Book Review: Practicing the Monastic Disciplines

This time two years ago, my friend Gwen Lantz and I were putting into action a dream we shared. We put pen to paper (and fingers to keyboard) and drafted our first series at Some Comfort and Joy, a devotional blog that offers reflections and spiritual practices connected to the rhythms of the liturgical year (you can check it out here). 

When Practicing the Monastic Disciplines by Sam Hamstra Jr and Samuel Cocar came through the Speakeasy book review blog, my interested was piqued as I’m always looking for practical ideas for spiritual disciplines and practices that can be shared through our blog project. 

Hamstra and Cocar are both historians and that comes through in this short text. Much of their writing reflects on the historical grounding of the monastic tradition, including a final chapter that quotes many examples from the desert tradition. 

As an Anabaptist Mennonite pastor, I resisted the emphasis on the battlefield imagery and significant focus on spiritual warfare. However, I did appreciate the acknowledgement and foundation that, “we will not find in the Bible a systematic catechism…neither do we find a one-size-fits-all manual” (11), and we agree on the biblical invitation to become like Jesus. 

My own expectation and hope had been for a more hands on manual with practical guidance, but for those who are looking for historical context for the practice of talking back  (rooted in scripture memorization) this may be the book for you. There is also a brief discussion on the core triad of disciplines mentioned by Jesus: giving alms, prayer and fasting. 

For asserting that “the biblical judgment scenes are almost exclusively about the divine assessment of our ethical conduct in life,”(87) I would have preferred more pastoral exhortation and examples for integrating ethical reflection and praxis in a life of discipleship.  Good thing those who want that can subscribe to Some Comfort and Joy!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received Practicing the Monastic Disciplines from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Published by shergerber

Pastor, momma & home baker in the Shenandoah Valley

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