Martyrdom, Medieval illum. MS.
THE traditions of spiritual vision and intercession we have already associated with the martyrs came to be regarded as the proper roles of monastic abbas and ammas following the peace of the Church under the Emperor Constantine. Also associated with the developing monastic movement was the tradition of the scriptures as spiritual guide: many of the fathers and mothers of the desert were skilled exegetes who offered advice based on their literal and allegorical exegesis of the sacred text.
WE begin with an introduction to the origins of Christian monasticism, particularly the Egyptian communities of Nitria, Kellia, and Scetis, south of the city of Alexandria
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NEXT, the first part of The Life of St. Pelagia the Harlot offers a vivid image of how biblical lectio divina can lead to lectio on life, and thence to an experience of deep conversion. The bishop Nonnus combines both acetical and ecclesial/episcopal models of spiritual guidance, and demonstrates how these can be effective.
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THE remainder of Pelagia’s story is a carefully-edited, reworked Christian narrative intended to tell a story and offer morals at multiple levels. It portrays how conversion and initiation into the sacramental life of the Church can result in total transformation, and create a wise and respected spiritual guide (please note that this second lecture uses the same text file as the previous lecture).
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SELECTIONS from the Greek Alphabetical Collection of apophthegmata (sayings) introduce the effort to condense years of ascetical striving into brief vignettes and texts for pondering.
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FINALLY, we turn to the “great discourse” Athanasius attributes to Antony the Great. These chapters of the Life of Antony offer models and patterns of Christian virtue, definitions of virtue and vice, and rules for the discernment of spirits, visions, and thoughts.
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