Athlete’s of God, the elements of early Syrian Christian asceticism Part 1

1. Virginity

Virginity was a vital aspect, and perhaps one of the most important, in becoming a monk in the early Syrian monastery. To this day the pure and chaste are revered in the church, and even in purely philosophical terms outside of religion, virginity is associated with certain aspects of incorruptibility.

Overall the life of a monk was austere, and the goal of the monastery was to live severely, and the concept of sex had to be left out of the spiritual battle of the monks. Many monasteries forbade the entrance of women, and many nunneries forbade the entrance of men. Many monks took vows to never speak to women, including their own mother’s. Those monks that had to deal with women on a daily basis would never look directly at them, and if they did not have to would not answer to them. The same went for the nun’s, and there were many young woman who found great inspiration in the nun that didn’t see or speak with a man for over 18 years.

In some parts of Syria and in certain monasteries it was perfectly normal to castrate themselves. And there are several referances in chronicles and histories of these “eunuchs” of god.

2. Poverty

Over time poverty too had become a fundamental aspect of Christian monasticism. The general life of the early monks was extremely austere. Generally their cells, which in Syriac literally translated into “prison cells,” had perhaps only a bed and a bowl for food. Most monks even refused to take alms, and most monasteries forbade the monks from possessing any property; some rules indicated that even monasteries themselves could not possess any property.

More to come in a few days . . .

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~ by alexmalina on October 30, 2009.

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