The desert will show you what you are and are not made of, what you do and do not need.
Christians are familiar with Matthew's account of Jesus' temptation in the desert. We are familiar with Jesus' pithy responses to the devil at the end of those forty days: One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God; Do not put the Lord your God to the test; Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him. But we are likely less familiar with the pithy sayings of those 'the Desert Fathers and Mothers 'whom God led into the desert in surprising numbers throughout the early centuries of the church. In City of Prayer: Forty Days with Desert Christians Rachel Srubas offers readers a collection of reflections inspired by the wisdom of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, the Abbas and Ammas. Through the wisdom of these desert Christians illuminated by Srubas's powerful narrative, readers will ponder such themes as solitude and perseverance, illness and humility. They will be inspired and challenged, comforted and sustained. Neither academic nor pietistic, this book is candid, intelligent, and compelling.
Rachel M. Srubas is a Presbyterian clergywoman and oblate of St. Benedict. She is also the author of Oblation: Meditation on St. Benedict's Rule (Paraclete Press), and her writings have appeared in The Christian Century and Weavings: A Journal of Christian Spiritual Life.
I admire the warmth and candor with which Rachel writes about spiritual life in the everyday world. The book would make a fine, reassuring companion on a Lenten journey or on any other 40-day sojourn in the `desert' of Christian contemplation of the Holy.
Nancy Mairs, Writer, Tucson, Arizona
Rachel Srubas deftly juxtaposes pithy words of wisdom from the Desert Fathers with intensely personal reflections on both ordinary and colorful people and events in her own life. Her painfully honest, practical and lyrical, poignant and occasionally funny anecdotes, touch the heart while delighting the mind of anyone who appreciates skillfully chosen words. Each of the forty essays is a model and a tacit appeal for the reader's own personal reflection.
Sr. Lenora Black, OSB, Editor of Spirit & Life magazine
In this superbly written book Rachel Srubas welcomes the desert Christians into the swirl of twenty-first century life instead of offering readers another set of historical lectures on fourth-century desert monasticism. Her creative retrieval of a vibrant moment in Christianity's past helps us grasp why wisdom won long ago matters so much to the vitality of our own contemporary lives of faith.
Donald Ottenhoff, Executive Director, Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research
The title of Barbara Brown Taylor's recent book, Leaving Church, has become an icon of sorts for people who are finding the difficulties and discouragements of church life a burden. Rachel Srubas offers a refreshingly new (yet old) response to such difficulties and discouragements. Drawing on St. Benedict and his mentors, the desert fathers and mothers, Srubas offers a model for how to pay attention to our own responses, using Scripture, prayer, and ancient wisdom to learn practical virtues in the daily living of our lives, especially in the uncomfortable moments. Like Benedict himself, Srubas has learned to be at home with human weakness, even as she delights in `the Gospel's outlandish promises and demands, and its huge hope.' City of Prayer is a wonderful and down-to-earth mystic's recipe for spiritual growth!
Norvene Vest, Spiritual Director and Author
Rachel M. Srubas is wonderfully creative in making ancient desert spirituality relevant to a modern world. . . . This is a perfect book to accompany one during the Lenten season but is also appropriate any time one seeks spiritual nourishment.
Catholic Library World
These forty reflections seamlessly blend eloquent prose and poetry, suffering and humor with a good measure of enlightening, reader-friendly scholarship. Taking as their inspiration passages from fourth-century desert monks-mothers and fathers-they illuminate and deepen what it means to lead a fully aware, engaged life built on a foundation of contemplation and meditation. They demonstrate for us the ways in which the past is our present, making a whole woven tapestry of our lives and those of our teachers and forebears.
Fenton Johnson, Author of Keeping Faith: A Skeptic's Journey among Christian and Buddhist Monks
City of Prayer is a delightful conversation between the wise and colorful early desert ascetics and a contemporary seeker. Rachel is down-to-earth (the monastic understanding of humility) and real. Anyone who does not understand these ancient witty wisdom teachings, who fails to see their own journey in these early `sayings' and `stories' will come to recognize the echo of their story in Rachel's wonderful insights. Ultimately Rachel reminds us that all of our life, every encounter and struggle and gift encounter is prayer. This is all that the ascetics asked their followers to recognize. Deo Gratias.
Laura Swan, OSB, Author of The Benedictine Tradition and The Forgotten Desert Mothers
City of Prayer speaks powerfully and is beautifully written. It will make you smile, and at other times bring tears to your eyes. You meet colorful characters who behave outrageously as well as holy women and men who will inspire you. Wonderfully human, its honesty and practicality will speak to your heart.
Spirit & Life