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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/520

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MONASTICISM


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MONASTICISM


the notes accompanying it brings forcibly before the mind an important fact in monastic history. With the exception of a single Pachomian monastery at Canopus, near Alexandria, tlie cenobitic monasteries are in the South, and confined to a relatively small area. The eremitical monasteries, on the contrary, are everywhere, and especially in the North. These latter were thus far more accessible to pilgrims visit- ing Egypt and so became the patterns or models for the rest of the Christian world. It was the ere- mitical, not lliecenobitical, typcofmonasticism which went forth from Egypt.

Monasticism at a very early date spread along the route of the Exodus and the desert of the Forty Years' Wandering. The solitaries had a special pre- dilection for Scriptural sites. At every place hal- lowed by tradition, which Sylvia visited (a. d. 3S5), she found monks. The attraction of Mt. Sinai for th<' .solitaries was irresistilile, in spite of the danger of captivity or death at tlic hands of the Saracens. In 373 a number of solitaries inhabited this moun- tain, li\dng on dates and other fruit, such bread as they had being reserved for the Sacred Mysteries. All the week they li\-ed apart in their cells; they gathered together in the church on Saturday evening and, after spending the night in prayer, received com- munion on Sunday morning. Forty of them were massacred in 373, and on the same day another group of solitaries at Raithe (supposed to be Elim) were killed by a second band of barbarians. These events were described by eye-witnesses (Tillemont, "H. E.", VII, .573-80). The same kind of life was being led at ISIt. Sinai, and a similar experience was under- gone some twenty years later when St. Nilus was there.

St . Ililarion, who for a time had been a disciple of St. Anthony, propagated monasticism of the ere- mitical type flr.st in the neighbourhood of his native city Gaza and then in Cyprus. His friend St. Epiphanius, after practising the monastic hfe in Egypt, founded a monastery near Eleutheropolis in Palestine somewhere about 330 or perhaps a little later.

In Jerusalem and its neighbourhood there were numerous monasteries at a very early date. To name only a few, there was the monastery on the Mount of Olives, from which Palladius went forth on his tour of the Egyptian monasteries; there were two monas- teries for women in Jerusalem, built by the older and younger Melania respectively. At Bethlehem St. Paula founded three monasteries for women and one for men about a. d. 387. There was, besides, in Bethlehem the monastery where Cassian some years before began his religious life. The lauras, which were very numerous, formed a conspicuous feature in Palestinian monasticism. The first seems to have been founded before 334 by St. Chariton at Pharan, a few miles from Jerusalem; later on, two more were founded by the same saint at Jericho and at Suca.

St. Euthymius (473) founded another celebrated one in the VaUey of Cedron. Near Jericho was the laura ruled over by St. Gerasimus (475). Some details concerning the rule of this laura have fortunately been preserved in a very ancient Life of St. Euthy- mius. It consisted of a cenobium where the cenobitic life was practised by novices and others less proficient. There were also seventy cells for solitaries. Five days in the week these latter lived and worked alone in their cells. On Saturday they brought their work to the cenobium, where, after receiving Holy Com- munion on Simdays, they partook of some cooked food and a little wine. The rest of the week their fare was bread, dates, and water. When some of them asked to be allowed to heat some water, that they might cook some food, and to have a lamp to read by, they were told that if they wished to live thus they


had better take up their abode in the cenobium (Acta SS., March, I, 380-87).

Antioch, wlicn St. John Chrysoslom was a young man, was full of ascetics and (he neiglibouring moun- tains were peopled with hermits. So great was the impulse driving men to the .'folitury life that at one time there was an outcry, amounting almost to a per- secution, among Christians as well as pagans against those who embraced it. This was the occasion of St. Chry.sostom's treatise against the opponents of monasticism: in the first book he dwelt upon the guilt incurred by them; the second and third were addressed respectively to a pagan and a Christian father who were opposing the wish of their sons to embrace the monastic state. The pathetic scene be- tween the saint and his mother, which he describes in the beginning of the "Dc sacerdotio", must be typical of what took place in many Christian homes. He himself so far yielded to his mother's entreaties that he contented himself with the ascetic life at home till her death. Palestine and Antioch must suffice as examples of the rapid spread of monasticism out- side of Egypt. There is abundant evidence of the same phenomenon in all the countries between the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia; and Mesopotamia, according to St. Jerome, whose testimony is amply borne out by other writers, rivalled Egypt itself in the number and holiness of its monks (Comm. in Isaiam, V, xix).

We now come to a name second only in impor- tance to St. Anthony's for the history of eastern mo- nasticism. St. Basil the Great before embracing the monastic state made a careful study of monasticism in Egypt, Palestine, Ccclesyria, and Mesopotamia. The result was a decided preference for the cenobiti- cal hfe. He founded several monasteries in Pontus, over one of which he himself for a time presided, and very soon monasteries, modelled after his, spread over the East. His monks assembled together for "psal- mody" and "genuflexions" seven times a day, in accordance with the Psalmist's "Septies in die laudem dixi tibi" (Ps. cxviii, 164) : at midnight (" Media nocte surgebam " — Ibid., 62), at evening, morning, and midday (Ps. Iv, 18), at the third hour, the hour of Pentecost, and at the ninth, the sacred hour of the Passion. To complete the tale of seven, the midday prayer was divided into two parts separated by the community meal (Sermo "Asceticus", Benedictine edition, II, 321). St. Ba.sirs monastic ideal is set forth in a collection of his writings known as the "Asceticon", or "Ascetica", the most important of which are the "Regulae fusius tractata;", a series of answers to questions, fifty-five in number, and the "Regute brevius tractatae", in which three hundred and thirteen questions are briefly replied to. It must not be supposed that the "Regula;" form a rule, though it would be possible to go a good way towards constituting one out of them They are answers to questions which would naturally arise among persons already in possession of a framework of customs or traditions. Sometimes they treat of practical ques- tions, but as often as not they deal with matters con- cerning the spiritual life. What is on the whole a good description of them will be found in Smith and Cheetham, "Diet, of Christ. Antiquities", II, 1233 sqq.

It would not be easy to exaggerate St. Basil's in- fluence upon eastern monasticism : he furnished the type which ultimately prex'ailcd . But t wo points of the utmost iinporlaricc, as marking the ditTcrence between Eastern and Western monasteries, nuist be kept in mind. (1) He did not draw up a rule, but gave, what is far more an elastic thing, a model or pattern. (2) He was not the founder of a religious order. No Eastern, except St. Pachomius, ever was. An order, as we understand the term, is a purely Western product. "It is not enough", says a writer who cer-