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Factors contributing to the building of monasticism

Souza St Catherine's Monastery on Mt. Sinai built 527- 565 AD The monastic movement was in many ways a continuation of the tendencies already established in the Christian communities, where baptism was understood as entrance upon a life marked by renunciation of the present order of things and the entire dedication to the new order manifested in the resurrection of Christ.

The martyrs were the ultimate model of dedication to Christ — who, like him, fought against the powers of evil and triumphed over them through death. Like Christ, they counted the world and its values as things to be spurned, even to the loss of their own lives, for the sake of the kingdom of God.

From early on, the churches had known their ascetics who sought to imitate Christ and his martyrs, seeking the fullness of Christian life in the full renunciation of the attachments of this world. They renounced family, the pursuit and possessions of riches, committed to sexual continence, fasting, prayer and the study of Scripture.

Many consciously appropriated the old Hellenistic ideal of the philosophical life, detached from worldly distractions and directed towards contemplation and the habituation into virtue. Although giving continuation to such tendencies present in Christian asceticism, the monastic movement also developed in its own particular way. The monastic movement included initially a search for solitude; some sought such isolation primarily for their spiritual development, others for other ulterior motives, such as evasion from debt, tax collectors, family, etc.

Also, this isolation created problems for the ecclesiastical structure of the Church, since those who sought the desert were not, at least in practice, under the supervision and authority of their bishops.

This became even more problematic when the populace would revere them and seek them out in the desert for their spiritual guidance and advice. This problem was resolved only as the leaders of the churches themselves became sponsors, organizers, and eventually products of this movement. St Anthony of Egypt One of the earliest and most influential monastic leaders was Anthony of Egypt 251-356.

Anthony was a native of Egypt, of Coptic ancestry and language, born about 250. At about 20, he walked into a church and heard the words of Mat.


He eventually moved farther into the desert, and spent twenty years in the solitude of a ruined fort near the coast of the Red Sea. The struggle of the martyrs, in his particular experience, took the form of fighting against the demonic powers in their very dwelling place, the desert.

He was able to overcome them through constant work, fasting, vigil, prayer, and the recitation of the Scriptures. When St Anthony emerged from his retreat, he was not only perceived as a hero, but also a holy man, one who represented human nature restored to its proper glory.

He healed the sick, reconciled enemies, and by word and deed taught the wisdom he had learned.

Nature and significance

As others started gathering around him, a loose community of hermits appeared under his tutelage. At the opening of the fourth century, other such leaders and communities appeared in North Africa. By the time Anthony died in 356, there were probably thousands of ascetics who had sought life in the desert.

With the growth in numbers of those seeking the ascetic life, a new communal form of monastic practice appeared in Upper southern Egypt under the leadership and inspiration of Pachomius ca.

The Development of Monasticism

In some places the ascetic practice was developed into more radical forms. In Syria, Simeon the Elder 390-459 spent thirty years of his life living at the top of a pillar, where he prayed and preached to the pilgrims who came to visit him. Others followed this practice, and they were objects of popular reverence and devotion.

  1. The prologue and first seven chapters lay out a treatise on the ascetical life; the following 13 chapters have instructions for the divine service -- the regular round of readings, prayer and psalmody.
  2. Emily Yeh 2013, p. Haut de page Bibliographie Fischer, A.
  3. St Anthony of Egypt One of the earliest and most influential monastic leaders was Anthony of Egypt 251-356. The first is St Finnian, who establishes the monastery of Clonard in Meath.

Simeon himself was appealed to by the imperial authorities for assistance in settling the controversies surrounding the councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon. In Cappadocia and Pontus, and later in Asia Minor generally, coenobitism became the rule. Monks were to practice charity toward their neighbors as well as to submit to the leader of the community, called the abbot.

  1. They are more conscious of the underdevelopment of their villages caused by isolation and lack of access to means of communication, such as the Internet, mobile phones etc.
  2. The order went into decline during the Reformation and was completely dissolved by Napoleon in the early 19th century, though it was revived by the Austrian emperor in 1834. Avoiding the extreme austerities of the Desert Fathers, St.
  3. The Rule was not invented by Benedict -- he was representative of a school of ascetical teaching current in 6th century Italy derived from Egypt.
  4. The popular but mistaken identification of Tibetan monks as lamas has obscured the highly segmented structure of the Buddhist clergy in that country.
  5. For most of the week they maintain their solitary life.

Basil also encouraged monasteries to situate themselves on the edges of the cities, so as to be able to offer instruction, example, medical services, hospitality, and care for the populace and the needy.

The growth of these communities eventually required the development of written rules to regulate monastic life. Evagrius Ponticus 346-399 was instrumental in establishing this framework in Egypt.

Martin of Tours ca. In Gaul, John Cassian ca. Benedict of Nursia ca. He moved to Monte Cassino and there founded the coenobitic community for which his Rule was designed. He drew from different sources, including the rules of Basil and Pachomius, and a document known as the Rule of the Master.

The Rule of Benedict, however, adapted these into a form that was unique in its simplicity and clarity.


The members of his community were to renounce personal possessions, practice continence, obey their abbot, and remain in their community for life. The abbot was bound to consult all the brethren in grave matters. There were three main occupations in the monastery: Benedict was skeptical about extreme asceticism and individualism; his Rule was strict but not severe and it insisted on the communal character of the monastic life governed by love.

The Benedictine Rule spread slowly, but it received the patronage of Pope Gregory the Great, who increasingly used monks as missionaries, as bishops, and ambassadors.