Skip to comments.An Introduction to Eastern Monastic Spirituality: Solitude
Posted on 10/17/2012 6:58:43 AM PDT by marshmallow
In an earlier post, I discussed the historical origins of Eastern Christian monasticism, from St. Anthony to St. Basil. In this post and two later ones, I will discuss some of the major themes of Eastern Christian monastic spirituality. This will be by no means comprehensive, and I apologize if I misrepresent any part of monastic spirituality. I just hope that this is in some extent helpful.
"Flee, be silent, pray always, for these are the source of sinlessness." Abba Arsenios heard God command him thus in prayer (AP, Arsenios #2). This summarizes three of the key themes of monastic spirituality: solitude, silence, and unceasing prayer.
Monasticism begins with solitude. The saint marked as the founder of monasticism, St. Anthony, was a recluse in the desert. He lived alone, battling demons and growing closer to Christ. Though he attracted disciples and sometimes visited the city, St. Anthony was a hermit, and hermits are, by nature, in solitude. Eremitic monasticism, derived from St. Anthony's example, is solely solitude, while sketic monasticism is heavily solitary, with a communal aspect from cenobitism added in.
The monastic Fathers often exhorted solitude. "Remain sitting in your cell and your thoughts will come to rest" (AP, Systematic Sayings #66). "The man who has learned the sweetness of the cell flees from his neighbour but not as though he despised him" (AP, Theodore of Pherme #14). "If a man does not say in his heart, in the world there is only myself and God, he will not gain peace" (AP, Alonius #1). Even for those who are not hermits, solitude is viewed as a necessary aspect of spirituality.
What does solitude mean? Part of it is most definitely truly being alone, taking a literal interpretation of the Gospel: "When you pray, go into your......
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