The book elves are busy putting together the new book (using wood blocks for 
each letter and silk to sew the spines, I hope), and it should be out the 
door on August 15. It may take another 6 wks to fully ship in to stores. The 
title is "The Illumined Heart: The Ancient Christian Path of Transformation", 
and it is a shortie, just over 100 pages. My goal was to introduce readers to 
the basic spirituality of the early church--how they prayed, fasted, gave 
alms, how they determined which interpretation of scripture was true, how 
they attempted to "pray constantly," and so forth. It's a practical book, an 
introduction for those who would like to take a look at, and maybe begin to 
practice, the spiritual disciplines of the early church. 

Yes, this is the book that was initially titled "Sweet Sorrow," but we 
decided that sounded too much like a romance novel. And for awhile it was the 
"Illuminated Heart" until we decided to get rid of the "at", making the title 
more ethereal but also harder to hear. I have this fear that bookstore clerks 
will get calls from little-old-ladies saying "it has a title that sounds like 
'The Aluminum Heart.'"

I use a 5th century middle-eastern couple named Theodore and Anna as a way of 
making it concrete. He's a deacon and they run a family olive grove, and have 
three small kids. It wasn't until I'd finished the book that I realized my 
mother's mother's parents were named Theodore and Anna. He was German, and 
became a missionary dentist in South America; she was Swiss, and a Salvation 
Army captain. The family story is that she was "thrown down the stairs" 
during a protest.

I'll paste in the first chapter and table of contents below. On my website 
you'll see the same chapter, plus a graphic of the cover and some of the many 
kind blurbs supplied by folks like Dallas Willard, Thomas Howard, Rod Dreher, 
David Aikman, Krister Stendahl, David Neff of Christianity Today, Amy 
Dickinson of Time, and others. 

It's just $13.95 (a gift book price) but the publisher, Paraclete, says they 
will give any of youall a 20% discount if you phone them and pre-order now. 
That number is 800-451-5006. 


Chapter 1: The Central Question

You are holding a small book with an old-fashioned title. It might seem like 
a messenger from the past, or from no time at all, like one of those books 
you pull off the shelf at a musty old retreat house.

That's pretty much what I'm aiming for. The shelves at your local bookstore 
are  bulging with titles addressing urgent, transitory concerns, but this 
book intends a different pace. I want to examine a more timeless and 
universal question, one basic to the human condition, and to address it with 
more timeless wisdom.

That kind of wisdom is certainly not my own. I am too caught in my own time 
to attempt timelessness, not to mention having a pretty short stock of 
personal wisdom. But I hope to pass on, as accurately as I can understand it, 
a consensus that grew and flourished among Christians from the first century 
onward. This was a consensus regarding how to do the most important—perhaps 
the only really  important—thing we can do: to live in Christ. 

This is the early Christians' wisdom, not mine. I hope not to say anything 
original. If I do, ignore it.

What is this human condition, this timeless question? To take the most global 
approach, we could say that it is the riddle of why none of us feels really 
at home in this world. We're not consciously aware of this uneasiness every 
minute, of course; with enough entertaining distractions, we can hold it at 
bay. But still it's there all the time, just under the surface, a murmuring 
unease. Almost unheard but still  persistent, it rushes in the background of 
our lives like an underground river.

It can take different forms with different people. For some, there's a vague, 
feeling that we're always disappointing others; for others, it's that 
everyone else is always disappointing us. A lot of us feel like the whole 
rest of the world is in on a joke we're not getting, and we just smile 
awkwardly and pretend to go along. Some of us are burdened throughout our 
lives with guilt for a severe and genuine evil we committed. Others feel 
peppered daily by twinges over a host of minor offenses, pursued as by a 
cloud of mosquitos.

For all of us, I think, there is a recurrent sense of loneliness. Ultimately, 
we are alone, humanly speaking, on this hurtling earth. Even in the most 
jovial and affectionate of families—and I speak from blessed 
experience—there remains a melancholy awareness that each of us is still 
fundamentally alone, encapsulated in skin like a spaceman. Even when enjoying 
those whom we love most, we are looking through a pane of glass, and all the 
urgent longing of our hearts can't break through.

We modern Christians have a ready and confident response to this dilemma. We 
say that of course this is so; it is because, as St. Augustine said, God has 
made us for himself, and our hearts are restless until we find our rest in 
him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together, as St. 
Paul put it. When we draw near God, and only then, do we find our place in 
relation to the world. It is like going up the spoke of a wheel to the 
center, and when nearest him we find ourselves closest to everything else he 
has made.

Here is communion. In God's presence we discover ourselves able to love one 
another, to be vessels of heroic love, even toward our enemies, even unto 
death. We find all creation in harmony around us, as responsive and fruitful 
as the Garden was to Adam and Eve. The peace that passes understanding 
informs our every thought.

All this sounds pretty good, right? So why are we doing such a crummy job of 

Why are we modern Christians so undistinguishable from the world?

Why are our rates of dysfunction and heart-break just as high? Why don't we 
stand out in virtue and joy? Does anyone ever say, "We know that they are his 
disciples, because they love one another"?

How come Christians who lived in times of bloody persecution were so heroic, 
while we who live in safety are fretful and pudgy? 

How could the earlier saints "pray constantly," while our minds dawdle over 

How could they fast so valiantly, and we feel deprived if there's no cookie 
at the end of the in-flight meal?

How could the martyrs forgive their torturers, but my friend's success makes 
me pouty?

What did previous generations of Christians know that we don't?

That's what this book is about.


too much of a teaser? The chapter titles are:

A Challenging Answer

So Who Cares?

Where We're Going

Why We Don't Like Repentance

Repentance, Both Door and Path

Introduction to Passions, and Disciplines of the Body

More about Passions, and Disciplines of the Mind

The Jesus Prayer

Dealing With Others: The Smaller Circle

Dealing With Others: The Larger Circle

The Way from Here

there's also a glossary, and a bibliography that suggests further readings. 

Frederica Mathewes-Green

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