The CCEL Times 3.4 (April 1, 2008)
To view this newsletter on the Web, go to www.ccel.org/newsletter/3/4
In This Issue:
From the Director
As I was growing up, my church experience seemed somewhat heady to me—concerned more about correct belief than about actually loving God. Whether or not that was a correct perception, I wanted more. I wanted not just to know about God, I wanted to know God, though I may not have put it in those terms at that time.
Christian mysticism addresses that longing of the heart. Early in The Imitation of Christ, Thomas writes, "Let the learned be still, let all creatures be silent before You; You alone speak to me." I don't want to hear about you from others, I want to know you myself.
The word 'mysticism' has scary connotations for some. Part of the problem is that the word is used for everything from Babylonian astrology to New Age speculation. Webster defines mysticism as "the doctrine that it is possible to achieve communion with God through contemplation and love without the medium of human reason." That definition captures what I have in mind by the term. If you believe in the possibility of a relationship with God that is more than knowledge about God, you are a mystic. In this sense, mysticism is at the heart of true Christianity; even the devils know about God.
I bring all of this up because there is an interesting on-line book-study group starting at the CCEL, led by Robert Loutzenhiser. This group is initially studying Practical Mysticism by Evelyn Underhill. This is an interesting introduction to the ideas of mysticism intended primarily for the non-religious reader who wants to know how this "mysticism" business might work out in everyday life. The language is not very Christocentric, even Neoplatonic, but it gives a good, accessible, and compelling introduction. The study group intends next to cover her more thorough overview, Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness. I haven't heard from the group on whether any additional books are on the agenda, but other classics of mysticism such as The Imitation of Christ and The Cloud of Unknowing would be interesting and appropriate.
By the way, the CCEL now has a total of six online study groups with over 4400 members, including two Bible studies, three book studies, and a prayer group. You can learn more about and join groups here. If you might be interested in leading a group, please contact the moderator.
Reading the CCEL as an Orthodox Christian
The Christian Classics Ethereal Library has been a great help to me—both as an academic and as a Christian. I first came across the CCEL during my academic studies. I have a bachelor's degree in archaeology and religious studies, but it wasn't until I started work on my master's degree that I discovered what the CCEL has to offer. I was working on a paper for a Byzantine archaeology class, and, through the course of my research I found a need for an extensive resource of the Greek Fathers. The CCEL, of course, has a wonderful library where one can browse the Church Fathers and obtain their great wisdom. For me, the CCEL was a marvelous resource and it provided the sources I needed to contribute to my paper in many positive ways.
Though I had originally intended to only use the CCEL as an academic resource, I found myself a member of one of the Bible studies hosted on the site. As an Orthodox Christian, I was at first hesitant to join in the discussions. In the tradition of the Orthodox Church, scripture is typically studied only in relation to the tradition of the Church. However, I found that joining in an ecumenical study, such as the CCEL's, created enthusiasm in me to study the Bible on a daily basis. Because the study encourages members from all denominations to share, I found myself learning more about my tradition as I researched to share with others. Of course, it can also be inspiring to see how other traditions embrace particular sections of scripture. These discussions often shed new light on understandings of scripture I may never have considered had I not engaged in such a study.
In all, the CCEL has been a positive experience that has greatly aided me in my struggle for salvation.
How have you used the CCEL to deepen your research, discover new voices, and enliven your faith? Submit a usage testimonial.
Usage HintBibliography Browser
We recently add a bibliography browser to the CCEL. From this page you can see the books that we'd like to have, books we have that need proofreading, and so on. If you would like to scan, proofread, or mark up a book for us, this is a good place to check for ideas.
For example, if you want to find the highest priority books for adding to the CCEL that are available elsewhere on the Web, you can look here. If any theologically-aware book lover would like to help us develop this bibliography (add important books, prioritize or correct the status of other books, find wanted books on the Web) please let us know! We can give users permissions to edit the bibliography remotely, over the Web.
Featured ClassicTreatise on the Lord's Prayer by Cyprian (200–258)
Ordained Bishop of Carthage in 247, Cyprian was executed during the persecution of Emperor Decius on 14 September 258, and was immediately venerated as a martyr. This inevitably gave his writings a certain authority, the treatise on the Lord's Prayer written in 252 included. The context of Cyprian's treatment is more overtly baptismal than Tertullian's, the work of a bishop for his own flock; and it is clear that ... Cyprian's focus is more on the community itself.'We do not say, My Father Who art in heaven, nor Give me this day my bread ... Prayer with us is public and common; and when we pray we do not pray for one but for the whole people, because we the whole people are one.'— from The Lord's Prayer: A Text in Tradition, by Kenneth W. Stevenson
Praying With the Classics
O Most holy Trinity, that art might in one substance and kingdom undivided, be gracious unto me, a sinner. Confirm and instruct my heart, and take me from all my defilement. Illuminate my thoughts, that I may ever praise, sing and and worship, and say, One holy, one Lord Jesus Christ to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Read this classic at the CCEL.
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