'We'? Reflections on Affinity and Dissonance in Reading Early Monastic Literature

Document Type


Publication Date



I read, teach, and write about early monastic literature. I love these texts deeply, though I have moved beyond the stage of wide-eyed infatuation with Antony, Evagrius, John Cassian, and the rest. First fervor has its own wonder, but one cannot make a life of it. I am trying now to see these texts more clearly than I could when I first read them, not so as to spurn or debunk them, but to appreciate their achievement more accurately. Spending a couple of decades in close dialogue with these texts, decades of tremendous growth for me, has led to what Cassian suggests of long-term interaction with the Bible: "as the renewal of our mind grows by this study, the face of Scripture too will begin to be renewed, and the beauty of holier understanding will in some way develop as we develop."