Gregory of Nyssa, the most mystical of the Cappadocian Fathers

As I said yesterday, when I realized that Evagrius Ponticus was a student of one of the Cappadocian Fathers, I decided that I should read the Cappadocian Father Gregory of Nyssa before Evagrius, rather than the other way around. So that's what I'm doing, and here, therefore, is an introduction to Gregory.First, who are the Cappadocians? They were a fourth century monastic community which produced three towering figures of Christian theology and mysticism: Basil the Great, Gregory Nazianzus, … [Read more...]

101 Mystics: Gregory of Nyssa before Evagrius Ponticus

I don't know how many of you out there in blog-land are actually reading along with me on the 101 mystics, but just in case someone is... I had set up my chronological list of mystics with Evagrius Ponticus coming before Gregory of Nyssa. But in researching Evagrius, I've realized that he was a student of the Cappadocian Father Gregory of Naziansus — and Gregory of Nyssa was also a Cappadocian. So I went back to my notes and realized that Gregory was in fact 10 years older than Evagrius, and so … [Read more...]

The Desert Fathers on the Next Step

"Lot went to Joseph and said, 'Abba, as far as I can, I keep a moderate rule, with a little fasting, and prayer, and meditation, and quiet: and as far as I can I try to cleanse my heart of evil thoughts. What else should I do?' Then the hermit stood up and spread out his hands to heaven, and his finger shone like ten flames of fire, and he said, 'If you will, you can become all flame.'" —from The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks … [Read more...]

The String Cheese Incident on Silence

"The silence in your head Is louder than a hurricane The silence in your head Will never let you go" — Malcolm Burn and Kyle Hollingsworth, "Silence in Your Head," from One Step Closer by String Cheese Incident … [Read more...]

Centering Prayer

Today my friend Darrell and I are going to hear Thomas Keating speak in Atlanta. Keating is one of the major spokespersons for Centering Prayer, a method of Christian meditation (contemplation) developed by Trappist monks like Keating in the 1970s, based on the work of Thomas Merton and in response to the popularity of eastern meditation among young people at the time. Unlike many other forms of meditation, Centering Prayer maintains a strong relational and devotional element (it's not just a … [Read more...]

Teresa of Avila

Today is the feast day of Saint Teresa of Avila, who lived from 1515 to 1582. Teresa is well known for a number of reasons; she is one of only thirty-three Doctors of the Church, saints whose writings have been honored by Catholicism as timeless, exemplary teachings of the faith. Indeed, of the 33 doctors, only three are women (!), and Teresa was the first woman to have received this honor (other doctors of the church include St. Thomas Aquinas; St. Augustine; and Teresa's colleague and … [Read more...]

A Dozen CDs of Sacred Choral Music

William Byrd: Gradualia, the Marian Masses

 I love choral music, and I have a particular fondness for sacred choral music. I listen to Vaughan Williams' joyfully melodic Mass in G Minor almost every day, and great choral composers both ancient and modern — including William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, John Rutter and John Tavener — stay in heavy rotation on my iPod. This isn't just a fad I've embraced since becoming a Catholic, either; my love for sacred choral music goes all the way back to my college days, and continued to grow du … [Read more...]