"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, February 17, 2014

Be Still!

Those of us in the Byzantine liturgical tradition have begun the ante-Lenten period leading up to the Great Fast in about three weeks. Happily this year, Pascha is the same on both the Julian and Gregorian calendars, and quite late in April, too, where it belongs--when one has a reasonable hope, in the northern hemisphere, of it being at least semi-warm and green outside.

Part of the prescribed practice of the fast is the regular recitation of the prayer of St. Ephraim, who is the patron of my firstborn son. In that prayer, we ask the Lord to spare us from the temptation of "idle chatter." If you are an academic, or know or are related to an academic (or, dare one say, a cleric!) you know what a vast temptation "idle chatter" is. It is therefore important to have a reminder of the importance of resisting this temptation, and we have that in a new book, released only this month, by Norris Chumley, Be Still and Know: God's Presence in Silence (Fortress Press, 2014), 173pp.

About this book we are told:
Early Christian spirituality is a topic of enduring fascination today among scholars and general readers alike. Stories of hermits living in the desert in their pursuit of God catch our fancy. What motivated them? What drove them, or drew them, to silence on their path to God? And what do those lessons mean for us today?

In this gracious tour through our tradition, Norris J. Chumley introduces us to Hesychasm, or the practice of silence and contemplative prayer, and the lives of its early practitioners. Then, as only a teacher and mentor can, he opens up those important meanings for today.

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