Tag Archives: monasticism

Hesychia: necessary for monk and lay person

Throughout the history of Eastern monasticism, there has always been an understanding of silence and solitude that has been called “hesychia”. Hesychia refers to a state of inner stillness and stability that is increasingly able to discern the presence of God in the length and breadth of the everyday. It involves an attitude of listening that focuses the heart, regardless of what one happens to be doing. But the truth is, such silence does not come cheap. It requires practice, a type of spiritual practice that leads one through many levels of growth. This has its analogy in athletic practice, where to reach excellence demands self-sacrifice, personal commitment, making mistakes, and hours and hours of work. (thanks to NS)

St Pachomius the Great

Our venerable father among the saints, Pachomius, the great, is liturgically commemorated. He is a central figure in the monastic life, East and West.

Pachomius was born in 292. As a young man, he served in the army under the emperor Constantine. The hardship of military life in Egypt was lightened by the kindness the soldiers encountered in every Christian settlement along their march. Pachomius was so impressed that he was baptized and embraced the monastic life.

He withdrew to the Egyptian wilds to live with Palemon, one of the desert fathers. After his guide and teacher died, Pachomius’ brother John came to live with him. Before long there were others, and Pachomius was soon the abba of a whole colony of monastics, totaling about seven thousand. His gift of leadership and skill in organization has been raised by later tradition to the level of direct divine inspiration, which is expressed in the story of an angel, dressed in the monastic habit, appearing to Pachomius and instructing him to adopt this garb for his monks. Aside from such embellishments, Pachomius remained a model of practical genius.

He established the Lavra of Tabenna on the Nile, with a school for boys and a hospice for travelers. He wrote a typi­con in Coptic, probably the first such rule in monastic history, and insisted that all the monks learn to read the scriptures. He organized teams of cooks, bakers, and gardeners. Each dwelling for these professional families included a library and a scriptorium for the copying of sacred texts.

His sister begged him to start a monastery for women. Her persistence and the number of nuns already at the gates moved him to consent. It was built on the opposite bank of the Nile. Twenty years after the council of Nicaea, a plague swept through the Nile valley. Pachomius died nursing his stricken monks.

(NS typicon)

The Orthodox and Catholic Churches remember him today, May 15th while the Coptic Church celebrates his feast on May 9th.

St. Eleutherius the Abbot

I have a very vague recollection of today’s saint, Eleutherius, from some travels in Italy. A friend posted this sketch of a 6th century monk. Just to situate him: St Benedict died in 547. Some recent theological discussion in the Communio Study Circle about angels and demons leads me think more deeply about persons like Eleutherius.

St. Eleutherius (d. 585 A.D.) was a monk living in Spoleto, Italy. Little is known of his early life. He became the Abbot of St. Mark’s Abbey and was well-known as a man of simplicity and penance. He also demonstrated the gift of miracles and exorcism, and raised a dead man to life. After he healed a boy from demonic possession and saw that the child was afterwards left unharmed, St. Eleutherius made a remark to this effect: “Since the child is among the servants of God, the devil dares not approach him.”

Then the boy, who came to live at St. Mark’s Abbey to be educated by the monks, became possessed again. St. Eleutherius repented of his vain and presumptuous remark, and the whole monastery underwent a penitential fast before the devil would leave the boy for the final time. St. Eleutherius was a friend of Pope St. Gregory the Great, the latter having called upon the saint to pray for him in his illness. St. Eleutherius died in Rome in 585 A.D. Today is his feast day.   (DG)

St Aidan

St AidanI doubt many people know much about Saint Aidan except surface level stuff. The name “Aidan” is a beautiful name and it carries with it the beauty of the best of Catholicism in Ireland and parts of England and Wales. Saint Aidan was seeking someone great –he was truly seeking God. This seeking is the principle, the grammar by which we truly live the Faith.

“Monastic founder, bishop, and miracle worker known for his kindness to animals. Known as Edan, Modoc, and Maedoc in some records, Saint Aidan was born in Connaught, Ireland. His birth was heralded by signs and omens, and he showed evidence of piety as a small child. Educated at Leinster, Saint Aidan went to Saint David monastery in Wales. He remained there for several years, studying Scriptures, and his presence saved Saint David from disaster. Saxon war parties attacked the monastery during Saint Aidan’s stay, and he repelled them miraculously. In time, Saint Aidan returned to Ireland, founding a monastery in Ferns, in Wexford. He became the bishop of the region as well. His miracles brought many to the Church. Saint Aidan is represented in religious art with a stag. He made a beautiful stag invisible to save it from hounds.”

Saint Aidan, pray for Us!

Saint John Paul II

JPIIBlessed  Feast of Pope Saint John Paul II!

Saint John Paul II: “In its present form, inspired above all by Saint Benedict, Western monasticism is the heir of the great number of men and women who, leaving behind life in the world, sought God and dedicated themselves to him, “preferring nothing to the love of Christ”.The monks of today likewise strive to create a harmonious balance between the interior life and work in the evangelical commitment to conversion of life, obedience and stability, and in persevering dedication to meditation on God’s word (lectio divina), the celebration of the Liturgy and prayer.”
–Vita Consecrata, 6

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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