The institution of Christian monasticism began in the deserts in 4th century Egypt as a kind of living [[ martyr]] dom. Some scholars attribute the rise of monasticism at this time to the changes in Roman society that had been brought about subsequent to the Emperor St. [[ Constantine the Great| Constantine]] 's [[conversion]] and the legal tolerance of Christianity in the Roman Empire. This ended the position of Christians as a small, persecuted group, leading to the rise of nominal Christianity within the Church. In response, many who wished to maintain the intensity of the earliest years of Christian life fled to the desert to [[ fasting|fast]] and pray, free from the fragmenting influence of the world. The end of persecution also meant that [[martyr]]dom was no longer as common, and so [[ asceticism]] as a form of living martyrdom came to be pursued.
St. Catherine's Monastery (Sinai )| St. Catherine's Monastery]], Sinai, Egypt]] Ss. [[ Anthony the Great| Anthony]] and [[ Pachomius the Great| Pachomius]] were early monastic founders in Egypt, although [[ Paul of Thebes]] is the very first Christian historically known to have been living as a monk. Orthodoxy also looks to [[ Basil the Great]] as a founding monastic legislator, as well as the example of the [[ Desert Fathers]]. St. [[Benedict of Nursia]], who based his own ''Rule'' on that of St. Basil, is often credited with being the father of Western monasticism.
From a very early time there were probably individuals who lived a life in isolation—hermits—in imitation of Jesus' 40 days in the desert. They have left no confirmed archaeological traces and only hints in the written record. St. Anthony of Egypt lived as a [[ hermit]] and developed a following of other hermits who lived nearby but not in community with him. On the other hand, [[ Paul of Thebes]] lived not very far from Anthony in absolute solitude, and was looked upon even by Anthony as a perfect monk. ( When St. Anthony first encountered him, he came away from the experience saying, " Woe is me, my children, a sinful and false monk, who am a monk in name only. I have seen Elijah, I have seen John the Baptist in the desert, and I have seen Paul—in Paradise!") This variety of monasticism is called ''eremitic '' (" hermit-like").
St. [[Pachomius the Great]], a follower of Anthony, also acquired a following; he chose to mould them into a community in which the monks lived in individual huts or rooms—cells ( from Greek κελλια) —but worked, ate, and worshipped in shared space. This method of monastic organization is called ''cenobitic'' ( "community-based"). Most monastic life is cenobitic in nature. The head of a monastery came to be known by the word for "Father" in Syriac, ''Abba'' —in English, ''[[ Abbot]] ''.
Eventually, a pattern came to be established for some rare monks, having been formed in the communal life, to leave the cenobitic context and undertake the eremetic life. To attempt it without this prior formation is often considered to be spiritual suicide, frequently leading one to fall into [[ prelest]] , spiritual delusion.
==Locul monahismului în societate==