Monasticism and the Holy Bible
Although the word monk or monasticism is not mentioned clearly in the Bible because monasticism was not widely known as it is today, yet there are many heroes in the HOLY Bible who offered all their lives as a living acceptable sacrifice on the altar of worship. They also loved calmness and serenity. Living in celibacy and purity and all these virtues are the bases of monasticism.
The old Testment:
Elijah the Prophet:
He lived in celibacy and voluntary poverty being fed by the ravens and a poor widow. Elijah loved the mountains, where he used to live in communion.
When Ahaz the king was sick; "Then the king sent to him a captain of fifty with his fifty men. So he went up to him, and there he was setting on the top of the hill. And he spoke to him: Man of God, the king has said, come down!"(2Kings 1:9) and finally after pleading three times to Elijah," And the angel of the Lord said to Elijah, Go down with him, do not be afraid of him. So he arose and went down with him to the king."(2 Kings 1:15). Even when Jezebel threatened to kill him, Elijah fled to the wilderness," And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him "What are you doing here, Elijah?"(1 King 19:9), and there, the Lord appeared to him in the still small voice and asked him to carry out important work.
Elijah looked like an ascetic recluse when the messengers of Ahaz the king described him;" So they answered him, 'He was a hairy man, and wore a leather belt around his waist,' and he said,' It is Elijah the Tishbite.' "(2 Kings 1:8).The king immediately knew it was Elijah.
Elijah was a man of prayer and worship, having a very strong relationship with God, when he offered the sacrifice on the Mount Carmel, he cried to the Lord saying; "Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that these people may know that You are the Lord God and that You have turned their hearts back to You again. Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stone and the dust, and it liked up the water that was in the trench."(1 Kings 18:37-38), then" Now it happened in the meantime that the sky became black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain. "(1 Kings 18:45).
Through Elijah's prayers fire came down from heaven and consumed the two captains of fifties with their fifties (2 Kings 1). As he had great favour in the eyes of the Lord, the widow's son came back to life;" Then the Lord heard the voice of Elijah and the soul of the child came back to him and he revived. And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house, and gave him to his mother. And Elijah said 'See your son lives' " (1 Kings 17:22-24).
Elisha The prophet
Elisha followed his teacher Elijah's footsteps in ascetism:
*** He was a celibate
*** He loved the life of the mountains especially Mount Carmel, where people used to come and meet him (2 Kings 4:25). He only visited the city to carry a message, as prophet and teacher for the people.
*** He never owned anything, once the sons of the prophets came to him, so he sent his disciple to gather some herbs from the field to cook for them (2 Kings 4:38-41).
*** He was poor and people used to give him alms;" Then a man came from Baal Shalisha, brought the man of God bread of the first fruits, twenty loaves of barley bread, and newly ripened grain in his knapsack. And said, ' Give it to the people that they may eat ', and his servant said, ' What shall I set this before one hundred men? 'He said again, ' Give it to the people, that they may eat '; for thus says the Lord, ' they shall eat and have some left over. 'So he set it before them, and they ate and some left over, according to the word of the Lord "(2 Kings 4:42-44).
*** Many miracles were performed through his prayers, such as healing the bitter water (2 Kings 2:21-22), increasing the widow's oil (2 Kings 4:1-7), raising the Shunammite's son (2 Kings 4:20-37), healing Naaman from leprosy (2 Kings 5:14) and many other miracles that God used to perform through the prayers of the beloved Elisha
Jeremiah the Prophet
He was ornamented with lots of beautiful monastic characteristics.
*** He was a celibate, according to Divine order; "The word of the lord also came to me saying: "You shall not take a wife, nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place." (Jeremiah 16:1-20).
*** He also loved to live in the wilderness and if he did not have the chance to go there, he said; "Oh, that I had in the wilderness a lodging place for wayfaring men; that I might leave my people, and go from them!" (Jeremiah 9:2). As David the prophet says; "Indeed I would wonder far off, and remain in the wilderness. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest. "(Psalm 55:7-8). The "windy storm and tempest", are the troubles and tribulations of the world that may cause us to forget our eternity.
*** Jeremiah was a humble, quiet, repentant;" It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone and keep silent because God has laid it on him; Let him put his mouth in the dust. There may yet be hope. Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes him, and be full of reproach. For the Lord will not cast off for ever though he causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. For He does not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men."(Lamentations 3:27-33). "Let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven. We have transgressed and rebelled; You have not pardoned." (Lamentations 3:41-42).
*** He was a man of prayers and tears; "Oh that my head were waters and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!"(Jeremiah 9:1). He always prayed to God (Jeremiah 32:16) and the Lord always used to talk to him.
The New Testament
The Pure Virgin Mary
The quiet beautiful pure dove, her parents took her to the temple at the age of three, where she remained in prayer and fasting, serving the holies in meekness. She was fed by the angels and gave her food to the poor (from the Kiahk Psalmody).
We notice from the Annunciation icon that she was praying when the angel appeared and said;" Rejoice, highly favoured one, the Lord with you; blessed are you among women."(Luke 1:28).
The praise that she said at Zechariah's house is proof of her life of prayer and worship. She was perpetual virgin even after the miraculous birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Anna the Prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel
She was another star in the sky of worship and consecration; "and this woman was a widow of about eighty four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day." (Luke 2:37). She deserved to be a prophetess and to see baby Jesus.
Mary the sister of Lazarus
She was a vivid example of the life of worship and quietness. She used to sit at the feet of Jesus listening to His sweet touching words.
David the psalmist describes such people; "Surely the righteous shall give thanks to Your name; the upright shall dwell in Your presence." (Psalm 140:13).
This life style is highly appreciated by lord Jesus, when Martha complained to Jesus;" lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me. and Jesus answered and said to her,' Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.' "(Luke 10:40-42). The 'good part ' means the contemplation, because all other works and practices will cease at the departure of our lives that we will never be deprived of contemplation, prayer and praises to God, which will continue with us in eternity and by which we will participate with the angels and saints.
John the Baptist
The greatest born of women, the courageous in truth, who lived in pure celibacy all the days of his life.
He was brought up in the wilderness; "So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel." (Luke 1:80). He lived in complete ascetism even in regards to his clothes and food, under the guidance of the Greatest Teacher.
Monastic Characteristics mentioned in the Holy Bible
There are many verses in the Holy Bible that encourage and praise celibacy:
• "Do not let the son of the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord speak, saying: The Lord has utterly separated me from his people. Nor let the eunuch say, here I am, a dry tree." For thus says the Lord;" To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant, even to them I will give in My house and within My walls a place and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off."( Isaiah 56:3-5)
• "Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: it is good for a man not to touch a woman." (1 Corinthians 7:1). "But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: it is good for them if they remain even as I am." (1 Corinthians 7:8). "But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things that belong to the Lord how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world how he may please his wife. There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit. But she who is married cares about things of the world how she may please her husband." (1 Corinthians 7:32-34).
• "Then I looked, and behold, a lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His father's name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps. And they sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn this song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth. There are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the lamb wherever he goes. These were redeemed from among men being first fruits to God and to the lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile for they are without fault before the throne of God." (Revelation 14:1-5).
As for prayer, which is the main job for a monk, Isaiah the prophet tells us that man is created to offer prayers and praises to our Lord, exactly like the angels, thus he can be happy and live according to their heavenly life; "Everyone who is called to my name, whom I have created for my glory; I have formed him, yes I have made him."(Isaiah 43:7); also "The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; He will magnify the law and make it honourable." (Isaiah 43:21).
Our Lord Jesus was a great example to follow in prayers. He used to go to the mountain and spend the night in prayers. He advises us to pray at all times, waiting for the coming of the Lord;" Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is." (Mark 13:33).
Dispossession (Voluntary Poverty)
Dispossession or voluntary poverty is one of the bases of monasticism. Jesus loved poor, having nowhere to lay down His head. When he wanted to pay taxes; "Nevertheless, lest we offer them, go to the sea, cast a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you." (Matthew 17:27). He also renounced positions and fame;" Then when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to a mountain by Himself alone."(John 6:15)
Jesus is calling everyone to this simple lifestyle;" No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You can not serve God and mammon."(Matthew 6:24). His disciple John the beloved also says;" Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but of the world."(1 John2:15-16).
The disciples also lived in poverty like their Master. St Paul says;" as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things."(2Corinthians 6:10).
Obedience is one of the cornerstones of monasticism. Our Lord Jesus said;" My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work."(John 4:34). Also;" For I have come down from heaven not do My own will. But the will of Him who sent Me."(John 6:38); and "I speak what I have seen with My father. They answered and said to Him: Abraham is our father. Jesus said to them. If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham. "(John8:38-39).
The Lord is asking us to enter through the narrow door of obedience, because it is a sure and safe way;" Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."(Matthew 7:13-14).
St Paul also says: "obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you." (Hebrews 13:17). That is obeying Christ's commandments, the confession father and spiritual guide.
Dying to the world
This is the objective of a monk, about which St Paul says; "This is a faithful saying; for if we died with Him we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us." (1 Timothy 2:11-12). "If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:1-3).
Other Monastic Virtues
The Psalmist says; "But it is good for me to draw near God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all Your work." (Psalm 73:28).
The monastic life, with its continuous mention of the name of the Lord and living in solitude away from the noise of the world, will aid a monk to cling to the Lord all times. The Lord addresses this soul by saying; "I remember you, the kindness of your youth, the love of your betrothal. When you went after Me in the wilderness, in the land that was not sown."(Jeremiah 2:2). "Therefore I will return and take away My grain in its time and My new wine in its season, and will take back My wool and My linen, given to cover her nakedness." "I will betroth you to Me forever; yes I will betroth in righteousness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord." (Hosea 2:9, 20).
Solomon the wise says; "A fool also multiplies words. No man knows what is to be; who can tell him what will be after him?" (Ecclesiastes 10:14). Also; "For thus says the Lord God, the holy one of Israel; In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength."(Isaiah 30:15); also; " I have set watchmen on your walk, O Jerusalem, who shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of the Lord do not keep silent, and give Him no rest till He establishes and till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth."(Isaiah 62:6-7). "Then he spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not to lose heart." (Luke18:1). "Pray without ceasing "(1 Thessalonians 5:17)."For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe "( 1 Thessalonians 2:13).
All these verses are applied to the monk who enjoys the serenity of the wilderness, lifting his heart to the lord at all times in praises and prayer. The church needs the servants and priests to guide and protect their children in the evil world, yet it also needs the monks who are worshipping and praying all the day to support the servants in the world. They are the rear guard of the army or the unseen protectors of the church.
Monasticism is Based on Verses from the Holy Bible
It is mentioned in the life of St Anthony the Great, the father of the monks, that on his way to church he was contemplating on our Lord Jesus' invitation to His disciples to follow him. Upon entering the church he heard the Gospel reading of the day in which Jesus says;" If you want to be perfect, go sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven and come follow Me."(Matthew 19:21). Immediately after he left the church, he gave all his possessions to the poor(around 300 acres of best quality land), only keeping a small portion for his sister. But when he entered the church again, he heard, " Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble"( Matthew 6:34), so he also gave the rest to the poor, took his sister to a house for ladies and then headed to the wilderness. He always advised his children;" Any deed that you do, should be supported by a verse from the Holy Bible.