Monasticism

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The term Monasticism was first applied to Christian groups but now is used to denote similar practices in religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Daoism. It may denote a variety of institutionalized religious practice or movements. Members or Monks (μοναχός m monachós) may attempt to live by a rule that requires works beyond the laity or the ordinary spiritual leaders of their religions. The Greek term καλόγερος in Koine Greek (kalógēros) is from καλός (kalós, “good”) +‎ γηρας (gēras, “old age”).

'Monasticism' is literally the act of 'dwelling alone' according to some. A monk is someone who has separated himself from what might be called the "world". Since he often lived in a community being alone did not mean he was not with others. These good old men had become a higher rank by years of service and often were intrusted with the teaching of new younger ministers. Monasteries became centers of learning, including libraries.

Even Buddhist monasticism formed communities or Sangha of ordained monks or bhikkhus (women were bhikkhunis similar to nuns). Gautama Buddha had formed such groups 2500 years ago. Bhikkhus and bhikkunis, like the Essenes expected to live with a minimum of possessions while they served the people. What they had and shared were to be voluntarily provided by the lay community who provided the daily food and shelter that bhikkhus required when they were needed.

The monastics in the traditions of Brahman-Hindu using Sanskrit did not use terms that meant “single” or “living alone”. Indic terminology for monk connotes ideas of poverty, and ecstatic states of mind. Because Pure Religion was about serving the needy of society by Freewill offerings, only people with a servant heart willing to sacrifice their own wealth and comfort, would be accepted as a Priest or Minister of the people.

The Levites of Israel called out by Moses from an organized society established around the Golden calf made themselves a separate society belonging to God. While they had areas that were separate from the general population they also served a purpose within the greater needs of society.

Being separate from the world has been a common theme and practice of religious orders from the beginning [1]

But to be a separate religious society one must practice religion which requires service to the homes of the people.

The ascetic life stile is characterized by or suggesting the practice of severe self-discipline and abstention from all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons.

But to truly be an ascetic one must sacrifice their own comfort, wealth and social security for the benefit of others. We are all to love our neighbor as ourselves but the ascetic loves his neighbor more than him or herself.

The self imposed ascetic life style of deprivation or austere sacrifice without a religious purpose of fulfilling your duty to God and your fellowman is in essence vanity.[2]

While a true monk does not lay up wealth[3] his vow of poverty does not mean he may punish himself with sacrifice just for sacrifice sake. What he gives up must be to strengthen the poor in the hope that they be not poor in spirit but will also seek to give and forgive freely[4].

Monasticism had been structured, ordered and significant part of the Church life since before Christ. It had a local character in each community with its own customs, practices and collection of rules, which would change with time.

Benedict of Nursia was born around 480AD into a wealthy family and a world at war. Benedict did not invent the idea of monasticism as part of the Christianity. Benedict brought structure to monasticism and provided some stability if not uniformity.

Rules of St Benedict
http://www.osb.org/rb/text/toc.html#toc

Columbanus was an Irish missionary who founded a number of monasteries in Europe around 590 in the Frankish and Lombard kingdoms. The most notable was Luxeuil Abbey in present-day France and Bobbio Abbey[1] in present-day Italy.

Columbanus taught a Celtic monastic rule and Celtic penitential practices for those repenting of sins, which emphasized private confession to a priest, followed by penances levied by the priest.

Benedict of Aniane advanced the establishment and interpretation of those rules with the support of Charlemagne during the end of the 8th century. By 843 with the decline of the Caroglian Empire monasteries were often plundered driving the monks to become wandering groups of mendicants.

These rules have lasted for centuries in part because they survived the cleansing efforts of the inquisitions which also had the spirit of control.

The Cistercian order was founded when Robert, Abbot of Molesme, left the Benedictines with twenty fellow monks to found a monastery in Cîteaux, near Dijon in France in 1098.

They were reacting against the wealth and opulence of many Benedictine monasteries. They sought to restore monastic life to the original spirit. They spread rapidly, and by the year 1200 had founded over 500 Cistercian houses in Western Europe.

The Cistercians followed the Rule of St Benedict more literally, placing a strong emphasis on simplicity, austerity and isolation.

Rules will not hold man's soul in check.

Rules are the tools of corruption.

Without virtue all fails.

Virtue thrives in the love of service.

Lost Monks

Monks, Priests or Rabbis are terms of religions. These men were to minister religiously to the people. If Pure Religion was the performance of our duty to God and our fellowman then Monks, Priests or Rabbis were to serve the people in the performance of that duty. That is what the Apostles were doing with their Daily ministration. It was not just the care of the needy and poor or widows and orphans but the way in which those benefits were provided. Some government provided those benefits by forced offerings and they were called Benefactors and Fathers.

The Church established by Jesus Christ and the Church in the Wilderness established by Moses both depended upon Freewill offerings. was to provide them by Charity.

The Pharisees were making the word of God to none effect with their Corban and many Monks, Priests were and are doing the same.


Turning Away

Where did they go wrong and how did they get so lost?

Abbey of Cambron


The story of a Cistercian Abbey founded in 1148 by Saint Bernard. Its monks served the poor for the first several-hundred year.

In appreciative local landowners gave the abbey many tracts of fertile land that by the 1600’s it extended over more than 6000 hectares (nearly 15,000 acres).

Austerity vanished until their monks were known more for their wealth than service. :‘Riche comme un moine de Cambron’.

‘As rich as a monk from Cambron’.

In England there was a period called the ‘Dissolution of the Monasteries’. Henry VIII had become king in 1509. At that time there was nearly 900 religious houses in England and Wales consisting of abbeys, and smaller houses often called priories or nunneries with term friary used to describe the smallest of these religious houses.

Some were open and some were closed . The members of an open house worked with the local sick and poor in the local community. They also provided teachers for the young. Their practice of compassion and service for the welfare of the people often kept them poor and loved by the people. Closed religious houses were closed to all those outside of those who lived in that religious house and many were very wealthy.

There had been many factors that had contributed to the wealth and therefor the corruption of monasteries. There was a centralization of power with the rise of kings in the world. Those kings could take and take and take and could confiscate the wealth of families. This often caused families to pledge land to religious orders. Often at the same times members of their families would enter those orders to secure some interest in their property id not influence. Wherever there was a concentration of wealth corruption would fester.

The Church was established by Christ to be the social welfare of the people through faith hope and charity. Only people who loved one another could remain free souls under God. The covering of the Church comes from the service to the people by the free will offerings of the people which provides for the people fulfilling the duty to God and our fellowman. With out the practice of that in pure religion there is no covering for the Church

The 14th Century was a period of monastic decline with few willing to become a member of a religious community. It was the Black Death emptied most of the great monastic houses. In Norfolk 527 died out of less than 800 priests from the plague.

Many unqualified people were given positions of responsibility and many of the large religious houses had become very wealthy. This was due to the wool trade or other monastery activities that became lucrative.

Many senior monks found themselves having to devote their time to earthly business matters instead of to God. They should have flowed the businesses of the church back to the people according to the faith an wisdom of Peter in Acts_6.

Besides the health of the people, the care of the poor, the education o the young, the arbitration of disputes there was hospitality to the travelers. The hospitality an health care provide by the monks and nuns may have led to the high death toll but celibacy contributed to the low enrollment.

The same duties of monks past to the nunneries which were useful as inns for ladies on their travels. Had they worked together as married couples as God intended and the monks did years before this work could have been shared.

There was haphazard distribution of charity as the caliber of entry monks and nuns dropped an the purpose of the Church waned with ritual and rite taking precedent over purpose and principle. Many were the product of illegitimate children of the rich who need a place to put their bastard children.

Henry VIII had spent a great deal of this inheritance by the 1530. Some of the monasteries were wealthy. Men like Thomas Cromwell falsely spread the idea that a great deal of their annual wealth went to the Vatican. Some of that wealth certainly did go to the Vatican and with that churches influence all over Europe so that the Vatican was made rich or richer. But the greatest wealth was in the influence local controlled wealth could exercise over the political environment within each nation.

Wealthy and powerful men could win popular support of the people by donating to the open priories, nunneries and friars. But corruption of centuries under the influence of kings and not so noble Nobles had taken its toll on what should have been His Church.

Where is the spirit of Christ in the modern Church?

What minister will make himself poor to provide the benefaction of Christ?

If we look back at the history of the Church where is the history of repentance?

Before Henry Cardinal Wolsey and eventually Thomas Cromwell had shut down religious houses in England because they were no longer effective. Property had been confiscated and sold by the cardinal to provide for charitable purposes such as a school in Ipswich.

We can see an attempt at change in religious houses around 1535. Cromwell as vicegerent oversaw the running of the Church not merely from the top of the Church hierarchy but by the State through his Valor Ecclesiasticus. That power now corrupted the state because it could muffle and even control the Church through its centralized top down authority.

Should there have been a Church hierarchy or a king to take its place?

The highest in the Church should be the best servant of the church not a ruler. This means that the people must keep the church pure by their wise and benevolent offerings given to those they see serving the true needs of the people and serving to strengthen the poor.

When elders of families are slothful in their duty to God and their fellow man the kings and fathers of the earth will take power until the people "cry out" but "the LORD will not hear you in that day."

The protection of the Church is the virtue of Christ dwelling in the hearts and minds of the people.

You would think with top down authority of the state over the Church that the most corrupt abbeys would be rooted out first. But power corrupts and the reverse took place.

Suppression of Religious Houses

The Suppression of Religious Houses Act of 1535 stated that any monastery with an income of less than £200 a year, which was assessed by the Valor Ecclesiasticus), was to be dissolved. Their property would pass to the Crown.

The heads of the houses were to be offered a pension. Eventually many accepted these offers knowing that those who rebelled were summarily executed. Some 5000 monks, 1600 friars, and 2000 nuns, were given pensions. They often amounted to no more than 5 to 6 pounds per annum but it was better than nothing,

Many of the monks and friars who did the work of the Church were forced to enter larger religious houses. They could also choose to abandon their vows of poverty and loyalty to the leaders of their orders and go live in some other society but still keeping their vow of chastity.

Forty percent of the religious houses fell within this category of having little income. Most were closed but at least 60 or 70 were given royal permission by Henry to remain open if they would pay the king what often amounted to their entire year’s income. This meant an increase in revenue for the king from £13,500 to £15,500 per year and a devastation of the better part of the Church.

Those commissioned by the king set upon the small monasteries quickly so that valuable metal including gold, silver, bronze and lead could be taken by the government and melted down. Tenants were often removed if they did not swear allegiance to the king or were expected to have loyalty to the Church and the land was rented out.

Some locals would complain but the government was sure to auction off to the local population or allowed them to be looted with impunity. Many monasteries became dismantled ruins. The farther from London you went the more virtue you found in the people. In the North were one of the causes of the [Pilgrimage of Grace and the Lincolnshire Rising] along with the Bigod's Rebellion, some of the most serious Tudor rebellions.

But their efforts were doomed and they were indicted of high treason against the King, and that day condemned by a jury of knights and esquires for the same, whereupon they had sentence to be drawn, hanged and quartered, others were " hanged, bowelled and quartered, and their heads set on London Bridge and divers gates in London"[5]

The people as a whole did not support their courage as they had to long been weakened by serfdom and servitude. If people are to be free the Church must always strive to give power and liberty to the people. The purpose of Christ was to aid everyman in becoming head of his house and priest to his family. The higher Liberty is the original right to choose the distribution of your time, labor and wealth.

The visitation of the kings ministers sought to rally support for the cause of robbing the Church,

The king sent "railers", who accused all religious households as "hypocrites, sorcerers, and idle drones, etc.".

Others jumped at the chance to be "preachers" against anything catholic claiming all monks "made the land unprofitable".

Then there were those who sought political appointments or avor who told the people that, "if the abbeys went down, the King would never want any taxes again".

Of course the reverse would be true. The consolidation of power and wealth led to further destruction of society's ability to stand against tyranny.


In Austria

Through the 18th century corruption and decadence were rife. In 1789 the Austrian emperor, Joseph II, withdrew financial support, alleging that it had become ‘useless’ as a religious order. Joseph II was the brother of Marie Antoinette but also a proponent of enlightened absolutism which was supposed to be a form of "benevolent despotism". His reforms were in his mind an attempt to establish a system for the good of all. Like his mother he sought the emancipation of the peasantry and promoted education and the secularization of church lands along with the reduction of the religious orders and the clergy in general.

Since the inquisition the term "Church" had officially come to mean the Roman Church but now with the Patent of Tolerance (1781) providing limited guarantee of religious freedom to non-Catholic Christians living in Habsburg lands, including Lutherans, Calvinists, and the Greek Orthodox. Replacing Latin appeared "reasonable" but it did not stop there. The influence of the state grew due to the apostasy and corruption of the Church but now it leaped forward.

With passing of the Edict of Tolerance in 1782 even Jews were free to pursue all branches of commerce. With that privilege Jews were required to create German-language primary schools or send their children to Christian schools. With these laws the autonomy of the Jewish communities diminished. Previously they had their own court, charity, internal taxation and school systems. The State replaced the religious leaders in matters of education and moral law.

Joseph II suppressed a third of the monasteries closing 700 of them. He reduced the number of monks and nuns from 65,000 to 27,000. This was a huge boon to his own wealth and power as he attempted to replace the position of the Church with his own "benevolent despotism". The Church's ecclesiastical tribunals, which had become authoritarian and corrupt, were abolished and marriage was defined as a civil contract outside the jurisdiction of the Church.

The wealth of the Church had come from the kings they had crowned over the people since the days of Charlemagne. Now the kings either withdrew their favor or took back their wealth. The complaint of the people was minimal since what was posing as the church had long abandoned the ways of love and the Perfect law of liberty. As austerity of sacrifice and service was replaced by opulence and indulgence the care of the needy and sick diminished along with the love of the people. The new monk was drawn by greed and avarice which drew men of power and greed to the treasures of abbeys like the Cistercian of Cambron. Pushed by that greed and a resentment of its political power Louis XIV attacked it with 12,000 men and 18 cannon. Today the ruins of this abbey have been converted into one of the largest bird sanctuaries in Europe.

The failing and cause of the destruction of monastic society was due to an abandonment of the ways of Christ and the early Church. The Church gave power to men and became dependent upon their benefits. Those Benefactors who exercise authority turned on the Church who had crowned them kings over men in exchange for financial support.

This idea of a church supported by compelled taxes or men who ruled has been one of the great temptations that face those who would dare to follow Christ. From Cain to Constantine men have sat and ate with kings to their detriment. Before 1776 Congregationalists and Anglicans had received public financial support. They called their state benefactors "nursing fathers" [6] in opposition to the very instructions of Christ concerning calling men Fathers and even prayer. This false justification for this possessive political policy comes from Isaiah 49:23.

These apostate Churches taking the name of Christ in vain and claiming to be His Church attempted to continue this false religious practice of applying to the Nimrods of the world for benefits. In Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire passed "general assessment schemes". The imposed what they called religious taxes upon all citizens, who then had the option of designating their share to the church of his choice.

There was opposition to this Covetous practice by men like Isaac Backus.

Today the "general assessment schemes" have simply cut the Church out all together providing social welfare through the State almost exclusively. Churches are not centers of welfare, education, depositories of information serving society. They have become places of entertainment and delusion where your ears can be tickled for a price of sacrificing the righteousness of God.

The Church needs to Repent and seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and began to attend to the Weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith which include caring for the needs of our neighbors, the widows and orphans of our society through Pure Religion in matters of health, education, and welfare. We are NOT to do so by the Covetous Practices of modern governments.

The Way of Christ was not like the way of the world, nor the governments of the gentiles who depend on benefactors who exercise authority. Christ's ministers and true Christians do not depend upon systems of social welfare that force the contributions of the people like the corban of the Pharisees which made the word of God to none effect. Many people have been deceived to go the way of Balaam and the Nicolaitan and out of The Way of Christ.

The Christian conflict of the first century Church appointed by Christ was because they would not apply to the fathers of the earth for benefits but instead relied upon a voluntary network providing a daily ministration to the needy of society through Faith, Hope, and Charity by way of freewill offerings of the people, for the people, and by the people through the perfect law of liberty in Free Assemblies according to the ancient pattern of Tuns or Tens.

The modern Christians are in need of repentance.


"Follow me!" —Jesus the Christ.


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Established by Christ

The Church was instituted by Christ to provide social welfare for the people through love of one another which was the way of God. It was not a doctrinal store of religious philosophies or theologies. The Church was supposed to be the benefactors who did not exercise authority one over the other. They were to be a light of love in the world binding the people by that love of God and one another.

The people needed to support the church out of love of neighbor and the church needed to serve God by providing for the needy of society in loving service. As soon as the support of the people began to wain and the church reached out to accept the gifts of men who exercised authority over the people the inevitable of warnings of 1 Samuel * and the scriptures[8] came into play.

"I know that, apart from influence proper to itself, religions can at times rely on the artificial strength of laws and the support of the material powers that direct society. There have been religions intimately linked to earthly governments, dominating men's souls both by terror and by faith, but when a religion makes such an alliance, I am not afraid to say that it makes the same mistake as any man might; it sacrifices the future for the present, and by gaining a power to which it has no claim, it risks its legitimate authority."[9]

The mere spirit of exercising authority one over the other forbidden by Christ [10] opens the door to accepting the spirit of Cain, Lemech, Nimrod, Saul, Caesar including Constantine. It makes us blind guides. The kingdom of God requires the daily sacrifice of our own blood in Freewill offerings through Living stones of a living temple of righteous Charity.

When monks and the laity ushered in a form of monasticism that exercised authority to discipline the monks from the top down a different spirit entered into the Church. As that spirit of control an authority grew that new form of Church became ruled by others who lost their way and should have remained the servants of servants. The service oriented institution Christ established became internally corrupt, accepting the gifts of men who would be kings instead of Christ in our hearts[11], the people became indifferent and the first tyrant to come along devoured what was left, killing the good along with the evil Lost Monks.



Monks | Mendicant | Married Monks | Lost Monks | Monasticism |
Modern Monastic life | Orders | Religious Orders | Rules of St Benedict |
Churches | Levites | Breeches | Vow of poverty | All things common
Elder | Deacon | Liturgy | Priests | Eucharist | Bishop | Minister |
Diocletianic Persecution | Christian conflict | Daily ministration |

Footnotes

  1. Numbers 8:14 Thus shalt thou separate the Levites from among the children of Israel: and the Levites shall be mine. Numbers 3:13 Because all the firstborn [are] mine; [for] on the day that I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto me all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast: mine shall they be: I [am] the LORD. Luke 6:22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you [from their company], and shall reproach [you], and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.
    2 Corinthians 6:17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean [thing]; and I will receive you,
  2. Matthew 6:16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
  3. Matthew 6:19 ¶ Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
  4. Matthew 6:20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
  5. Wriothesley's Chronicle
  6. sometimes modified "political fathers", See Fathers.
  7. Matthew 20:25-26 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
    Mark 10:42-43 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
    Luke 22:25-26 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
  8. :Proverbs 23:1 ¶ When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what [is] before thee: 2 And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite. 3 Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat. 4 ¶ Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. 5 Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.
    6 Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats: 7 For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.
    Exodus 20:17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
    Romans 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
    Romans 13:9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
  9. Alexis de Tocqueville, writing in 1835
  10. Luke 22:25 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. 26 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. 27 For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.
  11. Acts 17:7 Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, [one] Jesus. Luke 17:21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.