The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers and Mothers

“To be on guard, to meditate within, to judge with discernment: these are the three works of the soul”

– Abba Poeman

In the third century, Christian ascetics wandered out into the Egyptian desert to become hermits.  They wanted to detach themselves from the selfish concerns, the distractions, and, often, the dangers of everyday life in the waning Roman Empire.  They wanted to live alone before God, in constant prayer and vigil.  Theirs was a life of austerity, and an often-extreme asceticism.

These men and women became known as the Desert Fathers and Mothers, or simply Desert Monastics.  They did not invent monastic life, but they are the earliest of the Christian monks and nuns, brothers and sisters.

St Anthony the Great (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These hermits, like the famous St. Antony, separated themselves intentionally from society and church, and thus became a living commentary on both.  Monasticism was (and is) a countercultural movement.  It was (and is) resistance to the often oppressive institutional structures of church and state.

With legions of disciples gathered around them, the early monastics became teachers.  Disciples wrote down their words, stories, and actions.   The wisdom of these sayings remains powerful nearly two millennia later for their simplicity, clarity, wisdom, depth, and remarkable understanding of human nature.

From time to time, I’ll share some of the sayings here.  I use Laura Swan’s The Forgotten Desert Mothers: Sayings, Lives, and Stories of Early Christian Women and Benedicta Ward’s translation of The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks.

“To be on guard, to meditate within, to judge with discernment: these are the three works of the soul”

– Abba Poeman

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers and Mothers

  1. Pingback: Cuvintele pentru suflet ale Sf.Antonie cel Mare | Devpers Magazin

  2. Pingback: Trying Not to Be an Intellectual Parrot on the Shoulder of a Giant | Neapolitan Madonna

  3. Pingback: Theft and Desire | Monastic Musings Too

  4. Pingback: Some Advice About Living | A Pastor's Thoughts

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s