Early MonasticismPosted: March 10, 2007
Asceticism is the practice of rigorous and often added practices then the average Christian. They often find solitude and abstaining or changing from normal practices by Christians. They take the act of marriage to be something to abstain from and add frequent times for prayer and solitude. Some extreme Asceticist’s will keep from eating but two meals a week and when he did it was bread and water, that which is necessary to stay alive.
The New Testament has two views on this subject. There are times in the New Testament, that have been held to encourage asceticism but it was for good reason and is not required of the Christian. In the Scriptures Christ says, “There are some who are eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of God”, but this is specifically for people who can withstand it. On the other hand, the New Testament strongly criticizes some types of asceticism. Paul argued that it wasn’t wrong to marry and consume unclean meat. The Old Testament also has some say on the subject of Asceticism and the Jews had traditions that followed some of those writings.
There is speculation as to where the origins of monasticism began but the first monks were people who withdrew to the desert in Egypt or Syria. Often times these “retreats” were only temporary, and may have been for the purpose of to running from persecution; often they became permanent. The first Hermit-like man recorded was, Antony, who lived form 256–356 who was a Coptic peasant from Egypt. However, in the late fifth century, monasticism seems to have taken root in Ireland in a form which owed much to the Egyptian pattern The extreme inflexibility of Irish hermits, and the arrangement of cells within an outer boundary wall, both reflect Egyptian inspiration.
The routine of the hermits or recluses was to spend long periods in prayer and meditation, enriched by reading of the Scriptures that were many times “mechanical”, or involved short set formulas. Fasting was an important ritual to these devoted men.
Monasticism came out of Eastern Christianity. Then a Communal monasticism began by a man, Pachomius, who would fight extremism. Followers would prove their devotion by standing outside the monastery door for several days and memorizing parts of the Bible. A man that would influence this movement began to incorporate the monastic communities more closely with the church. This man was Basil the Great, and believed the bishop should have ultimate authority over a monastery. Another man that influenced Asceticism was Cassian. This man was the West’s inspirational writer on monasticism. He wrote detailed instructions for monasteries and served to endorse the monastic society widely. His writings were in great detail and covered subjects such as clothing, the form of monastery services, and also explored the temptations that a monk had to fight. He was detailed down the last writing.
For more information on Monasticism i found a good cite: http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/monasticism/