Asceticism in Egypt and Syria

"… If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."

Matthew 19:21

Although the roots of Christian asceticism may be traced back to the first century, the flowering of Christian monasticism - the organized form of asceticism - did not take place until the fourth and fifth centuries in Egypt and Syria. The acknowledged founder of Christian monasticism was St. Anthony the Great (251?-356), although it is likely that women’s religious communities pre-date those of men. Inspired by Jesus’ imperative to abandon all worldly possessions and follow him, Anthony sold all his property and journeyed to the desert, where he lived among and learned from other ascetics before retiring from the human community altogether. In 305, Anthony emerged from his self-imposed seclusion to serve as the spiritual leader for a group of disciples. Similar movements emerged across Egypt and in Syria. Although these early Christian monastics differed in beliefs and practices, they were united by their conviction that this world and all that it represented, its rhythms, values, and desires, must be renounced in order to walk in the footsteps of Christ.
Canadian Heritage Information Network, The Provincial Museum of Alberta,

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