Saturday, December 29, 2007

a barrel of monks

Well, it's finally happened. I've got nothing but monks on my reading list, as far as the eye can see. I'm still plugging away at St. John Cassian's Conferences for my reading at home. I started that a while back from a suggestion in The Arena. St. John helped to establish Western monasticism by traveling throughout Egypt, interviewing desert fathers, and compiling guidance for monastery life. The volume's kind of bulky, so I don't carry it with me when I commute. For that, I now have a Christmas gift from Julie--John Moschos's Spiritual Meadow. Perhaps one of my earliest encounters with Eastern Christianity was a book by William Dalrymple, called From the Holy Mountain. He traveled throughout the eastern Mediterranean region in the 1990s, visiting a lot of the places mentioned by John Moschos, to see what things looked like centuries later. I went back and read the book again not long ago (now that I have a somewhat better frame of reference), and that got me interested enough to read the Spiritual Meadow for myself.

And if that's not enough, I'm still working my way through Palladius's Lausiac History when I need something to read on the computer. That was mentioned by Seraphim Rose in Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future. All three books are collections about the desert fathers. John Cassian's work is more discursive, while the other two are narrative. But they all have a similar feel.

If I don't get it for my birthday, I'll probably use some gift money to buy Sayings of the Desert Fathers (what is it with Cistercian Publications, anyway?), and maybe Way of a Pilgrim. So that should keep the trend going. I'm actually quite glad to be back to this kind of thing. I spent too long trying to rush through a lot of secular writing that I was getting from the library, and I can already tell that my spiritual life suffered from it.

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