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Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

The Hermit Fathers; The Spirit Born by Fr. Samaan El Souriany

With all the strife in the Middle East today, it’s hard to remember that this was once the land of hermits and the founding centre of monasticism in the West.

Upper Egypt (ie. southern) had cenobitic or communal monastics; lower Egypt had hermits such as St. Anthony, considered to be the founding father of Western monasticism. He died in 356 AD at the age of 105. Syria, Cappadocia (in modern Turkey) and Palestine all had monasteries or hermits in the 5th century AD.

What makes their story, and this book, particularly fascinating is that they were developing their spiritual practice as they lived from day to day – in most cases they were not following the rules laid down by others.  “The essence of the spirituality of the desert is that it was not taught but caught; it was a whole way of life,” according to the Foreword. (more…)

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A chance meeting with a Roman Catholic nun on the underground railway in Naples when I was 15 years old introduced me to Thomas Merton. She urged me to read “The Seven Storey Mountain” (the long version of his autobiography) which I did. Even at that age I was enormously drawn to the monastic life and enjoyed the book because his experience showed me what was possible. Since then, his books and books about him have been steady reading over the last 40 years. What he wrote about his hermitage and his own journey into solitude were of particular interest to me because I felt a similar attraction.

This video on YouTube takes us inside Merton’s hermitage. What surprises me is how large it was and how well furnished. I wasn’t expecting a “hermitage” to have four rooms and a dozen pots and pans for cooking. Of courses, this is just my expectation – I’d thought it would be much smaller and more like a simple cabin with a toilet. Anyway, see for yourself.

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