Over the course of 2015 I read through a book called Drinking from the Hidden Fountain: A Patristic Breviary – Ancient Wisdom for Today’s World, compiled by Thomas Spidlik. I forget how I came across it, but I managed to get it for Christmas a year ago, and used it as a supplemental daily devotional book all year.
Basically, it’s a one- or two-paragraph quote from an early Christian writer for each day of the year. Nearly thirty different people and documents are cited; some are famous like Augustine of Hippo and Basil the Great, while others are less well known like Romanus Melodus and Dorotheus of Gaza. They range from throughout the first millennium, with a concentration of sources from the 400’s-700’s.
Each month has a different overall theme or subject.
- January is about life and existence in light of eternity.
- February is about the human body as part of creation.
- March is about the human spirit and soul.
- April is about the battle of good & evil within us.
- May is about faith, the meeting-place of God & humanity.
- June is about family, marriage, parenthood, relationships.
- July is about community structures and relationships.
- August is about the world as God’s creation.
- September is about work, wealth, and poverty.
- October is about the Church, the Sacraments, and worship.
- November is about prayer.
- December is about God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
In the preface, this book also has an excellent introduction to lectio divina, the spiritual discipline of contemplative reading to get past mere information to drinking deeply from the text and letting it work into your heart. While this is a marvelous practice to do with the Bible, it is also useful with other Christian writings, such as these quotes from the early Fathers. Many times I would take a sentence from what I’d read and share it on Facebook so it could stick in my mind throughout the day. Sometimes I’d jot down quotes in my journal or save them somewhere for future reference. A couple times, I think they even made it into my preaching.
I will admit that there were a few quotes here and there which were so removed from their proper context that their teachings sometimes seemed confusing, even unbiblical. Usually it’s more a matter of translation and context, which is a challenge that comes up in almost every sort of circumstance. A couple times, though, I simply did disagree with the author’s interpretation of Scripture, or theological assertion. These things happen; it’s disappointing to disagree with fellow Christians, but on the whole the book remained a strong and meaty spiritual resource.
All in all, it was an excellent devotional book. My Evangelical friends may object that reading the actual Bible is better, and they’d be right, I suppose. But rest assured, I am already reading the Bible essentially every day, and covering most of its contents within a year. As far as further devotional reflection goes, this Breviary was a golden resource – one that I would recommend to anyone.