Posts by TimP

Hermits, Monks & Mission

Hermits, Monks & Mission

By on Mar 8, 2014 in Blog |

Hermits and Monks sought simplicity and solitude, yet they always seemed to struggle to achieve their goal.  Were they right to isolate themselves or should they have immersed themselves in their communities?  What can we learn from them? For early 3rd and 4th century hermits and monks, celibacy and fasting were givens, practiced by all, but some took it to great lengths, going to extremes of self-denial. After Constantine stopped the persecution of Christians this asceticism became for some, a form of martyrdom. Simeon the Stylite spent 37 years living on top of a pillar, another hung upside down in a barrel and others lived in caves too low to stand up in.  Were they taking ‘dying to themselves’ just a little bit too far? When his mother died, Simeon asked that her body be brought to his pillar so he could bid her farewell. What is admirable about these early hermits is their total dedication to the Lord and their willingness to forego earthly pleasures or even normal family relationships. ‘A monk was told that his father had died. He said to the messenger, ‘Do not blaspheme. My Father cannot die.'”  – Evagrius, From ‘The sayings of the Desert Fathers’ Hermits and monks lived by asceticism, the idea that through renunciation of worldly pleasures it is possible to achieve a higher spiritual or intellectual state. They tried hard to shun worldliness, have no possessions, live frugally, renounce materialism and seek the heavenly, not bodily comfort. The biblical basis seems to be based on John the Baptist who lived in the desert (Matthew 3:1-4) and on Jesus himself who spent 40 days and nights fasting in the desert. (Matt 4:1-2) The command of Jesus to sell all you have and give to the poor (Matthew 19:21) also influenced the early founders of monasticism. In light of this, many sought solitude (the word “Monk” comes from the Greek “monachos”, meaning ‘Solitary’). However they attracted followers, and therefore were rarely able to be alone! Simeon thought that living on a pillar would separate him from people, however it attracted even more followers. We can imagine it: “hey, come and see this holy dude who lives on top of a pillar!” Something...

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