The kids are already on vacation and we go to join them tomorrow meaning that M and I got to run together this morning (I just did a light 10 then relaxed while she did another 8 miles…). In the process, I found myself pondering once again Sulpicius Severus and the transmission of the monastic tradition from East to West. In particular, I’m considering the shift of the ascetic ideal from, essentially, hermits to bishops.
Consider–the main texts of the monastic movement in its initial eastern flourishing were Athanasius’s Life of Antony and the various collections of the Sayings of the Desert Fathers. These were then translated into Latin by Jerome & friends. Suplicius who, in an unguarded moment in the Dialogues, lets slip that he hopes to replace Jerome altogether writes the Life of Martin, the Dialogues, and the Epistles. He shifts the ideal away from the unlettered desert hermit and places it onto the noble Gaulish bishop. Likewise, among Jerome’s correspondents are a number of letters to bishops–like those to Paulinus of Nola who turns out to be a friend of Sulpicius as well.
I’m not making an argument at the moment, more lining up some evidence and seeing what patterns emerge. It is fair to say, though, that both Sulpicius and Jerome seem to assimilate monasticism into the western hierarchies more firmly than what we see in the first generations of monastic writings from the East.
Furthermore, I’m now suddenly intrigued by the Celtic bishops. Authentic classical “Celtic Christianity”–as we’ve discussed before–was far more similar to desert asceticism than other models, and one of its most recognizable features is that the bishops were usually abbots. Is this some kind of anomaly or is this the logical outcome of the strand of tradition that runs through Sulpicius Severus?