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to poverty and chastity, and to unquestioning obedience to the abbot.
The strong emphasis laid upon the irrevocable nature of the vow, upon the obligation to perpetual adherence to the order, appears as a distinguishing feature of the Benedictine system. In the times preceding Benedict, it had, indeed, been counted a kind of misdemeanor to forsake an open pledge to the celibate or monastic life; but such a pledge, as Alzog remarks,' was not counted strictly irrevocable. This seems to be conceded by a canon of the council of Chalcedon; for, while it ordains in general that a nun or monk who may presume to marry shall be excommunicated, it gives the bishop the prerogative to exercise mildness in reference to such.? In commenting on this canon, Hefele remarks that it assumes the validity of the marriage of a monk, contrary to the later jurisprudence of the Church.3
Benedict was never ordained to the priesthood. In this he remained true to the original character of mon. asticism, as pre-eminently an institution for laymen. There was a tendency, however, to depart from this feature. The number of the ordained among the monks was often increased beyond the requirements of the individual society. The journey from the cloister to the episcopal throne became of frequent occurrence.
Kirchengeschichte, $ 142.
2 Canon 16. 8 $ 200. He states also that a marriage contracted by priests was regarded as valid till the beginning of the twelfth century.
4 Cassianus lays down as an approved maxim for monks, that they should keep equally clear of the ordaining hands of bishops and of the society of women : “Hæc est antiquitus patrum permanens nunc usque sententia, omnimodis monachum fugere debere mulieres et epis. copos." (De Cunob. Instit., xi. 16.)
A large share of ecclesiastical work fell to the monks ; and finally, in the Middle Ages, they were currently assigned a species of clerical standing.
The Rule of Benedict was unmistakably a source of far-reaching influence. It organized the ascetic fervor of the age. It became the model in a long line of training-schools, extending over the breadth of Europe, and serving as a leading factor in preparing for the Church a host of distinguished missionaries, scholars, and prelates.
3. CONTEMPORARY ESTIMATES. - Utterances in disparagement of the superior claims of monasticism were occasionally heard. A great diversity of motives lay back of these. The frivolous and luxurious sometimes criticised because the ascetic life was looked upon as more or less of a protest or attack against their practices. The Emperor Valens complained that men made use of the monastic profession to escape their duties to the State ; and there were also others who based their opposition upon the charge of detriment to the interests of the body politic. Meanwhile, a few, who approached the subject from a moral and religious stand-point, felt obliged to deny that any exceptional sanctity or worth pertains to the monastic life. To this class belonged Jovinian, Helvidius, and Vigilantius. Though a monk himself, Jovinian was disgusted with the high-sounding claims which were urged in behalf of his order, and openly declared against them. According to Jerome, who was a bitter antagonist, he maintained that “virgins, widows, and married persons, who have once been baptized into Christ, have equal merit, other things in their conduct being equal;” and that “there is no difference between abstaining from food, and enjoying it with thanksgiving."1 In fine, Jovinian had an excellent apprehension of the gospel truth, that sanctity is no monopoly of a peculiar mode of living, but is equally attainable in any and every legitimate vocation. Unhappily, however, his emphasis upon the equality of all genuine Christians led him into a denial, by far too sweeping, of spiritual gradations among the regenerate.
Jovinian and his fellow critics found the current against them too strong to be turned back. Monasticism moved on as a great tendency of the age, and compelled in general the acceptance and homage of Christendom. Even the considerate and sober-minded, who maintained with emphasis that the life in family relations is a good thing, were inclined to regard the life of celibacy and abstinence as a higher good, something peculiarly favorable to spiritual perfection. With men of enthusiastic temper, no terms seemed too strong to proclaim the glory of the monastic ideal. Jerome, while urging his friend Heliodorus to abandon the world, taught that piety toward parents is impiety toward God, when it stands in the way of the monastic profession.
Though thy mother,” he writes, “with dishevelled hair and torn garments, points to the bosom by which thou wast nurtured, though thy father should lie upon the threshold, proceed thou, treading over thy father. ...0 desert blooming with the flowers of Christ! 0 solitude where those stones are prepared with which is built
up the city of the Great King! O desert rejoicing in the society of God! What doest thou, my brother,
1 Adv. Jovin., i. 3.
in the city, with thy soul greater than the world? How long wilt thou abide under the shadow of roofs? How long wilt thou be confined by the dungeon of smoky cities?”i In his correspondence with Roman ladies, outbursts of like enthusiasm occur; indeed, he lauds their ascetic purposes in such lavish style as might almost lead them to think, that, in embracing the monastic life, they had transcended the measure of human virtue, and had become a species of divinities. The less impulsive Ambrose also gives a glowing account of the monastic life. Speaking of the haunts of the monks in the Mediterranean islands, he says, “In those isles, thrown by God like a collar of pearls upon the sea, those who would escape from the charms of dissipation find refuge. There they fly from the world, they live in austere moderation, they escape the ambushes of this life. The sea offers them, as it were, a veil and a secret asylum for their mortifications. She helps them to win and to defend perfect continence. There every thing excites austere thoughts. Nothing disturbs their peace: all access is closed to the wild passions of the world. The mysterious sound of the waves mingles with the chant of hymns; and, while the waters break upon the shore of these happy islands with a gentle murmur, the peaceful accents of the choir of the elect ascend towards heaven from their bosom.”? Chrysostom gives an equally enticing description of monastic isolation from the tumults of the world. “ Alone in the haven," he says of the monks, “while the tempest swells, they dwell in great tranquillity and security, and look as it
1 Epist. xiv., Ad Heliodorum. 2 Hexaëm., iii. 5, as somewhat freely rendered by Montalembert.
were from heaven itself upon the shipwreck of other men. For they have chosen a kind of life worthy of heaven, and they obtain a state not inferior to the angelic. They have all things common, — table, domicile, vestments. Nor is this to be wondered at, since in all there is one and the same mind. All are noble with the same nobility, servants with the same servitude, free with the same liberty.”! In one of his homilies, the same writer exclaims, “ Heaven is not so glorious with the varied choir of the stars as the wilderness of Egypt, exhibiting to us all around the tents of the monks.” ? The historians of the time wrote in a kindred tone of eulogy. Rufinus, in his “Historia Monachorum," ascribes the most astonishing deeds to the hermits, crediting them, among other things, with a complete dominion over wild and ferocious beasts. Sozomen uses these unstinted terms: “Those who at this period had embraced monasticism manifested the glory of the Church, and evidenced the truth of their doctrines, by their virtuous line of conduct. Indeed, the most useful thing which has been received by man from God is their philosophy.”3 He credits the monks with many marvellous things, giving, for example, this entertaining account of the Egyptian monk Apelles: "He worked as a smith at the forge; and one night, when he was engaged at this employment, the devil undertook to tempt him to incontinence, by appearing before him in the form of a woman. Apelles, however, seized the iron which was heating in the furnace, and burnt the face of the devil, who screamed wildly and ran away.” 4 Evagrius applies a like esti
1 Adv. Oppugnat. Vit. Monast., iii. 11. 8 Hist. Eccl., i. 12.
2 Hom. in Matt., viii. * Hist. Eccl., vi. 28.