Desert Movement

Alexander Ryrie “Desert Movement. Fresh Perspectives on the Spirituality of the Desert” [Canterbury Press, 2011]
Desert Movement
“This new study sheds significant new light on one of the most significant movements in the history of Christian spirituality – the desert movement of the Early Church, the beginnings of monastic life. Drawing on recent research and newly translated ancient texts, The Desert Movement demonstrates that the spread of early Christian communities in the desert was far more extensive than previously thought. Previous study has focused on Egypt, but this explores the movements taking place in Sinai, Gaza, Judea and Palestine. It compares the common features and the variations of the different movements, introducing the lives and writings of many new monastic men and women, giving them a place among the established figures of desert spirituality.
‘A very readable account of monasticism as it was recorded in the fourth to sixth centuries, and indications as to how we might appropriate some of the ethos of the desert fathers into our own lives … A useful book for students of the desert tradition, for it serves as a basic history of the movement, as well as putting into context the major texts recording it … In our secure society we often struggle to find the path of simplicity and renunciation of the gospel, so it is encouraging to hear Fr Ryrie urging us to use aspects of the teaching of the desert tradition as a measure of our response to Christ’s call to us.’ — Sister Christine SLG 2012
ALEXANDER RYRIE is a retired priest of the Scottish Episcopal Church and a Priest Associate of the Sisters of the Love of God, an Anglican religious community in Oxford. He conducts retreats for religious communities including Mirfield and Wantage. He is the author of numerous educational books published by Hodder & Stoughton and his religious books have been published in the UK and the US.”

“This is a comprehensive and extensive account of The Desert Movement, in which a surprising number of early Christians sought, through solitude, to enhance their experience of God by living ascetic lives in remote places. Beginning in Lower Egypt the movement spread to Upper Egypt, Judea, Gaza and Sinai. Taking their inspiration from the words of Jesus, and inspired by an intense inner desire for God, these anchorites’ reason for engaging in such a way of life was to enable the love of God to grow and flourish within them. Although the desert movement had largely faded by the 7th century it has had a lasting influence on Christian spirituality. The author takes the reader on a journey through those places where the movement developed and describes in detail the kind of life these men and women lived, their inner struggles and physical deprivations. He examines some of the more significant figures for whom there is written evidence and covers the whole subject in a thoroughly accessible way. The book has an extensive bibliography and a useful index and is to be recommended as a definitive account of a significant period of Christian history.”


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