Monastic History

00:00
00:00
Audio loading...

Welcome! You can log in or create an account to save favorites, edit keywords, transcripts, and more.

Serial: 
NC-00326

Keywords:

Suggested Keywords:

Description: 

Monastic History Class

Photos: 
Notes: 

#set-monastic-history

Transcript: 

And I think I can do it in 10 minutes. The Jewish monastic groups, and then we're going to get into the preliminary discussion of desert before we hit Abba Antony and the desert monastics, Christian monastics that is. The Therapeutes are a group whom you will find mentioned only in one author, and that is in Philo of Alexandria. And the Therapeutes, in fact you will find them mentioned in this book here by Philo on the contemplative life, in this treatise. And we have it in the library. He talks about this group of Jewish monastics who live on the banks of Lake Mariatas, which

[01:02]

is near Alexandria. Naturally enough, if you notice where they're living, and if you know anything about history, ancient history and what Alexandria stands for right now, this group is going to be different, very different from the Essenes or Qumran. What would be the obvious assumption you could make? Acceptance of Hellenistic beliefs. Exactly. These are not in reaction to the Hellenizers. These are Hellenizers. These are strongly influenced by Hellenistic culture, Hellenistic philosophy, the Hellenistic movement among the Jews, which was especially strong in Alexandria at this time. They're very different from Qumran.

[02:09]

Very different. They live a totally contemplative existence. That is, they don't have any work. They don't have any specific monastery or common monastery together. They are both sexes, but each one lives in one's own cell, separate. And in that cell there is a meditation chamber, let's call it. A meditation chamber, and in that meditation chamber the monastic will be situated from slightly before sunrise until slightly after sunset.

[03:10]

And they don't move out of that chamber, and they don't eat or drink during that time. We're talking the whole day in contemplative meditation. Their lifestyle is characterized, obviously, by strong fasts, penitence, and long hours of contemplation or contemplative activity. They did have some outreach in the sense that they did see themselves as called to help heal anyone who came to them to talk up things or for advice or that sort of thing. It's like spiritual directors of the early centuries, huh?

[04:11]

And the name itself tells you that, huh? Therapeia in Greek. Therapy, for those of us who have had therapy. We should know what that means, which I assume is most of us here in this day and age, thankfully. And they devote themselves outside of contemplation to healing those who need healing and to worship of the one true God. When the postulant, let's say, comes to this community, if we can call it a community, yeah, you can call it a community, into this community, they don't bring any property.

[05:15]

The postulant does not bring property or money, nothing. They give all that away to family and friends before entering the religious life, everything. Once they got there, a strong influence on them was Fuga Mundi. For most of you, I don't have to explain that. John, do you know what Fuga Mundi means? Terry, Terry's not here. Where's Terry? Terry's taking care of her. He'll be right here. Okay, so Fuga Mundi is flight of the world in Latin. And this is the type of mentality which the early desert monastics in the Christian, in Christian history, are going to embrace. That is, flee the world, leave the world behind.

[06:18]

It can go strongly dualistic if you take it to an extreme. That is, why do you flee the world? Because it's putrid, it's rotten, it's sin with a capital S, it's da-da-da-da-da, done a lot. And then the whole thing with the body and soul and all those other dualities come into play. whether consciously or subconscious. These therapeuts lived celibately. All of them. One to a cell. But the cells were in segregation. You know, the women's cells and the men's cells. I can just take one thing back. I don't know this for sure, whether they drank water or not during the day in the meditation chamber. For sure, they didn't take any food, substance. Maybe they did take water.

[07:23]

Were they organized in little clusters like Lara? Well, this sounds like a Lara, yeah, doesn't it? Yeah. This is the Lara type arrangement In the Egyptian desert, just down the road, with the Christian settlements of monastics, we're going to have basically three types of ways to live monasticism in the desert. This is one of them. This is the Lara type. They all gathered in a synagogue on the Sabbath for worship. But there was a wall separating the men from the women. And whoever was the senior of the group, of the therapeuts, gave a sermon on the Sabbath. They lived very ascetically. This just wasn't pie in the sky. They lived a real asceticism.

[08:32]

Their clothing was very frugal. During the summer, they wore a linen shirt, so like a linen smock, period. And during the winter, they wore a thick hide, an animal skin, period. This was seen as a sign against the luxury of the times, and there was luxury in Alexandria. Remember, this is a group not coming out of Jerusalem in retaliation against... They're far removed from that. Their whole world is Greek, basically. Even though it's in Egypt, it's Greek at this time. Greek in mentality, Greek in language, Greek in lifestyle, for the most part. All educated people speak Greek at this time in this area. Annually, on the eve of Pentecost, they would have their annual high feast celebration.

[09:46]

And they would all gather wearing white robes. So off with the smocks and hides, put on your white robe. They came together and they shared bread and water, and then held discussions, because most of their life is in silent contemplation. Held discussions, then ate the leavened bread and some salt and hyssop, which certainly, you know, ties into... What do I want to say? Thank you. And then held a vigil all during the night, singing. Singing together until dawn. Just before dawn, they all stood up, faced the rising sun, stretched out their arms to the sun,

[10:51]

and welcomed the dawn into their lives. End of service for the year. And they went back to their cells. That was the worship. You know, of course, they had this little synagogue thing on the Sabbath every week. Gathering together for that sort of a passive approach to worship. But this is their active liturgy for the year. Other than that, little or nothing is known about them. Because all we know of them comes through Philo, and Philo only gives them a brief thumbsketch mention among the groups he treats in this treatise on the contemplative life. Do we have some dates for them? No. I mean, I don't have precise dates. We're talking, as far as I know, we're talking

[11:55]

first century B.C. and after. They linger on a while and then fade away. There is a period where the first Christian monastics evidently know of some therapeutes still around. But they aren't a big thing anymore. Just like a dying... It's like, you know, a few years back there were the last four shakers and that type of thing. Sort of just like the old ones hanging on and then it fades out. Echo. End of treatment of Jewish monastics. Two things we should mention. Yesterday, Eric did... no, excuse me, Ezekiel did some research and did find that there is indeed, among the evidence that among the Essenes, there was a mystical tradition.

[12:58]

And it was based on the first chapter of the book of Ezekiel, which later became the foundation of Jewish mysticism in the Kabbalah, contemplating that first chapter of God's throne coming in. But there actually is a book that I found this morning that sections... Well, one of the foundations. Not the whole foundation. Well, that's one of them. As far as birth control is concerned, that's as far back as we can trace Jewish mysticism down. With those earliest books like that. What book did you find? It's just called... 1977 by Virmis? Virmis. You had had it out in 92. I was the last person to have it out. It's just called the Qumran text or something. Another thing is that I noticed Hippolytus, in his treatment of Qumran, or of the Essenes, also mentions, just as strongly as Philo does, that they had no women, no women allowed,

[13:59]

and then women, women, women, you know, in a negative way. So, let's not just say Philo. You can't trust Philo's evidence because he was a misogynist. He was a misogynist, but nevertheless, Hippolytus gives the same evidence. So there must have been some kind of anti-woman thing there. Of course, the whole thing, you know, with dualism going to an extreme, you're going to have the whole flesh-soul thing, black-and-white business about, and the procreation scene, and that type of framework always loses, always turns black, red, and white. And so, who do you blame for procreation? Ed. And yet, what I found was funny was that they had this mystical tradition of feeling that they could have something of the next world experience now. Well, Hippolytus says that they believed in through mystical prayer.

[15:02]

Yeah. But Hippolytus says that they believed the flesh, this was the answer to your question yesterday, the flesh rises again, now we're talking Essenes, that the soul is immortal, that the soul abides in an airy state, that good souls go to the island of the blessed, Ed, and that bad souls are punished. So this is strong development, you know. It's a lot different from Sheol. Yeah, yeah. So there's a resurrection of the soul, not a resurrection of the body. The flesh, let me get this right, the flesh rises again. Interesting. Okay. Anything else before we move on to the Christian? Did we know how these therapies felt about pregnancy?

[16:10]

I don't know. See, Philo doesn't say anything, and that's all we find in reference to the therapies. A large, large group. The thing is he doesn't get us to, he's just sort of like, he's mentioning them in passing because he's looking at all these various groups that are living, sort of, community life, monastically. And so we've got what we've got. Do we have, would we assume they would do the same kind of prayer rituals that a good hasid would do as well? I mean, like, how are they spending all day in prayer, would that be? No, I would think, because they're strongly hellenistically influenced, it's almost all mind trip, it's almost all mental meditation, and that is your channel for transformation. Where probably the Essenes were doing the rituals. Oh, they were definitely into rituals. Yeah. That's something I found this morning, a big punishment was if you were late for the ORR, and they were real strict on getting to prayer on time and stuff like that,

[17:14]

that was another one of the punishments that you could, if you were late for office, so to speak. What was the punishment? I didn't say it, I just thought that they were very, very strict about that as well. Okay, let's move on to Christianity then. And we'll be talking about the Christian desert for quite a few weeks. Both in Egypt, well, first in theory, in the scriptures, and then in theory, and then in Egypt, and Syria, and Palestine. So, you know, this is our bedrock. It might be sand, but it's bedrock, figuratively, for the humanistic tradition in the Christian tradition. For the early Christian community which formed in Jerusalem, you will remember Acts 2, huh? Basically, what characterizes that grouping?

[18:20]

Well, they shared their property, common property. They took who as the model for their life? Jesus. They took Jesus as their model. Modeling what? Modeling poverty, obedience, chastity, solitude, prayer, not celibacy. Not celibacy. Prayer, solitude, obedience, poverty, and chastity. There you got the three, poverty, chastity, and obedience. Their prayer life for that early Christian community in Jerusalem was based on synagogue worship and the temple worship. So, synagogue gathering, synagogal gathering, as well as the temple worship that everyone was involved with at that time in Jerusalem.

[19:21]

That is detailed. Prayer and sacrifice in the morning and in the evening. Sacrifice on the minor scale, huh? Little burdens. Largely, as far as words go, largely psalmic, psalmatic worship, the Shema, and some 18 to 20 blessings that they used at that time. They were praying, the early Christian communities were praying six times a day by the early 3rd century. We're going to talk about that more later when we hit the, by that point, more like 4th century, but we'll go back to this. The prescription for morning and evening prayers at a very early stage

[20:30]

became popular throughout early Christianity. That is, you have something like vigils and wads and vespers. Something like that were public, you have public gatherings of those for people of God worshiping together in the morning and in the night, and some of them during the night, early, early morning. Or that part of it is personal, the vigils is personal, but you gather for the wads and the vespers. So the early communities were already doing this, the early Christian communities, before the desert. Midnight was especially deemed a sacred hour for the early communities. Can anyone guess why? I had never heard this before. I mean, I've known it for a few years because I did the research years ago,

[21:35]

but before that I had never heard of why midnight was so important and deemed the most sacred hour for these post-resurrectional Christian communities. And so many of them did their vigils at that time. Well, what is a vigil for? Waiting, waiting for the dawn. And what dawn are the early Christians waiting for avidly? The second coming. The second coming is supposed to happen at midnight, I never knew that before. I mean, that was the tradition at the time, that Jesus was going to come in the middle of the night. Well, it makes sense in a way, when you least expect. Well, most people are going to be asleep at that time, so that would be when you least expect. So in that sense it makes sense to me. Of necessity for the early Christian communities, especially during persecution times,

[22:36]

and often in the diaspora situation, these gatherings were done in secret. And it wasn't until constant timing that prayer assemblies became public for everyone who wanted to gather in the morning and the evening for public prayer. So it was sort of the underground. There was a strong, strong eschatological flavor to the whole framework of this community, and that doesn't surprise us either, because again, what are they waiting for? They're waiting for the imminent return of the Lord. Any day. Any day it's going to happen. And so, if you really believe that, if you're really waiting for it, well, you're going to do things like have your vigils at midnight,

[23:40]

if that's the time it's going to happen. You're going to look a certain way at the world. You're going to look at the world, your world is going to be a little bit more different than it was before the resurrection, and before the assumption that Jesus is going to return very soon. Virginity is going to mean something. Much more positive to many people than it would have to Jews before that mentality. I mean, virginity wasn't looked upon as all that desirable for a good Jewish woman, you know. To be put on a pedestal for virginity was not a thing done. You will have people who wander around as ascetics waiting for this coming, even assuming that their asceticism will help to actually usher in the coming.

[24:44]

And of course, a lot of these, later on, are going to become those hermits in the desert, and the cenobites in the desert. There also, at a very early period, will be organized groups of women virgins in the church, holy virgin groups, who often devote themselves to prayer and social work within the community. This was especially true in Syria and Palestine. Why was virginity important? Remember also that at this time, dualism is affecting the Christians, as well as the Jews and everybody. So it's keeping yourself pure.

[25:47]

I guess so. Also, there's a certain mentality that if you're not married, you're not a virgin. If you're married, you're better off... Because there's no need to start a family anyway. Because it's going to end your society. Well, that's the Hippolyte thing. But where does this hook up with the Hebrew notion of the vespel virgin? The Hebrew notion of... That's Greek. You know, I mean, the Greek notion. Or the Roman. Not like the wise virgins with the lamps alive. Oh, I see. That was already... Well, they're like maidens waiting and waiting. They're going to be married down the line too, but they're just... They're like the bridesmaids. There was a certain significance to the fact that a woman was a virgin, a maid, or somehow pure. I wouldn't know how to answer them and say yes, there was certainly that connection, purity. The Greek virgins were more temple attendants.

[26:48]

And the Roman. They kept the town aflame. That's where you went to get your fire. They're always associated with a place. The Temple of Vesta is just down, like two blocks down from San Gregorio in Rome. Oh, no, it's more like four blocks. Long block. Excuse me. And they tended to fire, they tended to flame in there. In Rome. And it's questionable whether they really were virgins or not. In the Roman situation. At least in part of the history. They were Vestals anyway. One V out of two ain't bad. They also kept the wills of the emperors, like Augustus and all the Caesars, whenever their will was made for... Legal documents? Legal documents, and the Temple of Vesta is where it was kept. And the women were brought in in childhood,

[27:51]

like at about maybe 10 or 12 years of age. They only had to remain virgin for the period of time of their service, to like 20 years or something like that. Then they were released from their bond. And wasn't it also true that nobody could go in there? I mean, it was absolutely sacrosanct. It was only the virgins who could go in, the Vestal Virgin. And during the festival of Jupiter V, of course the High Priestess was really a witness to that, and also the great victories and triumphs. They had a particular role in keeping the heart of the country alive. They were very superstitious about keeping that. And with that, if anything happened, the clan would... It's interesting, you know, when you... Has anyone seen the movie Quest for Fire? It's a wonderful movie.

[28:51]

It's about the prehistoric peoples. And how... And have you read the novels by Jane Owell? Clan of the Cave Bear. Yeah, Clan of the Cave Bear, and something about horses and mammoth hunters. It's interesting how there's evidence in primitive societies still existing, as well as these prehistoric societies, and these more developed religious contexts of ancient times, that the fire keepers are usually celibate, or set aside, or monastics within the group, or the shaman within the group. There's always this otherworldly aspect that's connected with the very basic element of fire. It comes strongly through in Quest for Fire, how important fire is, you know, in that particular movie. But there's this almost instinctual, primal connection

[29:56]

between keeping the fire and the sacred. It's all tied in there. It's interesting. Next class, we'll watch Quest for Fire. There's a problem there, they've got naked bodies. These organized groups of virgins devoted themselves, as I said, to social work, and this was especially true of taking care of orphans and in those days there were a lot of orphans, those that lived deathly, it was astounding in those early centuries. Also, caring for sick, and helping out widows, because widows had no recourse in a patriarchal society like that.

[30:57]

No recourse. The early ascetics, especially these wanderers, the early ascetics became the hermits and anchorites of the third and fourth centuries. And Christian asceticism was greatly enhanced by the fact that Egypt was converted. Once Egypt converted to Christianity, for the most part, asceticism began to flourish. Not just because the deserts were in Egypt then, but because there was something about Egyptian Christianity that looked benignly upon this flight into the desert, even though later on there were going to be problems

[31:58]

between certain bishops and the monks and all that. In fact, until the year 451, the Council of Chalcedon, the bishops don't have any control over the monks and they're constantly squabbling and proclaiming anathemas on one another and having saints on both sides and the whole business. But there's also, not just looking benignly, but also there's something in the Christian consciousness in Egypt that even fosters what's going to become anastasism, fosters personal asceticism. Is there any link between Egyptian mythology or Egyptian civilization somehow? Is there any history of this wandering ascetics in the Egyptian community? Oh, I wouldn't be surprised. I mean, I'm no expert on that sort of thing, but I wouldn't be surprised to find it in every tradition. You find these holy wandering ones

[32:59]

in every religious tradition at some point. I wouldn't be surprised by that, wandering. Maybe within, I mean, I don't know of any tradition of Egyptians doing that, ancient Egyptians, other than, I'm sure among these cops in the desert there were people like that, just part of human nature. Some people are like that, just by personality, just by their inner drive. But most of these desert dwellers are going to be unlettered Coptic fellow, I mean. Just yokels, you know. The early monks are yokels for the most part. They don't know how to read or write or, well, we'll get into that. This may be too much in church history, but what was the big converting event for Egypt? Oh, I don't think there was any one particular. I mean, it just, it happened.

[34:02]

It happened and Egypt became phenomenally Christian. They had many, many great saints in schools and teachers. Oh, sorry, in Africa in general. Well, especially Egypt, yeah. Especially Alexandria. It was just phenomenal what they did for the early church. And just the writings of those early Egyptian fathers. Tremendous. And the councils they held. Very, very formative to early Christianity. Of course, other things are happening too, but it was really an amazing, amazing thrust within Christianity for such a little, more or less small space within the empire. The, I suppose another way of looking at it, what Egypt had to offer the church at this time

[35:04]

was a certain flexibility. In the sense that, well, if you know your history, you know that Alexandria is a whole conflux of all kinds of things going on. Not just philosophies, but religions from the east and philosophies and mysticisms and whatnot. And Alexandria is just alive with this sort of thing, and deep bays, and armed camps, and you know. And then there's this syncretism happening, quite naturally in Alexandria and Egyptian Christianity, which is more flexible. They bring in little things from other, you're open to certain rites and whatnot. Well, that happens in Egyptian Christianity. And it really helped Christianity as a whole become a little more flexible and inclusive than some of the early Jewish Christians would have wanted it. Even, you know, we moved to three generations. Or Roman Jewish Christianity,

[36:08]

Roman Slavic Jewish tradition Christianity. That's one thing that Egypt did that was not totally unique. I mean, it happened in Rome also, but not in the same way so much. In Rome, it happened more within Roman religion, not Christianity so much. Roman religion became so syncretistic that in the end, there was no Roman religion left. It was just all the gods that they could cart off from every culture, you know, had its temple. And Rome had so many gods and so many temples that people just left the whole thing in the end. It was like, instead of syncretism, Rome was like a vacuum cleaner, you know, just bringing everything in. The fathers of the church, you know, especially in areas

[37:09]

where strong Hellenistic influences are important, and this holds true for the Alexandrians, is that the ideas that come from a Greek philosophy of Stoicism, or at least semi-Stoicism, namely, the main idea that they would grasp would be that life should be seen as a progression, a growth, a progression, that life as an ascetical, or an ascesis itself, life as an ascesis, takes root. And so, going out to the desert makes great sense for this. If you want to go full hilt, you know, in this line, why not? Ascesis is the way through which you can destroy sin,

[38:09]

pro non pro, destroy vices, in order to climb. Well, throughout the history of monasticism, we're going to keep running into this figure of climbing this stairway, the ladder of perfection, scala perfectionis. The Greeks, were they the ones that started the Epicureans? Well, the Epicureans were a Greek school of philosophy. The Romans just took it up. Yeah. They had the money to build that one. But the Epicureans were into more than just good food, too. That was one of the highlights of enjoying pleasure. Nope, just scratching my head. Especially Clement and Origen, from Alexandria,

[39:15]

are going to ascribe to this and promote this. That is, how do you live? Live in order to root out evil, root out vice, so that you can progress toward God. And also, not just always doing. Remember, the influences here are Hellenistic. So you progress, while being ascetical, you also progress through your intellect. That is, you come into contact with the Absolute, with God, primarily through your intellect. And so your mind and your body have to be in contact and you have to both be trained for this progression. And during these early centuries, as it became more and more evident that the majority of the Church were not, quote-unquote,

[40:18]

all that holy, or were having problems with human nature, asceticism has become more and more important, as an antidote. Because the Second Coming keeps not happening. And so you get laxity, and you get people turning on their religion, or doing awful things, and then wanting to come back. And of course you have development, early developments of an approach to penance within the Church, etc. That whole thing. But the desert thrust, you look very confused. Were the Hebrew Scriptures readily available to those people in Egypt? Well, yeah. Did they have it in Greek, also? I mean, you know, they'll have the Old Testament in Greek. And were they well-versed in Scripture? Oh, yes. Oh, yeah. At this time, certainly. What was I saying?

[41:22]

People grew lax due to the lack of the Second Coming. And so this became making more and more sense, the whole asceticalness. And certainly the desert is going to make no sense within me. Especially when it happens that they stop making martyrs. I mean, this is the great thing about martyrs. That's the asceticism. To the hilt. If you want your life to be a progression in the very short run of that, you're going to get martyred. And get it nipped at the right point in the progression. Especially if you're afraid that human nature is going to tug you back down. If that's your point of view. But when they stop martyring, and especially after the Edict of Milan, excuse me, is that the right one? Yeah, 313. When we're legal,

[42:28]

and we aren't slaughtering many more Christians, at least not in an anti-Christian way, it's going to be important to translate becoming a martyr into other terminology. And so, church life will come to be seen as a training ground for heaven. And you can find many fathers of the church who are writing in that context. This is like, I'm going to think, and they use the Pauline athlete terminology, and the training arena is life itself. And heaven is the finish line. And there are many ways to approach that training. And one of the biggies is going to be going out into the desert, which you're going to call martyrdom. White martyrdom, rather than red martyrdom.

[43:33]

And these strenuous fighters out in the desert are going to become known as the ones who are really professionally religious. Anything before I say a little bit about some of these people? Is that, from his point of view, the gospel life, and the way for Christians to know God in that gospel life, will most fully be approached by the struggle, this struggle. That is, the asceticism with grappling with your vices,

[44:35]

so fighting against sin, and subduing your passions. This word becomes extremely important, apatheia. If you can just always make the connection between apatheia and victory over your passions. Just think of apatheia as that freeing, freed from passions. All the passions that drive us. When you've got a control on that, and you've been transformed and you're free of that in your life, you've reached apatheia. It's going to become very, very important down the road. For Origen, for instance, we talk about Origen, we're talking about Alexandria. And also for people who are going to follow in Origen's line of thinking,

[45:41]

especially somebody like Evagrius of Pontus, or Evagrius of Ponticus. Those of us who caught Jeremy's talks here, were you here? Oh, because the year before that. You weren't here for that, okay. Talking on Evagrius of Ponticus. And a person who takes the doctrine of Evagrius of Ponticus, but because certain words in that doctrine have been in trouble, because of the Origenist controversy, which is highly monastic controversy in Egypt, that is Origenist as in our fellow Origen, that is a certain way of looking at things, and then having that condemned as heresy. And then all those who use those words can be condemned as heretics, and the whole party can be kicked out of Egypt, which hundreds were.

[46:43]

This person kept the theory, but just changed some of the vocabulary. And his name is John Cashin. And we'll talk about that later on. And so you have John Cashin getting into hot water in his own right, even using the terminology he uses. And he'll be called semi-collegian by some, and semi-Origenist by others. But what do you have here? You have a developed Gnostic way of systematizing your spirituality. That is, there's a strong emphasis on perfection, a strong stress on sinfulness, and its opposite, the virtuous life,

[47:48]

and how to deal with both, and lots of demons, and fasting, and prayer, and very strong asceticism. Well, this is going to appeal to the desert Gnostics, what Origen has to say. What do you mean by Gnostic? What Evagrius has to say. Pardon? What do you mean by Gnostic? Approaching the spirituality or the theology mainly through an organized approach to knowledge. Knowledge about God comes through these channels. The intellectual activity. Yeah. But it's not emphasized as hidden knowledge? No, not here. Well, yes and no. With Origen it was. Yes and no, right. But not in the same sense that we would think of the more classic Gnostic groups

[48:52]

or some of the heresies that were highly Gnostic in character. Contemplation and apatheia in Origen are a very, very important part of the thing. So there's a... The point is to get the right Gnosis of God, the right knowledge about God, and hold on to that and do something with it. And you're going to find that also with Evagrius and John Cashion, as well as many, many others. Just to backtrack a little bit about martyrdom. Yeah. Martyrdom. For Ignatius of Antioch, martyrdom was the witness by which one most fully meets the resurrection.

[49:57]

So that in martyrdom you embrace the crucified Christ, you embrace the suffering Christ in a very physical and bloody way, and thereby immediately meet the resurrection that follows that experience. So that martyrdom itself is seen theoretically as a way to meet Christ. Not just seeking an end to things, but a way of meeting Christ and being resurrected. It is the way most fully to become the Eucharist. Now we're talking Ignatius right now. This is Ignatius' line. Who had a very, very powerful influence upon the early Christian communities. Through martyrdom, the church comes into union

[51:07]

with Christ dead and Christ risen. And so the martyr, in a very real sense, was seen as celebrating his or her real birthday. And so preparing for martyrdom, there were many, many, many people who wanted to be martyred and never got it. Origen was one of them. So their lives became a long preparation for martyrdom. Whether or not it's sealed in blood, they wanted to live as if they were ready for martyrdom. That was the ascetical approach. And so with the Edict of Milan in 313, we have this whole development of the desert.

[52:09]

As a way to live and unbloody martyrdom, but one that's just as real. In the sense of meeting Christ, becoming Eucharist, having a real birthday into spiritual life, the spiritual kingdom. Remember, many of them lived as angels, quote, unquote. Although even the white martyrs, you know, at a certain point, many of them were martyred also. They weren't just white martyrs. Many of them later on were martyred by hordes of Bedouin and other, quote, unquote, Arabic groups who came through the northern Africa, the Berbers. Many settlements were slaughtered from time to time. But these people, their point was they were martyrs already.

[53:10]

That was their whole thing, their whole spirituality and religious intuition is, this is martyrdom. And if we get our heads whacked off, we're all, we're ready. We're ready. That's the point. Another impulse that fed into this desert phenomenon we're talking thousands of monastics in the desert, is that we, you know, just like civilization always has, and civilizations always have, they run waves up and down between, there's certain polarities of corruption and justice. You know, all the black and white pairs of oppositions you want to come up with show themselves at certain times,

[54:12]

you know, in any nation's history, for instance, nowadays. The United States has its bleak moments and its shining moments. Well, all civilizations do. And the civilization in Egypt at that time had its ups and downs at a rather accelerated pace. And also in Rome, huh? Rome, of course, is starting to fall apart. And we're talking the whole empire is shaking. You have the first beginnings of the hordes coming from the east. Periodically, everything seems at a loss, at falling apart. Persecutions, apathy, as well as wonderful heightened moments of great saints and religious fervor and periods of peace,

[55:16]

all the good things. I forgot what I was going to do with that. Another image is tourists. When you hit those low ebbs, of course, each time that happens, you have whole groups that say, Ah, I've had enough, get away. They go to the desert. Or sometimes they go as whole bands of people, a whole band of villagers out to the desert. Next time, we'll say something about desert spirituality. And then I want to go into Egyptian Anchoragism, at which point we'll probably get into Abba Antony the Great at least a bit next time. So again, for next Wednesday, everyone should have read the Bible. One thing that came up this morning with Arthur,

[56:18]

I mentioned to him. I think the translation I put in the reader is the one from the Classics of Western Spirituality. The thing is, I don't have the introduction in my drawer. I think I just have the text. The introduction of that is very good and very important. And so you don't have to read it, but I would encourage you to. And there are at least three copies in our library. Someone can borrow my own personal copy if they want to, to read that intro. Because there's a lot to say about how one writes, how we come as a church to write the lives of saints through the experience of Athanasius' life of Anthony. Very important. But we'll talk about that anyway. But you may want to prepare yourself so we can have a discussion about hagiography by reading the introduction. Think. Think.

[57:16]