Friday, 20 March 2015

Rodrigo Alvarez: The Concept of Xeniteia in Primitive Monastic Literature

The birth of monasticism is a complex phenomenon that plants its roots in human nature.  This is why it is a carismatic movement.  But within cristianism it has  certain characteristics that distiguishes it from other types of hesychasm. A fundamental characteristic of primitive monasticism is the voluntary exile or xeniteia.  This is one of the first steps in monastic life.  The monk is invited to leave his past life, not only in a material point of view but spiritually.   John Climacus brilliantly developes this theme by saying : “Voluntary exile is to abandon without looking back, everything that impedes us to reach piety.” The monk is a pilgrim that, “ like a foreigner, lives with people that speak other languages”.    The disorderly attachment to relatives, friends or situations are remedied byxeniteia.   “Even after traveling some years out of our country, and reached some piety and self dominion or abstinence,  thoughts of vanity makes us want to go back to our country.”Only after achieved this state, can we ascend spiritually to obedience. Nobody has lived exile better than Abraham (Gn12,1) Affirms John Climacus.   That is why the language of voluntary exile is a constant in this type of literature.  It is a going out of oneself and of day to day experience. The concept of pilgramage in the monastic context transforms from a material action into an experience of faith.  A lack of affection for the world and all what it represents, is a step in a spiritual progress.

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