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The Fasting Life

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Artemy Doronin
Artemy Doronin

The Book Of The Elders: Sayings Of The Desert F...

As more pilgrims began visiting the monks in the desert, influence from the monastic communities began spreading. Latin versions of the original Greek stories and sayings of the Desert Fathers, along with the earliest monastic rules coming out of the desert, guided the early monastic development in the Byzantine world and eventually in the western Christian world.[10] John Cassian played an important role in mediating the influence of the Desert Fathers to the West.[11] This can be seen, for example, in the Rule of Saint Benedict, where Benedict of Nursia urged his monks to read the writings of John Cassian on the Desert Fathers. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers was also widely read in the early Benedictine monasteries.[12]

The Book of the Elders: Sayings of the Desert F...

Many of the monks and nuns developed a reputation for holiness and wisdom, with the small communities following a particularly holy or wise elder, who was their spiritual father (abba) or mother (amma). The individual Desert Fathers and Desert Mothers are mostly known through The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, which included 1,202 sayings attributed to twenty-seven abbas and three ammas.[13] The greatest number of sayings are attributed to Abba "Poemen", Greek for "shepherd". Because of the wide disparity of dates for the sayings attributed to Abba Poemen, some scholars believe that "Poemen" was a generic name for a combination of different unnamed Abbas.[14] Others conclude that the sayings attributed to Abba Poemen are accurate, based on a notable and historical Abba Poemen.[15] Among the notable Desert Fathers and Mothers with sayings in the book, in addition to Anthony the Great, were Arsenius the Great, Poemen, Macarius of Egypt, Moses the Black, and Syncletica of Alexandria.[16]

Many books are available that collect the sayings of the Desert elders, or that interpret their spirituality for 21st-century Christians. Here are seven that I have found the most useful for my own learning and spiritual formation: 041b061a72


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