Freitag, 25. Juli 2014

The "Basics" of Monastic History Not Always so Basic

In a recent paper, Fr. Columba Stewart OSB (Collegeville) points to several "basic" assumptions in the grand early narrative of Benedictine history in the first millennium that may need to be examined more closely. Do the origins of monasticism really lie with Antony in Egypt? Can we confidently continue to uphold the polarity between city and desert, so often repeated as a classical feature in the story of monastic development? And: Are we sure that the Rule of St. Benedict was used by Gregory at his monastery in Rome before his election as Pope and given by him to the missionaries sent to England at the end of the sixth century? Was it not first the Carolingian period that brought about the exaltation of the Rule? These questions are not meant to question the depth or legitimacy of the Rule. On the contrary, its survival and distribution throughout the centuries are proof of its wisdom: "succisa virescit" (when cut down, it grows back stronger).

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