Ascetics and Ambassadors of Christ: The Monasteries of Palestine, 314-631

Ascetics and Ambassadors of Christ: The Monasteries of Palestine, 314-631

Ascetics and Ambassadors of Christ: The Monasteries of Palestine, 314-631

Ascetics and Ambassadors of Christ: The Monasteries of Palestine, 314-631

Synopsis

In this book, Binns examines the monastic movement in Palestine during the Byzantine period, from the accession of Constantine to the fall of Jerusalem to the Persians in 614. The monasteries of the desert--in Jerusalem, Egypt, and Syria--played an influential role in Byzantine society, and the "desert fathers" are well known even today as key figures in the history of Christian spirituality. Binns uses contemporary sources to discuss both how the monks actually lived, and their contributions to doctrinal and spiritual debates.

Excerpt

The home of the monk is the desert.

The monk renounces the world and flees from human company. He-- for most of the early monks were men-goes into the desert. There he engages the devils in combat, deprives himself of food and sleep, and learns to live at peace with the animals.

This simplified picture does not fit the monks of Palestine. For them the City was as important as the Desert. The City was Jerusalem, where Jesus Christ died and rose again and where, as a result, the Holy Places contained the power of God in a tangible form. The intractable centrality of the Holy City forced a paradox on the monks. The City was both to be avoided and to be welcomed. It was a place where monastic vocation was both threatened and nurtured.

Although Jerusalem was unique, other cities shared in some of its qualities. Holy Places abounded in the Holy Land. Every city could find a biblical event to which it had been host or the body of a saint which had been buried in it. The monks, like everybody else, revered these places and they became intimately concerned for the welfare of the Church. The presence of the cities, and the growing churches within them, was a call to expand and to extend the blessings of the monastic life.

But Desert is never far away. A short walk over the ridge of the Mount of Olives to the east of Jerusalem leads into the emptiness and silence of the desert. For inhabitants of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Scythopolis the desert is very close. It is a desert which offers many opportunities for the establishment of growing communities.

The monk lived between Desert and City.

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