January 15th – Places for Praising God

hionahill

It is significant that, as Christians rather suddenly came to be in charge of aspects of society, rather than being oppressed, early in the fourth century, some saw that power would corrupt their church life. As rulers supervised the gatherings of bishops, many saw their clergy growing rich and comfortable. Monasticism grew fast at that time, in reaction against distortions of the gospel focus on the weak and the outcasts. Withdrawing from the corrupt close dealings with politicians seemed like the only path to integrity for hermits like Anthony of Egypt and the communities of Pachomius. Living is remote settings was not needed in order to define how the Trinity acts, but to make praise and wonder the core Christian experience.

Syrian monks also withdrew from political careerism. At the same time they looked for occasions to preach about the need for social improvement across their neighbourhood. Closeness to God increased their ability to see problems clearly and speak prophetically.

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A third version of monastic community was developed in the Latin West of the Mediterranean. St. Augustine realised that, while breaking free from powerful ambitions was crucial for authentic Christianity, this could be achieved by a community based within the circumstances of city life. Praise and wonder should be made real and available to the lay Christians of a busy town setting.

Thus the European Middle Ages had two versions of religious life. Benedictines and Cistercians modified the Egyptian pattern. Friars were closer to Augustinian engagement with the laity.

CD.

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