>Monasticism: Part I "The City of God"

Posted: 23/07/2009 in monasticism

>It was sometime ago that a friend reminded me that I should write a blog explaining why I like Monastic spirituality so much. I realized that it was a hard thing to sum up. Yet, I feel that I should do so. This, I think, demands a short series of blogs. This is part one of four.

The first place I must start is the close attention the monasticism pays to the communal nature of Christian life –or “living the Gospel” as it is often put. Additionally there is a specific way that monasticism believes that the Christian way of life should relate to the secular culture. Both of these are connected.

Christians in the modern and American day and age are used to thinking about their individual relationship with God. It is very rare, as some African Christians point out, for western Christians to talk about a communal relationship with God.

The rule of St. Benedict is an exception to this. The rule assumes that those in the monastery mutually mediate their relationship with God with one another. The monks prayed together. They worked together. They arose at the same time. They even ate together. Nothing was even owned by individuals, since those who entered into the monastery vowed to have all things in common. Throughout the rule there is a strong theme of “how do I help the other” rather than “how do I get in touch with God all by myself.” This idea of mutual service and mutual worship came before the emphasis on individual piety. It closely reflects the how the Church was at the beginning of Acts, in which believers shared all things in common and no one was in need.

The spirit of monasticism also emphasized a withdrawing from the world in order to create this community. This does not mean that monks did not care about the world, they sincerely did -but rather they believed that the only way to live out the Christian life was to depart from secular society. It was an attempt to create an alternative culture rather than reform the dominant one. It was only through this kind of asceticism and purity that the secular world could ever see what the Kingdom of God was.

Now the natural question to this is how does monasticism fulfill the great commission? Surely, Christians can’t simply completely withdraw from secular life. This is partially true. How monasticism hoped to spread the Gospel must wait for part four. For now it is enough to say that their way of spreading the Gospel is indirect, but still vital to what we know as evangelism today. Secondly, how one spreads the Gospel depends largely on how one views Gospel. This again must wait.

For now it enough to say this: monasticism viewed the Gospel as a way of life. In order for this way of life to being, one must form closely knit community. In order to create this community and live out the Gospel fully, monasticism had to say “no” to the surrounding culture and form an alternative. Part II will describe what the community looked like.

Thanks for reading.

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