Week One: Tough Questions

Illumined Heart coverIn The Illumined Heat: Capture the Vibrant Faith of Ancient Christians, Frederica Mathewes-Green shares spiritual practices and wisdom from the ancient Church. I first read this book several years ago, and I thought it was time to revisit it and share some of my favorite parts with you.

As she discusses the early Christians, Mathewes-Green gives us a peek into the life of a fictional fifth-century couple, Anna and Theodore. This is one of my favorite pats of the book, especially when Anna struggles to show love and grace to her mother-in-law.

Mathewes-Green begins with a statement of what we know (intellectually) to be true: in God is life.

Here is communion. 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.


If we know that God’s presence is life and love, why don’t we look like we know it? Mathewes-Green asks a whole series of tough questions I find it really good (and uncomfortable) to consider:

Why are we modern Christians so indistinguishable from the world?


How come Christians who lived in times of bloody persecution 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 the martyrs forgive their torturers, but my friend’s success makes me pouty?


In the rest of the book, Mathewes-Green considers how the spiritual practices of ancient Christians might help us as we struggle with our faith. For this week, I invite you to wrestle with the tough questions she asks in the first chapter. What might you answer to some of these questions?

Read more.

For Reflection:

Mathewes-Green week 1 corrected