The Desert Fathers and Mothers of the fourth and fifth centuries are arguably the first Wisdom School in Christian history. At first in trickles and then in waves, they fled into the deserts of Egypt and Syria to escape the increasing imperialization of the Christian Church and to live in a simple immediacy with the Risen Christ. In the process, they generated an extraordinary body of practical teachings on the spiritual practices underlying this life of deeper awareness and mystical union.

These desert pioneers were men and women of few words. Like Wisdom masters everywhere, they preferred to teach in short, often koan-like, sayings and examples. Their legacy of spiritual wisdom exists primarily as a body of short “pith sayings” and teaching examples, faithfully transmitted down through the ages.

This body of wisdom is perfect for the Advent season, where the goal is the much the same: to prepare the body and psyche to live at a greater level of conscious mindfulness and compassionate gratitude — i.e., “Christ consciousness” — as Christians worldwide once again prepare to celebrate the birth of the human Jesus and the eternal rebirth of that Christ consciousness in the human heart.

Although sometimes pictured as ascetic “extremists,” the Desert Fathers and Mothers are actually more characterized by their moderation and spiritual groundedness. Balance and sustainability are their watchwords. In the Advent “windows” you’ll open each day during this e-retreat, you’ll hear their take on some of the classic Advent themes: staying awake, compassion, vigilance, humility. You’ll also receive their timely practical advice on matters such as maintaining moderation in a season of excess, keeping the real priorities front and center, and learning to give (and receive) from the heart.

To join us for this Advent retreat, click on the “Subscribe to E-Course” button below. Under the guidance of S & P veteran teacher Cynthia Bourgeault, you’ll be led skillfully into this body of profound and still relatively unknown Christian Wisdom — always from the practical perspective of how these “arrows from the past” can transform our lives today.

You will receive daily emails starting with an introductory email on Saturday, November 28, then daily emails through Christmas, each with a saying from the Desert Fathers and Mothers, a commentary by Cynthia, a practice suggestion, and a link to the online Practice Circle where Cynthia will join us for a discussion of the day’s saying.

Saturday November, 28 – Friday December, 25