have been enlarged and modernised, and provision made for a monastic life suited to women.37 The number of monastic vocations has increased at the same pace as the quality of recruits: the monks of the new generation are in the majority young university graduates, especially engineers and technicians, and as their religious zeal has restored the image of monasteries as centres of spirituality, their technical competence has turned the monasteries into prosperous economic units. Coptic monasticism today reminds one of the Cistercian monastic and agricultural pioneers of medieval Europe. The modernisation of the church is essentially their work. They have adopted quite a strict version of the Pachomian rule, which involves isolation within their cells outside the office and manual work.38 At the same time the old traditions are upheld, while the spiritual writings of the early centuries, preserved in numerous manuscripts in the monastic libraries, have become standard reading. Tradition is the heart of this renewal. For the first time in their long history, the desert monasteries are woven into the fabric ofthe parish churches of the cities, the towns and the villages. Many of the monastic clergy no longer remain for most of their active life in the desert, but have linked themselves into the spiritual life of the Coptic community as a whole. To join a monastery for many young Coptic men means the total identification ofthe person with the church. This is an important witness in a situation where the church represents the faith of a religious minority. Others embrace the monastic life as a sign of protest against the laxity and the worldliness of church and society. Moreover, it should not be forgotten that the higher ranks of the Coptic clergy are selected, as already mentioned, from the ranks of the monks. This means that there may be cases where a man joins the monastic life out of a desire for an eventual leadership role within the community.39
Although the monasteries are located in the desert, they are today easily accessible and large numbers of visitors from all areas and levels of the church pass through the gates. Many of the young bishops of the Coptic Orthodox Church are themselves products of this monastic revival. Through books and pamphlets as well as magazines, they help to make the monastic tradition
37 N. van Doom-Harder, Contemporary Coptic nuns (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1995); Doorn-Harder, 'Following the holy call: women in the Coptic Church', Parole de l'Orient 25 (2000), 733-50.
38 See the work of Armand Veilleux OCSO, La liturgie dans le cénobitisme pachômien au quatrième siecle [Studia Anselmiana 57] (Rome: IBC - Libreria Herder, 1968); Veilleux, Instructions, letters, andotherwritings of StPachomiusandhis disciples [Pachomian Koinonia 3; Cistercian Studies 47] 3 vols. (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1981).
39 J. H. Watson, 'The Desert Fathers today: contemporary Coptic monasticism', in Eastern Christianity: studies in modern history, religion and politics, ed. A. O'Mahony (London: Melisende, 2004), 112-39.
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