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Yuri Koszarycz


    At this time another element began to manifest itself within the primitive socio- political construct of the Church. Monasticism began to emerge, either through the solitary witness of desert hermits, or through small communities of devout men and women called to a life or prayer and contemplation. One interesting personality who fell into this catagory of eccentric hermit/saint was Anthony of Egypt. He was born in 251 in Egypt and as a young man of twenty embraced poverty and a life of desert solitude until his death in 356 AD. His life spanned the era of persecutions and the new age of Constantine, and it is estimated that in his own lifetime Anthony had more than 5000 followers. A contemporary, Pachomius, formed the first community of monks and the trend continued rapidly after Basil the Great worked out specific rules governing community life, which meant that a monk would live in prayerful conformity to a specific community structure. Basil's collections of written rules emphasised common sense and moderation and were to be widely adopted throughout the eastern empire. Within five centuries, more than 100,000 monks were said to be living under the Basilian rule. It was Athanasius who popularised the life and work of Anthony and the monastic ideal in the West in 335 AD but it was left to Augustine to author the first monastic rules for the western Church.

    The influence of this primitive movement cannot be underestimated. See if you can elicit the types of images of the Church that this introduced to contemporary believers. The ascetical dimension of this early monasticism was to be fused with a sense of service and ministry (particularly later in the West under Benedict's Rule), making the monastic community a place of learning and spiritual support.

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Copyright ©1999, Yuri Koszarycz. This file may be copied on the condition that the entire contents,including the header and this copyright notice, remain intact.The contents of ORB are copyright © 1995-1999 Laura V. Blanchard and Carolyn Schriber except as otherwise indicated herein.