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Voices from the Mountains by Andrew D. Mayes

24 June 2022

John Binns considers mountain-top faith

MOUNTAINS are important places in the human encounter with God. They are high, and so climbing a mountain takes us out of and above our daily experience. Then they are solid and reliable, and so provide a sense of security in changing times.

This book takes us on a pilgrimage tour of nine of the mountains of the Bible, describing the landscapes and including photos, recounting the events that took place on them in the Bible, showing how these were understood by theologians who lived there, and then suggesting how these can be the starting point for prayer and faith. The tour begins on Mount Ararat, the place of safety and security for Noah and his ark, and ends on Calvary, the place of the Cross. In between are other mountains, each of which shows us a different way in which we can approach God. Together these ascents build up a rich spiritual journey to deepen faith.

The context of this exploration is the Covid pandemic. This has had a devastating impact on personal lives and has been a challenge to the Church. This approach roots the traditional content in an urgent and contemporary situation.

The passages from the tradition come from early centuries and from different parts of the tradition. Among these are the writings of the monks who settled in these locations and reflected on their significance. As well as the writings of Christians, there are those of Jewish and Islamic holy men and women who have longed for the spiritual beauty of Mount Zion. Some of this material will be fresh — for me, the Armenian writers were a new discovery. Others give clear summaries of some of the more familiar themes of spirituality — such as St Gregory Palamas’s teaching on divine light, and St John of the Cross on divine darkness.

Each section ends with a set of suggestions for personal reflection which help to root the teachings within our own prayer and faith. The book brings together traditional themes and modern challenges, and provides a practical programme of spiritual exploration.

The Revd Dr John Binns is Visiting Professor at the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, Cambridge.


Voices from the Mountains: Forgotten wisdom for a hurting world from the biblical peaks
Andrew D. Mayes
Wipf & Stock £19
Church Times Bookshop £17.10

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