Archive for December, 2013

The Book of the Dove

Posted in Uncategorized on December 31, 2013 by citydesert

book of the dove 2
The Book of the Dove (Ktobo d-Yawno) by Gregory Bar Hebraeus is a short work in four chapters which describes the various forms of the ascetic life. Chapter four contains material from his own experiences. It is a classic work of Syrian asceticism.

“From my first youth ‘) burning with love of teachings, I was taught the holy scriptures with the necessary explanation, and from an exquisite teacher I heard the mysteries contained in the writings of the holy doctors. When I had reached the age of twenty, the then living patriarch compelled me to receive the dignity of a bishop. Then it was inevitable for me to engage myself in disquisitions and disputations with the heads of other confessions, interior and exterior. And when I had given my thoughts and meditations to this business during some time, I became convinced, that these quarrels of Christians among themselves are not a matter of facts but of words and denominations. For all of them confess Christ, our Lord, to be wholly God and wholly man, without mixture, nivellation or mutation of natures. This bilateral likeness is called by some nature, by others person, by others hypostasis. So I saw all Christian peoples, notwithstanding these differences, possessing one unvarying equality. And I wholly eradicated the root of hatred from the depth of my heart and I absolutely forsook disputation with anyone concerning confession. So I zealously turned to attain the power of Greek wisdom, viz. logic, physics and metaphysics, algebra and geometry, science of the spheres and of the stars. And because life is short and teachings long and broad, I read concerning every branch of science what was the most necessary.

During my studies in these teachings, I resembled a man who is immersed in the ocean and stretches forth his hands towards all sides in order to be saved. And because in all teachings, interior and exterior, I found not that which I sought, I almost fell into complete destruction.

I feel not justified to describe the snares and nets in which I was entangled, because hearing this might do harm unto many feeble ones. In short, if the Lord had not sustained my little faith in those dangerous times, and if He had not led me to look in the writings of the Initiated, as Aba Euagrius and others, occidental and oriental, and if He had not picked me up from the gulf of destruction and ruin, I would ere long have despaired of psychical, if not of bodily life.

I meditated on these works for seven years, during which I hated other sorts of knowledge, though I had to occupy my thoughts superficially with some of them, not for my own sake, but for the sake of others who wished to profit by me. During this space of time, many offences made me miserable and caused me to stumble. Sometimes I fell into unbelief, saying: How loud is the sound of the bells of these solitaries, and how is their mill devoid of meal, viz. their words contain simple thoughts, remaining without effect. But sometimes my
mind reprehended me, saying: Do not speak idle words and think not that all what you know not, does not exist. What you know is much less than what you know not.”

The Book of the Dove (Ktobo d-Yawno) by Gregory Bar Hebraeus, translated by A.J. Wensinck, Leiden: Brill, 1919: 60-61

“Kthobo d-Yawno (The Book of the Dove). A compendium in the training of ascetics. He wrote it at the suggestion of some lovers of asceticism after he had written the Ethikon. It consists of four parts, the first one on the bodily service in the monastery, the second one on the psychic service which is accomplished in the cell, the third on the spiritual quest of the perfect and the fourth on the author’s progress in knowledge. Some terms communicated to him in revelation (which are about eighty in number). The whole book consists of eighty pages. The author states that he called it The Dove as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. This book was translated into Arabic about 1299 under the title Kitab al-Warqa fi Ilm al-Irtiqa. I saw its well-written introduction in the handwriting of Abu al-Hasan ibn Mahruma of Mardin. There is an old copy of it at the University of Chicago, written in 1290, and another copy at Oxford. To it was appended a chapter on the Youthfulness of the Mind, which is the beginning of a story the author was writing on his way to Maragha, but death precluded its completion. The book was published by Bedjan and then by the monk Yuhanna Dulabani in 1916.”,_maphrian_of_the_East,_known_as_Bar_Hebraeus_%28d._1286%29.html
bar hebrae
“Gregory Bar Hebraeus (1226 – 30 July 1286) was a catholicos (bishop) of the Syriac Orthodox Church in the 13th century. He is noted for his works addressing philosophy, poetry, language, history, and theology; he has been called “one of the most learned and versatile men from the Syriac Orthodox Church” (Dr. William Wright).

Bar Hebraeus was born in the village of ʿEbra (Izoli, Turk.: Kuşsarayı) near Malatya, Sultanate of Rûm (modern Turkey, today province Elazig). It appears that he took the Christian name Gregory (Syriac: ܓܪܝܓܘܪܝܘܣ Grigorios, Ġrīġūriyūs) at his consecration as a bishop Throughout his life, he was often referred to by the Syriac nickname Bar ʿEbrāyā (Syriac: ܒܪ ܥܒܪܝܐ, which is pronounced and often transliterated as Bar ʿEbroyo in the West Syriac dialect of the Syriac Orthodox Church), giving rise to the Latinised name Bar Hebraeus. This nickname is often thought to imply a Jewish background (taken to mean ‘Son of the Hebrew’). However, the evidence for this once popular view is slim. It is more likely that the name refers to the place of his birth, ʿEbrā, where the old road east of Malatya towards Kharput (modern Elazığ) and Amida (Mesopotamia) (modern Diyarbakır) crossed the Euphrates. He collected in his numerous and elaborate treatises the results of such research in theology, philosophy, science and history as was in his time possible in Syria. Most of his works were written in Syriac. However he also wrote some in Arabic, which had become the common language in his day.”

See also

For a summary of Bar Hebraeus’ writings, see,_maphrian_of_the_East,_known_as_Bar_Hebraeus_%28d._1286%29.html

The Book of the Dove is available for download on-line at and
book of the dove
A modern edition is available:

“Bar-Hebraeus was a prolific writer for his age. Among the many treasures he produced was his ascetical training guide known as The Book of the Dove. Written especially for those in Eastern Christianity who aspired to be hermits, this treatise offers practical spiritual advice for those in his charge in the Syriac church. The study is divided into four parts, treating the training of the body, training the soul, the spiritual rest of the perfect, and a section including Bar-Hebraeus’ spiritual autobiography. A classic of monastic literature, The Book of the Dove retains valuable insights into spiritual exercises, including prayer, fasting, repentance, humility, and alienation from the world. Presented here in the original Syriac, this text will be of interest to the historian as well as readers interested in the Medieval Eastern Church. In a world frantically seeking a spiritual center, the wisdom of one of Orthodoxy’s most erudite writers on spiritual development is always welcome.”
book of the dove 3
A reprint of is the 1919 translation by A. J. Wensinck is available at:


Village Ascetics and the Origins of Early Egyptian Monasticism

Posted in Uncategorized on December 31, 2013 by citydesert

An excellent paper challenging the traditional model of the origins of eremiticism and monasticism is “Μοναχοὶ Ἀποτακτικοί: Village Ascetics and the Origins of Early Egyptian Monasticism” by H. Carl Moerschbacher University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, Classical and Near Eastern Studies. It is available on-line at: The following is a brief extract from the paper:

These men live together in twos and threes, seldom in larger numbers, and live according to their own will and ruling… In most cases they live in cities or in villages, and anything they sell is very dear, the idea being that their workmanship, not their life, is sanctified.—Jerome, Epistle 24.34
Anthony 2
The traditional notion that Egyptian monasticism began as a desert phenomenon through the innovations of Saints Antony (c . 251?–356)and Pachomius (c . 290–346) is unsupported by late antique literature and documentation. For example, Athanasius’ Life of Antony relates that before Antony’s withdrawal (ἀναχώρησις) into the desert, “There were not yet many monasteries in Egypt, and no one knew at all the great desert, but each of those wishing to give attention to his life disciplined himself in isolation, not far from his own village.” Antony’s own asceticism was catalyzed by seeing an old man “who had practiced from his youth the solitary life.”
Similarly, Pachomius began his apprenticeship under Palamon, a local holy man from the village of Šeneset (Chenoboskion) in Upper Egypt who had settled a little way from his village and had become a model and father for many in his vicinity.

Recent scholarship has shown that monasticism in Egypt predates both Antony’s removal to the Outer Mountain at Pispar (c .285) and Pachomius’ founding of his famous monastery at Tabennese in the Thebaid (c . 323). Scholars now recognize a variety of Egyptian monasticism called apotactic, an urban-based movement in which monks still lived in houses within city limits, still engaged in business, and still owned personal property and held regular contact with society. Who were these urban ascetics, and what role did they play in the development of Egyptian monasticism? Why are mainstream Greek and Latin sources nearly devoid of information concerning these ascetics? This essay will seek to answer these questions by examining pertinent documentary and literary sources in order to present a more accurate history of this critical period. It will also posit that the apotactic movement developed—at least in part—out of the much-earlier forms of female asceticism that were manifested through institutionalized virginity and widowhood.”

Ascetics, Society, and the Desert

Posted in Uncategorized on December 31, 2013 by citydesert

“Ascetics, Society, and the Desert: Studies in Early Egyptian Monasticism” by James E. Goehring [Trinity Press International, 1999: Studies in Christianity and Antiquity]

“Basing his work on papyrological documentary sources, archaeology, and traditional literary sources, James Goehring gradually forces a new direction in understanding the evolution of monasticism. He rigorously examines these multiple sources, transforming them into a clear narrative and infusing the history of Egyptian monasticism with renewed energy. “This is a fine collection of essays. It reads well as a complete unit, displays the complexity of writing the history of Egyptian monasticism, and incorporates new kinds of documentary and archaeological evidence. It is first-rate scholarship impeccably argued and written. This book is a must for historians of monasticism and late antiquity, Egyptologists, religious studies teachers interested in spirituality, papyrologists, and anyone in the general public fascinated by the growth and development of religious communities.” Richard Valantasis, St. Louis University “In these twelve essays, Goehring convincingly dismantles much previous scholarship regarding early Egyptian monasticism. Appealing to archaeological and papyrological evidence as well as to literary texts, he situates Pachomian monasticism in the midst of the economic and social life of its time. The diversity of Egyptian monasticism, in theology and in lifestyle, is here demonstrated. Highly readable and clearly argued. Goehring’s books is a must for all scholars of early Christianity.” Elizabeth A. Clark, Duke University James E. Goehring is Professor of Religion and Chair of the Department of Classics, Philosophy, and Religion at Mary Washington College, Fredericksburg, VA.”

“A concise version of the received history of monastic origins would run something like this: Antony is the first monk ever; influenced by his anchoritism, Pachomius initiates the cenobitic life; from these two men and in these two distinct forms, all Christian monasticism spreads throughout Egypt, the East, and the e West . In this collection of twelve essays written within the past twenty years, James Goehring, Professor of Religion and Chair of the Department of Classics , Philosophy, and Religion at Mary Washington College, Fredericksburg, Virginia, seeks to prove that such a notion is “oversimplified ” and in fact “erroneous ” (13) .
Contemporary scholars are now beginning to see that monasticism appeared more or less simultaneously in the various Christian areas as a development of the Church’ s premonastic asceticism (largely inaccessible to historians), from which a diverse tradition of apotactic [‘renunciative’] monasticism , or ascetic renunciation, developed. In Egypt , these ascetic renunciants practiced various forms of “ethical withdrawal” (anachoresis) from family ties , ranging from the solitary to the fully communal, while remaining physically , socially, and economically bound to their villages . Goehring relates that Antony and Pachomius were really part of early Egyptian monasticism’ s evolving apotactic tradition and that both became preeminent innovators within it . Antony seems to be one of the first to withdraw not only ethically but also physically from the village, and Pachomius the first to organize an affiliated system of cenobitic monasteries into a koinonia (although one of the essays tentatively questions Pachomius’s originality).

Cassian DelCogliano, OCS O / St . Joseph’s Abbey, Spencer, MA 01562-123 3
“Cistercian Studies Quarterly” 36. J (2001)

Part of this book is available to read on-line at:

For further reviews:

Egyptian and Syrian Asceticism in Late Antiquity

Posted in Uncategorized on December 31, 2013 by citydesert

An excellent paper on “Egyptian and Syrian Asceticism in Late Antiquity: A Comparative Study of the Ascetic Idea in the Late Roman Empire during the Fourth and Fifth Centuries” by Jeffrey Conrad is available on-line at,_no._2_-_sp._1995/conrad_j.pdf
The following is an extract from the paper.
egyptian desert 2
The Roman Empire between the fourth and fifth centuries A.D. experienced the development of a new form of Christian piety–the rise of asceticism. Two models or disciplines of the ascetic life arose during this time period, coenobitic and anchoritic asceticism. While both were manifestations of withdrawing from society, these two disciplines differed in the way in which the ascetics lived: coenobites lived communally whereas anchorites lived in solitude.1 Anchorites practiced the ascetic discipline of fasting, prayer and meditation while living in solitude, scattered throughout the deserts of Egypt and in the steppe-lands and mountains of Syria. This expression of the monastic ideal rapidly spread from the homeland of its founder, St. Antony, to many Roman provinces, such as Palestine, Asia Minor, and Syria. There were men living as anchorites in Western Europe, but the dominant expression of withdrawing from society in that region of the Empire was coenobitic. Both Egyptian and Syrian asceticism in the fourth century developed out of earlier ascetic traditions in their respective locations. While the anchoritic life was equally as common in both provinces, the expression of the ascetic discipline, the “askesis “, differed between the two: Egyptian asceticism was considerably more mild than the discipline practiced by the anchorites in Syria. This was due to Egypt’s severe deserts and harsh climatic conditions, forcing the ascetic to remain in his cell, where he practiced the central tenets of the ” askesis “: fasting, prayer and meditation.2 Syrian asceticism, in contrast, was less hindered by that province’s geography and climate, which was milder and more varied. The Syrians also developed a much more rigorous body renouncing tendency than in Egypt. While many differences existed between Egyptian and Syrian asceticism, there is one fascinating similarity between the two: asceticism in both provinces was an out-growth of martyrdom, filling the vacuum created by the adoption of Christianity by the Emperors of the Late Roman Empire.
egyptian desert 4
The ascetic ideal that made Egyptian Christianity renowned throughout the Roman Empire by the end of the fourth century, and served as the prototype of Christian asceticism in the West, developed out of earlier ascetic traditions within the Roman province of Egypt. In fact, hermits could be found in Egypt prior to the anchoritic life of St. Antony. Upon hearing the gospel of Matthew, “if you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven,” Antony was convinced to sell his parents’ estate, recently bequeathed to him upon their death, place his sister into a convent, and settle among the hermits already living on the outskirts of his village.3 These hermits, many of whom had been living in isolation for dozens of years, provided the training which Antony was to master, and further add to, eventually becoming one of the most venerated and renowned ascetics empire-wide, both in his lifetime and in the centuries to follow. It is difficult to ascertain exactly when the ascetic “askesis”, or discipline, first took root in Egypt. In some respects, the prototype of Christian asceticism reached back to the dawn of Christianity, to John the Baptist and to Christ’s example of seeking out a solitary place for prayer in the mountains and wilderness. Furthermore, some of the pre-Antonian ascetics undoubtedly came to the desert as refugees, fleeing the great persecutions of the third century, and ended up staying, providing examples of ascetic life which others were to follow.4
Although a prior ascetic tradition existed in Christianity, Egypt was a region prone to asceticism. Men in Egypt were driven to the desert by a crisis in human relations, where tensions of living in the “world” had proved unbearable, as ascetic literature such as the Apophthegmata Patrum overwhelmingly demonstrates. For example, when Abba Matoes was asked by a brother for advice on how to control his tongue and condemnations towards others in his community, he was advised accordingly:
If you cannot contain yourself, flee into solitude. . . . It is not through virtue that I live in solitude, but through weakness; those who live in the midst of men are the strong ones.5

The overwhelming popularity among Egyptians to take up the “askesis”, based on this “crisis in human relations,” is explained by the tense and uneasy relationships between members of Egyptian villages. These villages were made up of peasants who were selfsufficient in mind, possessing an air of total disengagement from their neighbors: however, neither of these ideals were possible for them to carry out. Instead, villagers were forced, out of necessity, to cooperate; life in the desert village was difficult, and survival required cooperation among its members as a whole, not only conforming with the annual demands of Imperial taxation, but also cooperation in order to control the precious water of the Nile: to withdraw was a natural reflex reaction.6 The idea of escape was very real to the Egyptians, based on their autarkic way of thinking. Therefore, Egypt was a predisposed hot-bed for asceticism, built into the minds of the men who lived along the Nile.7

By the fourth century, what once was an obscure and rare tradition among Christians in Egypt, the ascetic life suddenly became extremely characteristic of that province; its reputation quickly spread throughout the empire, rapidly changing the face of the Christian church as well as the province of Egypt, so that “by A.D. 400, Egypt was a land of hermits and monks.”8 It was in this atmosphere that Athanasius’ Vita Antonii became a fourth century “best seller,” not only in Egypt but as far away as Rome, Asia Minor, and Syria: “Antony was the first great manifesto of the ascetic ideal–a classic of the spiritual life which was exerting its influence over the Christian world within a very few years of its writing.”9 St. Antony’s long periods of solitude, withdrawing “to the tombs, situated some distance from the village,” followed by twenty years inside a deserted Roman fortress, set the supreme example of the anchorite; he was so revered by contemporaries and future ascetics alike that “even his death had become something imitable.”10
Antony lived out his hermitic life in the deserts of Lower Egypt, while another contemporary ascetic named Pachomius was establishing his interpretation of the “askesis ” known as coenobitic, or communal monasticism, in Upper Egypt. Both forms of asceticism were to have very long futures in their respective areas. But in Egypt at least, in contrast to Syria asceticism, both anchorites and coenobites were dependent, relying on other humans in one way or another. Surviving in the harsh Egyptian desert conditions, Egyptian ascetics lived out their existence in a cell, whether in solitude, far removed from others, or alone within a community, as in coenobitic monasteries modeled after Pachomius in Upper Egypt.11 It is the locus and significance of the cell that needs clarification.
The cell of the Egyptian ascetic defined him both in space and time, and was common to both communal and solitary ascetics. As mentioned earlier, two manifestations of asceticism arose in Egypt in the course of the third and fourth centuries, divided roughly between Upper and Lower Egypt: in the former, the coenobitic tradition founded by Pachomius (A.D. 290 – 347) at Tabennisi in the Thebaid was most common, and in the latter, the anchoritic custom of Antony.12 The region around Nitria and Scetis, about forty miles to the south, could be classified as a subset of Lower Egyptian anchoritic asceticism.13 This region is more or less characteristic of groups of ascetics, where several hermits lived together, often as disciples of an older and experienced ascetic known as an Abba. The cell in all three regions provided shelter and protection, not only from the elements, but from wild animals roaming the desert. It took many forms, ranging from ancient tombs lying deserted in the middle of the desert, to caves, in which the ascetic often competed with the animal kingdom for solitude.14 But a cell need not have been a pre-existing or natural structure; often a hermit would construct his cell out of materials available in the desert, such as lean-tos made of local Nile thrushes and wood from small desert trees, as well as recycling stone from ancient structures lying vacant in the desert. Furthermore, there is evidence that ascetics sometimes pooled their efforts, hastily constructing a cell in a matter of a single day, using mud-brick, the quintessential building material for the coenobitic monasteries founded by Pachomius in the Thebaid.15 But regardless of how they were built, or from what medium the cells took their shape, the cell was first and foremost the primary locus of the ascetic, defining the ascetic’s utter rejection of the human world–the world defined by civilization and, subsequently, a world characterized by sin; the Egyptian ascetic, whether anchoritic, coenobitic or living with a few hermits harmoniously, (as in the region around Nitria and Scetis), was committed to his cell.
desert fathers

Wholesome To Be Alone

Posted in Uncategorized on December 31, 2013 by citydesert

“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers. A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will. Solitude is not measured by the miles of space that intervene between a man and his fellows. The really diligent student in one of the crowded hives of Cambridge College is as solitary as a dervish in the desert. The farmer can work alone in the field or the woods all day, hoeing or chopping, and not feel lonesome, because he is employed; but when he comes home at night he cannot sit down in a room alone, at the mercy of his thoughts, but must be where he can “see the folks,” and recreate, and as he thinks remunerate himself for his day’s solitude; and hence he wonders how the student can sit alone in the house all night and most of the day without ennui and “the blues”; but he does not realize that the student, though in the house, is still at work in his field, and chopping in his woods, as the farmer in his, and in turn seeks the same recreation and society that the latter does, though it may be a more condensed form of it.”
Henry David Thoreau –
Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862) was an American author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, and leading transcendentalist. He is best known for his book “Walden”, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay “Resistance to Civil Government “ (also known as Civil Disobedience), an argument for disobedience to an unjust state… He was also deeply interested in the idea of survival in the face of hostile elements, historical change, and natural decay; at the same time he advocated abandoning waste and illusion in order to discover life’s true essential needs.

The Value of Solitude

Posted in Uncategorized on December 31, 2013 by citydesert

“The Value Of Solitude: The Ethics And Spirituality Of Aloneness In Autobiography” by John D. Barbour [University of Virginia Press, 2004]
value of solitude
“Most people feel ambivalent about solitude, both loving and fearing it depending on how they experience being alone at certain points in their lives. In The Value of Solitude, John Barbour explores some of the ways in which experiences of solitude, both positive and negative, have been interpreted as religiously significant. He also shows how solitude can raise ethical questions as writers evaluate the virtues and dangers of aloneness and consider how social interaction and withdrawal can most meaningfully be combined in a life.
Barbour’s work differs from previous books about solitude in two ways: it links solitude with ethics and spirituality, and it approaches solitude by way of autobiography. Barbour ranges from the early Christian and medieval periods to the twentieth century in examining the varieties of solitary experience of writers such as Augustine, Petrarch, Montaigne, Gibbon, Rousseau, Thoreau, Thomas Merton, and Paul Auster. For many authors, the process of writing an autobiography is itself conceived of as a form of solitude, a detachment from others in order to discover or create a new sense of personal identity. Solitude helps these authors to reorient their lives according to their moral ideals and spiritual aspirations.
The Value of Solitude both traces the persistence and vitality of the theme of solitude in autobiography and shows how the literary form and structure of autobiography are shaped by ethical and religious reflection on aloneness. This work should appeal to scholars in the fields of religious studies and theology, to literary critics and specialists in autobiography, and to readers interested in the experience of solitude and its moral and spiritual significance.”

“John D. Barbour’s The Value of Solitude bears a passing resemblance to a number of classic works on autobiography—James Olney’s Metaphors of the Self (1972), Karl Weintraub’s The Value of the Individual (1978), Robert Elbaz’s The Changing Nature of the Self (1987)—that wend a chronological way from canonical precursors to roughly contemporary examples. (Like many of his predecessors, Barbour visits the familiar voices of Augustine, Montaigne, and Rousseau, after which he charts a more personal course that takes him up to writers such as Annie Dillard, Thomas Merton, and Paul Auster.) For Barbour, however, this layout is not meant to trace a historical trajectory—of selfhood, of the genre of autobiography, or of the central concept invoked here, solitude. The author recognizes, certainly, that solitude has a history, and that its many incarnations are linked to cultural developments and given social needs; nodding approvingly toward Charles Taylor’s Sources of the Self, he notes that solitude’s history cannot be separated from that, say, of individuality or authenticity (9). But if Westerners have experienced solitude differently, in accordance with their temperament and historical moment, what most interests Barbour is the existential or spiritual condition of solitude. This condition is unchanging, and the autobiographical records of solitary experience under study add up to a kind of tool kit any reader can use; the texts, Barbour writes, thus illustrate “how solitude and social interaction can best be combined within a life, and . . . the advantages and disadvantages of different kinds and amounts of aloneness” (7). The Value of Solitude bears, then, some resemblance to a self-help book; questions of history, or of genre, take a back seat to a conception of literature as a vehicle for “insights and wisdom” that we may integrate into our own lives (10).”

“Barbour shows what solitude is and where the confusion lies with other terms equated to solitude such as loneliness, isolation, alienation, and privacy. The author shows there are broader terms for solitude than being physically isolated to experience solitude and that solitude could encompass time spent alone while mentally engaged with others. And one can experience aloneness while in the background presence of other persons.
“Aloneness may help one find contact with what lies beyond social routines and conventions, beyond the repetitiveness and superficiality that often characterize interactions among people. Solitude may be a way to resist the pressures of socialization, an attempt to create a time and space for self-transformation. This may be important even if one’s experiences with others are primarily positive. Solitude is more than an antidote or corrective for negative social interactions; it offers its own distinctive blessings. Solitude allows a person to focus on certain experiences and dimensions of reality with a fuller attention, a more complete concentration, than is possible when one must also attend to the reactions of other people.”
Barbour richly writes within and without the ethics and spirituality of solitude with the autobiographies; as well as his thoughts covering history, those who had written about solitude, questions about solitude, the mystery of the inner world, criticisms and possible harm, secularization of solitude, self-teaching, values of solitude, images of solitude and, authenticity and true self, and shared solitude.”

1. Christian Solitude
2. Bounded Solitude in Augustine’s Confessions
3. The Humanist Tradition: Petrarch, Montaigne, and Gibbon
4. Rousseau’s Myth of Solitude in Reveries of the Solitary Walker
5. Thoreau at Walden: “Soliloquizing and Talking to All the Universe at the Same Time”
6. Twentieth-Century Varieties of Solitary Experience
7. Thomas Merton and Solitude: “The Door to Solitude Opens Only from the Inside”
8. Solitude, Writing, and Fathers in Paul Auster’s The Invention of Solitude
Conclusion: The Value of Solitude
Works Cited

Parts of the book are available for reading on-line at
John D Barbour, Professor of Religion and Boldt Distinguished Teaching Chair in the Humanities at St. Olaf College, is also the author of “The Conscience Of The Autobiographer: Ethical And Religious Dimensions Of Autobiography” (1992), “Versions of Deconversion: Autobiography and the Loss of Faith” (1994), and “Renunciation: A Novel” (2013).

Greek Hermit Saints

Posted in Uncategorized on December 30, 2013 by citydesert

The name Greek Orthodox Church (Monotonic Greek: Ελληνορθόδοξη Εκκλησία, Polytonic: Ἑλληνορθόδοξη Ἑκκλησία, IPA: [elinorˈθoðoksi ekliˈsia]) is a term referring to the body of several Churches within the larger communion of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, whose liturgy is or was traditionally conducted in Koine Greek, the original language of the New Testament. Today, several of these Churches conduct their services in Arabic, the common language of most of their faithful, while at the same time maintaining elements of Greek cultural tradition. The current territory of the Greek Orthodox Churches more or less covers the areas in the Eastern Mediterranean that used to be a part of the Byzantine Empire. The origins of the Orthodox Church can be traced back to the churches which the Apostles founded in the Balkans and the Middle East during the first century A.D., and it maintains many traditions practiced in the ancient Church. Among these traditions are the use of incense, Liturgical Worship, Priesthood, making the sign of the cross, etc. Greek Orthodox Churches, unlike the Catholic Church, have no Bishopric head, such as a Pope, and hold the belief that Christ is the head of the Church. However, they are each governed by a committee of Bishops, called the Holy Synod, with one central Bishop holding the honorary title of “first among equals.”

+ Alypius the Stylite
Saint Alypius the Stylite (Αλύπιος ο Στυλίτης) was a seventh-century ascetic saint. He is revered as a monastic founder, an intercessor for the infertile, and a protector of children. During his lifetime he was a much sought after starets (guide in the Christian spiritual life).
Alypius was born in the city of Hadrianopolis in Paphlagonia. His mother, who had been widowed early, was very pious. She sent her son to be educated by the bishop Theodore, gave all of her livelihood to the poor, and herself became a deaconess and lived an ascetic life. Alypius built a church in honour of the Great Martyr Saint Euphemia the All-Praised on the site of a dilapidated pagan temple. He erected a pillar beside the church and lived atop it for the majority of his adult life. Two monasteries were built beside his pillar, one for monks and one for nuns, and Saint Alypius served as spiritual director of both. According to his hagiography for the last fourteen years of his life he was unable to stand, and had to lie on his side. He died in 640, at the age of 118. He is recognised as one of the three great stylite ascetics along with Simeon Stylites the Elder and Daniel the Stylite.

See also!topic/alt.religion.christian.east-orthodox/TewCJXLhhzA

+ David the Dendrite
davd the dendrite
David the Dendrite (died 540), also known as David the tree-dweller and David of Thessalonika, is a patron saint of Thessaloniki and a renowned holy fool. Originally from Mesopotamia, David became a monk at the Monastery of Saints Merkourios and Theodore outside Thessaloniki. Famed for his sound advice, crowds would hound him for words of wisdom and prayer. Wishing a quiet, contemplative life, David fled to the seclusion of an almond tree, where he lived for three years. He left the tree to petition the Byzantine emperor Justinian the Great in Constantinople to send soldiers to defend Thessaloniki from attack. David died in 540 as his ship was in route to Macedonia.

See also

On Fools for Christ, see:
For the Dendrites generally, see:
dendrites book
Constantine P. Charalampidis “The Dendrites in Pre-Christian and Christian Historical-Literary Tradition and Iconography” (Rome, 1995)

+ Gerasimus of Kefalonia
Saint Gerasimos of Kefalonia (Greek: Άγιος Γεράσιμος) is the patron saint of the island of Kefalonia in Greece. Gerasimos (1506–1579) came from the aristocratic and wealthy Notaras family. He was ordained a Monk at Mount Athos, went to Jerusalem for 12 years, spent some time in Crete and Zakynthos and in 1555 arrived on Kefalonia. He spent his first 5 years in a cave in the area known as Lassi. He subsequently cultivated the area where the monastery of Saint Gerasimos now exists near Valsamata. The monastery which he established cared for the poor and became a center for charity.
Saint Gerasimos is believed by natives of Kefalonia to protect them and to also heal them of illness. Many natives of the island name their children after Saint Gerasimos as a tribute to the saint who protects them.
gerasimos body
The body of Saint Gerasimos is guarded and protected in a glass casement at the monastery as it has never decomposed. After his death, his body was buried twice and exhumed intact, thus leading the church to ordain him as a saint.

See also

+ John the Silent
john the silent
Saint John the Silent (January 8, 454 – May 13, 558), also known as St John the Hesychast (Greek: Ἅγιος Ἰωάννης ὁ Ἡσυχαστής), was a Christian saint known for living alone for seventy-six years. He was given the surname because he loved recollection and silence. John was born in 454 AD in Nicopolis, Armenia. He came from a family of mainly generals and governors. His parents died when he was eighteen and he built a monastery where he stayed with ten young monks. Under John’s direction, they led a life of hard work and devotion. He obtained a reputation for leadership and sanctity, which led the archbishop of Sebaste to consecrate him bishop of Colonia in Armenia. John was only twenty-eight at the time and had no desire to be bishop. John was bishop for nine years then decided to stop due to his desire for secluded life and inability to stop certain evils. Uncertain of his future vocation, he went to Jerusalem.
His biographer says that while John was praying one night, he saw a bright cross form in the air, and heard a voice say to him, “If thou desirest to be saved, follow this light.” He saw it move and point out to the Laura (monastery) of St. Sabas. At thirty-eight years old he joined the monastery, which held one hundred and fifty monks. After some tests, St. Sabas let John have a separate hermitage for uninterrupted contemplation. For five days a week he fasted and never left his cell but on Saturdays and Sundays he went to public mass. After three years of this he was made the steward of the Laura.
John had never told anyone he had been bishop so after four years, St. Sabas thought John was worthy to become a priest and presented him to the patriarch Elias of Jerusalem. They traveled to Calvary for the ordination but upon their arrival John requested a private audience with the patriarch. John said, “Holy Father, I have something to impart to you in private; after which, if you judge me worthy, I will receive holy orders.” They spoke in private after a promise of secrecy. “Father, I have been ordained bishop; but on account of the multitude of my sins have fled, and am come into this desert to wait the visit of the Lord.” The patriarch was startled but told St. Sabas, “I desire to be excused from ordaining this man, on account of some particulars he has discovered to me.” St. Sabas was afraid John had committed a crime and after he prayed, God revealed the truth to him. He complained to John about keeping it from him and John, finding himself discovered, wanted to leave the monastery. St. Sabas convinced him to stay by promising to keep his secret. John stayed in his cell for four years, speaking to no one except the person who brought him necessities.
In 503 AD., certain turbulent disciples forced St. Sabas to leave his Laura. St. John went into a neighboring wilderness, where he spent six years in silence, conversing only with God and eating only the wild roots and herbs which the desert provided. When St. Sabas was brought back to his community, he found John in the desert and convinced him to return. John had become used to speaking only with God and found only bitterness and emptiness in anything else. He treasured obscurity and humility so he wanted to live unknown to men but, he was unable to do so. He returned with St. Sabas and lived in his cell for forty years. During this time, he did not turn people away who desired his instruction. One of these people was Cyril of Scythopolis who wrote about John’s life. The two men first met when John was ninety and Cyril was sixteen. Cyril had asked him what to do with his life. John recommended he join the Laura of St. Euthymius but Cyril did not listen. Instead, he went to a small monastery on Jordan’s banks. He fell ill there and deeply regretted not listening to John. While there, John appeared to him in a dream and after scolding him for not obeying said that if he returned to St. Euthymius’ monastery, he would get well and find his salvation. The next day he did so and was well again. John died in 558 AD at the age of one hundred and four. He lived in solitude for seventy-six years interrupted only for the nine years he was bishop.

See also

+ Theoctiste of Lesbos
Theoctiste of Lesbos is a saint of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. Born on the island of Lesbos, Theoctiste was orphaned as a child. The saint’s relations brought her to a monastery where she was raised in great joy until her 18th year, at which time Theoctiste barely evaded capture by Saracen slavers. She was taken captive with her sister and other local villagers of Lesbos and brought to the island of Paros. Once on Paros Theoctiste was able to escape. She found refuge in an island church dedicated to the Holy Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary and dwelt there, as a hermit, for the next 35 years of her life. Numerous miraculous events are associated with her life and her relics. Saint Theoctiste of Lesbos died in the late 9th century.

See also