The Early Christian Church – Desert Fathers and Mothers emerging

Johan Slabbert

19 Posts Published


10th Mar 2021


By Marie-Lan Nguyen - Own work, Public Domain,

When members of the church began finding ways to work with the Roman state, the Desert Fathers saw that as a compromise between “the things of God and the things of Caesar.” The men and women who moved out to the desert and lived in monastic communities built their lifestyle around asceticism, solitude, and silence, an alternative to empire and its economy.  Out of the tradition of the Desert Fathers and Mothers have come many contemplative practices. The desert communities grew out of informal gatherings of monastic monks and many of them also became hermits to navigate the deep mystery of their inner experience. This movement ran in parallel to the monastic pattern in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Faith emphasized lifestyle practice.  The desert monks told stories instead of using formal theology as many of them were uneducated.  Through storytelling, they taught about essential issues of ego, love, virtue, surrender, peace, divine union, and inner freedom.

Thomas Merton describes these men and women who fled to the desert as people “who did not believe in letting themselves be passively guided and ruled by a decadent state.” They sought a pathway to God that was freely chosen, not inherited from others who had outlined the way beforehand.

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