We have been long familiar with the achievement of the Fathers of the Church in terms of Christian theology and doctrine, and no one can make a serious study of the Christian faith without reading the great texts of the patristic age and following their far-reaching debates. But it is not this aspect of the Fathers’ achievement which this series aims to explore. Rather, our wish is to rediscover something of the personal conviction and the deep spiritual vision which is luminously present in a considerable number of patristic works, which have for too long been neglected in favour of other writings which are of historical and theological importance. But, according to the good patristic maxim, the best theology is written by those who most deeply conform their lives to God.
Any of the Church Fathers would be baffled by the explosion of spiritual writing that we find in the modern age; the term ‘spirituality’ itself is a relatively recent invention. Their world was one in which theology, the faith as expressed in the creeds and spiritual experience formed a single unity in which each element was dependent on the others. The same, alas, cannot be said of us, and the surge of interest in spirituality must be seen as being, in part, an attempt to reclaim this original unity for ourselves.
There is much in the spiritual writings of the Fathers which is timeless. Indeed, it is astonishing how fresh and topical much of what they wrote can seem today, despite the gulf that exists between their world of late antiquity and our own world of advancing technology and mass communication. Perhaps it is human nature itself which is timeless, though there are in addition subtle points of contact between the emergent Christianity of the ancient world and our own age in which the Churches must discover their own roots in order to weather the onslaughts of secularism.
The Spirituality of the Fatherscontains carefully chosen selections from the often lesser known spiritual writings of the Fathers, newly rendered into a modem idiom, in order to set before the public the great spiritual treasures of patristic literature. It is our hope that this will strengthen the Christian life of the Spirit in our own times, and that we may come to share in that living faith more fully, which the Fathers, in their own age, always defended and fostered, by their work and their prayer.
This mini-series comprises four titles. Cyprian of Carthage lived in troubled times. His freshness and topicality are in part due to this, because his world, as ours, was characterized by restlessness, insecurity and injustice.
This mini-series comprises four titles. The writings of the Apostolic Fathers were seen as almost equal to Scripture by the early Church. They can be seen as an authoritative source for the beliefs and traditions of Christian experience in its earliest and freshest form.
This mini-series comprises four titles. Augustine lived at the time of the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West, when, as in our present day, many of the old certainties were challenged by events. A man of massive intellect and towering spirituality.
The Apostolic Fathers wrote during the period of persecution, before the Church had any links with the State, and their writings are full of the liveliness and challenge of the new-born faith. Hence, while they may have little literary merit, they offer us the chance to encounter the power of Christian spirituality in its original purity and during a period in many ways similar to the present day.
About the editor of the series
The delightful and accessible series has been put together by Professor Oliver Davies, a British systematic theologian. He has made contributions to the study of medieval mysticism, early medieval Welsh and Irish spirituality, and contemporary Systematic Theology. He presently works in the fields of neuroscience, theology and social transformation.
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