The Original Jesus Freaks: Monasticism

Sources: Thomas Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization (Doubleday, 1995); Averil Cameron, "Late Antiquity" in Richard Harries and Henry Mayr-Harting, Christianity: Two Thousand Years (Oxford, 2001); Rodney Clapp, A Peculiar People: The Church as Culture in a Postchristian Society (IVP, 1996); F.L. Cross, ed., Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 2d ed. (Oxford, 1983).

Reading: Matt. 6, Matt. 16:24-28, 2 Cor. 4.

Going All Out in a Compromising World
The Constantinian Church's theological transcendence rests in sacraments, "invisible Church"
The Constantinian Church’s ethical transcendence rests in saints, clergy, monasteries
These means of transcendence concentrate Christian life in the face of cultural dilution

Beginnings and Growth
Monasticism begins in the Christian east and mutates as it moves west
The dynamic draws on Platonism, stoicism, Christian momentum, etc.
Origins in Egypt ~285: St. Antony organizes followers into communities with abbots
Athanasius' Life of St. Anthony is widely influential (on Augustine, among others)
Eastern monasticism is both individual (cenobitium) and communal (lavra)
Monastic communities are ordered by rules of behavior (
Pachomius, Basil, Martin of Tours, John Cassian, Theodore of Studium)
Benedict of Nursia's moderate rule ~540 becomes normative in the west by 8th century
Orders proliferate in the West after the 12th century (e.g., Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits)
Protestants abolish orders (but what are "intentional Christian communities"?)

Functions of Monasticism
Counsels of Perfection: Poverty, chastity, obedience
Monks pursue self-denial, personal and cosmic holiness, spiritual warfare, constant prayer
Monks and laity support each other in prayer, gifts, inspiration
Monks develop the Daily Office: Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, Compline
Monks preserve the texts of classical and Christian civilization, encourage learning after Rome falls
Monks are a check on Constantinianism, stirring things up
Monks lead reform efforts when common Church structures are compromised