Friday, August 25, 2006

St. Benedict Influenced Syrian Monasticism?

West Syrian monasticism, to be specific. At least, according to Fr. Dale A. Johnson (no relation, to the best of my knowledge), who writes the Rule of St. Benedict influenced the work of John of Mardin, the man who re-established the Monastery of Hananyo, today known as the monastery of Deir Zafaran (Saffron Monastery):

About the time John of Mardin was writing his rule in the East, sometime between 1124 and 1144 A.D., St. Bernard was carrying forth the reforms of the Cistercians in Europe. What is remarkable about the rule of John of Mardin is that it seems heavily influenced by the Benedictine characteristics, perhaps influenced by the Rule of Basil and perhaps even the rule of Benedict itself...I believe that the rule of John of Mardin is the first rule developed in the Mesopotamian world that is robust and rounded in the way the rule of Benedict can be characterized.

...John of Mardin’s rule has parallels to Benedict’s rule in 26 of the 31 chapters in a general thematic sense. This alone does not prove that John of Mardin knew directly of the Rule of Benedict. But it is highly suggestive.

...The genius of John of Mardin was his ability to synergize the Syriac monastic world with Benedictine influences. It is the same genius we see in Benedict, and each was able to affect their respective cultures in ways that spanned the centuries.

A truly engrossing account of how the father of Western monasticism had an enduring influence in the East, as well. You can read the whole article in "Shroro," the online journal of the Syrian Orthodox Church ("Monophysite/Jacobites").

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2 Comments:

Blogger Jean-Michel said...

With the Eastern influences of all Western Rules, it was only a deserved return to the fatherly house. It's a pity it happened under heresy and not done by Orthodox West (no longer existing that time), but it's nice that it happened.

Now, what's the use today of that Syriac Rule influenced by West? Any knowledge of Syriac monastics installed in the West and using it?

I can't remember where, but I also read of the influence of saint Colombanus' Rule on Russia.
Irish monks had reached Finland, same as Belgian monks on 9th c., the latter using a mix of Columbanian & Benedictine Rules

It's only today, with a world used to manichean way of looking, that we consider this as "wonderfull" or "strange" or "not acceptable" (depends if you are Orthodox, heterodox or sectarian :-)

but the mixed relations were so common, "in the good ol' times"

btw, who said "father of Western monachism" for saint Benedict? His Rule was not a western-wide rule before being enforce by violence under Charles-the-Bald - Councile of Köln or Aachen, 813 or 817, sorry, lack of sleeping capacity renders memory worse than ever.
Before that, they were plenty of Rules - saint Cesarius of Arles, f.i, being widely used, as "Irish" Rules, saint Augustine, and so on.

I like the Benedictine Rule, that I often read at compline, but that "title" comes from a bad system, so .. personnally.. I won't use it.

Jean-Michel

4:24 AM  
Blogger Benjamin Andersen said...

This is very, very interesting. Many thanks for posting it. Saint Benedict, apparently, was also very popular among Byzantine monks.

Saint Gregory Palamas, in his "Triads," refers to Saint Benedict as "one of the most perfect, [who] saw the whole universe contained in a single ray of this intelligible sun.." This, of course, is a clear reference to Saint Gregory's life of Benedict.

10:51 AM  

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