The value of modern monasticism

When you study Church history you can sometimes discard some 1000 years of history thinking that the true move of God happened in the Reformation.

However Church history places great importance of what is known as the Desert Fathers from 100AD onwards. It seems that the practice of withdrawing away from the cities and towns was growing as manuscripts and epistles were faithfully copied by these Desert Fathers.

They set up communities and monasteries. These followed prayerful life structures as those set out by Benedict of Nurcia.

Most of the doctrinal debates and writings from the original Gospel authors were faithfully copied and observed.

What we see through these Desert Fathers is the preservation of faith and the richness of its experience were taken through some very difficult years of persecution. We know from history that from Nero onwards that the CHURCH suffered centuries of persecution.

Throughout history these monastic communities have preserved the life of faith. Here in the UK we have an extensive network of priories and monasteries of the Anglican Church and Catholic Church.

Whilst I do not desire to enter into a dialogue concerning doctrine what I have ascertained is that since 1700 the Catholic Church has ascertained that more and more the human race in Christian countries have become more and more secular and faith figures less and less.

What is becoming alarming in our day is that our congregations are living a secular centred faith where spirituality is fitted around a secular objective “imposed” by society in general.

We see Bible study and prayer decline. Or modernism coming into the way we pray.

Our expression of Christianity in some way can pander to our need to have our daily issues resolved and our needs met without the commitment to a well rounded study of the Word.

In 2005 the BBC broadcast a series called “The Monastery” where 6 men were taken from their secular environments for 6 weeks or 40 days. They stayed at Worth Abbey in Sussex.

The Question that is put throughout the series is ; is the monastic lifestyle relevant to today and how does it contribute to nurturing faith and intimacy with God.

To help you I am going to paste here the connection to that series.

The Monastery

It is obvious the impact of those 40 days of solitude and separation from the world. It was a catalyst to change of priorities.

I am encouraging all of us that Vocation to prayer and real separation is what is needed today to separate ourselves from the experiential Christianity that pervades many places. Whilst not all can truly and physically separate ourselves or want to enter a monastic order we can adapt the Rule of Benedict into our own life where our lives revolve around a hub of prayer and a commitment to the deep study of Scripture.

What we know from history where we say Church the original word was Ecclesia. The essential part of this was separation. And sometimes without us being aware we let TV and internet be channels by which our prayer life and Bible reading no longer features as daily disciplines but rather become occasional pleasures.

There is no doubt from history that the monastic orders kept the flame of prayer and scripture study alive. Whilst we may view the radical life separation as being extreme we also see preserved the main tenets of being Ecclesia.

To be different we must be distinct . To be distinct means to have a distance from conforming to what is around us.

Whilst we have many great promises in the Word we can for our lack of intense study lack also the ability to discern the true meaning of the Word. We can live a life which takes promises out of their proper context. We can also become ignorant of the ways of God.

The act of separation demonstrated through monks and nuns up to today demonstrate through the conviction of some that so called extreme measures to life this life of prayer is called for.

When we read about the need for studying doctrine we think of an intellectual exercise for a few privileged people. Acts 13 shows us that doctrine is theology in action through the miraculous. I think by rethinking our lives we can access this level.

Each one will have to evaluate what steps can be made to prevent a modernistic and sensual approach to their faith. Each one will have to discern what steps need to be taken to safeguard the true essence of faith.

The danger we have is sometimes reflected in our preaching and our worship. Our messages become focussed on needs and our songs on our blessings. The essential rich heritage of faith is watered down.

However we need to rethink these things depends on the depth of our separation and that depth is guided by specific steps revealed by the Holy Spirit.

To reflect a deep and rich faith means we must value and be committed to prayer that goes beyond needs to a life of intimacy, word study that goes beyond blessings to knowing the ways of God. For that some kind of commitment has to be made. Our dependence on current attitudes and trends can impact on our faith.

Jesus did say He would build His Church. How He does that is guide us to make right choices about the kind of worship the Father looks for and the kind of teaching that brings us into revelation.


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