The first home of Christian monasticism is the Egyptian desert. Hither during persecution men fled the world and the danger of apostasy, to serve God in solitude. St. Anthony (270-356) is counted the father of all monks. His fame attracted many others, so that under Diocletian and Constantine there were large colonies of monks in Egypt, the first laurai. St. Athanasius' (d. 373) friendly relations to the Egyptian monks and the refuge he found among them during his seond (356-362) and third (362-363) exiles are well known incidents in his life. The monks lived each in his own hut, providing for their simple needs with their own hands, united by a bond of willing submission to the direction of some older and more experienced hermit, coming together on Saturday and Sunday for common prayer, otherwise spending their time in private contemplation and works of penance. Celibacy was from the beginning an essential note of monasticism. A wife and family were part of the "world" they had left.
Poverty and obedience were to some extent relative, though the ideal of both was developing. The monk of the desert was not necessarily a priest; he formed a different class from the clergy who stayed in the world and assisted the bishops. For a long time this difference between monks and clergy remained; the monk fled all intercourse with other people to save his soul away from temptation. Later some monks were ordained priests in order to administer sacraments to their brethren. But even now in the East the priest-monk (leromonachos) is a special person distinct from the usual monk (monachos), who is a layman.
Egypt was the Motherland of Christian monasticism. It sprang into existence there at the beginning of the fourth century and in a very few years spread over the whole Christian world. The rapidity of the movement was only equaled by the durability of its results. Within the lifetime of St. Anthony the religious state had become what it has been ever since, one of the characteristics of the Catholic Church, with its ideals, and what may be termed the groundwork of its organization, determined. But this was not all. The simple teaching of the first Egyptian monks and hermits fixed once and forever the broad outlines of the science of the spiritual life, or, in other words, of ascetic theology. The study, therefore, of early monasticism possess a great deal more than a merely antiquarian interest. It is concerned with a movement the force of which is in no way spent and which has had a very large share in creating the conditions which obtain at the present day.
The first chapter in the history of monasticism is the life of St. Anthony which has already been described (see ANTHONY, SAINT). The inauguration of the monastic movement may be dated either about 285, when St. Anthony, no longer content with the life of the ordinary ascetic, went into the wilderness, or about 305, when he organized a kind of monastic life for his disciples. Ascetic is the term usually employed by writers on monasticism for those who in pre-monastic days forsook the world so far as they were able. Of the three Evangelical counsels, chastity alone can be practised independently of external circumstances. Naturally, therefore (beginning with the sub-Apostolic age), we hear first of men and women leading the virgin life (cf. I Clem., xxxviii; Ignat., "ad Polucarp.", c.v.; Hermas, "Sim.", IX,30).
The Apologists pointed triumphantly to such (Justin, "Apol.", I,xv; Athenagoras, "Legat.", xxxiii; Minucius Felix, "Octav.", xxxi). Voluntary poverty, in the complete renunciation of all worldly possessions, would be difficult till there were monasteries, for persons with welth to renounce would not, generally speaking, have been brought up so as to be capable of earning their own livelihood. Still we have the examples of Origen, St. Cyprian, and Pamphilus to show that the thing was done. A full practice of the last Evangelical counsel (obedience) could only be realized after the monastic ideal had taken root and passed beyond the purely eremitical stage. The ante-Nicene ascetic would be a man who led a single life, practiced long and frequent fasts, abstained from flesh and wine, and supported himself, if he were able, by some small handicraft, keeping of what he earned only so much as was absolutely necessary for his own sustenance, and giving the rest to the poor. If he were an educated man, he might be employed by the Church in some such capacity as that of catechist. Very often he would don the kind of dress which marked the wearer off as a philosopher of an austere school.
In Egypt, at the time when St. Anthony first embraced the ascetic life, there were numbers of ascetics living in huts in the neighborhood of the towns and villages. When St. Anthony died (356 or 357), two types of monasticism flourished in Egypt. There were villages or colonies of hermits - the eremitical type; and monasteries in which a community life was led - the cenobitic type. A brief survey of the opening chapters of Palladius' "Lausiac History" will serve as a description of the former type.
Palladius was a monk from Palestine who, in 388, went to Egypt to drink in the spirit of monasticism at the fountainhead. On landing at Alexandria he put himself in the hands of a priest named Isidore, who in early life had been a hermit at Nitria and now apparently presided over a hospice at Alexandria without in any way abating the austerity of his life. By the advice of Isidore, Palladius placed himself under the direction of a hermit named Dorotheus who lived six miles outside Alexandria, with whom he was to pass three years learning to subdue his passions and then to return to Isidore to receive higher spiritual knowledge. This Dorotheus spent the whole day collecting stones to build cells for other hermits, and the whole night weaving ropes out of palm leaves. He never lay down to sleep, though slumber sometimes overtook him while working or eating. Palladius who seems to have lived in his cell, ascertained from other solitaries that this had been his custom from his youth upwards. Palladius' health broke down before he completed his time with Dorotheus, but he spent three years in Alexandria and its neighbourhood visiting the hermitages and becoming acquainted with about 2000 monks. From Alexandria he went to Nitria, where there was a monastic village containing about 5000 solitaries. There was no kind of monastic rule. Some of the solitaries lived alone, sometimes two or more lived together. They assembled at the chrch on Saturdays and Sundays. The church was served by eight priests of whom the oldest always celebrated, preached, and judged, the others only assisting. All worked at weaving flax. There were bakeries where bread was made, not only for the village itself, but for the solitaries who lived in the desert beyond. There were doctors. Wine also was sold.
Strangers were entertained in a guest-house. If able to read, they were lent a book. They ight stay as long as they liked, but after a week they were set to some kind of work. If at the ninth hour a man stood and listened to the sound of psalmody issuing from the different cells, he would imagine, says Palladius, that he was caught up into paradise. But, though there was no monastic rule at Nitria, there was municipal law, the outward symbol of which was three whips suspended from three palm trees, one for monks who might be guilty of some fault, one for thieves who might be caught prowling about, and the third for strangers who misbehaved. Further into the desert was a place called Cells, or Cellia, whither the more perfect withdrew. This is described by the author of the "Historia monachorum in Aegypto". Here the solitaries lived in cells so far apart that that they were out of sight and out of hearing from one another. Like those of Nitria, they met only on Saturdays and Sundays at church,whither some of them had to travel a distance of three or four miles. Often their death was only discovered by their absence from church.
In strong contrast with the individualism of the eremitical life was the rigid discipline which prevailed in the cenobitical monasteries founded by St. Pachomius. When, in 313, Constantine was at war with Maxentius, Pachomius, still a heathen, was forcibly enlisted together with a number of other young men, and placed on board a ship to be carried down the Nile to Alexandria. At some town at which the ship touched, the recruits were overwhelmed with the kindness of the Christians. Pachomius at once resolved to be a Christian and carried out his resolution as soon as he was dismissed from military service. He began as an ascetic in a small village, taking up his abode in a deserted temple of Serapis and cultivating a garden on the produce of which he lived and gave alms. The fact that Pachomius made an old temple of Serapis his abode was enough for an ingenious theory that he was originally a pagan monk. This view is now quite exploded.
Pachomius next embraced the eremitical life and prevailed upon an old hermit named Palemon to take him as his disciple and share his cell with him. It may be noted that this kind of discipleship, which, as we have already seen, was attempted by Palladius, was a recognized thing among the Egyptian hermits. Afterwards he left Palemon and founded his first monastery at Tabennisi near Denderah. Before he died, in 346, he had under him eight or nine large monasteries of men, and two of women. From a secular point of view, a Pachomian monastery was an industrial community in which almost every kind of trade was practiced. This, of course, involved much buying and selling, so the monks had ships of their own on the Nile, which conveyed their agricultural produce and manufactured goods to the market and brought back what the monasteries required. From the spiritual point of view, the Pachomian monk was a religious living under a rule more severe, even when allowance has been made for differences of climate and race, than that of the Trappists.
A Pachomian monastery was a collection of buildings surrounded by a wall. The monks were distributed in houses, each house containing about forty monks. Three or four houses constituted a tribe. There would be thirty to forty houses in a monastery. There was an abbot over each monastery, and provosts with subordinate officials over each house. The monks were divided into houses according to the work they were employed in: thus there would be a house for carpenters, a house for agriculturists, and so forth. But other principles of division seem to have been employed, e.g., we hear of a house for the Greeks. On Saturdays and Sundays all the monks assembled in the church for Mass; on other days the Office and other spiritual exercises were celebrated in the houses.
"The fundamental idea of St. Pachomius' rule", writes Abbot Butler, "was to establish a moderate level of observance (moderate in comparison with the life led by the hermits) which might be obligatory on all; and then to leave it open to each - and to indeed encourage each - to go beyond the fixed minimum, according as he was prompted by his strength, his courage, and his zeal" ("Lausiac History", I,p. 236). This is strikingly illustrated in the rules concerning food. According to St. Jerome, in the preface to his translation of the "Rule of Pachomius", the tables were laid twice a day except on Wednesdays and Fridays, which, outside the seasons of Easter and Pentecost were fast days. Some only took very little at the second meal; some at one or other of the meals confined themselves to a single food; others took just a morsel of bread. Some abstained altogether from the community meal; for these bread, water, and salt were placed in their cell.
Pachomius appointed his successor a monk named Petronius, who died within a few months, having likewise named his successor, Horsiesi. In Horsiesi's time the order was threatened with a schism. The abbot of one of the houses, instead of forwarding the produce of the work of his monks to the head house of the order, where it would be sold and the price distributed to the different houses according to their need, wished to have the disposal of it for the sole benefit of his own monastery. Horsiesi, finding himself unable to cope with the situation, appointed Theodore, a favorite disciple of Pachomius, his coadjutor.
When Theodore died, in the year 368, Horsiesi was able to resume the government of the order. This threatened schism brings prominently before us a feature connected with Pachomius' foundation which is never again met with in the East, and in the West only many centuries later. "Like Citeaux in a later age", writes Abbot Butler, "it almost at once assumed the shape of a fully organized congregation or order, with a superior general and a system of visitation and general chapters - in short, all the machinery of a centralized government, such as does not appear again in the monastic world until the Cistercian and the Mendicant Orders arose in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries" (op. cit., I,235).
A word must be said about Schenoudi, or Schnoudi, or Senuti. Shortly after the middle of the fourth century, two monks, Pgol and Pschais, changed their eremitical monasteries into cenobitical ones. Of the latter we know scarcely anything. Schenoudi, when a boy of about nine years old, came under the care of his uncle Pgol. Both Pgol and Schenoudi were reformers - the Pachomian Rule was not strict enough for them.
Schenoudi succeeded his uncle Pgol as head of the White Monastery of Athribis, and, till his death (about 453), was not only the greatest monastic leader, but one of the most important men, in Egypt. He waged war against heretics; he took a prominent part in the rooting out of paganism; he championed the cause of the poor against the rich. He once went in person to Constantinople to complain of the tyranny of government officials. On one occasion 20,000 men, women, and children took refuge in the White Monastery during an invasion of the savage Blemmyes of Ethiopia, and Schenoudi maintained all the fugitives for three months, providing them with food and medical aid. On another occasion he ransomed a hundred captives and sent them home with food, clothing, and money for their journey. Schenoudi's importance for the history of monasticism is small, for his influence, great as it was in his own country, did not make itself felt elsewhere. There were two barriers: Upper Egypt was a difficult and dangerous country for travellers, and such as did penetrate there would not be likely to visit a monastery where hardly anything but Coptic was spoken. According to Abbot Butler, "Schenoudi is never named by any Greek or Latin writer" (op. cit., II,204). He has been rediscovered in our own time in Coptic manuscripts.
In part II of Butler's "Lausiac History" is a map of Monastic Egypt. A glance at this map and the notes accompanying it brings forcibly before the mind an important fact in monastic history. With the exception of a single Pachomian monastery at Canopus, near Alexandria, the cenobitic monasteries are in the South, and confined to a relatively small area. The eremitical monasteries, on the contrary, are everywhere, and especially in the North. These latter were thus far more accessible to pilgrims visiting Egypt and so became the patterns or models for the rest of the Christian world. It was the eremitical, not the cenobitical, type of monasticism which went forth from Egypt.
Monasticism at a very early date spread along the route of the Exodus and the desert of the Forty Years' Wandering. The solitaries had a special predilection for Scriptural sites. At every place hallowed by tradition, which Syria visited (A.D.385), she found monks. The attraction of Mt. Sinai for the solitaries was irresistible, in spite of the danger of captivity or death at the hands of the Saracens. In 373 a number of solitaries inhabited this mountain, living on dates and other fruit, such bread as they had being reserved for the Sacred Mysteries. All the week they lived apart in their cells; they gathered together in the church on Saturday evening and, after spending the night in prayer, received communion on Sunday morning. Forty of them were massacred in 373, and on the same day another group of solitaries at Raithe (supposed to be Elim) were killed by a second band of barbarians. These events were described by eye-witnesses (Tillemont, "H.E.", VII, 573-80). The same kind of life was being led at Mt. Sinai, and a similar experience was undergone some twenty years later when St. Nilus was there.
St. Hilarion, who for a time had been a disciple of St. Anthony, propagated monasticism of the eremitical type first in the neighbourhood of his native city Gaza and then in Cyprus. His friend, St. Epiphanius, after practising the monastic life in Egypt, founded a monastery near Eleutheropolis in Palestine somewhere about 330 or perhaps a little later.
In Jerusalem and its neighborhood there were numerous monasteries at a very early date. To name only a few, there was the monastery on the Mount of Olives, from which Palladius went forth on his tour of the Egyptian monasteries; there were two monasteries for women in Jerusalem, built by the older and younger Melania respectively. At Bethlehem St. Paula founded three monasteries for women and one for men about A.D.387. There was, besides, in Bethlehem the monastery where Cassian some years before began his religious life. The Lauras, which were very numerous, formed a conspicuous feature in Palestinian monasticism. The first seems to have been founded before 334 by St. Chariton at Pharan, a few miles from Jerusalem; later on two more were founded by the same saint at Jericho and at Suca.
St. Euthymius (473) founded another celebrated one in the valley of Cedron. Near Jericho was the laura ruled over by St. Gerasimus (475). Some details concerning the rules of this laura have fortunately been preserved in a very ancient Life of St. Euthymius. It ocnsisted of a cenobium where the cenobitic life was practised by novices and others less proficient. There were also seventy cells for solitaries. Five days in the week these latter lived and worked alone in their cells. On Saturday they brought their work to the cenobium, where, after receiving Holy Communion on Sundays, they partook of some cooked food and a little wine. The rest of the week their fare was bread, dates and water. When some of them asked to be allowed to heat some water, that they might cook some food and to have a lamp to read by, they were told that if they wished to live thus they had better take up their abode in the cenobium (Acta SS., March 1, 386,87).
Antioch, when St. John Chrysostom was a young man, was full of ascetics and the neighbouring mountains were peopled with hermits. So great was the impulse driving men to the solitary life that at one time there was an outcry, amounting almost to a persecution, among Christians as well as pagans against those who embraced it. This was the occasion of St. Chrysostom's treatise against the opponents of monasticism: in the first book he dwelt upon the guilt incurred by them; the second and third were addressed respectively to a pagan and a Christian father who were opposing the wish of their sons to embrace the monastic state. The pathetic scene between the saint and his mother, which he describes in the beginning of the "De Sacertio", must be typical of what took place in many Christian homes. He himself so far yielded to his mother's entreaties that he contented himself with the ascetic life at home till her death. Palestine and Antioch must suffice as examples of the rapid spread of monasticism outside of Egypt. There is abundant evidence of the phenomenon in all the countries between the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia; and Mesopotamia, according to St Jerome, whose testimony is amply borne out by other writers, rivalled Egypt itself in the number and holiness of its monks (Comm. in Isaiam, V,xix).
We now come to a name second only in importance to St. Anthony's for the history of eastern monasticism. St. Basil the Great before embracing the monastic state made a careful study of monasticism in Egypt, Palestine, Coelesyria, and Mesopotamia. The result was a decided preference for the cenobitic life. He founded several monasteries in Pontus, over one of which he himself for a time presided, and very soon monasteries, modelled after his, spread over the East. His monks assembled together for "psalmody" and "genuflexions" seven times a day, in accordance with the Psalmist's "Septies in die laudem dixi tibi" (Ps. cxviii,164): at midnight ("Media nocte surgebam" - Ibid.,62), at evening, morning and midday (Ps. lv,18), at the third hour, the hour of Pentecost, and at the ninth, the sacred hour of the Passion. To complete the tale of seven, the midday prayer was divided into two parts separated by the community meal (Sermo "Asceticus", Benedictine edition, II,321). St. Basil's monastic ideal is set forth in a collection of his writings known as the "Asceticon", or "Ascetica", the most important of which are the "Regulae fusius tractatae", a series of answers to questions, fifty-five in number, and the "Regulae brevius tractatae", in which three hundred and thirteen questions are briefly replied to. It must not be supposed that the "Regulae" form a rule, though it would be possible to go a good way towards constituting one out of them. They are answers to questions which would naturally arise among persons already in possession of a framework of customs or traditions. Sometimes they treat of practical questions, but as often as not they deal with matters concerning the spiritual life.
It would not be easy to exaggerate St. Basil's influence upon early monasticism: he furnished the type which ultimately prevailed. But two points of the utmost importance, as marking the difference between Eastern and Western monasteries, must be kept in mind. (1) He did not draw up a rule, but gave, what is far more an elastic thing, a model or pattern. (2) He was not the founder of a religious order. No Eastern, except St. Pachomius, ever was. An order, as we understand the term, is a purely Western product. "It is not enough", says a writer who certainly does not underrate St. Basil's influence, "to affirm that the Basilian Order is a myth. One must go farther and give up calling the Byzantine monks Basilians. Those most concerned have never taken this title, and no Eastern writer that I know of has ever bestowed it upon them" (Pargoire in "Dict. d'Archeologie chretienne", s.v. "Basile"). In a word, every monastery is an order of its own. With St. Basil Eastern monasticism reached its final stage - communities of monks leading the contemplative life and devoting themselves wholly to prayer and work. The cenobitical life steadily became the normal form of the religious calling, and the eremitical one the exceptional form, requiring a long previous training.
We must now speak of the grounds upon which St. Basil based his decision - a decision so momentous for the future history of monasticism - in favour of the cenobitical life. Life with others is more expedient because, in the firt place, even for the supply of their bodily needs, men depend upon one another. Further, there is the law of charity. The solitary has only himself to regard; yet, "charity seeks not itself".
Again, the solitary will not equally discover his faults, there being no one to correct him with meekness and mercy. There are precepts of charity which can only be fulfilled in the cenobitical life. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are not all given to all men, but one is given to one man and another to another. We cannot be partakers in the gifts not bestowed on ourselves if we live by ourselves. The great danger to the solitary is self-complacency; he is not put to the test, so that he is unable to learn his faults or his progress. How can he learn humility when there is no one to prefer before himself? Or patience when there is no one to yield to? Whose feet shall he wash? To whom shall he be as a servant? (Reg. fus. tract., Q.vii.) This condemnation of the eremitical life is interesting because of what might almost be called its tameness. One would expect at least a lurid picture of the dangers which the solitary ran, delusions, melancholy culminating in despair, terrible moral and spiritual falls, the abandonment of the religious calling for the life of vice, and so forth. But instead of such things we have little more than what amounts to disadvantages and the risk of somewhat flat and commonplace kinds of failure, against which the common life afforded the best protection. Clearly St. Basil found little that was tragic during the two years he was investigating monasticism in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and elsewhere.
It might be supposed that so uncompromising a verdict against the eremitical life would stir up a fierce conflict. As a matter of fact, it did nothing of the kind. Palestine, at the end of the fourth century, began to supersede Egypt as the centre of monasticism, and in Palestine the laura and the cenobium were in perfect harmony. That of St. Gerasimus, with its cenobium already referred to, may be taken as a typical example. St. Basil's authority was equal to St. Anthony's among the leaders of Palestinian monasticism; yet they took it as a matter of course that life in the laura was the most perfect, though under ordinary circumstances it should not be entered upon before an apprenticeship had been served in a cenobium. The paradox is not so great as it may at first sight appear. The dweller in the laura was under an archimandrite or abbot and so was not exposed to the dangers of the purely eremitical state.
At the Council of Chalcedon, monasticism had so become part of the life of the Church that it was specially legislated for. Monasteries were not to be erected without the leave of the bishop; monks were to receive due honour, but were not to mix themselves up with the affairs of Church or State. The were to be subject to the bishop, etc. (can.iv). Clerics and monks were not to serve in war or embrace a secular life (can.vii). Monasteries were not to be secularized (can.xxiv).
Solitary spots, according to St. Basil, should be chosen as sites for monasteries. Nevertheless, they soon found their way into cities. According to one scholar, at least fifteen monasteries were founded at Constantinople in the time of Constantine the Great; but others affirm that the three most ancient ones only dated back to the time of Theodosius (375-95). In 518 there were at least fifty-four monasteries in Constantinople. Their names and those of their rulers are given in a petition addressed by the monks of Constantinople to Pope Hormisdas in 518.
St. Anthony's scarcely less famous disciple Pachomius (d.345) is believed to have begun the organization of the hermits in groups, "folds" (manorai) with stricter subjection to a leader (archimandrites); but the organization was vague. Monasticism was still a manner of life rather than affiliation to an organized body; anyone who left wife and family and the "world" to seek peace away from men was a monk. Two codified "Rules" are attributed to Pachomius; of these the longer is translated into Latin by St. Jerome, a second and shorter one is in Palladius, "Hist. Lausiaca" XXXVIII. Sozomenos gives a compendium of the "Rule of Pachomius" (H.E., III,xiv). Neither of these rules is authentic, but they may well contain maxims and principles that go back to his time, mixed with later ones. They are already considerably advanced towards a regulated monastic life. They order uniformity in dress, obedience to a superior, prayers and meals at fixed times in common; they regulate both ascetic practices and handwork.
About the same time as St. Anthony in Egypt, Hilarion flourished at Gaza in Palestine (see St. Jerome, "Life of St. Hilarion" in P.L., XXXIII, 29-54). He stands at the head of West Syrian monasticism. In the middle of the fourth century, Aphraates speaks of monks in East Syria. At the same time we hear of them in Armenia, Pontus, and Cappadocia. Epiphanius, for instance, who in 367 became Bishop of Salamis in Cyprus, had been for thirty years a monk in Palestine. At the time of St. Basil (330-379), therefore, there were already monks all over the East. As soon as he was baptized (357) he determined to be a monk himself; he spent two years travelling "to Alexandria, through Egypt, in Palestine, Syria, and Mesopotamia" (Ep.223), studying the life of the monks. Then in 358 he formed the community at Annesos in Pontus that was to be in some sort a new point of departure for Eastern monasticism. He describes the life at Anesos in a letter to St. Gregory Nazianzen (Ep. 2). Its principles are codified in various ascetic works by him, of which the chief are the two "Rules, the longer (Horoi kata platos, P.G., XXXI,905-1052) and the shorter (Horoi kat epitomen, ib., 1051-1306). (See BASIL, RULE OF SAINT.)
(2) To the Great Schism
Gradually nearly all the Eastern monasteries accepted the Rules of St. Basil. Their inner organization evolved a hierarchy of officials among whom the various offices were distributed; the prayers, meals, work, punishments were portioned out according to the ascetic works of St. Basil, and so the whole monastery arrived at a working order.
That order obtains still. In its inner life Eastern monasticism has been extraordinarily stationary. There is practically no development to describe. Its history from the fourth century down to our own time is only a chronicle of the founding and endowment of new monasteries, of the part taken by monks in the great religious controversies and in one or two controversies of their own, of the emperors, empresses, patriarchs, and other great persons who, freely or under compulsion, ended their career in the world by retiring to a monastery. Two ideas that constantly recur in Eastern theology are that the monastic state is that of Christian perfection and also a state of penance, Eusebius (d.c. 340) in his "Demonstratio evangelica" distinguishes the two kinds of life as a Christian, the less perfect life in the world and the perfect life of monks.
The idea recurs continually. Monks lead the "angelic life", their dress is the "angelic habit"; like the angels they neither marry nor give in marriage, and like them the chief object of their existence is to sing the praises of God (in the Divine Office). Not incompatible with this is the other idea, found in St. Basil and many others, that their state is one of penance (metanoia). Symeon of Thessalonica (d. 1429) counts the monks simply as "penitents" (metanoountes). The most perfect life on earth, namely, is that of a man who obeys the command to "do penance, for the Kingdom of Heaven is nigh".
The organizaton and life of a Byzantine monastery before the schism is known to us by the decrees affecting it made by various councils, laws in the "Corpus iuris" (in the "Codex" and the "Novellae"), the lives of eminent monks, of which the "Synaxarion" has preserved not a few, and especially by the ascetic writings of monks, letters, sermons, and so on, in which they give advice to their colleagues. Of such monastic writers St. John Damascene (d. 754), George Hamartolos (ninth century), and especially St. Theodore of Studion (d. 826) are perhaps the most valuable for this purpose. At the head of each independent monastery (laura is the common name in Greek) was the superior. At first (e.g., by Justinian: "Nov.", V, vii; CXXIII, v and xxxiv) he is called indifferently abbas, archimandrites, hegoumenos. Later the common name is hegoumenos only. The archimandrite has become a person of superior rank and takes precedence of a hegumenos. Some think that archimandrite meant the superior of a patriarchal monastery, that is, one immediately subject to the patriarch and independent of the jurisdiction of the ordinary. The title then would correspond to that of the Western "Abbas nullius".
There was an intermediate period (from about the sixth to the ninth centuries) during which the title archimandrite was given as a purely personal honour to certain hegumenoi without involving any exemption from the monastery. A further precedence belonged to a "great archimandrite". The election and rights of the hegumenos are described by St. Basil in his two Rules, by Justinian (Novel.,CXXIII, xxxiv), and Theodore of Studion (Testamentum, in P.G., XCIX, 1817-1818). He was elected by the monks by majority of votes; in cases of dispute the patriarch or ordinary decided; sometimes lots were cast. He was to be chosen for his merit, not according to the time he had already spent in the monastery, and should be sufficiently learned to know the canons. The patriarch or bishop must confirm the election and institute the hegumenos. But the emperor received him in audience and gave him a pastoral staff (the hrabdos). The ceremony of induction is given in the "Euchologion". He then remained abbot for life, except in the event of his being deposed, after trial, for some canonical offence. The hegumenos had absolute authority over all his monks, could receive novices and inflict punishments; but he was bound always by the rule of St. Basil and the canons, and he had to consult a committee of the more experienced monks in all cases of difficulty. This committee was the synaxis that in many ways limited the autocracy of the superior (St. Basil's Rule, P.G., XXXI, 1037). The hegumenos in the Byzantine time, after Justinian, was generally, but not quite always, a priest. He received the confessions of his monks [there are instances of those who were not priests usurping this office (Marin, op. cit., 96)] and could ordain them to minor Orders, including the subdiaconate. Under the abbot there was a hierarchy of other officials, more or less numerous according to the size of the laura. The deutereuontook his place in case of his absence or sickness, the oikonomos had charge of all the property, the kellarios looked after the food, the hepistemonarchos saw to the regular performance of services in the church, the kanonarches guided the singers during the Divine office. These officials, who usually formed the synaxis, acted as a restraint on the authority of the hegumenos. Numerous lesser offices, as those of infirmarian, guest-master, porter, cook, and so on, were divided among the community. The monks were divided into three orders, novices, those who bear the lesser habit and those who have the great habit. Children (the Council of Trullo of 692 admits profession as valid after the age of ten years), married men (if their wives are willing), even slaves who are badly treated by their masters or are in danger of losing their faith, could be receive as novices. Justinian ordered novices to wear lay clothes (Novel., V,ii), but soon the custom was introduced that after a probation of about six months (while they were postulants) they should have their hair cut (tonsure) and receive a tunic (chiton) and the tall cap called kalimauchion. The service for this first clothing is in the "Euchologion".
After three years' noviceship the monk received the lesser habit or mandyas (to mikron schema, mandyas). He is again tonsured in the form of a cross, receives a new tunic, belt, cap, sandals, and the monastic cloak (mandyas). The mandyas is the "angelic habit" that makes him a true monk; it is at this service that he makes his vows. An older form of the "sacrament of monastic perfection" (mystegion monachikes teleioseos), that is, of the profession and reception of a monk, is given by Dionysius Areopagita (c. 500), "de Eccles. Hierarch.", VI, ii (P.G., III,533). The monk is "ordained" by a priest (lereous; he always calls bishops lerarchai), presumably the abbot. Standing he recites the "monastic invocation" (ten monastiken epiklesin), evidently a prayer for the grace he needs. The priest then asks him if he renounces everything, explains to him the duties of his state, signs him with the cross, tonsures him and clothes him in the habit, finally celebrates the holy Liturgy, and gives him Communion. From the time of his profession the monk remains inseparately attached to the monastery. Besides the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience he makes a vow of perseverance in the religious exercises of the particular laura he has chosen. Normally he can no more change to another than go back to the world. He should moreover never go out at all. In theory all monks are "emclosed" (St. Basil, P.G., XXXI,635-636); but this rule has never been taken very literally. Monks travelled about, with the consent of their superiors and with the excuse that they were engaged in business of the laura or of the Church in general.
But there still remained a further step. After having proved their perseverance for some years monks were accustomed to ask, as a reward for their advancement in the ascetic life, for the "great habit" (to mega kai allelikon schema). This was simply a larger and more dignified cloak, suitable for the veterans of the monastery. Gradually its reception became a regular ceremony and the wearers of the great habit began to form a superior class, the aristocracy of the laura. St. Theodore of Studion objected strongly to this distinction: "As there is only one baptism", he says, "so there is only one habit" (P.G., XCIX, 1819). It is true that there is no real place for such a higher rank in the monastic system. At the reception of the first habit the monk makes his solemn vows for life and becomes a full monk in every sense. However, in spite of the opposition, the custom grew. The imposition of the great habit repeats very much the ceremony of the lesser one and forms a kind of renewal of vows; it is from the older monks who have gone through this rite and are honorably distinguished by their long cloaks that the dignitaries of the laura are chosen.
Another gradual development was the formation of a class of priest-monks. At first no monks received any ordination; then one or two were made priests to administer sacraments to the others, then later it became common to ordain a monk priest. But it has never become the rule that all choir-monks should be ordained, as it became in the West. On entering monasteries people changed their name. The monk was to abstain from flesh-meat always; his food was fruit and vegetables and on feast-days fish, eggs, milk, and cheese. Wine was allowed. The chief meal, the only full meal in the day, was served at the sixth hour (midday); on the frequent fast-days, including every Wednesday and Friday and the four fasting times, it was put off till the ninth hour. Later in the evening, after the apodeipnon (compline), the remains of the meal were again spread in the refectory and any who wished, chiefly the younger members, might partake of a light supper.
The monk's main occupation was the daily chanting of the long Byzantine office in church. This took up a great part of the day and the night. There were moreover the holonyktika offices, which on the eves of great feasts lasted all night. The rest of the time was spent in manual work, digging, carpentry, weaving, and so on, portioned out to each by the abbot, of which the profit belonged to the monastery (St. Basil, P.G., XXXI,1016,1017,1132,etc.). Men who already know an innocent and profitable craft may continue to exercise it as monks. Some practised medicine for the good of the community. Nor were the study of theology and the arts of calligraphy and painting neglected. Monasteries had libraries, and monks wrote theological works and hymns. In St. Theodore's time the Studion monastery was famous for its library and the beautiful handwriting of its monks (Theodore, "Orat.", XI,16; in P.G., XCIX). There was a scale of punishments ranging from special fasts and prayers or the apeulogia -- that is, privation of the abbot's blessing -- to the aphoriosmos or solitary confinement and excommunication from all common prayers and the sacraments. The punishment for fornication was excommunication for fifteen years (cf. the "Epitimia" ascribed to St. Basil in M.P., XXXI, 1305-1314). A monk who had proved his constancy for many years in the community could receive permission from the hegumenos to practise the severer life of a hermit. He then went to occupy a solitary cell near the laura (St. Basil's Rule, P.G., XXXI,1133). But he was still counted a member of the monastery and could return to it if he found solitude too hard. At the court of the Patriarch of Constantinople was an official, the Exarch of the monks, whose duty it was to supervise the monasteries. Most other bishops had a similar assistant among their clergy.
Celibacy became an ideal for the clergy in the East gradually, as it did in the West. In the fourth century we still find St. Gregory Nazianzen's father, who was Bishop of Nanzianzos, living with his wife, without scandal. But very soon after that the present Eastern rule obtained. It is less strict than in the West. No one can marry after he has been ordained priest (Paphnutius at the first Council of Nicaea maintains this; the first Canon of the Synod of Neocaesarea in 314 or 325, and Can. Apost., xxvi. The Synod of Elvira about 300 had decreed absolute celibacy for all clerks in the West, Can. xxxiii, ib., pp. 238-239); priests already married may keep their wives (the same law applied to deacons and subdeacons: Can. vi of the Synod in Trullo, 692), but bishops must be celibate. As nearly all secular priests were married this meant that, as a general rule, bishops were chosen from the monasteries, and so these became, as they still are, the road through advancement may be attained. Besides the communities in monasteries there were many extraordinary developments of monasticism. There were always hermits who practised various extreme forms of asceticism, such as binding tight ropes round their bodies, very severe fasting, and so on. A singular form of asceticism was that of the Stylites (stylitai), who lived on columns. St. Symeon Stylites (q.v.) began this practice in 420.
From the time of Constantine the building and endowment of monasteries became a form of good work adopted by very many rich people. Constatine and Helen set the example and almost every emperor afterwards (except Julian) followed it. So monasteries grew up all over the empire. Constantinople especially was covered with them. One of the chief of these was Studion (Stoudion) in the south-western angle of the city, founded by a Roman, Studius, in 462 or 463. It was occupied by so-called "sleepless" (akoimetoi) monks who, divided into companies, kept an unceasing round of prayer and psalm-singing day and night in their church. But they were not a separate order; there was no distinction between various religious orders. St. Theodore, the great defender of images in the second Iconoclast persecution, became Hergumenos of Studion in 799 (till his death in 826). His letters, sermons and constitutions for the Studite monks gave renewed ideals and influenced all Byzantine monasticism. During this period a great number of decrees of Synods, ordinances of patriarchs, emperors and abbots, further defined and expanded the rule of St. Basil. Many Eastern synods draw up among their canons laws for monks, often merely enforcing the old rule (e.g. the Synod of Gangres in the middle of the fourth century, Can., xix, etc.). St. John Chrysostom, the Patriarch John the Faster (d. 595), the Patriarch Nicephoros (d. 829), and so on, down to Photius, added to these rules, which, collected and commented in the various constitutions and typika of the monasteries, remain the guide of a Byzantine monk. Most of all, St. Theodore's "Constitutions of Studion" (P.G., XCIX, 1703-1720) and his list of punishment for monks (ib., 1734-1758) represent a classical and much copied example of such a collection of rules and principles from approved sources. St. Basil's mother and sister had formed a community of women at Annesos near the settlement of the men. From that time convents of nuns spread throughout the Byzantine Church, organized according to the same rule and following the same life as that of the monks with whatever modifications were necessary for their sex. The convents were subject to the jurisdiction of the bishop or patriarch. Their spiritual needs were provided for by a priest, generally a priest-monk, who was their "ghostly father" (pheumatikos pater). The abbess was called hegoumenissa.
Lastly, during this period the monks play a very important part in theological controversies. The Patriarch of Alexandria, for instance, in his disputes with Constantinople and Antioch could always count on the fanatical loyalty of the great crowd of monks who swarmed up from the desert in his defence. Often we hear of monks fighting, leading tumults, boldly attacking the soldiers. In all the Monophysite troubles the monks of Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and the capital were able to throw the great weight of their united influence on the one side or the other. During the Acacian schism (482-519), while the whole Byzantine Church broke communion with Rome, only the "sleepless" monks of Studion remained Catholic. On the whole, the monks were on the Catholic side. During the Iconoclast persecution they were so determined against the overthrow of the holy pictures that the Iconoclast emperors made the abolition of monasticism part of their programme and persecuted people for being monks just as much as for worshipping images (see ICONOCLASM). Especially the great Studion monastery at Constantinople had a tradition of unswerving orthodoxy and loyalty to Rome. They alone kept communion with the Holy See in the Acacian schism, they were the leaders of the Image-worshippers in Iconoclast times, and their great abbot St. Theodore (d. 826) was one of the last defenders of union and the pope's rights before the great schism.
(3) From the Schism to Modern Times
The schism made little difference to the inner life of the Byzantine monasteries. Like the lower clergy and the people they quietly followed their bishops, who followed the patriarchs, who followed the Oecumenical patriarch into schism. After that their life went on as before, except that, having lost the advantage of intercourse with the West, they gradually drifted into the same stagnation as the rest of the Orthodox Church. They lost their tradition of scholarship, they had never done any work in parishes, and so they gradually arrived at the ideal that the "angelic life" meant besides their immensely long prayers, contemplation and fasting, doing nothing at all. In the eighteenth century, when an attempt was made to found monastic schools, they fiercely resented such a desecration of their ideal. During the early Middle Ages the Orthodox remained immeasurably behind the Catholic monks, who were converting western Europe and making their monasteries the homes of scholarship. The chief event of this period is the foundation of the Athos monasteries, destined to become the centre of Orthodox monasticism. When St. Athanasius of Athos founded the great Laura there, there were already cells of hermits on the holy mountain. Nevertheless he is rightly looked upon as the founder of the communities that made Athos so great a centre of Orthodoxy.
In the tenth and eleventh centuries the famous monasteries called the Meteora in Thessaly were built on their inaccessible peaks to escape the ravages of the Slavs. The Turkish conquests made little difference to the monks. Moslems respect religious. Their prophet had spoken well of monks (Koran, Sura V, 85) and had given a charter of protection to the monks of Sinai; but they shared fully the degradation of the Orthodox Church under Moslem rule. The Turkish conquest sealed their isolation from the rest of Christendom; the monasteries became the refuge of peasants too lazy to work, and the monk earned the scorn with which he is regarded by educated people in the East. Eugenios Bulgaris (d.1800), one of the chief restorers of classical scholarship among the Greeks, made a futile attempt to found a school at Athos. The monks drove him out with contumely as an atheist and a blasphemer, and pulled his school down. Its ruins still stand as a warning that study forms no part of the "angelic life".
(4) Monasticism in the present Eastern Christian Church
The sixteen independent Churches that make up the Orthodox communion are full of monasteries. There are fewer convents. One great monastery, that of Mount Sinai, follows what prefesses to be the old rule of St. Anthony. All the others have St. Basil's rule with the additions, expansions, and modifications made by later emperors, patriarchs, and synods. There is no distinction of religious orders as in the West, though mant lauras have customs of their own. All monks are "Basilians" if one must give them a special name. A monk is monachos, a priest-monk leromonachos. A monastery is or mone or laura. The novice (archarios) wears a tunic calledhrasos with a belt and the kalimauchion of all the clergy, he is often called hrasophoros. After two years (the period is sometimes shortened) he makes his (solemn) vows and receives the small habit (mandyas). Technically he is now a mikroschemos, though the word is not often used. After an undefined time of perseverance he receives the great habit (koukoulion) and becomes megaloschemos. The popular Greek name for monk is "good old man" (kalogeros). The election, the rights and duties of the hegumenos and other dignitaries remain as they were before the schism. The title "archimandrite" appears to be given now to abbots of the more important monasteries and also sometimes as a personal title of distinction to others. It involves only precedence of rank.
Most monasteries depend on the local metropolitan. In the Orthodox states (Russia, Greece, etc.) the Holy Synod has a good deal to say in their management, confirms the election of the abbot, controls, and not unfrequently confiscates their property. But certain great monasteries are exempt from local jurisdiction and immediately subject to the patriarch or Holy Synod. These are called stauropegia. One Orthodox monastery (Mount Sinai) of which the abbot is also "Archbishop of Sinai", is an autocephalous Church, obeying only Christ and the Seven Councils. The Genikoi kanonismoi of the Ecumenical patriarchate contain a chapter about monasteries (pp. 67 sq.). They are divided into three classes, those with more than twenty, more than ten or more than five monks. Only those of the first class (more than twenty monks) are bound to sing all the Divine office and celebrate the holy Liturgy every day. Monasteries with less than five monks are to be suppressed or incorporated in larger ones. Monastic property accumulated in the East as in the West. Many quarrels between the Church and State have arisen from usurped control or even wholesale confiscation of this property by the various Orthodox governments. The first Greek Parliament in 1833 (at Nauplion) suppressed all monasteries in the new kingdom that had less than six monks. In 1864 Cusa confiscated all monastic property in Rumania, of which much belonged to the monasteries of Mount Sinai, Jerusalem, and Athos. In 1875 Russia confiscated three-fifths of the property in Bessarabia belonging to the monastery of the Holy Sepulchre. Of the rest it paid itself one-fifth for its trouble and applied two-fifths to what is described euphemistically as pious purposes in Russia. Many monasteries have farms called meochia in distant lands. Generally a few monks are sent to administer the metochion of which all the revenue belongs to the mother-house. The most famous monasteries in the southern part of the Orthodox Church are Mount Sinai, the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem, the Meteora in Thessaly, Sveti Naum on the Lake of Ochrida and most of all, Athos. The national quarrels in the Orthodox Church have full development at Athos. Till lately the Greeks succeeded in crushing all foreign elements. They drove the Georgians from Iviron, the Bulgars from Philotheos, Xenophon, and St. Paul's. Now they are rapidly losing ground and influence; the Slavs are building large Sketai, and Russia here as everywhere is the great danger to the Greek element. The Russians have only one Laura (Panteleimon or Russiko) but with its huge Sketai it contains more monks than all the Greek lauras together. All the Athos monasteries are stauropegia; only the Patriarch of Constantinople has any jurisdiction. For ordinations the Hegumenoi invite the neighbouring Metropolitan of Heraclea. The monasteries have also the dignity of "Imperial" lauras, as having been under the protection of former emperors.
(5) Monasticism in Russia
There have been monks in Russia since Christianity was first preached there in the tenth century. Their great period was the fourteenth century; their decline began in the sixteenth. Peter the Great (1661-1725) at one time meant to suppress the monasteries altogether. In 1723 he forbade new novices to be received. Under Catherine II (1761-1796) a more prosperous era began; since Alexander (1801-1825) monasteries flourish again all over the empire. The latest census (1896) counts 495 monasteries and 249 convents of nuns. These are divided into 4 lauras (in Russia the name means a certain precedence and special privileges); 7 stauropegia (subject directly to the Holy Synod and exempt from the ordinary's jurisdiction), 64 monasteries attached to bishops' palaces. The rest are divided into three classes. There are 73 of the first class (which have at least 33 monks or, if convents, 52 nuns), 100 of the second (17 monks or nuns) and 191 of the third (12 monks or 17 nuns). There are further 350 monasteries not classified. Catherine II introduced the practice of drawing up official lists of the monasteries. She found 1072 monasteries in her empire of which she abolished 496 and classified the rest. In Russia, as at Athos, monasteries are either coenobic (obshejitel'nyie) or idiorhythmic (neobshejitel'nyie); but these latter are not n favour with the Holy Synod which restores the coenobic rule wherever possible. Some monasteries are supported by government (shtatnyie), others have to support themselves. The three classes mentioned above concern the amounts received by the supported monasteries. The stauropegia are: Solovetsky, at Archangel, Simonoff, Donskoyi, Novospassky at Moscow, Voskresensky or New Jerusalem, Spaso-Yakovlesky. The census of 1896 counts 40,940 monks and 7464 nuns in the empire. The most famous Russian monasteries are Kieff (Kievsky Laura) founded in 1062 by a St. Anthony, the largest of all; the Troitzsky Laura near Moscow, founded by St. Sergius in 1335 and now the home of the first "Ecclesiastical Academy" (Seminary) in the empire; the Metropolitan of Moscow is its hegumenos. The Pochaievsky Laura, founded in the thirteenth century and famous for its miraculous eikon of the Blessed Virgin; Solovetsky, founded in 1429; Surieff (in the government of Novgorod) founded in 1030; Tikhvinsy (in Novgorod); Volokolamsky (in the Moscow government) founded by St. Joseph of Volokolamsk in 1479, which has an important library and has often been used as a state prison, and Kyrilla-Bilesersky (in Novgorod) founded by St. Cyril in 1397.
(6) Monasticism in the lesser Eastern Churches
Little may be said of these Churches. All had fully developed monasticism according to St. Basil's idea before they went into schism, and all have monks and nuns under much the same conditions as the Orthodox, though, naturally, in each case there has been some special development of their own. The Nestorians once had many monasteries. One eighteenth-century scholar counted 31. Since the fourteenth century the discipline has become so relaxed that monks can easily get dispensed from their vows and marry. They now have neither monasteries nor convents; but there are monks and nuns who live in their own houses or wander about. The Copts have many monasteries arranged almost exactly like those of the Orthodox. The Abyssinian monasteries are very flourishing (ib. 299-302). There are in Abyssinia also people called debterats, regular canons who say the office in common and obey a superior called nebrait, but may marry. The Nebrait of Aksum is one of the most powerful members of the Abyssinian Church and the leader of the national party against the foreign (Coptic) metropolitan. The Syrian Jacobites once had a great number of monasteries. Down to the sixth century there were still Stylites among them. They now have only nine monasteries in the present reduced state of their Church, most of them also residences of bishops. The Jacobite monk fasts very strictly. To eat meat is a crime punished as equal to adultery. The Armenian Church, as being considerably the largest and most flourishing of there lesser Eastern Churches, has the largest number of monks and the most flourishing state. Armenian monks follow St. Basil's rule, but are much stricter in the matter of fasting. The novitiate lasts eight years. It is a curious contrast to this strictness that the abbot is often not a monk at all, but a married secular priest who hands on his office to his son by hereditary right. Most Armenian bishops live in monasteries. Etchmiadzin, the residence of the Katholikos, is theoretically the centre of the Armenian Church. The Armenians have the huge monastery of St. James, the centre of their quarter of Jerusalem, where their Patriarch of Jerusalem lives, and the convent of Deir asseituni on Mount Sion with a hundred nuns. Armenian monks do not as a rule become bishops; the bishops are taken from the unmarried Vartabeds, that is, the higher class of secular priests (doctors). In all the other Eastern Churches bishops are monks. All use their monasteries as places of punishment for refractory clergy.