Withdrawal From the World
The word “Monasticism” is derived from the Greek term “Monachos,” meaning “sole,” “single,” or "alone". Since the earliest days of Christianity individuals and small groups of people have chosen to withdraw from the world in order to live in the
solitude of the desert
and the fringes of society. Although
this initial flight from the world could be attributed to various reasons, such
as the early Christians’ attempt to avoid persecutions or heavy taxes, it soon
became the means by which men and women sought “White Martyrdom,” the daily
dying to self and the complete giving of one’s self to Christ.
|Desert Father: Abba Scisoes|
Developing more or less at the same time in Mesopotamia, Syria, Egypt and Cappadocia, as well as in the West, Monasticism was not a phenomenon that sprang up overnight as a finished product. In fact, early Christian Monks had very different attitudes about what the ascetical life should entail. Overall, although monastic life was widely practiced, it was not properly structured. However, it did not take long for a model to arise. In the Life of Antony, written by St. Athanasius, Antony is presented as a prototype for monks, a model for emulation. Although Antony of Egypt (251-356 AD) was clearly not the first monk to live in the desert, due to his discipline and holiness of life, he is regarded as the founder and father of monasticism.
For more information about the Life of Antony, Part II of Origins of Monasticism will be posted on September 5.