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In every form of Christian monasticism, as indeed in any form of monasticism, including those less ancient Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, preColumbian American, native African there are common elements such as voluntary withdrawal from the world, the discipline typical of solitary life, and the renunciation of material goods, family and independence. The desert, as a manifestation of the desire for solitude, is present in all civilizations and in every period of their development, since it is the manifestation of a deep human need, that of seeking a relationship of communion with the Transcendent and a fully human relationship with oneself. Literary and philosophical elements, OT and NT biblical elements, imitation of Jesus all were present and came together in the history and development of desert monasticism.

The desert became a real place where a certain type of life was practiced, and a spiritual place an interior sphere in which a specific form of communion with God was sought, an ascetical category common to all spiritual experiences. After the great persecutions, which presented the figure of the true and complete disciple of Christ in the martyr, withdrawal to the desert became the way, accessible to anyone, to become an imitator of Christ and to enter the path of the sequela Christi. The desert thus became the place in which Jesus is imitated Vita Antonii 47ff., and the monks were those who, in a Christian social milieu that was no longer as authentic and genuine as during the persecutions of the first centuries, preserved intact the original ideal of the Christian life C. Morin, L’idal monastique et la vie chrtienne des premiers jours, Paris 3 1921. Origen’s Ad Martyras shows the transition from the ideal of the martyr trained by ascesis to the ideal of ascesis as equivalent to martyrdom. In the OT, the desert was the place where the Jewish people became aware of God’s call and of the way he acted to teach them and make them his people Lev 26:12; Dt 7:6; 26:18; etc.. Cincinnati Metro Map It was also the place where God tested the people, and where they consummated their rebellions against him, so that none of those who were in the desert entered the Promised Land Num 14:22ff.

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