A Monastic Strugglers Story for Lent

Alone or in community, early monks and nuns sought to follow Christ in a whole-hearted and vividly countercultural way.

By: Jennifer Hevelone-Harper
from issue 93: Benedict and the Rise of Western Monasticism

Father Zossima left his monastery during Lent to enter the desert, hoping to find a spiritual father to offer him wisdom. Instead he met a woman, her naked body scorched by the Egyptian sun. Recognizing a life filled with holiness, he knelt and begged her blessing.

Reluctant with modesty, she spoke of her conversion from prostitution and of the 47 years she had lived alone in the desert: "I was burned by the heat of summer and frozen stiff and shivering in the winter … struggling with many and diverse needs and huge temptations but through it all even until this day the power of God has guarded [me]."

The woman, St. Mary of Egypt, was exalted in this popular sixth-century story as a source of spiritual wisdom who could teach even a godly monk like Zossima. But the characters in this story, a monk and a desert hermit, would have seemed strange or even distasteful to many pagan Romans, because they seemed to reject traditional values such as loyalty to one's city, marriage, and obligation to family. How did early Christians come to embrace such peculiar lifestyles?

After Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in the fourth century, Christians no longer faced the specter of martyrdom as the ultimate test of devotion. Instead, many ardent Christians withdrew to the wilderness to fast and pray. The "monk" (meaning "solitary"—either male or female) practiced "asceticism" (literally "training"), a life of spiritual discipline, either alone in the wilderness like Mary of Egypt or within the structure of a monastery as Zossima did. The temptations to despair or pride experienced by monks living alone could be guarded against by living with others in community. The Christian ascetic inherited the mantle of the martyr, as a witness to a divine reality that ran counter to the expectations of Roman society. Early Christian monks rejected traditional social mores and embraced ascetic disciplines, such as prayer, fasting, celibacy, and giving up sleep.

Ascetic Christians also repudiated the Roman method of striving for immortality by producing citizen children, who embodied part of a parent's very body and soul and guaranteed the survival of the community. Christ had promised that Christians' bodies would be made immortal and had offered his own broken flesh restored as a pledge. Monks sought to live an angelic life on earth, neither marrying nor having children. By refusing to participate in the continual process of physically repopulating the earth, they recognized that Christ's coming had initiated a new age and believed that their lives could help usher in his kingdom.

Although early Christian ascetics sometimes borrowed rhetoric from Neo-Platonists or Gnostics who seemed to denigrate the body, in actuality Christian asceticism rejected any dualistic beliefs that elevated the spirit over the material world. Monks repeatedly emphasized the physicality of the gospel. Not only did Christ become human, but he endured great physical sufferings and the ultimate bodily humiliation—death.

In imitating Christ's sufferings through martyrdom and asceticism, the believer's body became an instrument by which God could work the mystery of salvation. Christ's bodily resurrection was the guarantee for Christians' own expectations of physical resurrection. For the monk, the body became the canvas on which to practice a new form of spirituality, taming physical passions in order to pursue union with God.

Taking the Bible at its Word
Early Christian ascetics were motivated by a literal interpretation of the gospel. Jesus had said, "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me" (Matt. 10:37), and anyone who does not "hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters … cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26).

A young Egyptian peasant named Antony heard Jesus' command read aloud at church: "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven" (Matt. 19:21). Antony obeyed. Giving his wealth to the poor and his sister to the care of nuns, he retreated to the desert. Living among the pagan tombs and temples, Antony battled evil spirits with God's help.

The popular account of Antony's life written by Athanasius in 357 was soon translated into many languages and proved influential in the conversion of Augustine of Hippo to Christianity. Western Christians eagerly read monastic texts from Egypt and began to follow their example, pursuing the ascetic life.

Cassian, a monk from Bethlehem who visited monasteries in Egypt before settling in the West in the early fourth century, captured the ethos of Egyptian spirituality for Westerners in his Conferences and Institutes written in Latin. Benedict of Nursia used Cassian's writings to develop his own ideas.

A New Way for Women
The Romans were scandalized by the fact that Christian monasticism welcomed women as well as men. This ascetic call offered women the freedom to have their worth defined in service to God, rather than in relationship to parents, husbands, and children. Such freedom threatened existing social structures.

Rushing into Ambrose's church in Milan, an orphaned girl begged him to consecrate her to a life of virginity, ripping the cloth from the altar to serve as her monastic veil. Her outraged uncle appeared in pursuit, screaming, "If your father were still alive, he would never have permitted this!"

"Perhaps that is why God has taken him!" the girl retorted.

Jerome was the spiritual director for a group of aristocratic women in Rome who practiced asceticism. He felt the heat of social disapproval as his protégées pursued activities unusual for women, such as studying the Old Testament in Hebrew. When a young widow under his supervision died from extreme fasting, he was forced to flee. Settling in Bethlehem, Jerome and his colleague Paula (mother of the dead widow) established a monastic foundation for men and women.

They were not the only westerners practicing monasticism in the Holy Land. Another aristocratic Roman matron, Melania the Elder, settled with Jerome's friend Rufinus on the Mount of Olives and helped him oversee a double monastery for men and women. Melania also visited the hermits of Egypt, offering them generous financial support.

Melania's extended family included several pioneers in monasticism. Her niece Melania the Younger fled barbarian raids on Rome to settle in North Africa near Augustine in Hippo. Committed to a celibate, spiritual marriage, she and her husband established a monastery there. Paulinus, a cousin of Melania the Elder and her biographer, implemented monastic innovations in Italy. A former governor, Paulinus retired to Nola (where he would eventually become bishop) to be close to the shrine of St. Felix, his

patron. He was a gentle spirited poet and each year composed a new poem for the saint's feast day. As an ascetic he lived in celibacy with his beloved wife Therasia and wrote letters to the leaders of the Western church. Paulinus was concerned with duty towards the poor and spiritual humility, and he praised Melania the Elder for these virtues.

Diverse and dedicated
Although stories of high-status aristocrats who renounced their wealth shocked late Roman society and made for dramatic literary narratives, people from diverse backgrounds practiced monasticism. Soldiers, thieves, and housewives all sought a life of prayer in monastic communities.

In Asia Minor, Macrina, the elder sister of the Cappadocian fathers Basil and Gregory, opened her home to women made homeless by famine. She intentionally invited former slaves and aristocrats to share a common life.

Christians in Gaul remembered St. Martin of Tours for ripping his cloak in two and giving half to a naked beggar. Born to pagan parents, Martin served as a soldier until his growing Christian convictions led him seek release from the army from the pagan emperor Julian, saying, "I am Christ's soldier; I am not allowed to fight." To prove his courage he volunteered to stand on the frontline of the battle with no weapon but a cross. After studying theology under Bishop Hilary in Poitiers, Martin traveled to the Balkans as a missionary but returned to Gaul to build monasteries.

Many in the early medieval West embraced this dual vocation of missionary and monastic founder. Rather than closing themselves off from the world, monks carried the gospel to distant lands as monasteries became the chief agents of the Christianization of Europe.

The stories of the early Christian monks illustrate the challenges of living in late antiquity and the early Middle Ages: barbarian invasions, war, religious persecution, famine, and poverty. The sixth century brought further disasters with an outbreak of bubonic plague that swept through the Middle East and Europe. In the face of these threats, monks embraced a radical way of living out the gospel. Instead of viewing the monastery as a place of retreat, monastic leaders offered spiritual encouragement and intercessory prayer on behalf of their neighbors.

The task of garnering spiritual resources to meet the challenges of this turbulent time resulted in a surge of monastic writings. In the East, the anchorites Barsanuphius and John of Gaza wrote over 800 letters of spiritual guidance to city officials, clergy, and laity. In the West, Benedict of Nursia sought to articulate how the Christian life could best be lived in community in the face of man-made and natural calamities. The endurance of his rule demonstrates the effectiveness of the monastic vocation as a response to life's uncertainties.

Jennifer Hevelone-Harper is associate professor and chair of the history department at Gordon College and the author of Disciples of the Desert: Monks, Laity, and Spiritual Authority in Sixth-Century Gaza.

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Also: Hang Up Telephone Calls constantly get to you?

We get them all the time.  But one thing we do many are unaware of... We keep an automatic telephone log and then we turn them over to the same group who monitors and interacts with the hackers, etc.

It no longer matters if the caller telephones once in a day, every other day or every day or several times a week, once a week or for several months... All get logged, even those who think they have escaped notice by using the actual I.D. Caller number of "000-000-0000" which is has been used, even those who don't show up on caller I.D. as hang-ups now. With new technology being what it is it only takes one ring at a person's (receiving phone to activate some of the new technology being used which locks the caller's phone number in, even when they use by-pass alternate numbers to make shrewd calls).  We are advised one caller is facing terrorism criminal charges even though he used three different go-through numbers ranging all around the world, but were found to originate their call from California.  Hmmm.... what does this tell you?   Others, we are advised were found to be out of Michigan, Ohio, even Illinois and another state.

It is known that a telephone number showing up on some caller I.D.'s may actually be a telephone service provider phone number, yet... they too keep logs and information as to each individual cellular or local (their locale) phone usage... 

In the not-to-distant future, we intend to post some of those telephone numbers and, hopefully, persons, which constantly show up as "harassing hang-up" callers.  May be, you too have the same? 

Keep Watch!

Those who do such unscrupulous things, HATE some of the news, quotes, and such as to inform the general public.  Some of them pose as clergy, while a few are actually clergy from various "other" offshoot AMERICAN ORTHODOX CHURCH or other jurisdiction(s) of the same or similar name of which we are, in some instances, their former MOTHER CHURCH (as is the same named Toledo, Ohio based, an offshoot, who had once been a part of us and unknowingly to our unworthy selves, were once a part of the clergy but they did not obtain permission to leave the jurisdiction they were under, according to Canon, and thus obtained for themselves re-ordination and consecrations, several times... and then using a variety of church names, including our own after they were defrocked and excommunicated, having more than three (3) times being excommunicated by other legitimate apostles/bishops); having joined in and with  "Independent" churches who have nothing to do with us or even true Orthodoxy.  We have the information on their numerous "Paper Church" names and name changes.  But the real issue is whether they were ever truly an ordained Priest and bishop?

 

It is true that when one is ordained to the priesthood, the old saying of "Once a Priest, always a priest forever..." holds true... But where there has been or is deception and fraud involved, the old saying is invalid altogether which is the stool kicked out from under any subsequent consecrations as a Bishop for the Episcopacy has then been obtained on a sheet of lies and therefore they are frauds, wolves in sheep's clothing.  The problem here is with civil authorities and agencies. 

 

Any documents a false one obtains from those who ordained him, including subsequent documents relating to consecrations; civil authorities never (or hardly ever) verify their validity and thus issue their own documents and errantly recognize the individual. 

 

These false sheep in wolf's clothing seek to go out of their way to character assassinate and disparage religious web sites who do not meet their own brand of standardization and those who know where the proverbial "bones are buried on them" which is evidence of the wolf not being "Orthodox" "Christian" or even "Catholic" no matter what their nomenclature corporate name may be.  The Toldeo, Ohio based same or similar named person/group under his/their so-called leader has been deposed, defrocked and excommunicated more than three different times by various bishops/apostles.  He, and several others, have become just as bad as the modern day Ecumenists of the National Council of Churches, World Council of Churches, the World Council of Bishops and more.  It matters not now... whether they use the so-called name of "Athonite" "Benedictine" "Celtic" "Old Roman" "Old Catholic" - etc..  A name does not make one Christian. Their ultimate aim and goal is destruction to those from whom they had either originated from or gone through to obtain the same or similar named "church" they claim to hold to by the state's civil law in which they reside alone.  They are not a "Schema-monk" or even a true "monk" for they were deposed and excommunicated for violations of the Holy Rule they claim to subscribe to, giving and openly providing false misleading and inaccurate information about other more honorable clergy.  These 'wolves in sheep's clothing attract other nefarious and questionable persons whose aims are similar: for fame, image, power and glory, and if it should be that 'fortunes' come along, all the more is their power based.

 

    Remember, anything that is a HALF TRUTH is not truth but a lie!  Many there are that you may know who fit those descriptions... pray for them.  Pray that God will send his Spirit of Truth upon them and lead them to Salvation through tears of Repentance, conversion of their cold and calculating hearts toward seeking forgiveness from God and those whom they attempt to harm. 

 

    Those who receive e-mail from us, know who we are and from where we send mail.  There are also many who know that they can send e-mail under another group or person's e-mail address, which has been happening.  If you receive e-mail that purports itself to be from us, verify first by hitting your "reply" button and ask, "I received this e-mail but would like verification if it is from you.

 

    If you are of another jurisdiction, you too could find that your parishioners, clergy and faithful might become subject to the same as we have recently found. 

 

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    For ourselves, we have, as in the past, so once again, acquired the assistance of those who are able and capable of tracing e-mails back to their source and taking appropriate action in North America. 

 

    We have learned that the organization we subscribe to, whose members come from various legal and law enforcement backgrounds amongst other areas of society, are committed to the faith even though they may hold different theologies.  Yet, in their monitoring of electronic communications of various persons or people, they do not always make haste to bring perpetrators to justice until after enough evidence has been gained in order to build a solid case.  We do not always know what information they have gained, but we do know the organization, whom we've been asked not to name, has had a 97% success rate in bringing to justice and obtaining a conviction against individuals, people, and sometimes even religious organizations of a persona that gives the appearance of both secular and religious bearing but who abuse and misuse technology.  The organization views those who abuse and misuse the internet and other technologies as nothing more than a form of "domestic terrorism" - - - - and, it would seem to appear that the courts are in agreement!

 

 Those kinds of people, organizations, etc. who misuse and abuse communication technologies are no different than those who attempt to use coercive measures, and in some instance, even blackmail for the same idea is involved... to cause havoc and wreckage, to destroy the spirit and activity of those who struggle in the faith out of pain of heart for the Orthodox Church which is TRUTH. The degree that some have been known to go to, as seen by other jurisdictions, is to take advantage of questionably mentally challenged or those who have a lack of education and understanding to get them to make statements, even outright lies, in writing, in order to destroy.  Such persons or groups are spiritual terrorists for unholy and un-Orthodox causes, aims and goals.

 

    Yes, our Metropolitan Archbishop, +Joseph Thaddeus, SSJt., Ph.D. strongly defends the Seals of the Confessional for such leads to true Repentance in thought, word and deed whereby the penitent is required to make amends, where possible, to seek forgiveness of those harmed by his actions whether real or imagined, and to give his forgiveness to those who have harmed him before taking the Holy Body and Blood in the Eucharist, Jesus the Christ.  The reality of this understanding is bound up in and with the findings for which cause he, himself, had been character assassinated by his detractors who claim the courts prevented him from breaking the Seals of the Confessional which is not the truth at all.... Click here to see what another bishop's findings are...

 

    The workings of Holy Spirit will not be daunted by those who attempt to cause disruption!  It is for these and other reasons that you are urged to read what true repentance and forgiveness means for real "Christians".

 

  The Founding of Orthodoxy 

How Many Times

Is Christianity Collapsing? A theological evaluation regarding T.B.N. and its so-called ministers!

Part II -Is Christianity Collapsing?

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Remember, not all Protestants, especially hard core cultic groups such as "Charismatic" - "Evangelical" "Promise Keepers" "Church of Christ" "Methodism" "Pentecostals" "Jehovah's Witnesses" "Mormons" and other people are not so generous in their viciousness toward anyone and anything that appears "Catholic" whether of the Roman or Orthodox jurisdictions, for they do not know or want to learn that which makes them "different" in their walk and talk as being far from the roots of Christianity. 

Remember, it is the Roman jurisdiction of the Catholic Church which has more outwardly shown that it can be one of the most vicious toward those who are not Roman but are very much "Catholic" - for the sun and moon does not rise and set on the Vatican (Latin or Roman) jurisdiction as to who is or is not "Catholic" for the Roman jurisdiction split (schismed) from the roots of "Catholicism" which is founded in what is termed and called today as "Orthodoxy".

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                                                                               --An Elder

    Yes, our Metropolitan Archbishop, +Joseph Thaddeus, SSJt., Ph.D. strongly defends the Seals of the Confessional for such leads to true Repentance in thought, word and deed whereby the penitent is required to make amends, where possible, to seek forgiveness of those harmed by his actions whether real or imagined, and to give his forgiveness to those who have harmed him before taking the Holy Body and Blood in the Eucharist, Jesus the Christ.  The reality of this understanding is bound up in and with the findings for which cause he, himself, had been character assassinated by his detractors who claim the courts prevented him from breaking the Seals of the Confessional which is not the truth at all.... Click here to see what another bishop's findings are...

 

    The workings of Holy Spirit will not be daunted by those who attempt to cause disruption!  It is for these and other reasons that you are urged to read what true repentance and forgiveness means for real "Christians".

 

   "It would be better to have ten (10) true repentant X-felons who ask for and give true forgiveness than it would be to have one (1) non-x-felon or common person whose self-righteousness exceeds even the Pharisees, Sadducees, the gossip mongers, slanderers and un-repentant; for the repentant x-felon understands the true meaning of the Church's purpose as being the spiritual hospital." (siq) +Joseph Thaddeus, OSB, SSJt., Ph.D., Metropolitan Archbishop, Archabbot, Primate

 

Yes... "Prejudice Makes Prisoners of the Hated and the Hater..." (1992-Fr. Alan Stanford)

 

One can ask, "What part of 'Prejudice' and 'hate' do you not understand?  Are you a complacent person?  In light of the saying, examine yourself!  You may be surprised if you are honest with yourself for your soul may convict you before Jesus Christ convicts you in the times to come!

 

"When tested by some trial you should try to find out not why or through whom it came, but only how to endure it gratefully, without distress or rancor."


St. Mark the Ascetic.


"
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit." Psalms 32:1-2
 

    For further information about how spammers, hackers and those who are angry with you can or will attempt to do damage, we offer the following link as regards some of the computer - internet problems:

 

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Twenty First Century Desert Fathers

Who Are: The Thaddeans?

Lines of Apostolic Succession of His Eminence

 AOC CLERGY

In The Shadows

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Privacy Watch NOTICE to VISITORS ABOUT OUR E-MAIL, Telephone and Response POLICY - Updated

 

Saint Jude Thaddeus (Helper of the Hopeless) and  The Thaddean Fathers (SSJt.)

 

MAN: To Err, the Church and Holy Spirit


The True meaning of Repentance and forgiveness

AN OPEN LETTER TO ALL MEMBERS OF THE CLERGY

 

Is Christianity At The Cross Roads?

 

As The World Goes, So Goes The Church

 

Anomalies in Ecclesiology of Contemporary Orthodox Churches

 

Attempts at Coming to An Understanding of Orthodox Catholic Christianity

 

A Response to two articles: “Pedophilia Condoned (Approved) By Islam & Dalai Lama With Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox and Others"

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GRAMMATA ON THE MEANING OF CANONICAL

 

The Definition and Meaning of "Orthodoxy"
 

Orthodox Catholic Christian Fasts, Feasts, and Daily Prayers

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To Change the Nation and the World

A Dictionary of Orthodox Terminology

PROPER ATTIRE FOR ORTHODOX CLERGY

A Spiritual Hospital For Sinners

The Faithful and Clergy
(Clergy: Monks, Nuns, Priests and Bishops)

Our Clergy Application - Agreement

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