Sunday, October 25, 2009

Notes on St. Basil's "On Detachment" and Longer Rules

Thursday, September 24, 2009

St. Basil on Detachment
Audience: lay congregation that may have some monks (professional ascetics) in audience
Context: middle of 4th century, the separation between a monastic Christian and an ascetic Christian was not as sharp as it would be 100 years later – in Basil’s time, the distinction was starting to emerge – monks back then were not priests, Basil starts saying if you are a permanent, professional ascetic, then you need to live by certain rules
Words of Basil not hypocritical; they inspire zeal and contrition – he tries to save them from the tricks of Satan – Satan corrupts people stealthily – must be spiritually alert so as to avoid the many traps that Satan puts in our way – best to pay no attention to the worldly pleasures that can trap us – these are pitfalls, if we are attached to them, we will be dragged into Hell – the present life (while we are wayfarers) is a road, like King St. David says – always be vigilant because this life could end any day – we leave behind good things and keep evil things – even children know that these worldly pleasures are not truly had by us – wealthy men will not always have their large estates (mansions) – those thing’s don’t enter this life with us and they don’t leave this life with us –
Advises not to concern oneself with examining the divine judgments, but stresses that we must be grateful for divine providence
We will be greatly rewarded if we bear our trials with the patience of St. Job
Stoicism rooted in fatalism & cynicism (s*** happens, deal with it), everybody will suffer, so don’t become attached to things and you won’t suffer
St. Job is the only person in history to realize that he is not the owner, but the steward, of the things God have him

St. Basil's Longer Rules
Gregory the Theologian’s idea of asceticism was meditating on a couch
Asceticism = voluntary refraining from worldly pleasures
Demacopoulos's thesis: early Christianity the expectation was that all Christians would all be ascetic, without entailing that all of them must be celibate monks – not all ascetics are monks –
Asceticism denial of food, sleep, sex, talking – St. John Chrysostom destroyed his liver by staying up with chains to read the Gospel in a cave
Demacoupolos’s definition of asceticism = deliberate attempt by Christians to subvert those impulses that lead to temporal gratification (food, lust, power, reputation) and to rechannel one’s energy toward the praise of God – positive attribute (active striving for theosis, not just an active distancing from something)
Authors disagree on the inherent value of
For St. Augustine, the Gnostics are wrong because they suppress the body out of a belief that is evil – instead, the body must be directed toward good ends
Objective reading of St. Symeon Stylite would make us think he does not have a positive view of the body
Exhaustive description of all ways of conduct
How to receive married persons, what age to accept vows,
Context: this is not a coherent text, but a subsequent editorial process by Basil’s monastic communities who looked at the letters Basil sent them over a 20-year period
Benedict (†540) creates the four vows of chastity, poverty, obedience, and stability (once a monk, always a monk)
The Name of the Rose (book)
Spiritual fatherhood concept = monk has to demonstrate ascetic experience and spiritual discernment
Basil organizes on principle that there is an inner circle of fathers who serve as confessors for the younger monks, the highest father being the abbot, and the selection of the new abbot is normally from the ranks of the elders
In Basil's time one could be a father-confessor without being ordained

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