wisdom from the desert mothers and fathers' is something that you can go back to again and again. So, I hope the time together will help you befriend these Christian ancestors of ours, and find companionable friends in the months and years ahead.
The group will reflect on several ‘days’ with a common theme at each session.
Summer Session information: The group will meet on alternate Tuesdays commencing 16th May and then fortnightly except for 30th May and 6th June at 2.30pm in the Parish Centre lounge. Each session will be led by Team clergy and others.
April 4th Caring for One’s Soul: March 13, 14, 16, 18, 19.
Tuesday 16th May The Ascetic Life: pp. 61-2; April 1-5, 9, 15, 27, 30.
Tuesday 30th May The Mystery of Human Transformation: pp. 82-3; May 3, 4, 6-7, 8, 14, 16, 19, 22, 25, 27.
Tuesday 6th June Art of Monastic Life: pp. 104-5; June 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 13, 17, 19.
Tuesday 20th June Patience: pp. 125-6; July 1, 2, 3-4, 8, 11-12, 14, 24, 27.
Tuesday 4th July Persistence: pp. 147-8; August 2, 6, 8, 11, 13-14, 16, 19-20.
Tuesday 18th July Persistence: August 16, 19-20, 22-23, 26, 30, 31.
Note: the numbers refer to the days of the month for which a short passage is given.
To participate in the group: Please purchase your own copy of the book from the office cost £12.99 and just turn up with the book for the first session. For further information and details contact Susan Scott 01235 522960