The wisdom of the desert fathers and mothers lies in their experiences of solitude, prayer, community life, work, and care for their neighbors. Their goal was transformation of their lives through openness to the presence and energy of God in Christ. They taught by example and by sharing narratives and sayings that reflect the deep human psychological and spiritual aspects of their journey toward authentic human life. The venue for their transformation was the whole person’body, mind, and spirit. They emphasized self-knowledge, humility, purity of heart, and love of God and neighbor. Far from being naïve, their sayings and narratives reflect honest struggles, temptations, and failures. They also demonstrate the disciplines of prayer and meditation that kept them centered in God as their only source of strength.
The daily reflections in Desert Banquet introduce readers to a variety of these early Christian mentors and offer reflections on the significance of their wisdom for life in the twenty-first century.
David G. R. Keller, an Episcopal priest, is adjunct professor of ascetical theology at the General Theological Seminary in New York City. He is co-steward, with his wife, Emily Wilmer, of Oasis of Wisdom: An Institute for Contemplative Study, Practice, and Living based in Asheville, North Carolina (www.oasisofwisdom.net). He is the author of Oasis of Wisdom: The Worlds of the Desert Fathers and Mothers (Liturgical Press) and Come and See: The Transformation of Personal Prayer (Morehouse Publishing).
Even in a world of shrinking desert locations, Desert Banquet can help us establish the environment necessary to recreate the essential spiritual values of the ancient desert experience: solitude, austerity, single-mindedness, reliance on God and spiritual parents, and deep, open listening. It would be a valuable assistance for those who have a desire for spiritual transformation in whatever life context and is clearly one of the best books on Desert wisdom.
Sister Renée Branigan, OSB, American Monastic Newsletter
I loved this book! This is well-written survey of desert wisdom with modern relevance. The author has good psychological insights and pastoral sense. For personal growth value, I would take this book over contemporary self-help titles any day. A good source for lectio divina as well.
Karl A. Schultz, Author of How to Pray with the Bible
After reading the first few entries, one can see the relevance of the teachings to those living in the twenty-first century, and the depths that these individuals took to change their lives to be closer to God. Upon completing the book, one wonders why our Christian faith does not implore the study and prayer of these holy men and women more often. Highly recommended for academic and church libraries.
Catholic Library World
This delightful book presents a year's daily readings from the Early Christian Desert tradition, with a very helpful spiritual commentary for each date. It is a veritable pocket Philokalia, such as we hear about in The Way of the Pilgrim. Fr. David Keller has done a great service in providing this very profound source of lectio divina for those seriously interested in the spiritual path.
Fr. John McGuckin, Professor of Byzantine Christian Studies, Columbia University
David Keller offers much food for daily reflection on the wisdom sayings of the ancient abbas and ammas of early Christianity, as also more contemporary wise elders. Readers of Desert Banquet are led on a journey to one's own heart, in moving monthly by means of themes of beginning solitariness, through patient endurance in the grace of transformation and dealing with the vices, to the fruit of Christ-consciousness, and ending with the legacy of desert spirituality. Repeated stories take on added dimensions for living the Gospel love command of love of God and neighbor, as one is invited to ponder and practice these parables of early Christianity.
Mary Forman, OSB, Assistant Professor of Theology, School of Theology•Seminary, College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University, Collegeville, Minnesota