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Food for thought:. Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba, as far as I can, I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?”

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Food for thought l.jpg

Food for thought:

Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba, as far as I can, I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?”

Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him,

“If you will you can become all flame!”

--Joseph of Panephysis


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Early History of Monasticism

  • Ascetics in the Bible: Nazarites, John the Baptist.

  • Ascetics in early Judaism: Essenes.

  • Two main reasons for the rise of monasticism in the fourth c.

  • St.Antony of Egypt.

Temptation of Christ in the desert


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Nazarites in the OT

  • Consecrated to God and made the following vows:

    • Abstained from wine

    • Did not cut their hair

    • Avoided contact with the dead body

  • Example: Samson


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Essene settlement in Qumran (second c. BC-first c. AD)

  • Lived in an isolated community founded by the “Teacher of Righteousness”

  • Rejected Temple worship

  • Massacred by Romans in 68 AD.


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Dead Sea Scroll Jar from Qumran


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John the Baptist

“Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.”

Mk 1: 6.


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NT call to perfection

  • Matthew 19:21: If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." (cf. Evagrius, Praktikos 97)

  • 1 Corinthians 7:1-2, 7: ‘It is well for a man not to touch a woman, but because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. . . This I say by way of concession, not of command. I wish that all were as I myself am.’


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Stark contrast between the cultivated land and the desert


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Leaving everything behind...


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Two reasons for the rise of monasticism

  • Renewal movement within the church.

  • Call to personal holiness.


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Antony the Great (251?-356)

  • founder of solitary monasticism

  • his call

  • Athanasius’ Life of St. Antony became a model


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St Antony enjoying the company of St Paul the Hermit


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Life was not peaceful all the time...


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Demonic hordes attack St Antony


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A close-up of the demonic ‘Zoo’


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St Antony’s monastery. Founded in 356.


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Entrance towers, St Antony’s monastery


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