The impact of the monastic tradition on the life and theology of the Eastern church in these centuries can hardly be overestimated. Beginning already in the mid-fourth century monks were increasingly drawn into church administration and ordained bishops or made responsible for various affairs of the dioceses. Within fifty years, the episcopacy was well on its way to becoming the exclusive preserve of monks and, after 400, the majority of Eastern Christian authors, and almost all theologians, were monks. Early Greek monastic literature was quickly translated either from Coptic or Syriac into Greek or from Greek into Syriac, Coptic and Latin and added to ever growing collections. With the development of an elaborate structure for the prayer life of the monastic communities, the influence of monastic prayer upon the liturgical life ofthe cathedrals grew, and in places like Jerusalem the monks were more or less responsible for the entire liturgical life. Pilgrims who came to Egypt, Palestine and Syria did not only cometoseeholyplaces,but perhaps primarily to see the famous monks and their monastic communities. The strong emphasis on hospitality and care for the poor and sick resulted in making the monasteries of the fifth and sixth centuries into centres visited by all levels of society.

At a deeper level, the theological developments in the East also betray a strong impact of the monastic tradition. There are good reasons to view even the Christological interpretations of Cyril of Alexandria against a monastic background (especially in view of their emphasis on transformation), and the subsequent development of a neo-Cyrillian or neo-Chalcedonian theology is clearly rooted in monastic tradition. Furthermore, the theological views of the Corpus Dionysiacum and their immediate success in the early sixth century is to be understood against the backdrop ofa monastic culture and a monastic theological tradition. Both Maximus the Confessor and John of Damascus were not only monks, but were deeply indebted to monastic theology and early monastic authors such as Evagrius of Pontus and the anonymous author of the Macarian homilies.


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