Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Mountain of Silence

Having read Markides' account of his contact with the monks of Mount Athos, and being quite familiar with the literature on the subject of Eastern Christian mysticism/theology, I have to say that this book was a real means of grace for me. To further make my point, one needs only to read who recommends the book on the back cover- Bishop Kallistos Ware, the preeminent spokesman for Eastern Orthodoxy in the West and the retired professor of Eastern Orthodox studies at Oxford University!

I can positively remark that this book accurately depicts the practical outcome of anyone who follows the guidance of the Christian East. Holiness and wisdom are not reserved only for the monks, but for all those who seek Christ with a pure heart. The wisdom of Father Maximos, a main figure in the book, is simply a distillation of the wisdom of 2000 years of prayer and worship as found in the East. If it happens to reflect in some ways current New Age mentalities, it is not, believe me, a sign that the Eastern Church has somehow taken their advice! I have the suspicion that those who understand Christianity through Western Protestant eyes would find this work a bit odd to say the least. Monks who are clairvoyant, can change someone else's perception of time, etc are not common in Protestant Christianity. But then again, they have not had the benefit of a 2000-year-old tradition of spirituality and prayer. This is not to put the Protestants down, it is only the observation that there is no need to reinvent the wheel when the East already has a very succinct and proven method of spiritual development that goes much beyond the non-accountable, individualistic spirit of much of the Christian West.

IF you have an interest in the underpinnings of the Eastern approach to Jesus Christ and the Trinity and the Church etc, then you would do well to read "The Orthodox Way" by Kallistos Ware, or, if you want to dig into some deeper theology, "The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church" by Vladimir Lossky is a classic, as is the difficult but rewarding masterpiece "Being As Communion" by Zizioulas. ENJOY!

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Monastery of the Holy Martyrs - Orthodox Monastery, Syriac Orthodox

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