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Origen: An Exortation to Martyrdom, Prayer, and Selected Works (Classics of Western Spirituality) [Paperback]

By Origen (Author), Rowan A. Greer (Editor) & Hans Urs Von Balthasar (Photographer)
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Item description for Origen: An Exortation to Martyrdom, Prayer, and Selected Works (Classics of Western Spirituality) by Origen, Rowan A. Greer & Hans Urs Von Balthasar...

Here are the important and influential writings of a Christian mystic and early father of the Church. Origen (c. 185-254) was born in Alexandria and lived through the turbulent years during the collapse of the Roman Empire.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Paulist Press
Pages   293
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.9" Width: 5.9" Height: 0.9"
Weight:   0.95 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Dec 12, 1988
Publisher   Paulist Press
Edition  Revised  
Series  Classics of Western Spirituality  
ISBN  0809121980  
ISBN13  9780809121984  

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More About Origen, Rowan A. Greer & Hans Urs Von Balthasar

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Origen (ca. 184 ca. 253) is considered the most important biblical scholar and theologian of the early Greek Church, and some have even called him the finest scholar of the first millennium of Christianity. He fits into a legacy of prominent figures from the Alexandrian Church, which was under persecution during his time. His father was martyred when he was seventeen, and several of the students whom he converted to Christianity also went on to martyrdom. On First Principles was one of Origen s earliest and most significant writings. Another was his Hexapla, an enormous edition of the Old Testament arranged in six columns of Hebrew and Greek text. It is known as a colossal landmark in the study of Scripture. Many of his homilies were also recorded, and are widely read today. Near the end of his life, Origen was tortured by civil authorities in an effort to make him apostatize. While they did not succeed, Origen died a confessor from related causes a few years later.

Origen has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Ancient Christian Texts
  2. Ancient Christian Writers
  3. Classics of Western Spirituality (Paperback)
  4. Fathers of the Church (Hardcover)
  5. Fathers of the Church (Paperback)

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Reviews - What do customers think about Origen: An Exortation to Martyrdom, Prayer, and Selected Works?

A good introduction, a good translation, and a good selection of works  Mar 15, 2008
Origen is not an easy thinker. Condemned by the Fifth Ecumenical Council for his differing views on the resurrection, the pre-existence of souls, and universalism, he was heavily influenced by Platonic and gnostic thought. However, his views were influential in the early church (anyone who has been condemned by an ecumenical council has certainly had influence) and he and his views likewise offer insights into a transitional period in the early church.

Since Origen is not easy to grasp, the preface and introduction in this volume are helpful for understanding what follows. The introduction is concise, well-written, and easy to follow.

Some volumes of early Fathers are daunting because the translation is less than helpful. This is not true for this volume. The English is well-turned out, easy to read, and clear.

Finally, the selection of works (An Exhortation to Martyrdom, On Prayer, On First Principles, Book IV, Prologue to the Commentary on the Song of Songs, and Homily XXVII on Numbers) gives a good overview for the beginner. I am certainly a beginner, having never read any of Origen's works, but I felt that this volume gave me a beginning in understanding Origen's thought, influence, and life.
Best Intro to a Tough Thinker  Aug 22, 2007
I've decided that no early Christian thinker is easily accessible to most contemporary Christians, Origen least of all. This is especially true of Origen because much of his thought was classified as heresy by later Christians. That said, many later Christian thinkers (like Gregory of Nyssa) drew upon Origen to faithfully interpret Scripture in order to articulate Christian orthodoxy.

This volume is easily one of the best introductions to the most important of Origen's texts. I recommend it for any who wish dig deeper into the Church Fathers. You cannot study the Church Fathers and not engage Origen!
Good selection of works from a brilliant Christian thinker  Jun 7, 2006
Origen's legacy for Christianity has certainly been mixed. Many reading his works today, as many did in his time, would no doubt find what he 'found' in the Bible bizarre, heretical and perhaps even blasphemous. Indeed he was condemned as such by Church councils some centuries after his death, and as a result many of his works were lost.

However, it also must be acknowledged that Origen was one of the faith's most brilliant and original minds. Asides from his remarkable theories about 'what really happened' before and after the fall of human beings and angels, and the creation of the universe itself, his remarkable penetration and allegorising of scripture and seeing the 'spirit' in the letter are rarely equalled by any other Church father. Few Christian thinkers ever had such brilliant talents in speculative theological power, exegetical skill, mystical insight and creativity and daring to try and wrest such deep insights as Origen found, which were in many ways far ahead of his time.

It is true Origen's genius was also in many ways his downfall, and it can be rightly said many of his interpretations of scripture are too speculative or in better words, go so high into the clouds any vision of the concrete ground is lost. Yet one must also admire his determination to set Orthodox Christianity on an intellectual and speculative par with the main rivals for thinking seekers of the time, Gnosticism and Neo-Platonism. To this day his influence resounds through Christian mysticism, and his view of the Bible as an infinitely deep wellspring of Godly wisdom which originated from the Logos itself, is a refreshing counterpoint to the literal and one-sided fundamentalism which holds so much in our own time.
With Origen on Prayer and Martyrdom  Dec 11, 2005

"Let us, therefore, not think that it is words we are taught to say in appointed seasons of prayer. On the contrary, if we understand our former consideration of prayer without ceasing, let our whole life be a life of unceasing prayer." Origen

Origen's Early life:
I encountered Origen, as a young kid in a Sunday lesson on the Alexandrine Didaskaleon, for the first time. A devout Christian, biblical scholar, catechist, and head of the Alexandrian Catechetical school. Born in 185 AD, Alexandria, Egypt and died in 254 AD, Caesarea, we were told, Origen was the eldest of seven children. His father Leonides, was a teacher of Greek literature, and a presbyter deacon, who educated his brilliant son in both Hellenistic and Biblical studies. Though he was unable to answer some of Origen's probing questions, he is said to have kissed young Origen's chest, a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. In 202, Leonides was martyred during Severus persecution. Origen sought to share the fate of his father, and was only prevented by his mother's hiding his clothes to prevent him going outside. Origen satisfied himself with writing an earnest letter to his father exhorting him to face death if necessary and cautioning him "not to change your mind because of us." Leonides fortunes were confiscated by the empire.

Origen's Career:
Origen took shelter for a time in the household of a wealthy Christian lady while he continued his studies. Within a year or so, he had begun work as a teacher of Greek literature in order to support himself and his newly impoverished family. In the meantime, Origen continued his own education.
Persecution under Severus had left the catechetical school of Alexandria without leadership. To meet the needs of those who desired to learn about the Christian faith, Demetrius, Bishop of Alexandria, appointed Origen to take over the catechist instruction. He continued his grammarian instructions as well, but when his brothers became old enough to support the family, he was able to focus on his religious mission.

Exhortatio ad Martyrium:
Origen is probably the most voluminous writer the Church has ever had and that even antiquity ever knew. Origen left two ascetical works,"On Prayer" and "an Exhortation to Martyrdom." The Exhortation to Martyrdom, written around 235, early days of Maximinus' persecution. Addressed to Ambrose and to Protoctetus, a presbyter of Caesarea, whom Origen exhorts to confess their faith up to death, if necessary. A forceful and earnest address, which expresses the author's own attitude towards martyrdom. The exaltation of martyrdom was a corner stone of Origen's training in the Christian life, and a major topic in his teaching. throughout his life, Origen's thoughts were linked to Martyrdom, as professing true faith. He was a martyr by race; yearned in his youth to be martyred with his father Leonides.

Origen & Martyrdom:
Martyrdom was a continuation of the work of redemption for who Origen risked his life in encouraging martyrs, starting with his own father when he was only seventeen. He was himself tortured as an elder man and died in Caesarea, a short time later. But the Alexandrian, who had spent much of his life exhorting others to martyrdom if necessary and encouraging the persecuted, shown no signs of betraying the faith. Much of Origen's life in Alexandria was devoted to support of believers in the midst of persecution. Several of his own students were martyred, while Origen was himself spared, though so often present at prisons and executions. His life was endangered many times, but he survived, and continued his instruction of new believers in the Christian faith. Origen himself, was put in prison and tortured, in his late sixties, and died a confessor due to his sufferings. Origen shares with St. Ignatius of Antioch his desire for martyrdom, and with Clement of Alexandria, on teaching that martyrdom was the perfection of love. Martyrdom, for him was an attestation to the truth of Christianity, not merely that Christians were capable of dying for their faith, but because martyrdom shows Christian contempt for death, and proves the defeat of the powers of evil (I Cor. 15:55).

A Life of Prayer:
On prayer is divided into two parts: prayer, its necessity and efficacy; and a commentary on the Lord's Prayer. This little book is one of Origen's most spiritual, written probably in his mature manhood years. Origen begins his treatise 'On Prayer' by acknowledging that even to begin to speak of prayer is to draw a contour for a great mystery; "The discussion of prayer is so great a task that it requires the Father to reveal it, his First-born Word to teach it, and the Spirit to enable us to think and speak rightly of so great a subject." To speak of prayer, then, is to be on holy ground. Origen ends his treatise on prayer saying, "I have struggled through my treatment of the subject of prayer and of the prayer in the Gospels together with its preface in Matthew. But if you press on to the things in front and forget those behind and pray for me in my undertaking, I do not despair of being enabled to receive from God the Giver a fuller and more divine capacity for all these matters,.. ."

Comments on Prayer:
Evagrius, one of Origen's best students on prayer, concludes "eventually give way to 'prayerful' existence,the fulfillment of contemplation, as theologia." Andrew Louth describes the progression to this state as, " In this state of natural contemplation,... This is the realm of prayer, which Evagrius regards as a state rather than an activity, not so much something you do as something you are. In this state the soul recovers its true nature: 'the state of prayer is an impassible habit which snatches up the soul that loves wisdom to the intellectual heights by a most sublime love'.
Some scholars like Schmemann declares that, "The real danger, in Evagrius' interpretation of Origen, resided in the replacement of a salvific contemplation with a state of prayer in which the soul is essentially static. The human spirit - at least in the West - naturally rebels against such doctrines."

Written by Hans Urs von Balthasar, the late eminent Swiss theologian, one of the greatest Catholic theologians of the 20th century. Born in Lucerne, Switzerland, Balthasar studied philosophy and German literature at the universities of Zurich, Vienna, and Berlin, joined the Society of Jesus and studied under Henri de Lubac, who inspired him on the love of the Fathers of the Church, resulting in his important studies of Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and Maximus the Confessor (Cosmic Liturgy, 1941.) This period was marked by his long commitment to the work of translation, that started with selections from Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and Augustine.

Rowan Greer, who wrote the exhaustive introduction, a key to enjoying Origen's spiritual books, is Professor of Anglican Studies, Yale University Divinity School. An expert on early church life and thought, he wrote many books on the subject, including: Broken Lights and Mended Lives:Theology and Common Life in the Early Church, The Captain of Our Salvation:A Patristic Exegesis of Hebrews; The Sermon on the Mount.
Intellectual reverence and the spiritual sense.  Jun 30, 2004
These selected works from the writings of Origen (c. 185-254) will give the reader much to contemplate and are complex enough to perhaps frustrate the reader without some foundation in the material. Do not read Origen without first reading the preface (Hans Urs von Balthasar) and the foreword and introduction (Rowan Greer). These are valuable insights into the second and third centuries and the early history of Christian thought. The writings of Origen generated several centuries of controversy in the early church. His ardent admirers included Eusebius, Gregory of Nissa and the Cappadocian Fathers, and Jerome. His ardent detractors included Epiphanius, Theophilus, Jerome (persuaded to change his mind), and the Emperor Justinian. One of the so-called "Four Fathers" of the Christian church, "Origen was as towering a figure as Augustine and Aquinas. . . his overt and hidden influence has proved no less far-reaching than theirs," says Hans Urs von Balthasar as he begins his preface. "Whoever seeks access from merely dogmatic faith into that inward realm where we see with the inner eye of faith enters a world of mystery demanding not only intellectual reverence but personal holiness as well. . . Perhaps it can be said that [Origen's] simultaneous viewing of prayer and exegesis . . . of exact philology . . . and the search for the spiritual sense, is the most important aspect of Origenistic spirituality for our present situation. . . . the underlying attitude remains exemplary for us, perhaps more than ever before."
Jesus said "wisdom is proved right by her actions," and "by their fruit you will recognize them," and "the good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him." These thoughts commend to us the influences of Origen.
Apart from the Introduction to these selections, I particularly recommend "On First Principles: Book IV" and "Commentary on the Song of Songs". Some of the ideas presented in "Homily XXVII on Numbers" were fuel for his detractors (the 42 steps), along with an oversimplification and misunderstanding of his neo-Platonic deliberating. As Greer says, "these difficulties should not be allowed to obscure the main lines of his thought." Origen's spiritually rich approach to exegesis is typified in this passage:
"Now all these truths, as we have said, are . . . buried in the narratives of holy Scripture, because 'the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field' (Mt. 13:44). Consider very carefully whether this passage does not point to the fact that the soil and surface, so to speak, of Scripture, that is, the meaning according to the letter, is the 'field' filled and flowering with plants of all kinds, while the deeper and more profound spiritual meaning is 'the treasures of wisdom and knowledge' (Col. 2:3), which the Holy Spirit through Isaiah calls 'obscure, invisible, and hidden treasures' (cf. Is. 45:2-3). To be able to find them we need the help of God, who alone can 'break in pieces the doors of bronze' by which they are shut up and hidden."
It is said that Origen was the first great post New Testament theologian, exegete, and apologist. The doctrinal/ exegetical and theological issues with which he wrestled had not yet been 'resolved' by the church councils of later years (it would be na?ve to think that some have ever been universally resolved). We might expect that there be difficulty with certain of his understandings. Of course the 'big' problem in his writings, as we still have them, is his idea of the transmigration of souls (an unusual idea in Western thought, whether Judeo-Christian or Greco-Roman). This is the idea that most stirred his opponents. In honest fairness to Origen, we must admit that we don't finally know his ultimate view in this area and perhaps his detractors didn't either. He is known to have changed his thinking on certain issues as he continued to study and pray, and much of his extensive writings disappeared long ago. At the end of his extremely productive life, he was arrested and tortured, and died after being released (this happening when the early persecution of Christians was waning). As he did not die in the custody of his tormentors, there was, in his death, more room for controversy -- as to whether or not he should be counted a martyr.
The mysticism of Eastern Christianity traces largely to Origen and his deeply spiritual approach to scripture, always looking to philological accuracy, subtleties, and deeper and more theologically and spiritually consistent meanings. Much of his exegesis and theology is present in the writings of Augustine and Christian thinkers down to our day. An honest knowledge of Origen's thought will benefit anyone with an interest in philosophy, theology, exegetics, and/or church history. Although Origen is inherently difficult, this volume provides a needed window of access to the work of this learned and gifted theologian.

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