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Journey Back to Eden: My Life and Times Among the Desert Fathers [Paperback]

By Mark Gruber (Author) & M. Michele Ransil (Translator)
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Item description for Journey Back to Eden: My Life and Times Among the Desert Fathers by Mark Gruber & M. Michele Ransil...

An American Benedictine monk chronicles the year he lived among the Coptic monks of Egypt, detailing a mysterious, spiritually challenging world saturated in prayer and silence. Original.

Publishers Description
A Journey Back to Eden is a story of spiritual adventure: the account of an American monk who undertook to live for a year among the Coptic monks of Egypt. In their austere desert monasteries these monks maintain a tradition of Christianity that extends back to St. Anthony and the ancient Desert Fathers. Father Gruber's account -- by turns entertaining, poignant, and spiritually challenging -- pens a window on a mysterious world, saturated in prayer and silence, that functions still, as it always has, to awaken hearts to the mercy and power of God.

Citations And Professional Reviews
Journey Back to Eden: My Life and Times Among the Desert Fathers by Mark Gruber & M. Michele Ransil has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Publishers Weekly - 07/22/2002 page 173

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Orbis Books
Pages   208
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.5" Width: 6" Height: 9.25"
Weight:   0.75 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 1, 2002
Publisher   Orbis Books
ISBN  1570754330  
ISBN13  9781570754333  

Availability  144 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 24, 2016 01:35.
Usually ships within one to two business days from La Vergne, TN.
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More About Mark Gruber & M. Michele Ransil

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Gruber is a Benedictine monk of St. Vincent Archabbey and an associate professor of anthropology at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

Mark Gruber currently resides in Latrobe, in the state of Pennsylvania.

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Product Categories

1Books > Special Features > Substores > jp-unknown3
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > General
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Clergy > Church Institutions & Organizations
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality > General
6Books > Subjects > Travel > Africa > Egypt > General

Christian Product Categories
Books > Inspiration > Motivation > Biography & Autobiography

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Reviews - What do customers think about Journey Back to Eden: My Life and Times Among the Desert Fathers?

Journey through the Desert with the Fathers  Dec 6, 2007
This book about a Roman Catholic monk, Mark Gruber, and his extra-ordinary journey from the green fields of the U.S. to the deserts of Egypt is just breathtaking. As a member of the Coptic Orthodox church, and of Egyptian stock, i simply found Mr Gruber's plain and truthful telling of his experiance just so refreshing. It's funny, this man spoke more wonderfully about the Coptic people then most people at my church think of themselves. He showed them for their weaknesses, and their strengths, just as he saw it. It has helped me to appreciate who I am, my background, and my traditions so much more.

This book is great if you enjoy stories regarding exotic lands and peoples, and an honest telling of their journey.
The Modern-Day Desert Fathers  Apr 3, 2006
The comtemplative monk is a baffling figure to Westerners, even to many Catholics, and moreover, most Westerners probably do not think very much of the Christians in Egypt, which we tend to think of as a wholly Muslim nation.

Fr. Gruber's evocative descriptions of Coptic monasticism and spirituality beautifully illustrate how inner conversion and contemplation are the heart of the Church. In the West we often hear an emphasis on practical action, or social justice, over and above contemplative prayer. Fr. Gruber's writings about the Copts show how contemplative prayer nurtures us and gives life to all our actions. It is a great window into a neglected and persecuted Christian population, and an inspiration for our daily lives and relationship with God.
Terrific  Jun 8, 2005
I don't know which was more interesting, the author's anthropological observations or his spiritual journey. Both fascinating and enlightening. Originally, Br. Gruber sets out to study the fathers of monasticism with a scholar's eye (albeit a fellow Monk-scholar), but the desert and those who live there transform him eternally.

This book is a fresh drink of water! Here are my favorite passages:

"In all of this," Abuna Elia said, "the desert was a teacher for Abraham. The desert teaches us how helpless we are, how much we depend upon one another for survival. It is with a complete sense of dependence, a complete sense of helplessness that we must approach God, and that we must approach one another in terms of possessiveness and control."

"By complete openness and availability to one another, we are obedient to each other in matters of charity. We are at each other's service.... But at the same time... our relationships must be ordered by a surrender, a letting go, a sacrifice. We own no one; we possess no one."

"Abuna Elia assured me that the sacrifices we make in our lives as Monks, as Christians, will always be enfolded in layer upon layer of the sacrifices that went before us."

"Abuna Elia said, 'When God asks us to make heroic sacrifices, it is not because he is heedless of what we are giving up; he is profoundly aware of it. When we are offering gifts to God, we are not really offering much, unless, at the same time, we are also submitting all those things that are valuable to us. We must submit to God's will everything which is dearest to us, that which is our only one of something, that which we love, that which is even beyond our ordinary capacity to imagine losing. Otherwise, all of our prayers and protestations of fidelity are somewhat strategic and not genuine or sincere." pp42-43

Later, during a time of pilgrim visits, the author is left with the small children to care for. He builds a fire and answers their endless questions about heaven, about "what it is like to see Jesus there," about Mary, about who God is. Night falls and the children keep talking until they fall asleep by the fire.

"So there I was, sitting by the dying fire, with all of these sleeping children around me. I looked at them in the starlight and the moonlight and was touched by the fact that they are so filled with faith so innocently seeking God. This is the second time since coming here to Egypt that I have found myself in exactly the same setting, surrounded by young people asking questions and listening to answers, tiring themselves out into exhaustion and sleep. And, just as before, there is once again that stabbing realization that none of these are my children, that I shall never have children such as these to instruct and teach."

"I looked up at the sky on this beauiful, clear desert night. I thought to myself that I had never seen such an array of stars, so numerous and so bright. Then, of course, at this moment, the passage from the Book of Genesis came to mind where God said to Abraham, 'Look up into the night sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so shall your descendants be' (cf. Genesis 15:5). So there I was sitting, looking up at the night sky, knowing how impossible it is in the desert night to count the stars. And even while I was feeling the special poignancy of not having children, I suddenly realized that these children all around me are not only children of Abraham, but they are also mine as well. For I have instructed them in faith, and I have given them tonight a greater realization of their own religion, their own spirituality. I have placed them confidently in the presence of God." pp 84-85
Excellent - very readable  Feb 7, 2005
This memoir of the year that Fr. Gruber spent among the Coptic monasteries of Egypt is fascinating. Fr. Gruber lovingly describes these men and their piety, along with the phenomenal faith of the Coptic lay people. There appears to be a direct line back to the conferences of John Cassian in the lives of these monks, but that perhaps is because Fr. Gruber has crafted the chapters in such a way to invite the comparison. But maybe not. These men live lives of remarkable holiness. I loved the image of people grabbing them by the ankle and holding on till the monk will bless them. I also loved the hike in 130 degree heat, and realization that the cave he has been brought to, and in which he spends the next three days, probably saves his life, in that it is much cooler than the monastery, nothing is swimming in the drinking water, etc. At any rate, I highly recommend this book. I do agree with the review that states this treats more of his exterior life than interior, but why should he discuss his private life with us. Also, there is another book (can't recall the author) called "Coptic Nuns" that makes a nice companion to this book, in terms of knowing more about the culture.
Captivating description of our monks  Dec 29, 2004
I just finished this book and absolutely loved it. It thrills me to see someone who is not Coptic, slowly develop a deep since of your mindset and feelings. The monks must have truly accepted the author to share so much with him and in turn, the author poetically describes everything to the reader.

For anyone that is curious about us (the Copts) and our religion, this book is a wonderful introduction. It capture a very true sense of who we are, what we believe, and how we worship God. I can't thank the author enough for bringing to light, this hidden treasures of my culture.

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