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The Ancient Path {A Book Review}

The Ancient Path

I’ve dabbled a bit in reading the works of the Church Fathers {or Patristics, as it is commonly called}, but my familiarity with it certainly falls short. This became quite apparent after reading John Michael Talbot’s latest work, The Ancient Path: Old Lessons from the Church Fathers for a New Life Today.

To be honest, I picked up this book because I love his music and several dear people in my life have a love for the Christian Eastern spirituality {where knowledge of the Fathers is much more prevalent} and I wanted to know better why. I didn’t know quite what to expect. And I got much more than I bargained for in reading it through.

Talbot introduces us to his great love for the Fathers’ works by recounting his journey with them through his conversion, his establishment of a monastic lay community, and beyond. I never heard his full story {and I won’t spoil it here} but it is an inspiring one of honest struggle with the truth of God and how He calls us to live out our lives.

The Church Fathers guided Talbot on the path to Catholicism. Throughout the first half of the book, He shows where they affirm and confirm how Scripture finds its source and measure in the Church, uphold the doctrine of the Eucharist, defend the Church against heresies concerning Christ’s humanity and divinity {still alive and well today in slight variations}, show how Apostolic authority is handed down, and demonstrate the development of doctrine.

The second half of the book, he turns to Catholics reminding them of the importance of the Church “breathing with two lungs” as Pope John Paul II called it. He invites Westerners to delve more deeply into the Fathers so can come to appreciate and welcome more easily what the East has maintained and shares with us in their Liturgy and customs today.

I had heard of the Jesus Prayer {Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner} before but this simple prayer became all the more rich and beautiful after his explanation of it. {Note: Found out he’s written an entire book on it.}

That simple formula includes elements of adoration, contrition, and supplication. It confesses Jesus’s divinity and our own sinfulness. It’s as hard as a diamond, but it rises lightly as a breath. It has sustained the inner life of ascetics and ordinary folk in the Eastern churches for well over a millennium. . . .

The Fathers teach us to unite the Jesus Prayer with our breathing, and breathing takes place in two motions. We inhale, and we exhale. . . . With the intake, we say, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God”; and then with the outflow, we say, “Have mercy on me, a sinner.”

As we inhale, we fill our lungs up, and so symbolically we fill our spirit–with Jesus, the Lord and Christ!

Then, as we exhale, we’re letting go. We’re separating ourselves from sin by our confession that we are sinners and our plea for mercy.

We would do well to adopt this prayer.

Be warned: this book just might add more reading to your shelf. My first purchase after finishing this book was Jimmy Akin’s The Fathers Know Best.

Time to fall more deeply in love with all that the Church has handed on to us.

 

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.

2 Thoughts on “The Ancient Path {A Book Review}

  1. Nancy on April 8, 2015 at 8:09 pm said:

    I may need to borrow that one! Patristics was one of my favorite new-to-me topics at the seminary, and I was blessed to learn from the Metropolitan Nikitas about the writings of the Fathers (I think Archbishop Chrysostom might be my favorite…)! Thanks for the review!

  2. Pingback: Books I Read in 2015 and Books to Read in 2016 | 'Muff'in Dome

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