Ascetics, Authority, and the Church in the Age of Jerome and Cassian
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: University of Notre Dame Press
Title Page / Copyright / Dedication
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INTRODUCTION TO THE SECOND EDITION
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More than thirty years after publication, it is useful to lay out the chronology of the original enterprise and to assess where it did and did not lead. Ascetics, Authority, and the Church in the Age of Jerome and Cassian was published in 1978, but I changed very little the text of the doctoral...
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This is a book that was in some ways written backwards: not as a search for roots, but as the exploration of a literary heritage, the ordered discovery of attitudes (above all on authority) gradually accumulated in the minds of Christians...
PART ONE: THE DESERT
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I. DISCOVERING THE DESERT FATHERS
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Not a few men of the fourth and fifth centuries, balanced in their judgement, experienced either in government or in letters, viewed with anxiety, if not disgust, the public progress and effect of the monastic movement. To ignore it was impossible. Gibbon may exaggerate, but...
II. MASTERS AND DISCIPLES
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What, then, do these sources tell us about the power of monks in fourth-century Egypt; about the growth and exercise of their authority and influence? To understand, indeed to sense, their power and attraction, one has only to observe the trust and reverence they were able...
III. THE GROWTH OF ASCETIC SOCIETY
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Masters and disciples have been observed thus far in a series of poses—of anxiety and guidance, of submission and authority. Some of their motives and convictions have been laid bare—factors, in other words, that might have made for change—; but this kind of account, dependent...
IV. ASCETICS IN THE CHURCH
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At this point, we can allow ourselves to emerge again upon a wider stage of events in the Eastern Church and Empire— 'to go up to Egypt', as the monks of Scetis used to say—; the history of asceticism had by this time reached the threshold of a more public forum for the...
V. THE WRITTEN WORD
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This account of links in the East between ascetics and the church is necessarily inconclusive. By 400 events and personalities in the West are demanding our attention; and at that time the entente in Egypt was scarcely under way. In the condemnation of Origen, the exile of the Tall Brothers and their companions, the death of...
PART TWO: WESTERN BEGINNINGS
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I. EXILES AND PILGRIMS
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The monks of Egypt were not allowed to remain in obscurity; they were, before the end of the fourth century, 'discovered'— indeed, they became something of a tourist attraction; not only for the East generally, but for travellers from the West, like Rufinus and Jerome. This far-reaching fame, and the fact that men returning to Italy and Gaul could carry or compose an increasing amount...
II. ASCETIC LITERATURE
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In order to explain these developments, a survey of events, no matter how essential or revealing, is obviously not enough: as in the East, an understanding of inner history is required; an understanding of concept and motive. We have touched upon this somewhat in the case of Hilary; but he remains, for the most part, hidden behind the arguments of his theological treatises. Fortunately, we...
PART THREE: JEROME
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I. ANTIOCH, CONSTANTINOPLE, AND ROME
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We have seen how the western church of the fourth century was blessed, or afflicted, with public controversy, with energetic leadership, (fired by ambitions both devious and saintly,) and with a new ascetic fervour that sought out, or created, texts with which to nourish its curiosity and devotion. Sulpicius and Cassian were to...
II. LETTERS FROM BETHLEHEM
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Once established in Bethlehem, Jerome never left the region; but his life was in no way monotonous. An enormous literary output bears witness to intense activity; and his letters reveal a wide network of acquaintance, an undying interest in other people, and developing convictions of his own. Most important of all, his more...
III. JEROME ON THE PRIESTHOOD AND EPISCOPATE
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By the time Alaric had sacked Rome in 410, Martin of Tours was more than ten years dead, and Sulpicius Severus had completed both Life and Dialogues. As far as chronology is concerned, it is time for us to take another 'sideways step', and turn to Gaul. But first we must go back, and examine, in the light of his career to date, Jerome's...
IV. JEROME'S LIVES
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Jerome, priest and spiritual master, was also hagiographer. The letters reveal as much, many of them threnodies and panegyrics: designed for wide readership, they presented their subjects as models for imitation, exactly in the style of Athanasius or Sulpicius. The three specific...
PART FOUR: MARTIN OF TOURS
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I. A BISHOP AND HIS BIOGRAPHER
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The narrative of Jerome's life (or rather of some, at least, of his successive hopes and convictions) links the asceticism of Egypt with the monasticism of Gaul. Jerome himself may not have been the chief mediator of ideas and practices between the two, nor even a major influence on western monks of the fifth century; but his career...
II. AN APOSTLE IN GAUL
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One of the most important clues to this continuing balance in Martin's personality, and to his consistent sense of purpose, lies in the spiritual authority that he felt himself to possess. Although there appear to be two types of activity in the Life and the Dialogues, pastoral and ascetic, the same kind of authority is described in either...
III. MARTIN'S AUDIENCE
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The Life of Martin reveals, therefore, a consistent pattern of behaviour, springing always from the same singleness of purpose, the same charismatic personality. So it is not in these terms (of aim or character) that one can define any fragmentation in Martin's life. Yet there is an element of variety that cannot be ignored. The least misleading...
PART FIVE: CASSIAN
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I. AN EXILE IN REVERSE
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One of the chief inheritors of the traditions described above was John Cassian. Hilary and Martin had encouraged an organized monastic movement in certain parts of Gaul. The writings of Sulpicius had attempted to make their achievements more widely known, and to inspire with monastic ideals the pastoral life of the...
II. HERMITS OR COENOBITES?
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Established in Gaul, Cassian was called upon to share his experience of eastern asceticism with a new audience, many of them successors, so to speak, of Martin and Sulpicius. He did so, not as a mere raconteur, but as a teacher sensitive to the needs and expectations of his readers. He was compelled to recognize and accept, and...
III. ADAPTING EGYPT TO THE WEST
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Cassian's change of heart involved, to some extent, surrender to reality, but not a betrayal of principle. He had come to feel that the coenobitic life was necessary—not only as a noviciate, in which to overcome the more obvious vices, and to acquire the fundamental techniques of self-perfection, but also as a safeguard for the highest...
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Cassian not only espoused, therefore, the cause of the coenobitic movement: he developed an interpretation of spiritual authority that responded to the needs of a coenobitic society. In this he maintained the tradition of the East. He portrayed the ascetic master as a man of...
V. MONKS AND THE WORLD
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Both the manner in which he defined his terms, coenobit and hermit, and the interpretation that he gave to authority, to the bonds and obligations demanded by asceticism, strongly suggest, therefore, that Cassian was most concerned with the order and development of the coenobitic life. He understood and described the manner...
VI. CASSIAN THE WRITER
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Armed with these convictions, supported by this concept of authority, and set in the midst of so much potential activity, Cassian lived as a writer; and in his literary skill lay his chief contribution to the history of the ascetic movement. Yet, in spite of the reputation of Jerome and Sulpicius, to write for the instruction of others...
EPILOGUE: THE NEXT GENERATION
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Cassian is difficult to summarize; and there is no denying the contradictions in his work. While formulating concepts of authority and discipline that cater for the coenobite, and encourage the development of corporate monasticism, he continues to plead the supreme value of the...
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APPENDIX I: GREEK, COPTIC, AND LATIN LIVES OF PACHOMIUS
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APPENDIX II: GREEK AND LATIN VERSIONS OF THE HISTORIA MONACHORUM AND THE LIFE OF ANTONY
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APPENDIX III: THE MONASTIC TEACHING OF EVAGRIUS OF PONTUS
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APPENDIX IV: CASSIAN'S DEPENDENCE ON ORAL TRADITION: SOME EXAMPLES
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Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2010