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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/516

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MONASTICISM


462


MONASTICISM


(b) The Ccnobitical Typo of Monastirism. — This type began in Egj-pt at a somewhat later date than the eremitical form. It was about the year .'ilS that St. Pachomius, still a young man, founded hi.s hrst monasterj' at Tabennisi near Denderali. The insti- tute spread with surprising rajiidity, and by the date of St. Pachomius's death (c. 1545) it counted eight monasteries and several hundred monks. Most re- markable of .all is the fact that it immediately took shape as a fully organized (•(uigregalion or order, with a superior general, a .system of visit.ations and g<'neral chapters, and all the machinery of a centralized gov- ernment such as tloes not again appear in the monas- tic world until the rise of the Cistercians and Mendi- cant Orders some eight or nine centuries later. As regards internal organization the Pachomian monas- teries had nothing of the family ideal. The numbers were too great for this and everything was done on a military or barrack system. In each monasterj' there were numerous separate houses, each with its own jyrw- posilua, cellarer, and other officials, the monk.s being grouped in these according to the particular trade they followed. Thus the fullers were gathered in one house, the carpenters in another, and so on; an ar- rangement the more desirable because in the Pacho- mian monasteries regular organized work was an in- tegral part of the .system, a feature in which it differed from the Antonian way of life. In point of austerity however the Antonian monks far surpassed the Pacho- mian, and so we find Bgoul antl Sehenute endeavour- ing, in their great monastery at Athribis, to combine the cenobitical life of Tabeimisi with the austerities of Nitria.

In the Pachomian monasteries it was left very much to the individual taste of each monk to fix the order of life for himself. Thus the hours for meals and the extent of his fasting were settled by him alone, he might eat with the others in common or have bread and salt provided in his own cell every day or every second day. The conception of the cenobitical life was modified considerably by St. Basil. In his moniisteries a true community life was followed. It was no longer possible for each one to choose his own dinner hour. On the contrary, meals were in com- mon, work was in common, prayer was in common seven times a day. In the matter of asceticism too all the monks were under the control of the superior whose sanction was required for all the austerities they might undertake. It was from these sources that western monachism took its rise; further information on them will be found in the articles B,\sil the Great, S.mnt; Basil, Rule of Saint; Benedict op NuRsiA, Saint; Pachomius, Saint; Palladids, Saint.

(4) Monastic Occiipatinns. — It has already been pointed out that the monk can adopt any kind of work so long as it is compatible with a life of prayer and renunciation. In the way of occupations there- fore prayer must always take the first place.

(a) Monastic Prayer. — From the very outset it has been regarded as the monk's first duty to keep up the official prayer of the Church. To what extent the Divine office was stereotyped in St. Anthony's day need not be discussed here, but Palladius and Cassian both make it clear that the monks were in no way be- hind the rest of the world as regards their liturgical customs. The practice of celebrating the office apart, or in twos and threes, has been referred to above as common in the Antonian system, while the Pacho- mian monks performed many of the services in their separate houses, the whole community only assem- bling in the church for the more solemn otfices, while the Antonian monks only met together on Saturd.ays and Sundays. .Among the monks of Syria the night office was much longer than in Kgypt (Cassian, "In- stit.", II, ii; III, i. iv, viii) and new offices at different hours of the day were instituted. In prayer as in Other matters St. Basil's legislation became the norm


among Eastern monks, while in tlie west no ch.anges of importance liavc taken place since St. Benedict's rul<' giailually eliminated all local ciislDins. For the development of the Divine ollicc into its present form see the articles. Breviary; Hours, Canonical; and also the various "hours", e. g. Matins; Lauds, etc.; Liturgy, etc. In the east this solemn liturgical I)rayer remains to-day almost the sole active work of the monks, and, lliougli in the west many other forms of activity have nourished, the Opus l)ii or Divine ()tficc has always been and still is regarded as the pre- eminent duty and occupation of the monk to which all other works, no matter how excellent in them- selves, must give way, according to St. Benedict's prin- ciple (Keg. Ben., xliii) "Nihil operi Dei pneponatur" (Let nothing take precedence of the work of God). Alongside the official liturgy, private prayer, espe- cially mental prayer, has always held an important place; see Prayer; Contemplative Life.

(b) Monastic Labours. — The first monks did com- paratively little in the way of external labour. We hear of them weaving mats, making baskets and doing other work of a simple character which, while .serving for their support, would not distract them from the continual contemplation of God. Under St. Pacho- mius manual labour was organized as an essential part of the monastic life; and, since it is a principle of the monks as distinguished from the mendicants, that the body shall be self-supporting, external work of one sort or another has been an inevitable part of the life ever since.

(i) Agriculture, of course, naturally ranked first among the various forms of external labour. The sites chosen by the monks for their retreat were usu- ally in wild and inaccessible places, which were left to them precisely because they were uncultivated, and no one else cared to undertake the task of clearing them. The rugged valley of Subiaco, or the fens and marshes of Glastonbury may be cited as examples, but nearly all the most ancient monasteries are to be found in places then considered uninhabitable by all except the monks. Gradually forests were cleared and marshes drained, rivers were bridged and roads made; until, almost imperceptibly, the desert, place became a farm or a garden. In the later Middle Ages, when the Black Monks were giving less time to agri- culture, the Ci.stercians re-established the old order of things; and even to-day such monasteries as La Trappe de Staoueli in N. Africa, or New Nursia in W. Australia do identically the same work as was done by the monks a thousand years ago. "We owe the agri- cultural restoration of a great part of Europe to the monks" (Hallam, "Middle Ages", III, 436); "The Benedictine monks were the agriculturists of Europe" (Guizot, "Histoire de la Civilisation", II, 7.5); such testimony, which could be multiplied from writers of every creed, is enough for the purpose here (see Cis- tercians).

(ii) Copying of MSS. — Even more important than their services to agriculture has been the work of the monastic orders in the preservation of ancient litera^ ture. In this respect too the results achieved went far beyond what was actually aimed at. The monks copied" the Scriptures for their own use in the Church services and, when their cloisters developed into schools, as the march of events made it inevitable they should, they copied also such monuments of classical literature as were preserved. At first no doubt such work was solely utilitarian, even in St. Benedict's rule the instructions as to reading and study make it clear that these filled a very subordinate place in the dispo- sition of the monastic' life. ( 'assiodonis was the hr.st to make the transcription of MSS. and thenjultipli- cation of books an organized and important branch of monafstic labour, but his in.sistence in this direction in- fluenced western monachism enormously and is in fact his chief claim to recognition as a legislator for