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degree of this influence, and the exact proportion of Christian and heathen ingredients in the early monachism of the church, were an interesting subject of special investigation.

The germs of the Christian monasticism may be traced as far back as the middle of the second century, and, in fact, faintly even in the anxious ascetic practices of some of the Jewish Christians in the apostolic age. This asceticism, particularly fasting and celibacy, was commended more or less distinctly by the most eminent ante-Nicene Fathers, and was practised, at least partially, by a particular class of Christians (by Origen even to the unnatural extreme of self-emasculation). So early as the Decian persecution, about the year 250, we meet also the first instances of the flight of ascetics, or Christian philosophers, into the wilderness, though rather in exceptional cases, and by way of escape from personal danger. So long as the church herself was a child of the desert, and stood in abrupt opposition to the persecuting world, the ascetics of both sexes usually lived near the congregations or in the midst of them, often even in the families, seeking there to realize the ideal of Christian perfection. But when, under Constantine, the mass of the population of the empire became nominally Christian, they felt that in this world-church, especially in such cities as Alexandria, Antioch, and Constantinople, they were not at home, and voluntarily retired into waste and desolate places and mountain clefts, there to work out the salvation of their souls undisturbed.

Thus far monachism is a reaction against the secularizing state-church system and the decay of discipline, and an earnest, well-meant, though mistaken, effort to save the virginal purity of the Christian church, by transplanting it in the wilderness. The moral corruption of the Roman empire, which had the appearance of Christianity, but was essentially heathen in the whole framework of society, the oppressiveness of taxes, the extremes of despotism and

1 Lactantius says it was necessary to buy even the liberty of breathing; and, according to Zosimus (Hist. II. 38), fathers prostituted their daughters to have means to pay their tax.

slavery, of extravagant luxury and hopeless poverty, the repletion of classes, the decay of all productive energy in science and art, and the threatening incursions of barbarians on the frontiers, - all favored the inclination towards solitude. in just the most earnest minds.

At the same time, however, monasticism afforded also a compensation for martyrdom, which ceased with the Christianization of the state, and thus gave place to a voluntary martyrdom, a gradual self-destruction, a sort of religious suicide. In the burning deserts and awful caverns of Egypt and Syria, amidst the pains of self-torture, the mortification of natural desires, and relentless battles with hellish monsters, the ascetics now sought to win the crown of heavenly glory, which their predecessors in the times of persecution had more quickly and easily gained by a bloody death.

The native land of the monastic life was Egypt, the land where oriental and Grecian literature, philosophy, and religion, Christian orthodoxy and Gnostic heresy met, both in friendship and hostility. Monasticism was favored and promoted here by climate and geographic features, by the oasis-like seclusion of the country, by the bold contrast of barren deserts with the fertile valley of the Nile, by the superstition, the contemplative turn, and the passive endurance of the national character, by the example of the Therapeutae, and by the moral principles of the Alexandrian Fathers; especially by Origen's theory of a higher and lower morality, and of the merit of voluntary poverty and celibacy. Aelian says of the Egyptians, that they bear the most exquisite torture without a murmur, and would rather be tormented to death than compromise truth. Such natures, once seized with religious enthusiasm, are eminently qualified for saints of the desert.


In the historical development of the monastic institution, we must distinguish four stages. The first three were completed in the fourth century; the remaining one reached maturity in the Latin church of the Middle Age.

The first stage is an ascetic life, as yet not organized nor separated from the church. It comes down from the anteNicene age, and has been already noticed. It now took the form, for the most part, of either hermit or cenobite life, but continued in the church itself, especially among the clergy, who might be called half monks.

The second stage is hermit life or anchoretism.' It arose in the beginning of the fourth century, gave asceticism a fixed and permanent shape, and pushed it even to external separation from the world. It took the prophets Elijah and John the Baptist for its models, and went beyond them. Not content with partial and temporary retirement from common life, which may be united with social intercourse and useful labors, the consistent anchoret secludes himself from all society, even from kindred ascetics, and comes only exceptionally into contact with human affairs, either to receive the visits of admirers of every class, especially of the sick and the needy (which were very frequent in the case of the more celebrated monks), or to appear in the cities on some extraordinary occasion as a spirit from another world. His clothing is a hair shirt and a wild beast's skin; his food, bread and salt; his dwelling, a cave; his employment, prayer, affliction of the body, and conflict with Satanic powers and wild images of fancy. This mode of life was founded by Paul of Thebes and Saint Anthony, and came to perfection in the East. It was too eccentric and unpractical for the West, and hence less frequent there, especially in the rougher climates. To the female sex it was entirely unsuited. There was a class of hermits, the Sarabaites in Egypt and the Rhemoboths in Syria, who lived in bands of at least two or three together; but their quarrelsomeness, occasional intemperance, and opposition to the clergy, brought them into ill repute.

1 From ἀναχωρέω, to retire (from human society), ἀναχωρητής, ἐρημίτης (from ἐρημία, a desert). The word μοναχός (from μόνος, alone, and μονάζειν, to live alone), monachus (whence monk), also points originally to solitary, hermit life, but is commonly synonymous with cenobite or friar.

The third step in the progress of the monastic life brings. us to cenobitism or cloister life,- monasticism in the ordinary sense of the word. It originated likewise in Egypt, from the example of the Essenes and Therapeutae, and was carried by Saint Pachomius to the East, and afterwards by Saint Benedict to the West. Both these ascetics, like the most celebrated order-founders of later days, were originally hermits. Cloister life is a regular organization of the ascetic life on a social basis. It recognizes, at least in a measure, the social element of human nature, and represents it in a narrower sphere, secluded from the larger world. As hermit life often led to cloister life, so the cloister life was not only a refuge for the spirit weary of the world, but also in many ways a school for practical life in the church. It formed the transition from isolated to social Christianity. It consists in an association of a number of anchorets of the same sex for mutual advancement in ascetic holiness. The cenobites live somewhat according to the laws of civilization, under one roof, and under a superintendent or abbot. They divide their time between common devotions and manual labor, and devote their surplus provisions to charity, except the mendicant monks, who themselves live by alms. In this modified form monasticism became available to the female sex, to which the solitary desert life was utterly impracticable; and with the cloisters of monks there appear at once cloisters also of nuns.3 Between the anchorets

1 Koivóßiov, coenobium; from kowds Bíos, vita communis; then the congregation of monks; sometimes also used for the building. In the same sense μávdpa, stable, fold, and μovaσtípiov, claustrum (whence cloister). Also λaupai, laurae (literally streets), that is cells, of which usually a number were built, not far apart, so as to form a hamlet. Hence this term is often used in the same sense as monasterium. The singular λaúpa, however, answers to the anchoret-life. On this nomenclature of monasticism compare Du Cange, in the Glossarium mediae et infimae Latinitatis, under the respective words.

2 'Нyouμevos, aрxiμardpíтns, àßßâs, i.e. father, hence abbot. A female superintendent was called in Syriac ȧuuâs, mother, abbess.

From nonna, i.e. casta, chaste, holy. The word is probably of Coptic origin, and occurs as early as in Jerome. The masculine nonnus, monk, appears frequently in the Middle Age. Compare the examples in Du Cange, s. v.

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and cenobites no little jealousy reigned; the former charg ing the latter with ease and conformity to the world; the latter accusing the former of selfishness and misanthropy. The most eminent church teachers generally prefer the cloister life. But the hermits, though their numbers diminished, never became extinct. Many a monk was a hermit first, and then a cenobite; and many a cenobite turned to a hermit.

The same social impulse, finally, which produced monastic congregations, led afterwards to monastic orders-unions of a number of cloisters under one rule and a common government. In this fourth and last stage monasticism has done most for the diffusion of Christianity and the advancement of learning,' has fulfilled its practical mission in the Roman Catholic church, and still wields a mighty influence there. At the same time it became, in some sense, the cradle of the German Reformation. Luther belonged to the order of Saint Augustine, and the monastic discipline of Erfurt was to him a preparation for evangelical freedom, as the Mosaic law was to Paul a schoolmaster to lead to Christ. And for this very reason Protestantism is the end of the monastic life.


From the first, monasticism was contemplative, and was thus distinguished from the practical life. It passed, with the ancient Catholic church, for the true, the divine, or Chris, tian philosophy, an unworldly, purely apostolic, angelic

'Hence Middleton says, not without reason: "By all which I have ever read of the old, and have seen of the modern monks, I take the preference to be clearly due to the last, as having a more regular discipline, more good learning, and less superstition among them than the first."

* Βίος θεωρητικός and βίος πρακτικός, according to Gregory Nazianzen and others. Throughout the Middle Age the distinction between the vita conlemplativa and the vita activa was illustrated by the two sisters of Lazarus (Luke x. 38-42).

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Ἡ κατὰ Θεὸν οι Χριστὸν φιλοσοφία, ἡ ὑψηλὴ φιλοσ., i.e. in the sense of the ancients, not so much a speculative system, as a mode of life under a particular

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