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"Read the acts of Sts. Anthony, Macarius, Pachomius..., the Egyptian Monks, of those who lived in the Holy Land or in the Thebaid. ...implant in the darkness of the West and in the cold of Gaul the light of the East and the ancient fervor of Egyptian religious life." Jean Leclerq, Ancient traditional Spirituality
Latin Monastic Tradition:
Two of the most influential in Spirituality as Evagrius Ponticus, and John Cassian who established the first European monasteries according to the Pachomian ideal, and wrote the first Monastic manuals, the institutes and the Conferences. "If Benedict created the institutional frame of Latin monasticism, then Cassian helped define its inner life, its mystical aspirations," wrote Wm. Harmless, Desert Christians.
The Benedictine rule of Saint Benedict of Nursia (6th century), formed the basis of life in most monastic communities until the twelve century. The schema faded out until St. Bernard of Cleurvaux restored it to its original zenith. Among the principal monastic orders that evolved in the Middle Ages were the Carthusians in the eleventh century and the Cistercians in the twelfth; the Mendicant orders, or Friars, Dominicans, Franciscans, and Carmelites arose in the 13th century.
Theognosis, Learning Spirituality:
Theognosis, the knowing of God, has always been a means for a unity in love which transcends all knowledge. This ultimate end is union with God or, partaking in the nature of God, the theosis of church Fathers Ireneus and Athanasius. The eastern tradition whose masters were Origen, Evagrius, and Dionysius, the pseudo Areopagite, has never made a definite distinction between mysticism and theology; between personal experience of the divine mysteries. In a certain sense all theology is mystical, inasmuch as it shows forth the divine mystery of revelation. On the other hand, mysticism is frequently opposed to theology as an unutterable mystery which surpasses our understanding faculties to any perception of sense or of intelligence, to be lived rather than known. We should, look for a profound change, an inner transformation of spirit, enabling us to experience it mystically, far from being mutually opposed, theology and mysticism support and completement each other.
Leclercq presents his Study:
Having declaring himself, a supporter of twelfth-century monastic theology, Dom Leclercq presents his book in ten chapters, grouped in three sections, addressing its formation, sources and its fruits. Right from the beginning, in a concise introduction, Dom Leclercq presents a distinction between monasticism and scholasticism, such distinction is radically clear in the three parts of his study of the monastic Culture. Roman Catholic Monasticism reached its apex in the twelfth century when, an often quoted, scathing condemnation of Byzantine monasticism was launched by Eustathius, bishop of Thessalonica. In Leclercq's eye twelfth-century Latin monasticism reached its apex in Bernard of Clairvaux. Most theological interest, is devoted to the 13th century, whose writers were scholastics, academics of ecclesiastic background. Leclercq keeps isolating monastic from scholastic theology, whose target was to acquire knowledge, pursuing a venue of objective analysis of his inquiry. The monastic, were just eager to know God, in subjective means of his own existence and within Scripture, earning Leclercq support within the two groups. Scholastic theology that stemmed from the University of Paris was debated orally before it was written. Monastic theology, based on patristic writings was literate from the start.
Sources of Monastic Culture:
Leclercq definition of the sources of monastic culture, in four headings: devotion to heaven, sacred learning, ancient traditional spirituality, and liberal studies. Defining that experience which "induces the desire to reach the culmination of this experience," Medieval monastic culture depended on two sources, textual literary sources absorbed in meditative reading, and experience. Summarizing the content of monastic culture her pronounced in two words: grammar and spirituality. The most important of the themes which kept the monks faithful to the vision of Gregory, was their devotion to heaven, clearly traced in their writings under the topics of the heavenly Jerusalem of which the monastery is a mundane icon, to which is attached the Old Testament concepts of Temple and Tabernacle, mediaeval monks were fond of dwelling on Christ's ascension and of his Transfiguration, similar to Eastern Orthodoxy.
Dom Jean Leclercq:
"Dom Jean Leclercq, OSB, a monk of Clairvaux Abbey in Luxemburg, died on October 27, 1993 in his monastery. For more than sixty years he resolutely used his great erudition for the service of the future of monasticism. He united together a confidence in monastic tradition which he knew so well and a great hope in contemporary humanity, its bold research and its spiritual possibilities which frequently remained unexplored. He was remarkable in the fact that, without holding any particular official place in the monastic order, yet his influence was definitive in many areas." Fr. de Bethune, In Memoriam
A Concise Review:
The book is what the subtitle proclaims it to be: a study of monastic culture, in medieval Europe. The reader who is foreign to the main outlines of monastic history is advised to read "Seek Learning and Revive the Love for God." To read a prologue to the subject and a full review click on the Guides listed below this review.
Evolution of the Monastic Ideal from the Earliest Times Down to the
Desert Christians: An Introduction to the Literature of Early Monasticism