40. Monasticism in Egypt: Angels of Earth and Humans in Heaven

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This article outlines the history and current social importance of monasticism in Egyptian society.  


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Egyptian Monasticism started with Saint Anthony (Antonius), dubbed the father of monasticism, who lived in the third century AD.  After that monasticism spread throughout ages, and it was also went abroad.

Egyptian monasticism is based on the removal of the person from the world, and his seclusion in the deserts and caves in mountains in order to worship God alone, waiting to depart from this world to be with Christ in heaven. 

 However, this strict version has not been achieved except for Saint Paul, dubbed “The first tourist”, who lived and died alone as a monk.

Otherwise, we can't find this intense isolation from the world, for the sake of worshipping God. Almost always we find people visiting those who call themselves monks, providing them with food and drink in order to receive their blessing in return. Also, monks used to be bought and sold, or even participated in spiritual wars of the church.

The writer does not blame monasticism in Egypt, as he views "death from the world" is against  human nature, whose most important feature is a keenness for life, not  to remain alive biologically, and at the same time his will is dead. The conflict inside the monk is not the struggle between the hermit and the devil who tries to deviate him from worshipping God and fall into sins, it is the struggle inside the human being who tries to kill his soul, hoping to turn into an angel, thus monks call themselves "earth angels or man of heaven," which is not true.

 However, the negative impact of the movement of monasticism was limited on the Egyptian people. This negative effect could be summarized into two main points: the first is the attitudes of the monks who rule the church must be derived from their life in strict desert communities, which focus on the fact that blind obedience of holy orders is not debatable.

 The second point is the risk in the paradox in the leadership and the nature of the grass-roots, and the paradox of public concern and vital needs. 

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