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Andrea Sterk

Renouncing the World Yet Leading the Church: The Monk-Bishop in Late Antiquity (excerpts)

From "Renouncing the World Yet Leading the Church: The Monk-Bishop in Late Antiquity", Harvard University Press.

Epilogue: The Legacy of the Monk-Bishop in the Byzantine World

The Slavic Context: An Example from Medieval Serbia

Jumping ahead several centuries, a final hagiographic subject, St. Sava of Serbia (1175-1235), illustrates the transition of a monastic episcopate to the broader Byzantine commonwealth and points to distinctive ecclesiastical developments in the Slavic Orthodox traditions. While both the actual and the literary life of St. Sava show the lasting impress of the late antique ideal of the monk-bishop, there are also variations on that ideal suggesting the flexibility of the model that so facilitated its transmission to posterity Long before the emergence of autocephalous orthodox churches or even a native Slav clergy, Byzantine missions in the recently converted lands beyond its borders were largely monastic in composition (47). Monks also served as the first priests and filled other positions of authority within the hierarchy of the newly established churches. Byzantine and gradually indigenous Slavic monks became the primary teachers, writers, and translators as well as the church leaders, passing on the culture, traditions, and ecclesiastical ideals of the Byzantine church to its daughter churches in the emerging Slavic lands (48). But as social and political realities changed with time, and elements of Byzantine cultural and intellectual life adapted to new geographical and ethnic settings, so too were Episcopal ideals and patterns modified to suit their new contexts.

Sava of Serbia, whose unique mythopoetic sway in Eastern Europe has been said to rival that of Alexander the Great, epitomized the new model bishop in the Byzantine Slavic world (49). Born Rastko, Sava was the third son of Stefan Nemanja, the grand zupan of Serbia and the first head of a dynasty that would reign until 1371. When Rastko turned fifteen his father made him governor of a western province, an area that included a significant stretch of the Adriatic coast that would later be known as Herzegovina. The boy's tenure as a provincial governor was short-lived, however, for less than two years later, in 1191 or 1192, Rastko fled from his home and his father's court to Mt. Athos. He took the name Sava for the sixth-century monastic St. Sabas of Palestine and joined the Greek monastery of Vatopedi. The Holy Mountain at this time already had Georgian, Russian, Bulgarian, and Italian monasteries in addition to Greek houses and was a truly international religious community. Through the monks' reading, copying, and translating of Byzantine texts in the scriptoria of these monasteries, Mt. Athos became a major centre for the diffusion of Byzantine culture, secular as well as religious, to the lands of Orthodox eastern Europe.

Athonite monasticism shaped Sava's spiritual vision and provided the models he would later use in organizing the monasteries and governing the churches of his native Serbia. At least partly under Sava's influence, toward the end of his life his father abdicated his throne to his son Stefan Nemanjic, became a monk at Studenica monastery, which he had founded, and eighteen months later joined Sava on Mt. Athos, where the grand zupan turned lowly monk died in 1198. After his father's arrival, together they planned for the foundation of Hilandar monastery, which under Sava's leadership would begin to play its incomparable role in the religious and cultural history of Serbia. In the next few years Sava pursued a more rigorous and isolated ascetic life on Athos while at the same time becoming a figure of increasing spiritual and institutional authority He was ordained deacon and priest, and at some point between 1200 and 1204 he travelled to Thessalonica to be consecrated archimandrite. Sava returned to Athos, where he was present during the capture of Constantinople by crusading armies in 1204 and the subsequent Latin incursion onto the Holy Mountain. Soon afterward, however, he returned to his homeland and in 1207 was appointed abbot of Studenica, the leading monastery in Serbia. From there he put his administrative talents to work in advancing monastic and liturgical life and promoting in various ways the intimate link between church and ruling dynasty that so characterized medieval Serbia. Little wonder, then, that Sava became the obvious candidate for the first archbishop of an independent Serbian church, an honour he attained from the Byzantine emperor and patriarch in Nicaea in 1219 (50).

Besides presenting this basic outline of his career, the two main hagiographic sources on St. Sava give us a picture of the ideal bishop in the context of medieval Serbia. Both Lives were composed by monks: the first by Domentijan, an Athonite monk and disciple of Sava who wrote shortly after Sava's death in 1235; the second, a major revision of Domentijan's work by Teodosije, another Athonite monk who wrote in the early fourteenth century (51). Both Domentijan and Teodosije devoted considerable space in their vitae to Sava's pursuit of the monastic vocation. From the very start of his biography Teodosije's long title attests to this primary interest: "The life and exploits in the desert with his father ... of our holy father Sava, first Serbian archbishop and teacher"(52). The desert (pustinje) here is Mt. Athos, the main locus of both Lives. Both authors describe the youth's escape from his homeland to the Holy Mountain for which he had longed. We are given detailed accounts of Sava's activities and development on Mt. Athos: his rigorous ascetic practices, his refusal to be swayed from his monastic vocation despite persistent pressure from his royal family, his devotion to prayer and hesychia (cutanje), and his increasing stature and influence among fellow monks and hermits. We learn too of his initial rejection of ecclesiastical honours both prior to his ordination as deacon and priest on Athos and again in the face of the patriarch's proposal in Nicaea. Both narratives also emphasize his continuing love and beneficence toward the monasteries of Athos. Even amid the pressing duties of his episcopate, including extensive travel and diplomatic missions on behalf of the state as well as the normal responsibilities of oversight, Saνa still found time to return repeatedly to the Holy Mountain. The link between his monastic and Episcopal vocations is made explicit in one passage in particular. Reflecting on Sava's ascetic feats in Serbia and anticipating his imminent elevation to the office of archbishop, Teodosije commented that "even more than when he lived in the desert, with great effort, through fasts and nocturnal watches he was putting the body to death, and not that he would gain prestige or be only the lawgiver to monks, but rather even before his consecration [to the episcopate] by his works he showed himself to be an apostle"(53).

We find in these Lives familiar themes and even the familiar threefold pattern for the model Episcopal career-renunciation, retreat to the wilderness, and return to service in the church and the world -a paradigm we have seen with the Cappadocians as well as other Byzantine hagiographical texts discussed above. There are, however, modifications of the ideal, subtle twists and shifts of emphasis in the presentation of the life of a holy bishop. Whereas earlier writings often stressed lofty intellectual achievements that the future bishop abandoned for the life of a monk, in the vitae of Sava there is little mention of learning or intellectual pursuits and no hint of academic prowess. Instead, the comforts, wealth, and esteem of the royal household and the temptations of worldly glory are what Sava rejected for the humble monastic vocation. These descriptions of the monk's renunciations reflect new realities on two levels. First, for medieval Slavs the high level of secular as well as religious education that so characterized learned monk-bishops of late antiquity was severely limited (54). Second, we find in the Slavic context the general tendency, particularly pronounced in Serbia, for high church officials to be members of the royal household (55). It is thus less often the prestige of education than the lure of wealth and power that must be abandoned by the prospective monk and future bishop of such pedigree.

Though he had certainly renounced personal wealth, as archbishop Sava was in a position to exploit the riches of the state for his monastic ambitions. One of his main preoccupations, an emphasis in his Lives far outweighing its importance in late antique vitae or panegyrics of bishops, was the foundation and decoration of new monasteries. Funds for these Serbian monastic houses, as well as for monasteries on Mt. Athos, in Constantinople, and in the Holy Land, were abundantly provided from the royal treasury of Sava's brother Stefan Nemanjic and his two sons who succeeded him. The lavish gifts and immense amount of gold donated for the construction and enhancement of monasteries, even allowing for the exaggerations of Sava's hagiographers, raise questions about the apparent wealth of the Serbian state. But such generous endowments also point to the important role these institutions played as royal monasteries, serving to strengthen the important partnership between church and state that typified the medieval Serbian dynasty and that Archbishop Sava, son of Grand Ζupan Stefan Nemanja, himself embodied (56).

The Lives of Sava also show his monastic orientation in other aspects of his leadership of the church. Α principal obligation of the new archbishop was to provide much needed bishops and clergy for the Serbian churches, and monastic candidates were his obvious choice. The first native bishops of Serbia were monks whom Sava brought back with him from Hilandar on Mt. Athos, and on several occasions thereafter the Lives recount his choosing of new bishops, priests, and deacons from the leading monasteries of Serbia (57). Sava also selected monks for missionary work to un-Christianised or still largely pagan areas of Serbia, ordaining them as archpriests and sending them out to evangelise, teach doctrine, and regulate the moral life of the church in these regions (58). His choice of his own successor was a monk as well: his disciple Arsenije, who had been serving as hegumen of Studenica monastery Sava appointed Arsenije to replace him and consecrated him to the archiepiscopal throne before leaving on his final pilgrimage to the Holy Land (59). All these examples demonstrate the persistent tendency of monastic bishops to choose church leaders from their own ranks.

Alongside such important administrative tasks as the foundation of monasteries and the appointment of bishops, Domentijan and Teodosije describe Sava's personal ascetic practices, continued and occasionally even intensified despite his new ecclesiastical position (60). They also stress his special love and care for the poor, an ongoing philanthropic duty of Byzantine bishops but a virtue specially connected with monastic life as well. From the start of his sojourn on Mt. Athos Sava is compared with St. Thomas ministering to the Indians. Barefoot, he travelled from monastery to monastery and among the solitary hermits, dividing between them the gold he had been sent by his parents (61). His first sermon in Serbia expounded the lesson of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), with his late father, Stefan Nemanja, serving as the counterpoint to the merciless rich man (62). Both before and after his Episcopal consecration, Sava preached often about the duty of almsgiving and generosity to the poor, asserting that prayer and fasting alone were not enough if one neglected those in need. Commenting on one of these homilies, Dimitrije Bogdanovic suggests that it summarized Sava's social ethic. In this connection he makes one of his only references to the patristic foundations of Sava's ideas, specifically the teachings of Basil the Great and John Chrysostom. Even Sava's posthumous mercies show particular concern for the less fortunate (63).

Indeed Sava's miraculous deeds, often re-enactments of Christ's own miracles, are among those features connecting him with great monk-bishops of the past. In addition to healing the sick, calming storms at sea, and miraculously producing the fish needed for his own nourishment, his God-given powers clearly benefited his native Serbia. Describing some of the many miracles of Sava and his father, Teodosije commented that "other rulers, hearing about the awesome wonders that the saints performed, sought favour with the monarch Stefan [Nemanjic] and dared not undertake anything against his state "(64). One example of Sava's influence on behalf of this "new Israel," as Serbia is often called throughout the Lives, is his interaction with King Andrew ΙI of Hungary. By his words, prayers, and prodigious deeds the bishop allegedly persuaded the king to cease his hostilities toward Serbia, to renounce the Latin faith and to embrace "true orthodoxy "(65). In another moment of crisis Sava raised his brother Stefan from death, enabling the ruler to abdicate the throne to his son and become a monk before finally expiring less than a year later (66). Moreover, as had become commonplace in hagiographical accounts of Byzantine bishops, such extraordinary powers were not limited to the saint's earthly career. The final pages of both Lives of Sava, as in that of George of Amastris, are almost exclusively devoted to his posthumous miracles.

It comes as no surprise that these texts owe much to Byzantine hagiographical and spiritual traditions. Among the most influential writings of the patristic period, hagiographical works were copiously translated, propagated, and imitated by the Slavs of the Middle Ages. The Lives of bishops like Gregory Nazianzen, Basil the Great, and John Chrysostom were especially well known and highly regarded. Singling out the Lives of the three hierarchs among the best-known texts to medieval Slavs, Ιvan Dujcev cites the late tenth-century Bulgarian Cosmas the Presbyter, who instructed his audience of monks and priests as follows: "Imitate the holy fathers and bishops who exercised your functions before you, Ι mean Gregory Basil, John, and all the others, whom it suffices only to name in order to frighten the demons"(67). Despite differences in emphasis and style from earlier vitae, the model of the late antique monk-bishop and even some of the forms and language of such patristic writings persist in medieval Serbian biographies. Like Sava himself, Domentijan and Teodosije had access to the rich store of Greek theological, monastic, hagiographic, and literary texts on Mt. Athos. More recent Byzantine literature served as the primary models for our Serbian authors, particularly the rhetorical Byzantine Metaphrastic hagiography and, in Teodosije's case, probably Byzantine secular historiography as well (68). But the influence of earlier patristic writers, whether used directly or mediated through later Byzantine authors, should not be overlooked and is especially important for understanding Episcopal ideals. As might be expected, both of Sava's hagiographers drew heavily from the sixth-century Life of Sabas by Cyril of Scythopolis in introducing his Serbian namesake (69). Not only was this particular monk chosen by Sava as his patron saint, but Cyril's Lives of the Palestinian Monks was particularly popular among the Slavic communities on Mt. Athos and was among the main sources on which the Slavs modelled their monastic life (70).

More closely related to our narrower focus on leadership of the church are passages that directly reflect on the character or role of the ideal bishop. We have already noted the threefold pattern of the Episcopal career that is evident in the Lives of Sava. Despite medieval Slavic variations on these three stages, they are recognizable here just as they were presented by the Cappadocians and embodied particularly in Basil of Caesarea. Several passages also suggest the more direct influence of Nazianzen's funeral oration on Basil. Many of the same synkriseis recur comparing Sava with biblical heroes, most prominently Elijah and John the Baptist." Teodosije describes Sava's rise to the archiepiscopal throne in terms that echo Gregory's appraisal of Basil's ecclesiastical advancement almost word for word: "He did not steal authority by bribery, nor as a thief, he did not seize it by force, not pursuing honour but rather being pursued and barely persuaded by honour, not having received human favour but divine favour from God "(72). Though the author would have had access to Gregory's influential oration in the scriptoria of monasteries on Mt. Athos, such encomiastic passages, like the synkriseis, were common stock in Byzantine hagiography and panegyrics and need not reflect direct borrowing from Nazianzen. But they do reveal the continuation of Cappadocian ideals of leadership, both rhetorical and actual models that were passed on through such texts from one generation to the next in the Christian East.

Finally, both Serbian hagiographers appealed to the life of Moses as a model for the Episcopal career, comparing Sava favourably with the biblical patriarch. There was more reason than in most other hagiographic texts to draw such a comparison, for Sava had compiled and codified for the needs of his church what was to become the most authoritative Slavonic body of Byzantine law, constituting the basis of Serbian civil as well as ecclesiastical legislation. In this sense Sava was indeed a great lawgiver like Moses, and this specific analogy between the two men was drawn (73). But it was far from the only or even the primary point of comparison. Teodosije spoke of Moses mainly as a model of prayer, so Sava, like the Old Testament patriarch, gained victory over evil forces and wrought miracles on behalf of his people through his prayerful intercessions (74). But it was Domentijan who developed the Mosaic analogy to the utmost. The Moses-synkrisis in his Life of Sava is by far the longest in the text, presenting parallels stretched to near absurdity between almost every incident in the two leaders' careers (75).In most cases Sava is shown to have in some way surpassed his biblical predecesso. For example, whereas Moses led "thousands" of Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, Sava is said to have brought "myriads of people" to the true faith, having delivered them from the deception of idols. And while Moses fed the Israelites in the desert with manna sent from God, Sava loved the desert from his youth, feeding and caring for those who inhabited it and serving all their needs both spiritually and physically (76).

Most striking throughout the synkrisis is a single term that is repeatedly used to describe these two men of God. It is not their role as rulers or prophets or lawgivers that is singled out for praise, though all of these functions are included in the lengthy comparison. What is emphasized is that each of the two leaders was a bogovidac, literally a divine visionary or "God-seer." On descending from Mt. Sinai during his final pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Sava is described as "having become like the great God-seer [Moses], not only bearing God himself within him and on him but also adorned with his favour. And this one [Sava] became a second God-seer, and he was deemed worthy to see not only God's back, but by the favour granted him from above he was deemed worthy to serve the Lord himself through holiness and righteousness before him all the days of his life "(77). The whole synkrisis is structured around this formula: the God-seer (Moses) did a wonderful deed while this new visionary (Sava) performed a similar but even greater feat. Whether Domentijan intended to show that Sava was truly greater than Moses is arguable, but he certainly viewed the Serbian archbishop as a bogovidac, one who had had a vision of God and been uniquely prepared to lead through this theophany. We have already examined the significance of such a divine encounter in the Cappadocians. Both in their writings and in this Life of Sava it seems to have been required or simply assumed of the bishop worthy of his calling.

The Contribution of the Byzantine Prophetic Tradition

What is reflected in the hagiographical texts we have considered here - both middle Byzantine Lives and the medieval Serbian Lives of St. Sava- is the growing reality of an episcopate dominated by monks. Αlready by the eighth century hagiography was largely silent about married prelates unless it was to magnify in some way the misogyny of monks (78). The formal status of clergy and bishops had not changed since the legislation enacted at the Council of Trullo (691-692), but monastic ideals increasingly overshadowed the strictly legal expectations for bearers of church office (79). Young clerics were not forced, but were certainly strongly advised, to remain celibate, and renunciation of all familial attachments and obligations was again prescribed for bishops. Meanwhile the ordination of monks became increasingly commonplace, and monks who held no ecclesiastical office were implicitly regarded as a separate if not inferior class. Alongside social, political, and ecclesiastical factors governing these developments, the further progress and near institutionalisation of such patterns had to do with the popularity of particular spiritual movements in the Byzantine world from the eleventh to the fourteenth century. As spiritual ideals helped to generate a predominantly monastic episcopate in the Christian East, we will end by reviewing developments in the Byzantine prophetic and mystical tradition that, whether intentionally or not, contributed to the permanence of this model of leadership.

The triumph of an exclusively monastic episcopate in the East was due at least in part to individuals who were neither completely sympathetic to, nor regarded sympathetically by the hierarchy of the church. Chief among these influential figures was St. Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022). We are well informed about the career of this charismatic monk and spiritual director, owing to a detailed Life composed by his disciple Nicetas Stethatos (80). Though this portrayal of his life followed many of the standard Byzantine topoi, in the case of Symeon they were largely true to fact and substantiated by many of his own autobiographical comments (81). Born to noble and wealthy parents in rural Paphlagonia, Symeon was sent to Constantinople at age eleven to be educated. His intellectual ability
and academic success is attested by the significant corpus of his writings.
Symeon's paternal uncle, to whose care he had been entrusted, recognized the boy's gifts and persuaded him to enter the imperial service as an official of the bedchamber in the court of the brother emperors Basil ΙI and Constantine Porphyrogenetes. But after his uncle's sudden death, at age fourteen Symeon left the palace to manage the household of a patrician while pursuing a life of asceticism and prayer in the evenings. He began to frequent the monastery of Studios, where he found a spiritual father, the monk Symeon Eulabes, also known as Symeon the Studite.

The young Symeon eventually became a monk of Studios, but his continuing devotion to his spiritual mentor was considered scandalous in this highly regulated community. Symeon Eulabes was not the hegumen of the monastery but simply one monk among many, not the most highly regarded and apparently considered a charlatan by some of the brothers. Though Symeon eventually relocated to the monastery of St. Mamas, where he was ordained priest and became hegumen on the death of his predecessor, his troubles did not cease. When Eulabes died (c.1986), Symeon organized his cult and began to celebrate his memory "like that of all the other saints "(82). Much of Nicetas's Life focuses on the cult of Symeon's spiritual father, a lifelong obsession for Symeon that provoked a rebellion of some of his monks, a clash with the episcopate, and his temporary forced exile. He was eventually recalled by Patriarch Sergius, who affirmed Symeon's purity of faith and life and allegedly offered him an important archbishopric by way of compensation for the wrongs inflicted on him (83). Instead the monk chose to retire to a small oratory, where he guided others and gathered a community of disciples who continued to commemorate Eulabes. Though still viewed with suspicion by some, thirty years after Symeon the New Theologian's death his relics were transferred to the Studios monastery, where the young monk had begun his volatile career.

If his life was controversial, Symeon's teachings were no less provocative. There are at least two related areas of Christian thought on which he left a definitive mark: the doctrine of the vision of God and the idea of spiritual direction or, more specifically, spiritual fatherhood (84). Neither one of these notions or emphases lay outside the sphere of Orthodox theology, and both were the particular concern of mystics. But Symeon's distinctive perspective on these ideals got him into trouble with the ecclesiastical authorities of his day since his teachings challenged the very hierarchical structure they represented. Concerning the vision of God, Symeon taught largely out of his living experience of what he believed to be the truths of Scripture and the theology of the Fathers. Even before becoming a monk Symeon had had his first of many mystical experiences, a vision of God as light. On his consecration to the priesthood he had a similar vision of the Holy Spirit descending upon him as an immense light, and he continued to have such divine encounters throughout the remainder of his monastic and priestly career (85). Little wonder that his biographer described him at one point as the divine visionary or God-seer (ho theoptikotatos), (86) the exact equivalent of the Slavic term bogovidac that Domentijan ascribed to Moses and Sava in his Life of Sava. In keeping with his personal experience, Symeon preached the importance, indeed the necessity, of a conscious vision of God. To see God, he believed, was the essence of Christian perfection and the hope of the Christian's beatitude in the life to come. For Symeon it was a great travesty to profess to be a spiritual guide without a conscious apprehension of this vision or to affirm that one had received the gift of the Spirit unconsciously by faith and intellect alone, and not by mystical experience. Indeed he considered it blasphemous to deny the possibility of such direct operations of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers who, through prayer and repentance, ardently sought the vision of God (87).

It was Symeon's integration of these ideas with his teachings on spiritual direction that perplexed representatives of the church hierarchy His emphasis on the experiential knowledge of God indirectly and at times directly posed a challenge to worldly bishops and clergy of his day. For example, he warned his readers against imagining that they were spiritual before they had actually received the Holy Spirit. Do not rush "to receive the confessions of others, to rise to the position of hegumens and authorities, to dare to accept the priesthood without fear, to put yourself forward shamelessly by countless intrigues for metropolises and episcopates," Symeon admonished would-be ecclesiastical leaders (88). Elsewhere he warned against meddling in divine affairs, "as if ordaining ourselves before being called from above "(89). Indeed the very notion of ordination came into question in Symeon's writings, for even an unordained monk could receive the "baptism of the Spirit," serve as a director of souls, and be more efficacious spiritually than those who possessed only human ordination. Likely Symeon's own spiritual father lay in the background of such teachings, for Eulabes "had no ordination from men" yet had received an ordination from above (90). It was also increasingly common for laymen, particularly (though certainly not exclusively) wealthy and influential aristocrats in Constantinople, to choose monks as spiritual directors. These monks might well be unordained, yet by virtue of their parresia, their direct access to God, they were sought out in ways that the secular clergy were not. Beyond their spiritual functions, such monastic fathers might also play important social and political roles in the Byzantine state (91). The threat, of course, was that charismatic figures like Symeon would usurp the authority of the sacerdotal hierarchy or even subvert the powers of the ruling imperial dynasty.

Though some of his writings seem to suggest antisacramental or even antisacerdotal views, Symeon managed to avoid such extremes. He was himself an ordained priest, and his highest experience of the vision of God as divine light occurred repeatedly during the consecration of the eucharistic elements (92). Symeon had no desire to undermine the institutions of the hierarchical church, but he did want to expose what he considered the decadence of clergy and bishops of his day as well as the relative laxity of contemporary monastic life. Tο counteract an increasing abstraction in theology and formalism in worship and prayer, Symeon called both monks and laity back to the necessity of personal mystical experience, which he believed was available to all baptized Christians. But for leaders in the church, a divine encounter was indispensable, its absence unthinkable. Α living experience of God was the very purpose of the monastic life and the only adequate preparation for leading and serving fellow Christians. Thus, while he instructed monks to follow the examples of St.Thecla, the apostles, and others who had in solitude sought the divine illumination, in a passage that recalls Nazianzen he went on to commend the example of Moses as well. Moses went up to the summit of the mountain alone and encountered God in the cloud, but he did not remain there. Likewise, after hearing God's voice and being initiated into the heavenly mysteries, Symeon explains, he who imitates this patriarch "will give the laws to others; he will be illumined, and he will illumine others with the light of knowledge; he will be pardoned, and thereafter he will pardon. This one asks and receives, and having received, he distributes to those who ask him (93).

Although Symeon escaped any condemnation for or even long-lasting suspicion of heresy, he was a controversial figure in his day, and some churchmen clearly resisted and resented his appeals as a one-man crusader for reform (94). But his spiritual influence was widespread, and his followers, both monastic and lay, advanced many of his teachings. Nicetas Stethatos, Symeon's professed disciple and himself a Studite monk, certainly echoed some of his mentor's sentiments on the episcopate. In a passage of his Treatise on the Hierarchy, which closely follows the Pseudo-Dionysian scheme, Nicetas suggests that the wisdom of the Word of God might appear to shine more brightly in the lives of lower clergy or monks than in the lives of bishops (95). Without denying the validity of the institutional hierarchy, he explains that he who has been given the power to manifest the Spirit by his word -whether priest, deacon, or monk- also shines forth the brilliance of the Episcopal dignity even if he has not been ordained by human hands (96). Far from antisacerdotalism, however, this treatise attests to the interpenetration of monastic and ecclesiastical ideals. On the one hand, the true bishop is cast in the role of a monk who has throughout his life overcome the desires of the flesh. Indeed the whole ecclesiastical hierarchy should manifest the purity and detachment of the "angelic life," and not surprisingly, married clergy are tacitly excluded from the scheme. Thus, a monastic model of leadership had clearly come to shape Nicetas's notion of church office. But his description suggests the opposite phenomenon as well, that is, the imposition of ecclesiastical models on the monastic order. In his hierarchical scheme, in which the ecclesiastical ranks mirror the celestial hierarchy unordained monks occupy the lowest level of all, even below that of sub deacons and lectors (97).

However much his monastic disciples perpetuated his ideals, it has been suggested that Symeon's greatest influence was felt in the lay milieu, particularly among the Constantinopolitan aristocracy Symeon served as a spiritual father to many noble families in the capital, and even while living in exile under patriarchal ban he continued to receive frequent visits from patricians and middle-ranking court officials (98). Representing precisely this level of society in the generation after Symeon, the Byzantine general Catacalon Cecaumenus wrote in his Strategicon advice on the episcopate in which more than one scholar has heard the clear echo of Symeon:

If you are headed for holy orders to become, for example, a metropolitan or a bishop, do not accept this dignity as long as you have not received, by means of fasts and vigils, a revelation from above and the perfect assurance that comes from God; and if the manifestation of God tarries, take courage, persevere, humble yourself before God and you will see it, provided that your life is pure and surmounts the obstacles of the passions. And why do Ι say metropolitan? If it is even for the patriarchal throne that you have been chosen without a divine vision, do not have the temerity to take in hand the management of the holy Church of God (99).

While this statement does not explicitly affirm that only monks should serve as bishops, it provides yet another example of a contemplative or monastic ideal of ecclesiastical authority, this time from the pen of a lay aristocrat. The popularity and influence of the spiritual writings of Symeon who, according to Dagron, "dominates not only his epoch but the whole religious history of Byzantium” (100) helps to explain the reasons why a monastic paradigm of leadership persisted and ultimately prevailed in the Christian East.

The late eleventh century is generally viewed as a turning point for the Byzantine state. For monks and monasticism, closely tied to the fortunes of the empire, it marked the beginning of a downward spiral in prestige and influence. Holy men, especially practitioners of more eccentric ascetic feats or miraculous predictions and cures, were increasingly regarded with suspicion in aristocratic and ecclesiastical circles (101) Hagiography, like the lives of the saints it portrayed, was pressed to conform to standard patterns, and individuality was discouraged. Oddly enough, however, criticism of ascetic extremes and denunciation of specific holy men in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries did not diminish the influx of monks into positions of ecclesiastical authority. This may well have to do with the types of monks who were chosen for church office, in what has been referred to as a process of "politicisation" of the Byzantine saint that started in the eleventh century (102). The continued choice of monks as bishops during this period was partly due as well to the relatively high level of education that many managed to achieve. But also, as Paul Magdalino has so aptly put it, "All Byzantines had a soft spot for a holy man." By way of example he cites the emperor Manuel Ι Comnenus, certainly no great patron of monks or monasteries; yet even Manuel appointed to the patriarchal see of Jerusalem a one-time holy fool who had become a monk at Patmos, where his ascetic practices included self-flagellation and weeping naked in the tombs of dead monks (103). More prosaic choices were the norm, of course, but the ideal of the holy ascetic bishop clearly prevailed through this period of relative monastic and spiritual decline.

While the fate of the empire worsened in the fourteenth century, Byzantium experienced yet another monastic revival. Hagiography flourished, and ascetics once again played dominant roles as prophets, advisers, and ecclesiastical mediators. This monastic recovery was associated with the spiritual movement known as Hesychasm, most often identified with its leading representative, the monk of Mt. Athos and eventual archbishop of Thessalonica, Gregory Palamas (104). The controversy in which he was embroiled and the spiritual revival that followed on the hesychast triumph had long-lasting ramifications for both the Slavic and the Greek churches. Hesychasm was not a new idea but a recovery of deep traditions of Orthodox spirituality, particularly a reaffirmation of the experience of deification or theosis, human participation in divinity. In response to the accusations of Barlaam the Calabrian, an Italian monk of the Greek rite who had criticized the spiritual practices of certain monks on Mount Athos, Gregory Palamas stressed the knowability of God and defended the possibility of theosis, a belief that lay at the heart of Christian life in the Eastern Church. In particular the Athonite monks claimed that one could experience the divine light that had shone around Christ on Mt. Tabor, an affirmation that echoed the teachings of Symeon the New Theologian on the vision of God.

In what is probably their most representative document, the "Hagioretic Tome," Palamas and the hesychasts reflected on the special role of monastics in the church. In statements pregnant with implications for the exercise of spiritual authority, they compared the monks of their day with the prophets of the Old Testament. The Tome ascribed to contemporary monastic saints spiritual senses that allowed them a clearer vision of God and a special prophetic role in the church (105). Through the course of a protracted controversy interwoven with diverse political and ecclesiastical issues, Barlaam's views were condemned and the teachings of Gregory Palamas affirmed as true Orthodox doctrine and spirituality. The final resolution of this controversy in favour of the hesychast position at a synod in 1351 helped to re-establish the prestige and influence of monks.

Long before this period, monks had already come to monopolize most of the bishoprics in Byzantium, with Constantinople standing out as the notable exception to the rule. But even in the capital the situation was steadily changing. During the period between 705 and 1204 forty-five of the sixty-seven patriarchs of Constantinople were monks, and even before the final resolution of the hesychast controversy, the large majority of fourteenth-century patriarchs were monks in the hesychast tradition (106). But the Palamite victory marked a decisive turning point. After that time the ecumenical patriarchate, which had far longer and more often than any other eastern see resisted the allure of monks in favour of the prestige of humanists, finally succumbed to complete monastic dominance of this highest ecclesiastical office.

In the context of a chapter on Basil the Great and leadership of the church, the Byzantine scholar John Meyendorff discussed both Symeon the New Theologian and Gregory Palamas (107). This connection brings us full circle in our examination of the monastic-Episcopal ideal. Though Basil may have been more successful in balancing sources of spiritual authority, these later Byzantine prophetic figures shared with the great Cappadocian a commitment to personal experience of God as well as obedience to superiors, freedom alongside authority "The institutional and sacramental authority of the bishops and the spiritual authority of the saints coexist in the catholic Church," Meyendorff explained, "and the tensions which occasionally arise between them cannot justify the suppression of either one"(108). But he neglected an important dimension of that coexistence, for in the Byzantine church from Basil of Caesarea to Gregory Palamas these two forms of authority came increasingly to reside in the same person. Ideally the monastic bishop represented both the institutional authority of the church and the charismatic experience of the holy man. Though individual bishops might fall short of the ideal, it was this Basilian legacy that shaped the leadership of the Eastern church for centuries.

Tο be sure, it was a peculiar assortment of churchmen who fell into the category of monk-bishops. They were educated elites, wealthy aristocrats, royal dignitaries, and simple peasants by background. They stood on opposing sides of theological disputes. They resisted imperial policies, cooperated with the state, and even served as patrons and protectors of their homeland. They were holy fools, great theologians, and leaders of prominent spiritual movements. Some even condoned or perpetrated acts of violence. And of course, as we have seen, a confluence of social, political, and legal factors also contributed to the emergence of a monastic episcopate in the Christian East. But alongside, or perhaps underlying, these diverse backgrounds and circumstances was a theological ideal that must not be ignored. The ascetic bishop had seen God; he was a bogovidac. He had purged his passions, contemplated divine truths, and ultimately, like Moses, encountered the living Lord on Mt. Sinai. This vision, the fruit of the bishop's monastic vocation, was the true source of his authority in the church and the world. Whatever abuses or perversions of this ideal took place, the belief persisted in the Orthodox churches that only such an individual was suited to lead the people of God.


47. For an overview of Byzantine missionary activity in the ninth and tenth centuries see Gilbert Dagron, "Missions, chrétienté et orthodoxie," in Gilbert Dagron et al., eds., Eveques, moines et empereurs (610-1054) (Paris: Desclee, 1993), pp. 216-240, especially 216-226 for the Slavic lands.

48. On the impact of the Byzantine ascetic tradition and specific Slavic monks and monasteries in the ecclesiastical and cultural life of eastern Europe see Dimitri Obolensky The Byzantine Commonwealth: Eastern Europe, 500-1453 (Crestwood, Ν.Υ.: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1971), pp. 377-404.

49. Best on Sava in English is Dimitri Obolensky, "Sava of Serbia," in Six Byzantine Portraits (Oxford: Clarendon, 1988), pp. 115-172; see p. 121 for the comparison with Alexander the Great. Ιn the vast bibliography of Serbian scholarship on the saint, most valuable is the collection of essays titled Sava Nemanjic-Sveti Sava: Istorija i predanje (Sava Nemanjic-Saint Sava: History and Tradition), ed. V. Djuric (Belgrade: Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, 1979). For the history of medieval Serbia, and particularly on Sava's own political role, see John V. Fine, Jr., The Late Medieval Balkans: Α Critical Survey from the Late Twelfth Century to the Ottoman Conquest (Αnn Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1987), chaps. 1-3. On the church in medieval Serbia see Djoko Slijepcevic, Istorija srpshe pravoslavne crkve (History of the Serbian Orthodox Church), 1 (Munich, 1962), especially pp. 56-141.

50. The controversy that arose with the sanctioning of a self-governing Serbian church is discussed briefly by Obolensky, "Sava of Serbia," pp. 157-161, and more fully in my unpublished paper, "The Attainment of Serbian Autocephaly: Its Significance in Byzantine History and Orthodox Canon Law," presented at the Byzantine Studies Conference, Princeton, 1993.

51. Domentijan, Zivot svetoga Simeuna i svetoga Save, ed. Dj. Danicic (Belgrade, 1865), and Teodosije Hilandarac, Zivot svetoga Save, ed. Dj. Danicic (Belgrade, 1860; repr. 1973). There are also modern Serbian translations of these Old Slavonic texts: Domentijan, Zivoti svetoga Save i svetoga Simeona, trans. Lazar Mirkovic (Belgrade: Srpska Knjizevna Zadruga, 1938); Teodosije Hilandarac, Zitije svetog Save, trans. Lazar Mirkovic (Belgrade: Srpska Knjizevna Zadruga, 1984). Ensuing references cite these two Serbian translations. For a comparison of the two accounts see Dimitrije Bogdanovic's preface to Mirkovic's translation of Teodosije, especially pp. xxx-xxxii. On distinctive features of the medieval Serbian hagiographic genre, including some discussion of these Lives of Sava see Η. Birnbaum, "Byzantine Tradition Transformed: The Old Serbian Vita," in Η. Birnbaum and S. Vyronis, eds., Aspects of the Balkans: Continuity and Change (The Hague: Mouton, 1972), pp. 243-280.

52. Teodosije, p.3.

53. Teodosije, p. 95.

54. In Bulgaria and Serbia in the twelfth to fifteenth centuries schools were primarily monastic, focusing on the education of monks and the study of religious texts. See Fine, Late Medieval Balkans, pp. 118, 436, 445-446.

55. The next example in Serbia was the youngest son of Stefan Nemanjic. He served as archbishop of Serbia from 1263 to 1270. Fine, Late Medieval Balk ns, pp. 135-136.

56. Starting with Stefan Nemanja it became the practice or duty of Serbian rulers to found at least one major monastery for the salvation of their souls. On these magnificent royal monasteries (known as zaduzbine, literally "obligations") see Obolensky Byzantine Commonwealth, pp. 388-389. On the importance of imperial patronage and the foundation of monasteries in the portrayals of orthodox rulers in post-iconoclastic Byzantium see Morris, Monks and Laymen, p. 19. For examples of these expensive building and decorating projects see Domentijan, pp. 59-62, 67, 83-84, 102-103; Teodosije, pp. 43, 51, 66-67, 97, 135.

57. Domentijan, pp. 123, 126; Teodosije, pp. 129-130, 133, 135. The monks were from Studenica and Ζica monasteries. Both Lives also speak of Sava travelling through the land visiting monasteries, supervising, and instructing monks; for example, Teodosije, pp. 146, 166-167.

58. Domentijan, pp. 135-136; Teodosije, pp. 145-146.

59. Domentijan, p.177; Teodosije, p.172.

60. On Sava's continued ascetic rigors in Serbia see especially Teodosije, p. 95.

61. Teodosije, p.27; for a similar distribution of wealth, p. 61. Cf. Domentijan, p. 40. On Byzantine monks as lovers of the poor (philotheoi) and the special role of monasticism in society see Demetrios Constantelos, Byzantine Philanthropy and Social Welfare, 2nd (rev.) ed. (New Rochelle, Ν.Υ.: Aristide D. Caratzas, 1991), pp. 75-88.

62. Teodosije, p. 90. Domentijan's version, pp. 90-92, speaks more broadly of Nemanja as a model of faith and good works.

63. See Dimitrije Bogdanovic's comment in Teodosije, Zitije Svetog Save, p. 272, referring to Teodosije, p.167. See also pp. 68-69. Sava's posthumous miracles included the healing of multitudes of the sick, blind, deaf, and lame.

64. Teodosije, p.100.

65. Domentijan, pp. 139-146; Teodosije, pp. 147-153. The anti-Latin bias appears only in Teodosije's fourteenth-century Life. Writing toward the middle of the thirteenth century Domentijan expressed no hostility toward Rome. Α number of Serbian bishoprics at this time were still in the hands of Latin prelates.

66. Domentijan, pp. 146-149; Teodosije, pp. 154-158.

67. Cited in Ivan Dujcev, "Les rapports hagiographiques entre Byzance et les Slaves," Proceedings of the XIIIth International Congress, p. 365.

68. See Robert Browning, "Serbian Literature," Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, 3, pp. 1874-1875, fοr comments οn Byzantine sources of medieval Serbian vitae. Of some value on sources of these Lives are Alois Schmaus, "Die literarhistorische Problematik von Domentijans Sava-Vita," in Slawistische Studien zum V. Internationalen Slawistenhongress in Sofia 1963, Opera Slavica 4, ed. Maximilian Braun and Erwin Koschmieder (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1963), pp. 121-142, and Cornelia MullerLandau, Studien zum Stil der Sava-Vita Teodosijes (Munich: Verlag Otto Sagner, 1972). There has been virtually no discussion of patristic influences.

69. This is particularly evident in the opening pages of both Lives. See Domentijan, pp. 27-28, and Teodosije, pp. 3-4.

70. Obolensky, Byzantine Commonwealth, pp. 381-382. Other influential models for Slavic monasticism were the Historia monachorum, the Historia Lausiaca, and the Pratum spirituale of John Moschus for sustaining the anchoritic life; also the monastery of Studios in Constantinople, founded by St. Theodore the Studite in the ninth century and largely based on earlier Basilian cenobitic organization.

71. For example, Teodosije, pp.101 and 144. Cf. GNaz, Oration 43, 29.10 and 74.1-3.

72. Teodosije, p. 128. Cf. GNaz, Oration 43.27, lines 7-10. The parallel is almost exact.

73. For example, Domentijan, p. 194. Sava's Nomocanon, known as the Kormcaja Knjiga (Book of the Pilot) to Slavs, also served as the basic constitution of the Bulgarian and Russian churches. See Obolensky, "Sava of Serbia," pp. 154-155, on Sava's role in its compilation; on its broader influence, idem, Byzantine Commonwealth, pp. 407-408, 410-413.

74. Teodosije, pp. 101 and 176.

75. Domentijan, pp. 192-200.

76. See Domentijan, pp. 193-194 and 195-196, respectively. See also Teodosije, p.158.

77. Domentijan, p.192. The title bogovidac occurs more than thirty times in this synkrisis. Even after this formal Moses-synkrisis the comparison with Moses as a bogovidac is repeated in the description of the journey to Trnovo to recover Sava's relics. See Domentijan, p. 208.

78. Dagron, Eveques, moines et empereurs, p. 247, cites the Life of Leontios (BHG 985) as an example.

79. See Dagron, Eveques, moines et empereurs, pp. 245-250.

80. J. Hausherr and G. Ηorn, eds. and trans., Un grand mystique byzantin: Vie de Symeon le Nouveau Theologien (949-1022) par Nicetas Stethatos, Orientalia Christiana XIV45 (Rome: Pontificium Institutum Orientalium Studiorum, 1928).

81. In many instances conventional topoi of Byzantine saints' Lives reflected the actual state of affairs. See Morris, Monks and Laymen, pp. 75-80; who refers to the Life of Symeon as a case in point. On Symeon's life see also Η.J.Μ. Turner, Symeon the New Theologian and Spiritual Fatherhood, Byzantina Neerlandica 11 (Leiden: Brill, 1990), especially pp. 16-36.

82. Life of Symeon the New Theologian, 72: Hausherr and Horn, p. 98. Symeon wrote a Life of his mentor, composed hymns in his honour, and had his image painted on icons for veneration.

83. Life of Symeon the New Theologian, 103: Hausherr and Horn, p.142.

84. For what follows see especially Turner, Symeon and Spiritual Fatherhood; Morris, Monks and Laymen, pp. 90-102; Dagron, Eveques, moines et empereurs, pp. 323-326, and Jean Darrouzes, "Introduction," in Symeon le Nouveau Theologien: Traites theologiques et ethiques, trans. Darrouzes, SC 122 (Paris: Editions du cerf, 1966), 1, especially pp. 13-37. On Symeon's theology see also Archbishop Basil Krivocheine, In the Light of Christ: St. Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022), trans. Anthony Ε Gythiel (Crestwood, Ν.Υ.: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1986).

85. For Symeon's description of his first vision see Discourse ΧΧΙΙ, 89-105, in Symeon the New Theologian: The Discourses, trans. C. J. de Catanzaro (New York: Paulist Press, 1980), pp. 245-246. See also Life of Symeon the New Theologian, 30-31: Hausherr and Horn, pp. 40-42.

86. Life of Symeon the New Theologian, 71: Hausherr and Horn, p. 96.

87. For Symeon's fullest exposition of this doctrine see Traite ethique (= Eth) V The vision of God is also prominent in Discourses 28, 32, and 33, and is a continual theme of Symeon's Hymns.

88. Eth V, 523-538; Darrouzes 2, pp. 116-118.

89. Eth VI, 434-435; Darrouzes 2, pp. 151-152.

90. Turner, Symeon and Spiritual Fatherhood, p. 56, citing Symeon's Epistle 1, or Letter on Confession, published in Karl Ηοll, Enthusiasmus und Bussgewalt beim griechischen Monchtum: Eine Studie zu Symeon dem Neuen Theologen (Leipzig, 1898; repr. 1969), pp. 110-127. For an illuminating discussion of Symeon's Letter on Confession, see Alexander Golitzin, "Hierarchy versus Anarchy? Dionysius Areopagita, Symeon the New Theologian, and Nicetas Stethatos," in Bradley Nassif, ed., New Perspectives on Historical Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1996), pp. 250-276.

91. See Morris, Monks and Laymen, p, 94; also pp. 100-101, for some specific relationships between monks and rulers or aristocratic circles including the circle around Symeon.

92. Life of Symeon the New Theologian, 29-30; Haushen and Horn, pp. 40-42. See also Discourse IVS-21: de Catanzaro, p. 70, where Symeon instructed laymen and monks always to communicate with tears, a practice he himself observed throughout his life. See Dagron's comments on this passage, Évêques, moines et empereurs, p. 322. Regarding ordination and sacraments in Symeon's thought see also Darrouzes, "Introduction," pp. 25-29.

93. Eth XV, 68-73. This particular progression is strongly reminiscent of Nazianzen's use of the example of Moses in Orations 2, 20, and 28. See also XV, 169-187. See Turner, Symeon and Spiritual Fatherhood, pp. 46-49, on Symeon's extensive use of the writings of Nazianzen, the Father he quotes or refers to more than any other.

94. Symeon's strongest opposition came from the official court theologian of his day, Archbishop Stephen of Nicomedia. The conflict between them is presented by Nicetas, Life of Symeon the New Theologian, especially 74-99; Hausherr and Horn, pp. 100-138. See also Hausherr's introduction, pp.Ii-Ivi, and Turner, Symeon and Spiritual Fatherhood, pp. 11 and 33f. For Symeon's likeness to and distinction from neo-Messalian and other "enthusiastic" sects of his day that were officially denounced see Dagron, Eveques, moines et empereurs, pp. 327-328.

95. For an insightful discussion of what has often been regarded as a "paradoxical relationship" between Nicetas, Symeon, and Dionysius, see Golitzin, "Hierarchy versus Anarchy?"

96. Nicetas Stethatos, On the Hierarchy, 36.6, in J. Darrouzes, ed., Nicetas Stethatos, Opuscules et lettres, SC 81 (Paris: Éditions du cerf, 1961), p. 338. For the larger argument see 34-38: Darrouzes, pp. 334-342.

97. Nicetas Stethatos, On the Hierarchy, 42-54: Darrouzes, pp. 342-344.

98. Regarding the roles and influence of Symeon and two other eleventh-century saints outside the monastic milieu see Rosemary Morris, "The Political Saint of the Eleventh Century," in Hackel, ed., Byzantine Saint, pp. 4350. See Charanis, "The Monk as an Element in Byzantine Society," especially p. 85 and n. 161, for examples of emperors who befriended or sought counsel from monks.

99. Cited (with the Greek text) by Darrouzes, Traites theologiques et ethiques, 1, p. 34, and Dagron, Eveques, moines et empereurs, p. 326. Written between 1075 and 1078, Cecaumenus's Strategicon is an important text for the political and cultural history of Byzantium and the Balkans.

100. Dagron, Eveques, moines et empereurs, p. 320.

101. For the changing situation of monasticism during this period see the final chapter of Morris, Monks and laymen, pp. 267-295. On social, cultural, and ecclesiastical developments that prompted changes in perspective on holy men and monks see Paul Magdalino, "The Byzantine Holy Man in the Twelfth Century," in Hackel, ed., Byzantine Saint, pp. 51-66. Ιn the same volume Ruth Macrides, "Saints and Sainthood in the Early Palaiologan Period," pp. 67-87, shows that negative attitudes toward the holy man were passed on to the thirteenth century as well.

102. Morris, "The Political Saint of the Eleventh Century," p. 50, associates this politicisation with the new popularity of cenobitic monasticism as over against the individual holy man or wandering monk.

103. Magdalino, "Byzantine Holy Man," p. 65.

104. There is a vast bibliography on Palamas and the hesychast controversy. See especially John Meyendorff, Byzantine Hesychasm (London: Variorum, 1974), and idem, Introduction a l'etude de Gregoire Palamas (Paris, 1959). See also Hussey Orthodox Church, pp. 259-60, regarding the unfortunate use of the label "hesychast" for this controversy.

105. On the significance of this passage of the Tome (PG 150, 1225-1236) see John Meyendorff, The Byzantine Legacy in the Orthodox Church (Crestwood, Ν.Υ.: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1982), pp. 212-213.

106. On monastic patriarchs of Constantinople from 705-1204 see Brehier, Le monde byzantin, 2, pp. 483-484. On fourteenth-century monk-bishops who served as patriarchs see Hussey, Orthodox Church, p. 289.

107. See Meyendorff, "St. Basil, the Church, and Charismatic Leadership," in Byzantine Legacy, pp. 197-215.

108. Ibid., p. 213.

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