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How utterly different has been the evolution of monasticism in the West! A glance at its history in that region is sufficient at once to reveal the essential differences. In the first place, monasticism there had a real history; and in the second, monasticism there made history, secular and religious alike. It stands not merely alongside the Church, wasting itself in silent asceticism and mystical speculation; it stands in the very midst of the Church—nay, it has been, next to the Papacy, the strongest influence in all domains of Latin Christianity. The history of Oriental monasticism, from the fourth century to the present day, is bound up with but few names. Seldom did it produce sharply-marked individualities. But the history of Western monasticism is a history of persons and characters.

Roman Catholicism shows us in its development a continuous chain of living reforms; and 65every one of these reforms is dependent upon a new step in the development of monasticism. The foundation of the Benedictine Order in the sixth century, the Clunian Reform of the eleventh, the appearance of the Mendicant Orders in the thirteenth, the foundation of the Society of Jesus in the sixteenth, are the four great landmarks in the history of Western monasticism; but they are at the same time landmarks in the history of Western Catholicism. It was always the monks who saved the Church when sinking, emancipated her when becoming enslaved to the world, defended her when assailed. These it was that kindled hearts that were growing cold, bridled refractory spirits, recovered for the Church alienated nations. These indications alone show that in Western monasticism we have to recognise a factor of the first importance in Church and civilisation. How did it become so?

Comparatively late and slow was the advance of monasticism from East to West, for neither the natural conditions nor the civilisation of 66the West were favourable to it. Whereas, by the middle of the fourth century, it had already spread wide in the East, and, as we may assume, arose in many districts independently of Egyptian influences, in the West it was only at the end of that century that it took firm root—nay, it was literally imported from the East. In the West its first admirers were those theologians who, like Rufinus and Jerome, had travelled over Egypt and Syria, and stood in the closest connection with the ‘Greeks.’ If monasteries arose, as they did, especially in Southern Gaul, it was under Eastern influences that they did so. And in the West, monasticism had from the very beginning to meet decided opposition from the Church; whereas in the East we hear but little of such opposition. We should read the works of Sulpicius Severus (circ. 400) in order to learn what attacks monasticism in Gaul and Spain had about that time to meet before it could establish itself. The secularised Bishops, indeed, were not far from treating the monks as 67Manichæans. Nevertheless, the opposition speedily abated; even in the West it was not long before the prevailing feeling met monasticism half way, and shortly the once-anathematised name of that honest saint, Martin of Tours, came into high repute. Even before the great Augustine had espoused the cause, it had naturalised itself; and during the storms of the great migrations, it took firm root. The monastic ideal was at first identical in its essentials both in the East and in the West, and it remained so during a thousand years—absorption in God and stern asceticism, but especially virginity, which, in West as in East, ranked as the first condition of a consecrated life. To many, indeed, virginity was neither more nor less than the very essence of Christian morality. The Egyptian anchorites, even in the West, were reckoned at all times as the fathers and models of the true Christian life. In spite of all attempts in that direction, their achievements were never cast into the shade by those of St Martin; and the narratives 68of their lives, during many generations, carried on an unobtrusive mission in Italy, Gaul, and Germany—nay, even beyond the Channel, in England and the Emerald Isle. And yet, in the fifth century, the influences were already working which were to give to Western monasticism a quite other importance and a history. We need only remark, in passing, that the climatic conditions of the West, apart from all others, necessarily demanded a somewhat different mode of life from that of the East. “Edacitas in Graecis gula est, in Gallis natura,” observed one of the earliest patrons of the Western monks. But apart from this, the internal evolution of Western Christendom, so early as the time of Tertullian, had taken a course different from that which it took in the East. Not only did practical religious questions—such as those of Penance, the Forgiveness of Sins, the Nature of the Church—come to the front, but the ancient expectations of the reign of Christ on earth were more 69slowly sacrificed to the nebulous theological speculations of the East. In such speculations men took only a languid interest. In the so-called ‘Chiliast’ conceptions the Western Church retained a keen eye for that which the Church of Christ ought to be; and these conceptions were necessarily the more valuable in proportion as, in contradistinction to Montanism, the fantastic element was stripped off, and as the idea of a literal fulfilment of the prophecies fell, of its own accord, into the background. Western monasticism, in contrast to the Eastern, maintained the Apocalyptic element of Chiliasm, which, it is true, lay dormant for long periods, but at critical moments constantly emerged. The ecclesiastical ideas of Western Christendom were fused together to a new Christian philosophy of the world and of life by St Augustine. Augustine’s central conceptions are the grace of God in the Church working for righteousness, and the Church herself. The Church, primarily as the congregation of 70the faithful, but secondarily as a visible institution, is the kingdom of righteousness and of the morally good—the Kingdom of God. At the time of the fall of the old Empire of the West, and of the rise of new half-heathen States, he sketched the noble conception of a future history of the Church. Her business is to fulfil humanity with the strength of the good, and with true righteousness; as the visible manifestation of the City of God, she has to press into her service the world-empire and the kingdoms of the world; she has to guide and train the nations. Only then does Christianity come by its own, when it creates a kingdom of moral excellence on earth, a supramundane brotherhood of humanity: only then does it come by its own, therefore, when it rules; and it only rules by the rule of the Holy Catholic Church. Spiritual dominion over the world, a divine City of Righteousness on earth, is thus a Christian ideal, an ideal alike for individuals and for the Church as a whole. Not only the old Apocalyptic 71hopes and the practical aims of the West, but also Greek speculation, are brought by Augustine into a marvellous interdependence; they are indeed not to correct but to delimit each other. Christian salvation, so to speak, appears in double form; it is the eternal blissful contemplation of God both in this world and in the next, but it is at the same time in this world an imperial city of divine gifts and moral powers.

These positions had a very different drift from that of the painfully elaborated dogmas of Greek Christianity. They assigned to the Church an independent mission, for the State and by its side. She was to serve God and the world. This mission was a problem demanding a worthy solution. The Greek ideal is a problem only in so far as its realisation is but approximately possible; in itself it has but one meaning. But for Augustine’s conception every task resolved itself at the same time into a question which every man learnt to put only in proportion 72as he himself actively worked at it. The detail in the whole of the Christian conception, clearly as it could be viewed in itself, revealed its essence and received its value only in its proper relations to other things.

How is the service of the world related to the service of God? In what connection with religion is morality to be placed? The discovery was again made that there already exists genuine good in this world; that everything proceeding out of the hand of God is good, and that man finds his blessedness only in surrendering his will to God. In this surrender of heart and will by faith and love, which is alone possible by divine grace as bestowed in the Sacraments, man becomes justified and receives freedom and righteousness—that is, moral perfection. This perfection is indeed a very high good; but it is not the highest. For the hope is still alive that man, when raised to God, shall enjoy a blessedness which eye hath not seen nor car heard—the blessedness of seeing God and 73being like Him. But what is the relation of this religious aim to the moral purpose of a perfect righteousness in the earthly kingdom of God? We may assert that the one is subordinate to the other, and yet act quite differently. This appears to be the case with Augustine; and the Church in her march to world-dominion followed him. Again and again, as a matter of fact, in attempting to identify herself with the kingdom of Christ, she attached paramount importance to a zeal for her own maintenance and dominion, teaching the nations that they must seek and find in her the highest good. In her consciousness that she possesses and can distribute the divine grace of justification, she ceased in principle to suffer anyone to seek his blessedness by a path of his own, in good works and in asceticism. For the sake of the alone sufficient grace of God, and at the same time for the interest of the Church, she set at naught for the Catholic Christian, so early as the fifth century, the value of an asceticism 74not sanctioned by the Church. But in this point she did not escape a certain amount of vacillation; for she never denied that the Church cannot guarantee salvation, and that in the last instance the individual will stand before his God, alone, and without her protection. To this hesitation on the question how far the individual Christian is to be left independent—a question which was inevitably to prove of decisive import for the position of monasticism in the Western Church—corresponds her uncertainty in appraising civil ordinances and all political forms. The Church is the kingdom of righteousness and love; outside her all is unrighteousness and hatred. But how does it then stand with States? Are they and their ordinances, after all, independent values, or do they become so only in subjecting themselves to the Church; or, finally, is it altogether impossible for them to become so? Has the Church to rule alongside of the State, or over and in the State by legal forms, or is she to rule by 75making all social contracts unnecessary? So far, these questions were not fully fathomed; but men lived in them. The history of Western Catholicism is the history of these ideas, until, by the great popes of the Middle Ages, they were realised in the world-dominion of the Church.

What was to be the attitude of monasticism to these ideas? The answer is not difficult. Either it had to make the attempt to come to terms with the Church, and, after the Greek fashion, to continue alongside of the Church the mere preparation for the Beyond; or else it must permit its asceticism to be curtailed by the higher aim, and to assist the Church in her great task, that of moulding mankind by the Gospel, and of building up the kingdom of Christ on earth in the Church. It did both. Western monasticism bore its share in the solution of the ecclesiastical problem; but inasmuch as it refused to sacrifice its original ideal of a contemplative life, its own ideals became problems; and as it helped towards 76realising the aims of the Church, but could not always follow in her path, it passed through peculiar vicissitudes. Let us endeavour to sketch in brief the stages of this history.

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