Shedding light on our shallow thinking about life with God, Frederica Mathewes-Green offers an accessible “little book” full of wisdom from ancient travelers of the way of Jesus. Setting the course toward “theosis” Frederica offers some thoughts that would surely intrigue any reader who has thought reflectively about the oft experienced inconsistencies in us all. She writes,
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 it?
Why are we modern Christians so indistinguishable 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 one one another?
How come Christians who lived in times of bloody prersecution 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 trivialities?
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 tormentors, but my friend’s success makes me pouty? (The Illumined Life, p.4-5)
In first encountered Frederica on a conference call with the very first ETREK Learning Group. We were privileged to get an advance copy of a couple chapters she wrote for a then soon to be released book. I was privileged to be in on another couple of calls with her always talking about the intersection of life and faith. Charitable towards other faith traditions and at the same time assertive of the value of the heritage that is the Eastern Orthodox Church, Frederica offers wisdom gleaned from those who traveled the Jesus Way centuries ago.
Her discussions of repentance and praying without ceasing create an awareness of the shallowness in which we dabble around these subjects. Frederica does not spend time in critique but pointing the reader to consider practical ways to understanding our “rethinking” of life with God and how we may exercise in prayer a “centering” connecting Christ followers to the kind of ongoing alertness to the presence of God valuable in a disconnected, busy world.
If you have an interest in Christian spiritual formation, this would be a great book to use both personally and in a small group.
Dallas Willard offers this from the back cover, “The Illumined Heart will be of great help to anyone striving to walk the timeless path of Christ in our time.”