The phenomenon of the renunciation of the world and the total dedication to God has its archetypes in the Old Testament, in the figures of Prophet Elias and John the Baptist…
As men in the trade go down naked
into the deep of the sea, into the watery death,
to find there pearls that will do for a royal crown,
and purple dye, so those who embrace the single life
go naked out of the world, and go down into the deep
of the sea of evil and into the gulf of darkness,
and from those depths they take and bring up precious stones
suitable for the crown of Christ, for the heavenly church,
for the new age, and the city of light, and a people of angels.
(Macarius, Spiritual Homilies, 15.51)
The phenomenon of the renunciation of the world and the total dedication to God has its archetypes in the Old Testament, in the figures of Prophet Elias and John the Baptist. But it is primarily founded on the New Testament and the very words of Christ to the young man who proceeded Him, asking his advice: ‘if thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me’ (Matt. 19:21)
From the third century, this divine call created cities of monks in the deserts of Palestine, Syria and Egypt, and it was spread immediately through Greece and Italy to the whole of Europe and up to Ireland, to be later embraced by the Slavic world. Monasticism was not an innovation, an add on to the teaching of the Gospel and the life of the Church, but a fresh expression of the ideal of total dedication and ascesis for the love of God, an ideal inherent in the early Christian life and philosophy.
The stillness of a monk, has a distinct quality and immense density. It contains the most creative, diligent and painstaking action; for it is connected with the purification of the heart, the pursuit of holiness and the discharge of the divine grace.
The aim of monastic life is the purification of the heart, so that divine love may be established within her. To the degree that we are renewed and illuminated, the thoughts generated in our hearts are moving in accord with the benign wills of God. In this way, the vision of the mysteries of the Holy Trinity and of the divine dispensation for the salvation of the world rises within us.
The monks fight self-love and self-centredness. They are delivered from their possessions and wills, realize that all human beings are one, unite themselves to God, and in their deep hearts bring together the whole world in God’s unifying grace. Thus, they can become one with others, just as the three persons of the Holy Trinity are one.