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Gifts of the Desert (Kyriacos C. Markides)

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#1 Michael Stickles

Michael Stickles


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Posted 12 February 2009 - 02:24 AM

Title: Gifts of the Desert: The Forgotten Path of Christian Spirituality
Author(s): Kyriacos C. Markides
Publisher: Doubleday, New York, NY, 2005
ISBN: 0-385-50663-5
Pages: 370
Price: $23.95
Links: Amazon.com; Archangel's Books
Description: Markides' pursuit of a deeper understanding of Orthodoxy takes him to the deserts of Arizona and a stay at a new monastery in Sedona; to the island of Cyprus and a reunion with Father Maximos; on a pilgrimage to holy shrines aboard a cruise ship in the Aegean Sea; and finally to the legendary Mount Athos, home to more than two thousand Orthodox monks. Markides relates his journey and reflections in a captivating style while providing important background material and information on historical events to give readers a highly accessible, in-depth portrait of a tradition little known in the West. (excerpt from the description at Archangel's Books)

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#2 Michael Stickles

Michael Stickles


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Posted 12 February 2009 - 03:10 AM

This book is a sequel to Markides' earlier work, Mountain of Silence. As he did in that book, Markides relates numerous conversations with his spiritual mentor, Father Maximos; he also includes discussions with Bishop Kallistos Ware and with other monks and laymen in Cyprus and on Mount Athos. These discussions cover such topics as: the Church as hospital; the three stages of spiritual growth; alterations of the soul; anger without sin; "cunningness"; near-death experiences; and more. We also get more stories, including a couple from Father Maximos' own experiences as a young monk on Mount Athos.

Markides' style has not changed - he still prefers to keep his own observations and interpretations mostly separated from the dialogues, which he transcribes verbatim (mostly from tape recordings). This is good, as in his interpretations he still has a tendency to try to squeeze Orthodoxy into his customary modes of thinking (politically liberal; theologically somewhat unitarian), but you still get the Orthodox teachings undistorted because he lets Father Maximos, Bishop Kallistos and the other monks speak for themselves.

I recommend Gifts of the Desert to anyone who read and enjoyed Mountain of Silence; however, if you have not read the latter book, I would strongly urge you to read it first, then read this one. Markides' own voice and opinions are more obtrusive in Gifts than in Mountain, but I believe that reading Mountain first helped me get accustomed to his style so I could more easily overlook it and focus instead on the teachings of Father Maximos, Bishop Kallistos and the others.

In Christ,

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