(Click the titles for more information.)

Desert Wisdom

This is, perhaps, the best introduction to the Sayings of the Desert Fathers that I have come across. It only includes 100 sayings, but each is accompanied by a thought-provoking image in the style of traditional Japanese ink painting by Yushi Nomura. It also features an introduction by Henri Nouwen.

Western Asceticism

This excellent collection includes the Sayings of the Desert Fathers (nearly complete), some selections from the conferences of St. John Cassian, and the Rule of St. Benedict (complete). It is a great resource for thoughtful reflection on the spiritual life and my primary source for these texts.

The Jesus Prayer Resource Page

This page is an online library of Eastern Orthodox Christian resources on the Jesus Prayer: words of the Holy Fathers, books, video & audio materials, and more. Meditatively repeating the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”) is perhaps the central practice of Orthodox spirituality, outside of the divine liturgy. The site’s founder and webmaster contacted me about adding this link. After looking it over, I’m happy to recommend it. I’m sure I’ll be using it. Also, as matter of transparency, he offered me a free komboskini (a prayer rope)! (But I would have said yes anyway.)

The Philokalia

This four volume set is central to the Eastern Christian spiritual tradition. It is not always the most accessible reading, but it is full of insight and wisdom.

Early Christian Fathers

This little collection of some of the earliest Christian writings outside of the New Testament, mostly from the second century, is an excellent introduction to the early Church, offering a window into the faith of those who were only a generation removed from the Apostles and in some cases even knew them personally. Indeed, it seems impossible to me to correctly understand the New Testament in its original context apart from reading the writings of the recipients of its many epistles and the intended audience of its other writings.

St. Augustine’s Confessions

It’s a classic for a reason. If Christianity could somehow disappear from the face of the earth, people would still be reading St. Augustine’s Confessions.

The Life of Antony

This work by St. Athanasius details the life of one of the earliest monastics, St. Antony. St. Athanasius’s very brief letter on the Psalms, included with his Life of Antony in this volume here, is also remarkably humbling once one realizes that he is most likely working entirely from memory.

Celtic Spirituality

This large collection contains many spiritual writings of the early Celtic Christians. The Church that St. Patrick built was heavily influenced by the desert fathers yet carried an unique character all its own that resonates with many Celts (and others) even today.

The Ladder of Divine Ascent

This classic work by St. John Climacus offers a step by step guide for the spiritual life. It is written for monastics, so sometimes it can be a bit more severe than what one is capable of in the world. On the other hand, it is very clearly and beautifully written.

The Life in Christ

This is another classic guide to the spiritual life, this time from the middle ages, by St. Nicholas Cabasilas. He begins by detailing how the sacraments of the Church incorporate us into the life in Christ and then details how the importance of the altar in worship as well as how to practically live within the grace of the life in Christ. Very accessible and written more for laypeople of the Church than monastics.