Abbaye de Scourmont

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(updated on July 2, 2008)







During the last three years the practice of daily concelebration has become standard practice in most monasteries. In many places this has presented a problem: should the abbot preside at this concelebration or should it be left to the hebdomadary? The few surveys that have been made show that already there is a wide variety of solutions to the question. In some places the abbot either presides daily or else he does not celebrate at all. Elsewhere he simply joins with the other concelebrants, allowing the hebdomadary to preside. Or again, as a sort of compromise, he may share the presidential function with the hebdomadary. But what is really significant in all this is that the differences in practice stem from still more profound differences in the way the abbatial function itself is conceived.

For some, the abbot is, in his monastery, what the bishop is in his diocese. As hierarchical head of a local church, he should normally preside over the eucharistic celebration, and it seems unfitting that he should concelebrate under the presidency of one of his subordinates. For others, the abbot is one of a group of brethren, designated by them to be their center of communion and their guide in the search for God. Since his authority-as opposed to episcopal authority-is not of the sacramental order, it need not be emphasized in the sacramental eucharistic celebration. Between these two extremes there is room for many intermediary positions, some of which may entail elements of compromise. In any case the question is being asked: can, or cannot, the authority of the abbot somehow be compared to that of the bishop? There is no doubt that the abbot is the "representative of Christ," that he is the "shepherd," and even, in a certain sense, "charismatic." The problem is how to interpret these expressions.

The theology of the abbatial office is obviously connected with that of the monastic community. In other words, the understanding of the abbot's role is conditioned by the idea of cenobitism itself. True, there is little agreement among specialists as regards any of the questions pertaining to the theology and history of cenobitism. Nevertheless we are not entirely reduced to the obscurity of hypotheses in the matter. Hence it is necessary to take into consideration some of the material brought to light in recent years and to use it in judging certain theories current in the monastic world and which underlie some of the practices mentioned above.

Even though the immediate object of this study is the place of the abbot in concelebration, it is clear that the same problem of presidency arises in any liturgical celebration of the monastic community. Is it the abbot who should give the homily? Should the abbot or the hebdomadary preside at the divine office? What is to be thought of the use of the pontificalia? The answers to these questions and others like them depend on the theology of the abbatial office and the monastic community.

Father Chenu recently remarked that the theology of the Church must be discovered in its history. [1] The same can be said of that form of the Christian life which is the monastic life. Consequently, in the first part of this article I will study the origin and evolution of the cenobitic abbatial office both in the East and in the West, formulating the theology of this history and indicating its liturgical implications. In the second part I will analyze the various theological interpretations given these data up to the present time, and finally draw out certain conclusions of my own.




At one time scholars tended to trace the evolution of monasticism in a direct line from the eremitic to the cenobitic form. According to this view the first hermits retired to the Egyptian desert after the peace settlement of Constantine in order to flee from the "established" Church. Then, gradually drawing together around charismatic spiritual fathers, they formed the first semi-eremitic groups. Pakhomius then organized them into an embryonic form of cenobitism which was finally perfected by Basil. [2] Unfortunately such a reconstruction is too simple to correspond to the facts. The historical reality is more complex. It is also a bit more obscure.

First of all, the traditional thesis that Egypt was the cradle of Christian monasticism [3] can no longer withstand even the mildest critical assault. It now appears that under various forms monasticism arose almost simultaneously on all sides out of the vitality of each local church [4] . Quite some time before the existence of monasticism properly so called in Egypt, there arose within the local churches of Syria, Persia, Cappadocia and perhaps also in Africa, a form of asceticism from which the later monastic movements took their origin. The monastic or pre-monastic character of this ascetic way of life has been disputed, but this amounts, by and large, to quibbling over words. [5]

Important conclusions regarding the theology of the abbatial office have frequently been deduced from the premise that cenobitism began when groups of solitaries attached themselves to a single charismatic spiritual father. [6] However, contrary to the idea which is so deeply rooted in many minds, it was rather the eremitical life which in many places arose from the cenobitic, and not the reverse. Therefore let us attempt a brief sketch of this process, first in the East and then in the West.




Any attempt to trace the evolution which moved Christian asceticism towards those institutional forms which we discover in the fourth and fifth centuries uncovers two trends which certainly interacted and influenced one another, but which were originally distinct. The one stemmed from judaeo-Christian encratism and led to the first communities of ascetics, whether of the urban or desert type; the other led from the urban schools of spiritual training to the school of the desert.

It was in the judaeo-Christian churches that there first developed the strongly ascetic tendency which would later give birth to monasticisrn proper. In these judaeo-Christian communities there was already a marked encratic trend. Poverty was practiced to an uncommon degree, as well as fasting and absolute continence, which at least for a certain time, was even required for the reception of baptism. Arthur Vööbus has pointed out the existence of such communities at Edessa and Osrhoene about the year 100. [7]


Dom Jean Gribomont has recently shown the fully orthodox character of this encratic movement prior to the heresies which later took on its name. [8] He has also noted that this movement, as described by Vööbus, was far from being limited to the Christian communities of Aramaic descent; according to him, the asceticism of Eustathius of Sebaste and Basil in Cappadocia belongs to the same trend [9] I have already shown elsewhere [10] that this same Judaeo-Christian milieu gave rise to Pakhomian asceticism in Egypt; this should be no surprise, considering the widespread diffusion in Egypt of the encratic: type of apocryphal literature. [11]




The biblical notion of the covenant (qeiama in Syriac) was at the heart of the primitive Judaeo-Christian spirituality in the Syrian milieu. It enjoyed a quite special development in the fourth century through the writings of Aphrahat and Ephrem, and documents such as the Liber Graduum and the Acts of the Martyrs bear witness to the existence of an institution called the "Sons and Daughters of the Covenant," which consisted of groups of ascetics living within various ecclesial communities, closely linked to the sacramental and hierarchical establishment. [12] It was from these groups that, in a spontaneous and natural way, cenobitism arose in this geographical area. As Dom Gribomont quite rightly says: "This is where we find the most positive contribution of oriental Christianity to monastic pre-history, and not in the eccentricities of the people who lived on wild herbs, or the homeless anchorites determined to live like savage beasts, or the stylites and various other prodigies of austerity." [13]

Vööbus, it is true, wished to show that eremitism was the primitive form of Syrian monasticism, and that cenobitism arrived only later (after Ephrem), that it was not given a welcome reception and was even rejected in eremitic circles. [14] But Edmund Beck has noted that the early writings of St. Ephrem, namely those of his Nisibian period, give no evidence of the existence of anchorites. [15] They are mentioned only in the works he wrote during his stay at Edessa (364-373). [16] Dom Gribomont believes that the Syrian solitaries who separated themselves from the local church during the second half of the fourth century were influenced by Egyptian eremitism. [17]

In any case, even admitting with Vööbus the existence of some eremitism prior to cenobitism properly so called, it remains very clear that Syrian cenobitism has no historical dependence on eremitism, but is rather directly descended from the primitive intra-ecclesial asceticism of the "Sons and Daughters of the Covenant." Hence it seems that the most ancient form of cenobitism sprang from the simple necessity of communion between the members of a local church who were all practicing an advanced degree of asceticism. The reality of this communion is so basically constitutive of this form of cenobitism that it is able of itself, even without a superior, to maintain the cohesion of the group. These ascetics remained therefore, like all other Christians, under the ordinary and immediate jurisdiction of the local hierarchy, with whom they faithfully cooperated, as Father Olaf Hendriks has shown. [18]

Granted, none of this has any direct connection with the problem of the abbot's place in concelebration! But it is of decisive importance for the theology of the cenobitic life and consequently for the evolution of the abbatial office which gradually emerged from within cenobitism.




In Cappadocia the movement from asceticism to cenobitism properly so called was very similar to that already seen in Syria. Very little is known of the disciples of Eustathius of Sebaste, [19] but it does seem that they closely resembled the "Covenant" group of Ephrem and Aphrahat in more than one respect. In any case, we are better informed about Basil. Dom Gribomont's studies regarding the history of the text of Basil's ascetical works [20] have enabled him to reconstruct the evolution of the Basilian system itself. Here, as in Syria, cenobitic life resulted from the steady growth of fraternal communion among the ascetics within the local church. This thoroughly evangelical spirituality is a communitarian mystique based on the renunciation of self-will and the total donation of self to the community of brothers. The most beautiful literary expression of this mystique is doubtless to be found in the De Instituto Christiano of Gregory of Nyssa. [21]

It is important to note that the essence of the concept of obedience and authority in this cenobitism is found in fraternal communion. On this subject Dom Gribomont has written: "Obedience is defined as perfect conformity to the commandments of God as revealed in Scripture; this is incumbent upon all and does not imply any necessary reference to an abbot. It finds its norm, when one is called for, in the needs and opinions of others, and favors the advice of those who have a particular charism for discerning the will of God." [22]

In due time, however, the Basilian community acquired a more definite structure, one that was more organized. Experience itself taught the brotherhood the need for a superior. "In these texts" (viz., of the Great Asceticon) Dom Gribomont writes again, "we find a group of seniors designated at times by a term which has biblical overtones, although not in any technical sense: the participle proestós. This term designates the superior, endowed with the charism of being the 'eye' of the community, which is identified with the Church. the Body of Christ. It is the superior's office to discern the will of God for the community, not by means of any arbitrary decision on his part which is then ratified by God and becomes the divine will; his strict duty and function is to take cognizance of what God requires of each member of the community." [23]

These are significant facts. The Basilian superior is the product of the very vitality of the community itself. He is an element of the structure by which the community is able to become united in order to achieve its ideal of Christian asceticism. He does not replace the ecclesiastical authority under whose jurisdiction the community lives. Hence, on the liturgical and sacramental plane he is in no way distinguished from the rest of his brothers.




The work of Pakhomius antedates that of Basil. [24] If we have treated the latter first, this is due to the fact that it is more closely related, through Eustathius, to the type of spirituality found in Syria. Besides, this reversal of chronology is of no great consequence, since Basil was not influenced by Pakhomius and the development of his thought is original. [25] Even if the connections between Pakhornian monasticism and the Syrian churches are not very close, it is none the less true, as has already been said, that Pakhomius founded his koinonia in a similar Judaeo-Christian spiritual context. Just as the Syrian ascetics considered their "covenant" as simply the fulfillment of the covenant with Abraham contained in the baptismal commitment, so, for Pakhomius, the life of the monk is the natural outcome of his baptism. The vocation to the koinonia is the complete carrying out of one's baptismal promises. [26]

Certainly there are a number of differences between Basilian asceticism and that of Pakhomius. The one was urban while the other was located in the Coptic villages of Upper Egypt. Another difference stems from the fact that Basil's pastoral position enabled him gradually to organize a number of already existing bodies, whereas Pakhomius had to build up a group of rough peasants into a community (koinonia). Nevertheless the fundamental inspiration of both systems is the same: a common endeavor in asceticism and the search for God.

It is important to recognize the originality of the Pakhomian community in comparison with the semi-eremitical communities of Lower Egypt. These bodies of anchorites gathered around a spiritual father already existed in Upper Egypt in Pakhomius' time. He himself had even belonged to one such group which was under the direction of Palamon. But we must not be misled by this. The Pakhomian community, the koinonia, is something quite different from these groups, and in its basic outlook and its concept of the cenobitic ideal it much more closely resembles Basilian spirituality.

For his biographers as well as for his disciples, Pakhomius is the "founder of the koinonia." His claim to fame is that he is the one "by whom the cenobitic life was founded," [27] which is to say that he formed the holy koinonia by which God "made known the apostolic life to those who desire to imitate the apostles." [28] The successors of Pakhomius were very anxious to preserve the unity of this koinonia. Horsiesius had the courage to resign from his office as superior general of the congregation in favor of Theodore when he realized that he was unable to maintain this unity. And Theodore, taking over the duty of superior, pleaded with the monks not to forget the man (Pakhomius) by whom "this large community has become one single body and one single spirit." [29]

And so the specific characteristic of the Pakhomian community is precisely the fact that it is not merely a collection of individuals around a charismatic monk, but a community of brethren. [30] This is very well expressed in one of the "precepts" of Pakhomius: "If someone comes to the gate of the monastery with the desire to renounce the world and join the number of the brethren ... let him be made one of the brethren." [31]

This koinonia, this unanimity of hearts meant to resemble the primitive Jerusalem community, [32] is not a simple "fraternity," purely "spiritual" in character. It is something concrete. It means that each one places himself concretely and physically at the service of all the rest. In accord with the traditional concept of authority in the early ages of the Church, Pakhomius considered his role as superior to be one of service, [33] and he was positively unyielding on this point whenever his disciples wished to bestow some mark of favor on him. [34] From the outset Pakhomius saw the essence of monasticism in mutual service. This explains the fact that when he was training his first disciples, he himself would perform all the most menial tasks, asserting that "they had not yet reached the point where they could serve one another." [35] It is this notion of service which explains the Pakhomian concept of authority and obedience as well as the actual organization of the "houses" and "monasteries."

Thus Pakhomian cenobitism is not an attempt at communal organization of the spiritual paternity exercised in the already existing desert tradition, where everything hung on the superior's personal decision. Just as in Cappadocia and Syria, although in a less obvious manner, it sprang from the example of the primitive Jerusalem community and from imitation of the asceticism practiced within the Christian communities of the time. It is primarily a union of brothers. The role of the superior is highly esteemed, but it is situated within this brotherhood and on the level of communion of life rather than on the level of hierarchical authority. No better expression of this could be found than the words spoken by Pakhomius on his deathbed: "Behold, I am going to the Lord who created us all; since he has brought us all together so that we might do his will, you must decide together whom you wish to have as your father." [36]

Thus we find throughout the whole of the ancient Christian East a universal cenobitic tradition, distinct from the eremitic tradition; cenobitism has its own raison d'être without further eremitical implications, and this due to the very reality of the fraternal communion which it incarnates and realizes. Seen in this light the abbatial function is necessary for fostering and preserving this communion. But since it is essentially different from that of the hierarchical pastor (the bishop), the authority of the abbot belongs to the realm of the common search for the will of God. The abbot's task is to aid the community as such to discover what God wills for it. Such authority, by its very nature, does not require any sacramental manifestation.




Alongside this cenobitic tradition there developed, even among hermits, a new type of monastic community and a new form of spiritual fatherhood. This movement has no great immediate interest for us at the moment, but it needs at least a few words of comment if we are to achieve a better understanding of the originality and distinctive character of cenobitism properly so called.

Paul and Antony went out into the desert alone. But experience soon proved that whoever wished to embrace the difficult life of the desert needed first to place himself under apprenticeship to an experienced monk who was a "bearer of the Spirit." This "elder" or abba passed along basic monastic principles to his disciples and assured their formation in the ascetical life. [37] In some areas this formation was marked by a certain anti-intellectualism, while elsewhere it might take on strong intellectual outlines; this was the case in Skete, for example, where Ammonios, an assiduous reader of Origen, gave Evagrius his monastic training. [38]

The function of the spiritual father in this desert tradition should probably be seen as analogous to that of the didaskaloi in the early Church. [39] These didaskaloi (teachers) are frequently mentioned in St. Paul's letters along with apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastors; [40] they appear in other early Christian writers as Well. [41] Originally they functioned in virtue of special charisms. Later, at the end of the second and third centuries, they held hierarchical teaching positions in the Church and prepared the catechumens for baptism.

The most famous of the church schools in antiquity was that of Alexandria. [42] Pantaenus and Clement took on the running of the school as their personal responsibility, as Justin had done at Rome. But Origen, Clement's successor, was officially installed as head of the school by the bishop, Demetrius, who charged him with preparing candidates for baptism.

The instruction given in this school was not solely intellectual, but embraced the whole Christian life. Origen probably lived with his colleagues and students a kind of community life based on reading the Scriptures in common. [43] One of the most prominent experts on Origen, Henri Crouzel, describes Origen's formative method in this way: "Origen set about cultivating his students the way a good farmer would work a sterile and unfruitful piece of land, clearing it of thornbushes, pruning the neglected trees, grafting onto the wild olive the branch taken from cultivated stock. This formation was carried out on the moral as well as on the intellectual level. It entailed the suppression of passions, false convictions, prejudices, and opinions which had not been sufficiently well-formed: everything in the soul that was blunted or spurious and that was contrary to right reason, to the reception of the words of truth." [44]

Thus the semi-eremitical groups of the desert arrived there by way of the urban schools. In both situations, the bonds which united the disciple to his master were temporary ones. A man came in order to be formed, to place himself under the direction of a master. Afterwards he plunged alone into solitude, ready to become in his turn a master for others. Some "graduated" from these schools of the desert and advanced to positions of responsibility in the Church, [45] or even returned to the world. [46]

In these schools obedience too had a special character. It was primarily directed to an ascetic end. The master used it to bend and even to break the self-will of the subject. If authority was absolute, this was not the effect of a charism in the master expressing the will of God. It was quite simply a means accepted by the disciple who, for his own formation, subjected himself entirely, absolutely, to an "elder." [47] If the latter was called "father," this does not imply any similarity with hierarchical authority. It was simply the ordinary title of the teacher and catechist at Alexandria. Clement says, "We call 'fathers' those who have instructed us in religion." [48]

Thus it can be seen how in the East, Christian ascetical practice evolved through various institutional stages. in this evolution we can distinguish two trends which certainly may have exercised some reciprocal influence and even at times mingled with one another, but which were originally independent. They led to two different types of monastic groups and two distinct forms of religious authority. The first of these movements consisted in communion between the ascetics of a single local church. This rapidly led to a form of asceticism properly so called, within which, once a certain stage of organization had been realized, the role of a superior as the center of unity in the search for God was felt as a need. This form of cenobitism was basically the same among the "Sons and Daughters of the Covenant" in Syria and Persia, with Basil in Cappadocia and with Pakhomius in the Thebaid.

Just when this movement was beginning to be institutionalized, there arose another movement which was oriented towards individual solitude rather than community life. Ascetics of this type retired into the wilds of the desert. But these solitaries soon experienced the need for charismatic masters who would assist them in their ascetic endeavors. In this way there arose in the desert a new kind of monastic body which was modelled after the urban schools of spiritual formation.

It was necessary to mention the existence of these two traditions since it is their fusion and commingling which explains the particular evolution of cenobitism and the concept of the abbatial office in the West. Nevertheless in both these traditions the attitude towards the ecclesiastical hierarchy is the same. At one time it was fashionable to regard primitive monasticism as a secession from and an opposition to the "installed" hierarchical Church. [49] This position was exaggerated and incorrect. Doubtless there were skirmishes in certain places. This is an historical fact and it was unavoidable. But on the whole, during the third and fourth centuries the relations between monks and hierarchy were excellent. The monks acknowledged the bishops as their fathers, as did all other Christians. [50] If they made use of various biblical images such as "pastor" or "father" to designate their monastic superiors, they never confused the function of these superiors with that institutional order of things whereby the hierarchical pastors governed the Church.




Western cenobitism was not the result of the spontaneous burgeoning of brotherhoods within local churches, as was the case in the East. In the majority of cases it arose rather under the impulse of authority, that is, due to the action of bishops or enterprising reformers. While it is possible that a more primitive form of ascetical life did exist, although practically nothing is known of it, it seems that Athanasius' Life of Antony should be considered as the seed from which monasticism developed almost everywhere in the West. This means that what the West received from the East was primarily those elements of monastic tradition which came from the eremitic milieu rather than a properly cenobitic tradition. This is doubtless part of the reason why Western monks, even though living in common, have always maintained, at least in theory, more of an eremitical orientation than a cenobitical one.

It was this same Life of Antony which stirred the enthusiasm of those Roman women, patricians and friends of Jerome, who were led to live the ascetical life of the desert in their palaces on the Aventine. At the same time and under the same influence a monastic movement began in Gaul; it was poorly organized and its process of evolution is impossible to determine. [51] The monks it produced were extremely unstable, living sometimes as hermits and conforming to traditions which came from the East, and sometimes in common, living pretty much as they pleased; one day submitting themselves to the schooling of a renowned ascetic, and the next going on pilgrimage to the Holy Land or to preach the gospel to the pagans. This movement enjoyed little episcopal support until some of these monks became bishops themselves and decided to rectify the situation. This was done for example by Martin of Tours at Marmoutiers. [52] But the result was almost always the formation of clerical communities attached to the bishop. It was necessary to wait for the advent of Cassian for a truly Western monasticism to appear.

Africa would require a study in itself. A number of urban communities of virgins probably existed there even before Augustine, and perhaps even a monasticism with oriental lineaments. [53] But the whole thing is very obscure. All we know is that Augustine's monasticism was rather like that of Basil and Pakhomius in its fundamental inspiration. The monastery was conceived as an ecclesial cell founded on unanimity in charity. [54] But it was a clerical monasticism under the immediate jurisdiction of the bishop, and so it does not throw any light on our problem regarding the nature of the religious superior and his function.




With Cassian everything changes-or at least many things change, for Cassian brought about a fusion of the cenobitic and eremitic traditions. The task of the historian and the theologian is to discern whether this fusion resulted in a harmonious synthesis or whether it was simply a material juxtaposition of the two traditions.

In Egypt, where he passed all of his monastic life before settling down in Gaul, Cassian had lived in the semi-eremitic environment of Lower Egypt. [55] He had doubtless visited other places, but had never gone as far as the Thebaid, which was the center of Pakhomian cenobitism. When he arrived in Provence he discovered various forms of monastic life which were quite different from what he had known in Skete, and which he had come to identify with monastic life as such. At this juncture he discovered his vocation to be a reformer, and was confirmed in it by Castor, the bishop of Apt. His ideal was nothing less than a total alteration of Western monasticism-which he severely criticised- by means of a return to the traditions of Eastern monachism. [56] This is the whole scope of the Institutes and the Conferences. Cassian was not interested in writing history or even in giving an exact description of Eastern monasticism. He was primarily concerned with reforming and building up the monastic situation he found in Gaul. [57]

In his efforts at reforming monasticism, just as in his doctrinal disputes with Augustine, Pelagius and Nestorius, Cassian's fundamental appeal is to "tradition." [58] But that has to be carefully understood! Genuine tradition for Cassian is not what can be found in contemporary ecclesiastical writers. It is the "authentic faith of the ancient fathers which is maintained in its purity by their successors down to the present day." [59] Convinced that the East had received this tradition directly from the apostles, Cassian considered himself its authorized representative in the West, and he regarded with a certain disdain those who "have tried to describe what they have merely heard about rather than actually experienced." [60] But ironically enough Cassian found himself in a very similar situation, for although he had lived the semi-eremitic life in Egypt and remained basically an anchorite at heart, he now found himself by force of circumstances and Castor's request obliged to legislate for cenobites. He extricated himself from this dilemma simply by describing the customs and spirituality of the semi-eremitic life of Lower Egypt, touching it up with some cenobitic coloring and attributing it to all the monks of Egypt and the Thebaid.

Dom Julien Leroy has recently divided Cassian's works into two categories: those which contain more specifically cenobitic teaching and those directed primarily to anchorites. [61] In a subsequent study he attempted a further distinction of Cassian's writings into a) cenobitism as seen by the cenobites themselves; b) cenobitism as viewed by the anchorites; and c) cenobitism in Cassian's own thought. [62] These studies are very enlightening and certainly serve to give us a better understanding of Cassian. However, such distinctions must not be exaggerated.

Whether Cassian is addressing himself to anchorites or to cenobites, he always transmits basically the same concept of the monastic life, although he may adapt it somewhat to the case at hand. The few cenobitic establishments he had visited in Lower Egypt were "monasteries" of the semi-eremitic type rather than coenobia properly so called.

What, then, really is Cassian's concept of cenobitism? Certain texts can be found in his works, such as the sixteenth Conference, De amicitia, in which all the elements of monastic life are considered under the aspect of fraternal charity. Here one almost has the impression of reading something from Basil or Pakhomius. But only because this conference belongs to the body of writings directed to anchorites; Cassian's habitual way of thinking is quite otherwise. The coenobium is primarily a school of formation: this is simply the ideal of the urban center of spiritual training transferred to the desert. Dom Adalbert de Vogüé sums up Cassian's concept in this way: "The Christian and monastic society does not raise its children for itself, as if its sole purpose were to form well-balanced members in a harmonious social body. The educative activity of the coenobium or of the eremitical community, like that of the Church, ultimately serves the purpose of bringing human persons closer to the divine Persons.... Of course it is true that the whole of monastic life grows and increases within a communitarian framework; but it is no less certain that this framework becomes more and more dispensable for the individual monk as he becomes more proficient. This is at least the normal expression of Cassian's thought, the one that he develops most habitually." [63]

And so Dom Leroy is perfectly correct in writing that Cassian "presents ... a new conception of the cenobitic life." Now we are even able to discern how this conception came about. The fact is, it did not result from a harmonious fusion of the eremitic and cenobitic traditions. It is quite simply the transposition of the institutions of the desert "school" into a framework of stable common life. In other words, it consists of the transformation of a relationship-that of disciple and master-which had always been, and is of its very nature temporary, into a permanent institution. The fraternity is no longer willed for its own sake, for its Christian and ecclesial value, but purely as a means of formation. The superior is no longer the center of the fraternity, the "eye of the body," but a teacher whose task is to instruct individual monks. The role of spiritual father which in the East, even within cenobitism, could be assumed by any man filled with the Holy Spirit, now tends to be reserved to the superior. Such an institutionalization of the charismatic role of the spiritual father entailed great dangers which Dom de Vogüé clearly states: "When a communitarian dimension is added to spiritual fatherhood, its very nature is imperilled. One runs the risk of externalizing the relationships of master and disciple, transposing them onto the social plane and thus emptying them of their personal substance." [64]

But an even more fundamental modification of the abbatial concept is initiated with Cassian. Mention has already been made of the importance he attributed to tradition, as well as the uniformity which he claimed for the monastic tradition in the East. As a reaction against the multiplicity of monastic forms in Provence, Cassian wanted to impose a single formula, the "apostolic" tradition. In his mind, it was in Egypt that this monastic tradition which came from the apostles was best preserved. He felt that the element which most closely united the monks of the whole of Egypt was the exceptional uniformity of doctrine and institutions which they maintained. The foundation for such unity is the adherence to a single rule of life, of apostolic origin. This rule of fife, catholica regula, is in some way the monastic counterpart to the Creed. [65] Such an idea easily leads to an analogy between monasticism and the Church. Cassian expresses himself very strongly in describing this analogy: "Just as the Church has its dogma and its discipline," writes Dom de Vogüé, "so, for Cassian, monasticism also has its magisterium and its hierarchy. It is the 'elders' who fulfill this function, in which they are the successors of the first fathers, just as the bishops have succeeded the apostles. No one has the right to direct others, nor even govern his own life, unless he has first subjected himself to this living magisterium, the sole repository of the authentic tradition." [66]

The assimilation of the monastic hierarchy to the hierarchy of the Church did remain in Cassian a very flexible comparison. Nevertheless this was shortly after him taken up by a theorist who was to push it to its extreme logical consequence, and create the figure of the abbotbishop. This theorist is "the Master," whose Rule was to be the principal source for the Regula Benedicti.




The role played by the abbot in his community according to the Regula Magistri has been studied in detail by Dom de Vogüé. Let us turn to his findings for the moment. [67]

We have seen how plainly Cassian likened the monastic hierarchy to the ecclesiastical hierarchy. We also know that early monastic literature made use of various figures of the Old and New Testaments in order to remind the superior of his duties: [68] The titles of doctor, major, abbas, pastor, etc. were applied to him, although not rigidly. But the Master, carrying these figures to their extreme logical limits, [69] arrived at an exaggerated concept of the abbatial office, which has been formulated by Dom de Vogüé as follows: "The Master affirms that the abbot is, like the bishop. a 'teacher,' commissioned by Christ, a successor and heir of the apostles, endowed with the authority conferred on the apostles and their successors by the most solemn texts of the New Testament." [70]

The notion of community that tallies with such a concept of the abbot is not difficult to imagine: "How then does the Master view the monastery? Essentially it is a school. The monastery is defined by the relationship of disciple to master, of inferior to superior. This relationship is conceived in a thoroughly biblical manner: the prophet, the master of wisdom, the apostle-all of these are so many models for the abbot. It is likewise understood in a totally ecclesiastical manner, since the abbot is the equivalent of the bishop and the priest." [71]

What is the basis for this concept of the Master? It is to be found in the interpretation he gives to a text of St. Paul which affirms that Christ instituted in his Church apostles, prophets and teachers. The Master, by reversing the order of the two first categories, considered that these three ofices have succeeded one another in time: the apostles came after the prophets, and the teachers came after the apostles. These "teachers" are of two kinds: the bishops and the abbots, each within his own domain. In effect, the Master distinguishes between two types of "houses of the Lord": churches and monasteries. Bishops preside over the former, abbots over the latter. [72]

What is the source of this teaching function of the abbot, which makes him properly speaking a legitimate successor of the apostles? In his first book, Dom de Vogüé affirmed that it was his in virtue of the charism proper to his role as spiritual father. His election and abbatial blessing did nothing more than give open cognizance to the existence of this charism. Later on, Dom de Vogüé rejected this explanation and now considers that this teaching function is given to the abbot by the bishop at his abbatial blessing. [73]

I do not intend to enter the discussion of this interpretation, but simply to make two remarks. First, I am not entirely convinced by the arguments on which this new interpretation of Dom de Vogüé rests. The Master makes no allusion to the abbatial blessing, either in his three main texts on abbatial authority or in his initial statements about the abbot's power. The implicit connection which Dom de Vogüé posits here remains hypothetical. The second remark is perhaps more important. The interpretation of the role of the abbot in the community according to the Regula Magistri as given by Dom de Vogüé in his earlier book, rested to a large extent on the thesis that the abbot was a charismatic who received the function of spiritual father directly from God. When Dom de Vogüé relinquished this point of view one would have expected a more profound revision of the opinions set forth in his earlier work.

I will indicate later on what I think of the author's efforts to show that the concept of the Regula Magistri was simply the explication of material whose basis was already present in the whole of early tradition. For the moment suffice it to say that it was this concept which gave rise to the idea of the abbot-pontiff, together with all the liturgical consequences of such an idea. The theologian's task is to determine whether this is a legitimate and meaningful evolution of doctrine, or a case of theological confusion.




The Master's idea was taken over by the author of the Regula Benedicti. The Benedictus vir of Monte Cassino, as we now know, did not write an original composition, but rather adapted a pre-existing document which is the Regula Magistri. [74] It is moreover this adaptation which best reveals his genius, his experience and his discretion.

Continuing the line of thought he inherited from Cassian and the Master, Benedict continued to consider the monastic community as a school in which the monks are disciples and the abbot is teacher. But whereas the Master, in his very long Rule, treated only the vertical relations of disciple and master, the author of the Regula Benedicti introduced reflection on the horizontal relations among the monks themselves. [75] More important still, Benedict reduced to more moderate proportions the biblical images that the Master had exploited so intemperately. For example, at the end of his description of the various types of monks, a passage substantially taken from Cassian (Conf. 18, 4-8), the Master added a long doctrinal development on the abbot as "teacher," in which he claimed to show from Scripture the necessity of submitting oneself to a "teacher" representing Christ and speaking in his name. Benedict, summing up the Master, quite simply omitted this doctrinal development. [76]

Such corrections by Benedict, as well as his somewhat more "communitarian" orientation, are certainly due in great measure to the partial acquaintance he had with the Eastern cenobitic tradition. At the same time he both remains within the line of thought brought to the West by Cassian, and manages to avoid the exaggerations of the Master. It would be the greatest disservice to his achievement to overemphasize the absolute conceptions of the Master which no doubt are implicit in Benedict's Rule, but which he had deliberately set aside; it would be a still greater mistake to attempt their restoration in Benedictine monasticism.

Of the two great streams of Eastern tradition, only one passed over into the West: the semi-eremitic tradition of Lower Egypt, adapted in the West to a more strictly common life. The truly cenobitic tradition, which we have seen as fundamentally identical in the Syrian "Sons of the Covenant," in Basil's ascetics and the monks of Pakhomius, did not cross the borders into the West, apart from a few later and superficial influences. At most it permitted Benedict to bring certain correctives to the exaggerated outloook of the Master.

Western cenobitism, nourished by an eremitical spirituality, was not to achieve to the same degree the ideal of fraternity and communion which the Eastern cenobites had. In the West the coenobium was not seen as a form of life whose value depended upon the very reality of communion which it made incarnate, but it became a "school of formation." The superior was not a brother who served the group by maintaining it in communion, who was the eye of the body-the one in whom the communal effort of seeking the divine will was concentrated. He was rather the master having disciples to form, directing them in the name of God after the manner of the hierarchical authorities of the Church.

From here you take one more step, and the superior is assimilated to the bishop. This step, only suggested by Cassian, was gleefully taken by the Master. Benedict avoided his exaggeration, but the Master's ideas remained latent in the Western orientation of monasticism from which he drew. The theses of the Master did not find any new theorist, at least not until the twentieth century, but they quickly reappeared in practice, and particularly in liturgical practice.

The abbot, once considered more or less a bishop, began to assume his insignia and liturgical functions. The abbatial blessing gradually became an imitation of episcopal consecration, with the consecratory formula omitted. The end result was that the abbot became, to use an expression à la Bouyer, "a sort of bishop, minus the Holy Spirit, but with all a bishop's functional paraphernalia." [77]

This Western tradition has come down to us fundamentally unchanged, through alternative periods of decadence and reform. At present, for the first time since the sixth century, the monks of the West are confronted with the duty and the pressing need to rethink in depth all of the elements of this tradition and re-evaluate it in order to arrive at a new understanding of its meaning. This task must be performed in the light of the Church's whole tradition and above all in the light of the gospel.




The historical development which I have just sketched in broad outline includes its own theology which must be drawn out more explicitly. Some attempts at this have been made in various studies which I would now like to analyze and evaluate. I will also present another study, of extreme importance, on the theology of authority in religious life in general, and conclude by indicating some elements of a solution which it seems may be drawn from this essay.




No one would question the fact that an abbot should be the spiritual father of his monks rather than simply a material administrator. Likewise all agree that he is the head of a Christian community over which he exercises authority. But concepts of cenobitism and of the abbatial office vary greatly depending upon the order set up among these elements, particularly with reference to the relations uniting the abbot and his monks.

Dom de Vogüé does not hesitate in the least: for him the abbot exists in some way above the community. Primarily the abbot is an accomplished monk, capable of teaching the perfect life and exercising a true spiritual fatherhood; but since the community aspect of this fatherhood looms large. he takes on the role of head of a church and is comparable to a bishop. . ." [78] .

This notion of the abbot's role is based on a very particular concept of cenobitism: "A cenobitic society primarily results from the sum of individual relationships between the monks and their abbot." [79] "Cenobitism is thus essentially constituted by the completely spiritual relationship of a group of individuals to a man who represents Christ. From this primary relationship there results a second which unites all these disciples of one master among themselves. Hence cenobitic society primarily exists between the monk and his abbot, that is, between the monk and God whom he is seeking. It is an extension of the eremitical experience, and remains essentially a life with God alone." [80]

This concept of cenobitism, is found in all of Dom de Vogüé's studies. It conditions, among other things, his notion that the divine office is merely propaedeutic to solitary prayer, or even a substitute for continual prayer. Such a vision of cenobitism is not without a certain nobility. The problem is to ascertain whether it is based, as the author believes, on ancient monastic tradition; to determine this some analysis of his arguments is needed, particularly those given in his fundamental work: La communauté et l'abbé dans la Règle de saint Benoît. The importance of this book is due not only to the subject matter, but also the very great influence it seems currently to be exercising on many monks and abbots as regards their idea of the abbatial function and the meaning of the monastic community.

Methodologically speaking, the author continues in the direction taken by Dom. Basil Steidle [81] , not trying to insist on the originality of St. Benedict, but rather attempting to set him in historical perspective, studying him against the background of the tradition which he both took up and passed along. Particular importance is given to the Regula Magistri (RM): "The RM and the whole of early cenobitic literature will be a constant point of reference in the commentary on the text." [82] Anteriority of the Regula Magistri over the Regula Benedicti is presupposed as a working hypothesis; and this hypothesis proves very fruitful.

It cannot be denied that the method is excellent. But it is also very demanding. It presupposes a thorough knowledge of the various cenobitic trends in the early Church, and constant attention that their complexity not be too simply schematized. It would seem that Dom de Vogüé did not entirely avoid this danger. He fails to take into account the primitive asceticism that flourished in the churches of Syria and Cappadocia, which is so important for the history of asceticism in general and of cenobitism in particular. Basing himself on a description of Pakhomian cenobitism which is correct on the whole, but too schematic, he fails to study its genesis and evolution, which accounts for this statement at the beginning of his work: "Pakhomius clearly seems to have originated a very strong Egyptian 'tradition' which can easily be recognized in the cenobites described by Jerome (Ep. 22, 35), in the Institutes of Cassian, and in the Master and St. Benedict.... [But] the monastic ideal did not evolve in the direction of a fuller cenobitism, and it remains, as in the past, dominated by eremetical yearnings. It is the weakness of men and the concern to assure a minimum of ascetic integrity that led to the development of the common life." [83] Here we have Dom de Vogüé's favorite thesis; it turns up throughout his book in a variety of ways. It constitutes, in my opinion, an unproven assumption.

First of all, the line of continuity traced by Dom de Vogüé from Pakhomius to Benedict passing through Cassian, poses numerous problems for the historian. There is certainly a connection between Cassian and Benedict, but none exists between Pakhomius and Cassian. It is an established fact that Cassian did not know Pakhomian monasticism. In his Institutes, he generally mentions only "the Egyptians," who were, in the common parlance of the time, the inhabitants of the Delta and Lower Egypt. The few texts in which he mentions the Tabennites or the Pakhomians (who lived in the Thebaid) occur when he makes use of the various documents in which he read about them. [84] These documents are either Palladius' History regarding the Tabennites, which has nothing to do with Pakhomian monasticisms [85] , or Jerome's Latin translation of the "Precepts" of Pakhomius. Now these "precepts," improperly called the "Rule of Pakhomius," are simply a collection of various regulations dating from different periods, and concerned mainly with the material organization of the monasteries. Authentic as these texts may be, they cannot give an adequate idea of Pakhomian spirituality.

But though Cassian had no personal contact with Pakhomian monasticism, could not this monasticism have influenced the milieu which Cassian did know, and thus create this Egyptian tradition spoken of by Dom de Vogüé? Nothing of the kind took place. Contacts between Pakhomian monks and the semi-anchorites of Lower Egypt were practically nonexistent. The literature of Lower Egypt, particularly the Apophthegmata, open to so many different tendencies, has assimilated nothing of the Pakhomian literary output, which remained a homogeneous whole. [86] This mutual ignorance can doubtless be explained by Pakhomius' reservations with regard to eremitism, but is especially due to the firm position taken by the Pakhomian monks on the patriarchs side in the great Origenist dispute at the end of the fourth century.

In the first part of this study we have seen the originality of Pakhomian cenobitism and all that distinguishes it from the type described by Cassian. If Dom de Vogüé has come to the conclusion that these two very different traditions are really quite similar, it is because he has too readily placed his confidence in Cassian's claim to represent the Eastern tradition, and has looked at Pakhomius only through Cassian's eyes.

For a long time it was thought that Basil had modified Pakhomius. But Dom Gribomont demonstrated some time ago that there is little probability of Basil's depending on Pakhomius, and that in any case it cannot be proven. Hence, Dom de Vogüé believes that Basilian monasticism can be considered a sort of exception, on the fringe of the early tradition. [87] But if Pakhomian monasticism is studied by means of authentic sources, one finds in it a concept of cenobitism very similar to Basil's, as was explained above, and this despite notable differences in the exterior organization of the common life. Which is all the more striking if Pakhomius really did not exercise any influence on Basil.

Hence it is necessary to face the facts. There is not just one Egyptian monastic tradition (the eremitic) with the Basilian communities constituting a marginal element. Rather, the East harbored a great cenobitic: tradition which, in spite of notable differences, was fundamentally the same and shared by the "Sons of the Covenant" in Syria, Eustathius and Basil in Cappadocia, and Pakhomius in the Thebaid. Alongside this cenobitic tradition, another monastic tradition, almost as old, appeared in the deserts of Egypt, Syria and Palestine: the eremitic tradition, which evolved into groups of solitaries united around a single spiritual father. It was this semi-eremitic tradition which Cassian made his own and which, through the Master, was carried on by St. Benedict.

Still, Benedict did slightly correct this tradition by rather cautiously bringing back some elements of true cenobitism. Where did he find them? Doubtless in Basil - "our holy father Basil" as he calls him. Butler believed this was a reasonable affirmation. [88] But Dom de Vogüé offhandedly rejects this position by situating Basil outside the tradition which he claims can be traced from Pakhomius straight to Benedict through Cassian and the Master! [89]

It does not seem then that Dom de Vogüé's thesis, asserting that cenobitism sprang from an effort to organize on a communal level the desert relationship of father and son can stand up under historical criticism. What is to be said for the notion of the abbot as charismatic father who operates "above" the community and around whom groups of disciples are formed? Certainly it is not an untenable position. Nevertheless. personally I do not find it very realistic. The history of monasticism, both past and present, seems to prove that abbots are not usually "charismatic" men in the sense understood by Dom de Vogüé. In any case it is a fact that at the present time those who enter a monastery come not to subject themselves to a particular superior, but to be united to a community of brothers whose manner of life corresponds to their own ideal or their own vocation. And when the time comes to choose a new superior, they choose the one who, by his natural and supernatural endowments, is best able to lead the community to God in peace and unity.

The lengthy analysis of this thesis has not been made in a polemical spirit. Rather it was done because from this historical thesis the author derives his concept of the abbot as the equal of a bishop, which he sets forth, for example, at the end of his note on the abbot-pontiff. "Such a charism puts the abbot in the category of the 'teachers' who rule the people of God after the prophets and apostles. It places him alongside the bishop, while his assistants, the deans and cellarer, become analogous to the priests, deacons and clerics. His teaching has to be traditional, like that of the head of a local church, since he is the exponent of a rule which reiterates the demands of the gospel and condenses the experience of the perfect disciples of Christ, those who have embraced the apostolic life. In a word, while he is not actually a bishop, he is to all intents and purposes just like a bishop." [90]

Such a concept would certainly justify, and even demand, that the abbot normally preside over the liturgical celebrations of his community. Historically, this conception was held by the Master, but it cannot claim to be a clear expression of the tradition which preceded it. It is rather the fruit of logical reflection, based on the biblical figures used by Cassian. With Benedict it seems to have been restricted to the original meaning it had in Cassian: a simple comparison without theological import, rather than a genuine analogy. From a theological point of view it is hardly acceptable, as will be seen from the study of Father Tillard, analyzed later on.


Another author has attempted to systematize positions similar to those of Dom de Vogüé regarding the origins of cenobitism and the abbatial office. He is Dom Benno Hegglin. [91] Though his study is a canon law thesis concerned with the abbot's position in the current legislation of the Church, he deals in the first section of his work with the origin of the abbatial office and power.

The author first remarks, quite rightly, that in eremitic monasticism. the name of abbot was conferred on charismatic monks, i.e., on those who had given visible proof of being filled with the Holy Spirit. For this reason they could exercise spiritual fatherhood, directing disciples in the spiritual life by word and example. In the course of the transition to cenobitism, the meaning and content of the word abbas doubtless changed somewhat, but the charismatic element remained. This would mean that superiors are called abbots because of their charismatic qualities. The only difference between cenobitic authority and that of a superior of hermits would lie in the fact that the latter pertains only to the doctrinal order, whereas the former extends to all the elements of the life. This conception obviously rests on the postulate that eremitism preceded cenobitism and that the latter grew out of the former.

Heinrich Bacht has expressed serious reservations regarding this thesis [92] . He indicates the equivocation whereby Hegglin equates the pneumatic function of the spiritual father in the desert with purely spiritual direction. But above all he insists on the fact that a charism cannot be institutionalized. Finally, he remarks that when one admits, as Hegglin did, that Pakhomius laid down certain rules aimed at "protecting" the monks against the abuse of authority by superiors, and that he even instituted a council of judges to settle conflicts between superiors and subjects, it is insufficient simply to say that all this is "very interesting." For what we have here is the execution of a notion of obedience quite different from that known in "the desert."




To determine the theological value of certain past or present conceptions of the abbatial office we must take into account contemporary theological reflection, and we are indebted to Father Tillard for a very important study on religious authority. [93]

By means of rigorous theological argumentation he shows that it is necessary to distinguish within the Church two well-defined forms of authority, hierarchical and religious. In the course of time these two forms of authority have so influenced one another that they have ended by becoming almost the same, so that the relations between diocesan priests and their bishops have become practically identified with those existing between religious and their superiors, religious authority taking on the juridical forms of hierarchical authority. However we evaluate such an evolution and whether we consider it reversible or not, the fact remains that from a theological point of view we are confronted here with two quite different forms of authority, which must be distinguished in terms of the particular end of the form of society within which they are exercised. Authority is not an absolute value; it is essentially relative to a society, or better, to a community.

Hierarchical authority is a ministry, serving to build up the Body of Christ primarily by the administration of the divine gifts par excellence, the word and the sacraments. "Whether he be bishop, priest or deacon, the minister is the 'human sacrament' through whom God himself acts here and now on his people. If, particularly in the communal celebration of the Memorial of the Lord, he has also the duty of being 'mediator' through whom the prayers, offerings and thanksgiving of the entire people ascend to the Father, nevertheless his primary and essential place is in the movement which descends from God to men in Christ. Even the activity by which he 'organizes' the Church so that it can respond to its vocation in the world is caught tip in this dynamism of the Father's agape." [94]

Thus hierarchical authority is sacramental, both in its origin and in the nature of its activity. By means of this authority God himself leads his people and gives them life. It is rooted m the divine initiative, sealed by a sacrament, and hence always accompanied by a suitable charism. It is thus, according to the divine plan, that the authority of the Lord Jesus is to remain in the Church until the Parousia." [95]

Authority in religious life is on an entirely different plane. This stems first of all from the nature of the religious community: "The religious community is a cell of the Church, and as such it is radically impossible for it to withdraw from hierarchical authority, for it lives by the word and the sacraments and so it cannot arrogate to itself a leader to replace or diminish the authority of those whom the Lord himself has placed over his flock. Moreover it is not essentially a hierarchical society, structured by the shepherd-flock relationship. On the contrary it is essentially a brotherhood. It belongs to the people of God and so also is built up by the leaders who serve the people; but it is situated directly on the level of fraternal communion which essentially defines the Church in its mysterious being, and is determined to respond to the impulse of the Spirit within the heart of the baptized, like a new outpouring of the dynamism of grace.... The religious community is the brotherhood of a small group of baptized persons who are united in order to discover together, in a form of life determined by a definite rule, this blossoming forth of the grace at the heart of their being." [96]

This point is of primary importance for the theology of authority in the religious life. The religious community is a brotherhood of believers living their Christian life under the guidance of the hierarchy. If another form of authority arises within the community, it must differ from the hierarchical and be of another order. It should minister to the fraternal communion, be determined by this communion, and exist for no other reason than this. Hierarchical authority belongs to the descending movement of the Father's grace; religious authority is situated on the horizontal level of fraternal communion, aiding in the ascending movement of response to grace.

The essential difference between these two kinds of authority presupposes a difference in origin. Hierarchical authority is sacramental and charismatic power which the bishop receives at his episcopal consecration. There is here a personal and direct intervention of the Father, signified sacramentally by the Church in a sacred rite in which the one chosen for office is distinguished sacramentally from the rest of the baptized. This distinction should normally be apparent in liturgical celebrations. In a religious community, on the contrary, there is nothing which sacramentally distinguishes the superior as such from the rest of his brothers. His authority is not sacramental in origin; it springs from the fundamental equality of all the baptized, all brothers in Christ. This authority, like all authority on earth, certainly comes from God. However, it is conferred on the superior by the action of the community, requesting, by a free vote, that one of its members be a center of unity and a guide in its search for and accomplishment of the will of God. No sacrament is added to this community election. The Church ordinarily requires only the approval of a higher superior to confirm the wisdom of the choice, and this superior's authority is not necessarily hierarchical or sacramental.

It is significant that these conclusions of Father Tillard regarding the nature of religious authority are in perfect accord with those at which we arrived independently, from a study of early Eastern cenobitism. But before drawing from this historical and theological study conclusions concerning the abbot's place in eucharistic concelebration, it is important to examine a number of terms and dispel certain possible ambiguities.




Our contemporary vocabulary has been enriched by a fine neologism which has unfortunately been cheapened by immoderate usage. The word is charism. In the New Testament it frequently has a broad meaning, designating all the gifts of God, in the first place that of the divine life in Christ (Rom. 5, 15 ff). In this sense, every Christian is charismatic. Other, more "specialized" charisms are connected with the filling of a particular office among the people of God. The most important of these charisms are those transmitted sacramentally, by the imposition of hands (I Tim. 4, 14; 2 Tim. 1, 6); they necessarily accompany every hierarchical office. The office of abbot does not belong to this category of charisms which are strictly sacramental in origin.

Besides these governing charisms, which give to the recipient the rights of commanding and teaching and which no one should despise (I Tim. 4, there have always been in the Church other charisms which are related, not to ministerial functions, (apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists, pastors), but to the activities of the community (serving, teaching. exhortation, discernment of spirits, etc.). The anchorites of the desert, seeking instruction and formation, gathered around certain great monks who possessed this second kind of charism. Certain great cenobitic abbots might also have enjoyed and exercised such charisms-along with some of their monks-but this did not specifically define their office.

In a recent work Jean Colson distinguishes two types of office in the Church: the first, specifically ordered to salvation, deals with doctrine and its teaching, baptism and worship; the ministers of such offices were always considered to have been instituted by Christ himself. The other type concerns the governing of the community, and was patterned after the Jewish community structure, which set up its own officers. [97] It was only after some centuries that the Church clearly distinguished charisms constituting hierarchical ministers and those belonging to the second category. It is thus understandable that the distinction did not appear in all clarity in monastic literature of the fourth and fifth centuries, and that titles and epithets belonging to the first category were still applied to offices of the second. Confusion and doctrinal error began when, as in the Regula Magistri for example, the application of some of these expressions such as doctor, pastor, was pushed to the extreme. It would certainly be wrong to return at the present time to terminological and doctrinal imprecision which has long been obsolete.




Legitimate celebration of the eucharist must take place in communion with the bishop. Moreover it is normal, although not always absolutely necessary, that a liturgical celebration should be presided over by the bishop or his representative. The hierarchical character of a celebration does not result merely from the fact that someone presides and that the participants carry out various functions. When a group of laymen, monks or not, celebrate the divine office, one of them-usually the seniorpresides. But this presents no manifestation of the hierarchical character of the Church or of the liturgy. The celebration takes on this hierarchical character when it is presided over by a minister in sacred orders (received sacramentally) corresponding to the office which he exercises. He then presides, not by any appointment of the assembly, but because he possesses, in virtue of his ordination, a sacred character enabling him to preside in the name of Christ. The special presence of Christ in him is based upon the sacramental character.

It has been said that the monastic community is a hierarchical body and should so manifest itself in the liturgy. Further, since the abbot presides in the refectory and chapter there seems to be no reason why he should not preside m the church. But these observations are highly equivocal. When the brethren come together for some common exercise such as chapter and meals, the ordinary demands of a harmonious common life require that someone preside. Normally this would be the senior, hence the superior if he is present. But nothing in this is comparable to the hierarchical structure of the Church, based on differences of a sacramental order, on the different modes of participating in the priesthood of Christ.

It is true that the monastic community is a part of the Church. Its eucharistic celebration is legitimate and valid only if it be presided over by the bishop or by some ordained minister in communion with him. The manifestation of the hierarchical character of the monastic community in its eucharistic celebration resides in this alone.

If a bishop participates in a liturgical celebration, the hierarchical character of the Church and the liturgy demands that he preside, since he belongs to a higher sacred order. But if a group of simple priests are celebrating, there is nothing from the liturgical and sacramental point of view to indicate that one rather than another should preside, no matter what their respective dignities or offices in the life of the community. I have advisedly said that from the sacramental and liturgical point of view nothing requires one to be preferred to another. It is obvious that there is a certain fittingness if, when several priests are celebrating, the senior or the one who guides the spiritual life of the group should preside. This fittingness is a matter of deference and does not pertain in any way to the sacramental order. So it is not an absolute requirement and should leave room for other considerations and give way when it arouses certain problems. Thus when we speak of choosing someone to preside who can fulfill this office to the edification of the participants, we are dealing with a fittingness in the sacramental and hence higher order. For this reason, if the abbot, owing to bad health or age or simply a deficient voice cannot fittingly and properly fulfill the function of president, it is fitting that he not preside.

In a community where daily concelebration is the custom, there might be serious disadvantages, particularly psychological ones, if the same person, even the superior, were to preside every day. Here the fittingness of the superior's presiding should give way, and there is nothing humiliating or degrading in his simply taking his place among the other concelebrants.




We now come to a rather delicate question. Someone may perhaps say: granted your historical study and your theology; however, it remains a fact that abbots at present are priests, and that they have jurisdiction over all the members of their community, including the other priests. Do they not then participate in the pastoral office of the bishop? This is certainly a weighty argument which must be carefully considered. The problem lies in the nature of this juridiction. Is it somehow sacramental, or does it belong to the simply juridical order alone? Let us see.

Prior to Vatican II some theologians and canonists divided the powers of the bishop into two categories: the power of sanctifying by the adminstration of the sacraments, conferred by holy orders and episcopal consecration; and the power to teach, derived from jurisdiction given outside of the episcopal consecration. In this perspective, the jurisdiction of the abbot and his power to teach may well be compared to that of the bishop. However, such a notion can no longer be considered viable after Vatican II. The Constitution on the Church (no. 21) clearly distinguished on the one hand between episcopal duty or office (munus) and the powers intrinsic to it, and, on the other, the exercise of this office, which requires juridical or canonical delegation handed on by hierarchical authority. [98] Thus the episcopal function of teaching and governing does not come from a special act of the sovereign pontiff., it is conferred by episcopal consecration.

Consequently, one can say with Father Lécuyer that "jurisdiction is not a power properly speaking, but an act by which legitimate authority determines the domain for the exercise of preexisting powers." [99] It thus follows that "jurisdiction can be given to someone without his thereby receiving any new, precisely ontological quality. This happens in society quite generally; it is even more obviously the case in the Church whenever jurisdiction is given to a layman: the one designated as head remains what he was at the moment of his investiture; nothing is added but the awareness of his new responsibility and, of course, the actual graces which God bestows on every man for the exercise of his duties in fife.... This is always the case when a sacrament is not involved." [100]

Today the abbot is a monk who, in addition to his proper office which is to be the focal point of a community and guide in its search for the Lord, receives from ecclesiastical law the office of exercising over the members of a brotherhood the powers of teaching and governing the people of God which he has in common with all priests. His powers are simply those of the priesthood of the second order, essentially different from those of a bishop, successor of the apostles.

From this point of view also, there is a certain propriety, other things being equal, in the superior's presiding when the priests over whom he has jurisdiction concelebrate. But it is simply fitting, and not required, as it is for the bishop. And this fittingness can be counterbalanced by certain improprieties, or by a contrary fittingness in the sacramental order.




Positive inquiry into tradition and theological reflection based on notions of the Church and of community have led us to a notable convergence of conclusions. A monastic cenobitic community is made up of Christians who have come together in order to live in fraternal communion the fundamental realities of the Christian life. As Christians, they always remain under the authority and the pastoral solicitude of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. If they choose a superior from among themselves, this is certainly not to supplant the ecclesiastical hierarchy placed over the Church by Christ. Rather, it is to coordinate their effort in the search for and the accomplishment of the will of God. There are two distinct authorities: one in the sacramental order and divinely instituted; the other on the level of the fraternity itself.

The East possessed a fairly stable cenobitic tradition despite the various forms it took, one in which this theological equilibrium was perfectly maintained. Unfortunately this tradition did not pass over to the West. Western cenobitism was created by transposing the customs and spirituality of the semi-eremitic groups of Egypt into a framework of common life. As a consequence. the abbatial office in the West turned into a permanent institution a relationship which had originally been temporary by its very nature-that of master and disciple. And to this was added the dimension of spiritual father.

Within this Western tradition, already carrying a heavy load of equivocations, a tendency was manifested to liken the role of the abbot in his monastery to that of the bishop in his diocese. This tendency was pushed to its extreme limit in the Regula Magistri, although it could not claim any connection with early monastic tradition and can hardly be defended theologically. Later the Regula Benedicti was to restore a somewhat more acceptable balance.

At the present time the abbot is almost always a priest, and has jurisdiction as well. This, however, gives him no further sacramental power; he remains a priest of the "second order." Therefore, unlike the bishop. there is no inherent necessity for him to preside when concelebrating with the members of his community, since his position as superior has nothing to do with the sacramental order.

Then too, because he is the father of his community and has jurisdiction over its members, including the priests, there can be a certain propriety in his presiding at the eucharist, but this should give way whenever a higher order demands it, or real disadvantages arise from always having the same person preside. In practice it would seem proper for the abbot to preside at concelebration on great feast days and at the significant events in the life of the community. Beyond this, it is preferable that he allow all those priests of the community who are capable of doing so to preside in turn. Moreover, there is not the least impropriety in having the abbot take his place among the other concelebrants when he does not preside. Since he is a priest of the second order like the others, there is no "degradation," no humiliation (nor anything really worth mentioning) in it. One might even say that it is precisely when he refuses to concelebrate that he fails to take his proper place.

In every liturgical celebration the role of president is unique, since he especially represents Christ. For this reason we should be quite reticent about the practice of having in some way two presidents, the abbot reserving to himself the role of president but "delegating" certain of his duties to the hebdomadary. Although a better developed theology of celebration may in time clarify the exact meaning of presidency, it seems at the moment that this office must remain unique. We should not yield to this remnant of the medieval tendency to like the abbot to a bishop.

After reading these notes, the reader may perhaps reflect that the author has raised more problems than he has solved. The author feels the same way. But he will have achieved his purpose if this study arouses a new effort at reflection upon these questions which touch some of the most fundamental realities of the cenobitic life.


[1] in Supplément de la Vie Spìrituelle, nº 86, sept. 1968, 351-393; idem in Liturgie (o.c.s.o.) nº 7, juillet 1968, p. 13-60.  English translation in Monastic Studies, nº 6, 1968, 3-45.

[1] M. D. Chenu, "La théologie de l'Église dans son histoire," in La Vie Spirituelle, 535 (1967), pp. 203-217; see p. 204.

[2] Such systematization was at one time commonplace. See for example W. Bousset, "Das Mönchtum der sketischen Wüste," in Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte, 42 (1923), pp. 1-41.


[3] For an example of this traditional position, see J. Vergote, "L'Egypte, berceau du monachisme chrétien," in Chronique d'Égypte, 34 (1942), pp 329-345.


[4] Cf. J. Gribomont, "L'influence du monachisme oriental sur Sulpice Sévère," in Saint Martin et son temps, Studia Anselmiana, 46 (Rome, 1961), p. 136; idem, "Le monachisme au sein de l'Église en Syrie et en Cappadoce," in Studia Monastica, 7 (1965), pp. 7-24.

[5] Regarding this problem see E. Beck, "Asketentum und Mönchtum bei Ehpräm," in Il monachesimo orientale, Orientalia Christiana Analecta, 153 (Rome, 1958), pp. 341-362; idem, "Ein Beitrag zur Terminologie des ältesten syrischen Mönchtums," in Antonius Magnus Eremita, Studia Anselmiana, 38 (Rome 1956), pp. 254-267


[6] This refers particularly to the thesis of Dom Adalbert de Vogüé, which will be treated further on.


[7] Throughout this study reference will be made more than once to the fundamental work of A. Vööbus, History of Asceticism in the Syrian Orient, 2 vols., (Louvain, 1958 and 1960).


[8] J. Gribomont, "Le monachisme an sein de l'Eglise en Syrie et en Cappadoce," in Studia Monastica, 7 (1965), pp. 7-24, especially pp. 12-16.


[9] Ibid., pp. 18-24. See also the interesting notes by M. Aubineau in his edition of Gregory of Nyssa's De virginitate, Sources Chrétiennes, 119 (Paris, 1966), pp. 534-541.


[10] Cf. A. Veilleux, La liturgie dans le cénobitisme pachômien au IVe siècle, mimeographed thesis (Rome, 1967). This work is soon to be published in the series Studia Anselmiana.


[11] The Gospel according to the Egyptians, written with markedly encratic tendencies, is quoted several times for example in Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, III, 6, 45; 13, 92. These fragments were asembled by E. Preuschen in Die Reste der ausserkannonischen Evangelien und urchristlichen Überlieferungen, 4th ed. (Giessen, 1905), pp. 2-3. See also M. Roncaglia, Histoire de l'Eglise copte (Dar Al-Kalima, 1966), vol. I, pp. 65-109. Although G. Quispel put forward the thesis that the encratic source of the Gospel according to Thomas can be identified with the Gospel of the Egyptians, the same author claims that Alexandria is the home of the Judaeo-Christian basis and the Judaeo-Hellenistic background presupposed in Thomas. Cf G. Quispel, "L'Évangile selon Thomas et les origines de l'ascèse chrétienne," in Aspects du Judéo-Christianisme, Colloque de Strasbourg, 23-25 avril, 1964 (Paris, 1965), pp. 48-49.


[12] Cf. A. Vööbus, the work cited in note 7, vol. I, pp. 97-103 and vol. 2, pp. 331-342. Idem, "The institution of the Benat Qeiama and Benat Qeiama in the Ancient Syrian Church," in Church History, 30 (1961), pp. 19-27. On this question see also the works referred to by Dom J. Gribomont in the article cited in note 8 above.


[13] See the article cited in note 8 above, p. 17.


[14] Cf. A. Vööbus, "Sur le développement de la phase cénobitique et les réactions dans l'ancien monachisme syriaque," in Recherches de science religieuse, 47 (1959), pp. 401-407. Vööbus has tried to reconstruct the physiognomy of this primitive asceticism from the works of Ephrem: cf. "Le reflet du monachisme primitif dans les écrits d'Ephrem le Syrien," in Orient Syrien, 4 (1959), pp. 290-306.


[15] E. Beck, in the first article cited in note 5 above, pp. 341-362.


[16] This appears clearly in the evident difference between the first twenty-four selections in Ephrem's Carmina Nisibena, those that come from his Nisibian period, and the rest, which stem from the Edessa period. See the critical edition by E. Beck, Des Heiligen Ephraem des Syrers Carmina Nisibena (erster Teil), Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, 268/269 (Louvain, 1961).


[17] See the article cited in note 8 above, p. 17.


[18] O. Hendriks, "L'activité apostolique des premiers moines syriens," in Proche Orient Chrétien, 8 (1958), pp. 3-25.


[19] However, see the two excellent studies by Dom Gribomont, "Le monachisme an IVe siècle en Asie Mineure: de Gangres au messalianisme," in Studia Patristica, vol. 2 (Berlin, 1957), pp. 400-415, and "Eustathe le philosophe et les voyages du jeune Basile de Césarée," in Revue d'Histoire Ecclésiastique, 54 (1959), pp. 115-124.


[20] J. Gribomont, Histoire du texte des Ascétiques de s. Basile (Louvain, 1953).


[21] See the edition of W. Jaeger et al., Gregorii Nysseni Opera, vol. 8, part I. See also J. Daniélou, "Saint Grégoire de Nysse dans l'histoire du monachisme,'' in Théologie de la vie monastique (Ligugé, 1961), pp. 131-141


[22] See the article cited in note 8 above, p. 21. Also J. Gribomont, "Obéissance et Évangile selon s. Basile le Grand," in Supplément de la Vie Spirituelle, 21 (1952), pp. 192-215.


[23] J. Gribomont, "Saint Basile," in Théologie de la vie monastique (Ligugé, 1961), p. 109.


[24] I can only summarize here very briefly what I have developed at length in the work cited above in note 10; see especially pp. 181-188.


[25] Dom Gribomont has demonstrated this quite clearly. Besides his studies on St. Basil already referred to, see "Les Règles Morales de s. Basile et le Nouveau Testament," in Studia Patristica, vol. 2 (Berlin, 1957), pp. 416-426.


[26] This explains the absence in Pakhomius of the notion, so widespread in later times, of the monastic life or monastic profession as a "second baptism." [On this subject see J. Leclercq, "Monastic Profession and the Sacraments," in Monastic Studies, 5 (Easter, 1968), pp. 59-85-Ed.]


[27] Epistola Theodori de Pascha, in A. Boon, Pachomiana Latina (Louvain, 1932), pp. 105-115; cf. Liber Orsiesii, par. 12, ibid., p. 116: "qui primus instituit coenobia." Regarding the ideal of the koinonia as the proper and distinctive note of Pakhomian monasticism, see H. Bacht, "Pakhôme et ses disciples," in Théologie de la vie monastique (Ligugé 1961), pp. 39-71.


[28] Second Catechesis of Theodore, in L. T. Lefort, Oeuvres de s. Pachôme et de ses disciples (Louvain, 1956), p. 38, lines 15 ff.


[29] Vie bohairique de s. Pachôme, par. 194, in L. T. Lefort, Les vies coptes de S. Pachôme et de ses premiers successeurs (Louvain, 1943), p. 212.


[30] To my knowledge it is a Protestant monk who has best expressed the specific nature of Pakhomian cenobitism, while distinguishing it from the eremitic groups: P. Y. Emery, "L'engagement cénobitique, forme particulière et concrète de disponibilité," in Verbum Caro, 10 (1956), p. 146.


[31] Praecepta, no. 49, in Boon, op. cit., pp. 25-26.


[32] This is not peculiar to Pakhomius, Père Congar writes that "the texts of Acts 4, 32 and 2, 42-47 serve as the inspiration for all the institutions or reforms of religious fife." See "Quod omnes tangit, ab omnibus tractari et approbari debet," in Revue historique de droit français et étranger, 36 (1958), pp. 228-229; also L. S. Thornton, The Common Life in the Bod of Christ (London, 1963).


[33] On the Pakhomian concept of the superior's office as one of service, several texts have been assembled and beautifully commented on by I. Hausherr, "Théologie de la volonté de Dieu et obéissance chrétienne," in Revue d'ascétique et de mystique, 42 (1966), pp. 149-152.


[34] See Lefort, Les vies coptes . . . , p. 26, lines 20-24; cf. ibid., p. 114, lines 3-25; also the first Greek Life, par. 51, in Halkin, Sancti Pachomii Vitae Graecae, (Brussels, 1932). Horsiesius too, in his "testament" vigorously forbids superiors to arrogate privileges to themselves: Liber Orsiesii, par. 22, in Boon, op. cit., pp. 123-124.


[35] See the first Greek Life, par. 24, in Halkin, op. cit., pp. 14-15. However, this paragraph is only found in the Greek Life.


[36] See Lefort, Les vies coptes .... p. 49, lines I-5; also p. 76, lines 13-16


[37] Practically speaking it was only this office of "charismatic father" in the desert tradition that was studied in most works on the abbot and the abbatial office such as: J. Dupont, "Le nom d'abbé chez les solitaires d'Égypte," in La Vie Spirituelle, 321 (1947), pp. 216-230; I. Hausherr, Direction spirituelle en Orient autrefois (Rome, 1955); B. Steidle, "Homo Dei Antonius: zum Bild des 'Mannes Gottes' im alten Möchtum," in Antonius Magnus Eremita, Studia Anselmiana, 38 (Rome, 1956), pp. 148-200.


[38] Cf. J. Gribomont, "Evagre le Pontique," in Dictionnaire de Spiritualité, vol. 4 (1961), col. 1732; F. Refoule, "La mystique d'Evagre et l'Origénisme," in Supplément de la Vie Spirituelle, 66 (1965), pp. 453-463.


[39] Cf. G. Bardy, "Didascale," in Catholicisme, vol. 3 (1952), col. 749.


[40] Cf. I Tim. 2, 7; 2 Tim. I,II; Eph. 4, II; I Cor. 12, 28.


[41] See the references given by Bardy in the article cited in note 39.


[42] On the school of Alexandria see G. Bardy, "Alexandrie," in Catholicisme, vol. I (1948), col. 311.


[43] Cf. H. Crouzel, "Origène, précurseur du monachisme," in Théologie de la vie monastique (Ligugé, 1962), pp. 18-20.


[44] Ibid., p. 21. Alexandria was not the only place where this happened. John Chrysostom and Theodore of Mopsuestia, for example, belonged to a similar group of disciples headed by Theodore of Tarsus. Cf. J. Daniélou, "La direction spirituelle dans la tradition ancienne de l'Eglise," in Christus, 25 (1960), pp. 7-8.


[45] Cf. I. Aufdermaur, Mönchtum und Glaubensverkündigung in den Schriften des hl. Johannes Chrysostomus (Fribourg, 1959), pp. 105-141.


[46] Cf. A. J. Festugière, Antioche païenne et chrétienne (Paris, 1959), pp. 183-192.


[47] H. Bacht has produced some pertinent reflections on the difference between the obedience of the hermit and that of the cenobite in his article "L'importance de l'idéal monastique de s. Pachôme pour l'histoire du monachisme chrétien," in Revue d'ascétique et de mystique, 26 (1950), p. 321.


[48] Stromata, I, I, I. Concerning this vocabulary and the office of catechist or didaskalos, see A. Turck, "Catéchein et catéchésis chez les premiers Pères," in Revue des sciences philosophiques et théologiques, 47 (1962), pp. 361-372, especially p. 369.


[49] For a bibliography on the subject see H. Bacht, "Mönchtum und Kirche. Eine Studie zur Spiritualität des Pachomius," in Sentire Ecclesiam. Das Bewusstsein von der Kirche als gestaltende Kraft der Frömmigkteit, ed. J. Daniélou and H. Vorgrimmler (Freiburg im Breisgau, 1961), pp. 113-114.


[50] Some excellent information on this subject is given by L. Ueding, "Die Kanones von Chalkedon in ihrer Bedeutung für Mönchtum und Klerus," in Das Konzil von Chalkedon. Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. A. Grillmeier and H. Bacht (Würzburg, 1953), pp.570-600.


[51] Cf. G. Luff, "A Survey of Primitive Monasticism in Central Gaul, 350-700," in Downside Review, 70 (1952), pp. 180-203.


[52] Some excellent studies were published in Saint Martin et son temps, Studia Anselmiana, 46 (Rome, 1961).


[53] Cf. G. Folliet, "Des moines euchites à Carthage en 400-401," in Studia Patristica, Vol. 2 (Berlin, 1957), pp. 386-399.


[54] Cf. A. Zumkeller, Das Mönchtum des heiligen Augustinus (Würzburg, 1950); T. van Bavel, "De spiritualiteit van de Regel van Augustinus," in Tijdschrift voor geestelijk leven, 22 (1966), pp. 346-367.


[55] Cf. the preface to the Institutes, par. 4. A biographical note on Cassian can be found in Cappuyns' article "Cassien (Jean)" in the Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastique, vol. II (1949), cols. 1319-1348; see also O. Chadwick, John Cassian, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, 1968); J. C. Guy, Jean Cassien, Vie et doctrine spirituelle (Paris, 1961), pp. 11-62. An extensive bibliography can be found in H. O. Weber, Die Stellung des Johannes Cassianus zur ausserpachomianischen Mönchstradition. Eine Quellenuntersuchung (Münster, 1961).


[56] Cf. E. Pichery, Conférences, vol. I, Sources Chrétiennes, 42 (Paris, 1955), p. 21: "Cassian considered himself the authoritative representative of the tradition and line of thought of the entire Christian East."


[57] O. Chadwick, one of the best authorities on Cassian, declares (John Cassian, p. 53) that he was not reporting faithfully the Egyptian or Syrian scene, but "was choosing and sifting and interpreting the East to create a body of institutes suitable to Gaul." See also J. C. Guy, "Jean Cassien, historien du monachisme égyptien?" in Studia Patristica, vol. 8 (Berlin, 1966), pp. 363-372. In any case, when Cassian wrote his first book, the Institutes, it was already almost twenty years since he had left Egypt, and he admitted himself that he could not depend on his memory (preface to the Institutes, par. 4).


[58] For this whole aspect of Cassian's work see the excellent article by Cappuyns cited in note 55 above.


[59] Inst., XII, 19.


[60] Preface to the Institutes, par. 7.


[61] J. Leroy, "Les préfaces des écrits monastiques de Jean Cassien," in Revue d'ascétique et de mystique, 42 (1966), pp. 157-180.


[62] J. Leroy, "Le cénobitisme chez Cassien," in Revue d'ascétique et de mystique, 43 (1967), pp. 121-158.


[63] A. de Vogüé, "Monachisme et Eglise dans la pensée de Cassien,'' in Theologie de la vie monastique (Ligugé, 1961), pp. 238-239.


[64] A. de Vogüé, La communauté et l'abbé dans la Règle de saint Benoît (Paris, 1960), p159.


[65] A. de Vogüé, "Monachisme et Église..." (the article cited in note 63), p. 236.


[66] Ibid.


[67] A. de Vogüé, La communauté et l'abbé .... especially pp. 129-144 and the conclusion, pp. 528-538.


[68] A. de Vogüé, "Le monastère, Église du Christ," in Commentationes in Regulam S. Benedicti, ed. B. Steidle, Studia Anselmiana, 42 (Rome, 1957), pp. 25-46.


[69] The Master had a remarkable instinct for logic but frequently pushed it to extremes.


[70] A. de Vogüé, La communauté et l'abbé. . . , pp. 132-133.


[71] Ibid., p. 134.


[72] Cf A. de Vogüé in his introduction to La Règle du Maître, vol. I, Sources Chrétiennes, 105 (Paris, 1964), pp. 109-111. See also his note "L'origine du pouvoir des abbés selon la Règle du Maître," in Supplément de la Vie Spirituelle, 17 (1964), pp. 321-324.


[73] Idem, La Règle du Maître, vol. I, pp. 113-115. P. Tamburrino, who agrees with Dom de Vogüé as to essentials, views the matter with certain definite nuances: see "La Regula Magistri e l'origine del potere abbaziale," in Collectanea Cisterciensia, 28 (1966), pp. 160-173.


[74] The dependence of the Regula Benedicti upon the Regula Magistri is becoming more and more accepted by historians, even if it cannot be proven apodictically.


[75] This has been very well shown by Dom de Vogüé in La communauté et l'abbé . . , pp. 438-503.


[76] Ibid., pp. 76-77.


[77] L. Bouyer, "Retour aux sources et archéologisme," in Le message des moines à notre temps (Paris, 1958), p. 171.


[78] A. de Vogüé, La communauté et l'abbé.... p. 176.


[79] Ibid., p. 288.


[80] Ibid., p. 143.


[81] B. Steidle, Die Regel St. Benedikts (Beuron, 1952). See also his numerous articles in Erbe und Auftrag (formely Benediktinische Monatschrift).


[82] A. de Vogüé, La communauté et l'abbé .... p. 27.


[83] Ibid., pp. 25-26.


[84] Much confusion has arisen because insufficient notice has been given to Cassian's clear distinction between the Tabennites, who lived in the Thebaid, and the Egyptians: e.g., "Apud Aegyptos enim vel maxime Tabennesiotas. . ." (Inst. IV 17). This distinction should be no surprise; it corresponds to the contemporary political system in Egypt. When Egypt was annexed to the Roman empire by Augustus, it was divided into three provinces or administrative districts: the Thebaid, the Delta, and the intervening country, known officially as "the Seven Nomes and the Arsinoite Nome," with an epistrategos at the head of each. (Cf. The Cambridge Ancient History, vol. 10 [Cambridge, 1952], p. 288 ff.) Diocletian's reorganization left this tripartite division intact. (Cf. The Cambridge Ancient History, vol. 12 [Cambridge, 1961], p. 391 ff.) As to Alexandria with its Greek language and culture, it was so foreign as to be considered somehow "outside" of Egypt.


[85] It has been a number of years since R. Draguet proved that Palladius, in his chapters on the Tabennites, simply used an already existing document in which a Coptic monk attributed to the followers of Pakhomius the customs of the hermits of Lower Egypt: cf. R. Draguet, "Le chapitre de HL sur les Tabennésiotes dérive-t-il d'une source copte?" in Le Muséon, 57 (1944), pp. 53-145 and 58 (1945), pp. 15-95. Hence it is quite surprising that Dom de Vogüé continues to believe that the regula angeli found in chapter thirty-two of the History derives from "the second generation of Pakhomians": cf. A. de Vogüé, "Le sens de l'office divin d'après la Règle de s. Benoît," in Revue d'ascétique et de mystique, 42 (1966), p. 393, note 16. This is probably because he thinks that Palladius in these chapters was using the later Greek Lives of Pakhomius: cf. his article "Monachisme et Eglise . . . " mentioned in note 63 above, p. 217. But already in 1930 Halkin, who edited these Greek Lives containing the regula angeli, had shown that they depend on the Lausiac History, and not the other way around: cf. F. Halkin, "L'Histoire Lausiaque et les Vies grecques de s. Pachôme," in Analecta Bollandiana, 48 (1930), pp. 257-301. Besides, these later Greek Lives are adaptations, made outside of Egypt.


[86] The few stories that are common to the collection of Apophthegmata and the later Lives of Pakhomius have probably been taken from the former by the latter.


[87] La communauté et l'abbé .... p. 534, note I, and p. 326.


[88] Cf. C. Butler, Benedictine Monachism (Oxford, 1919).


[89] La communauté et l'abbé .... p. 25.


[90] Ibid., p. 326.


[91] Der benediktinische Abt in rechtsgeschichtlicher Entwicklung und geltendem Kirchenrecht (St. Ottilien, 1961).


[92] H. Bacht, "Der Abt als Stellvertreter Christi. Die Stellung des Abtes im christlichen Altertum im Lichte neuerer Forschung," in Scholastik, 39 (1964), pp. 402-407.


[93] J. M. Tillard, "Autorité et vie religieuse," in Nouvelle Revue Théologique, 88 (1966), pp. 786-806. [English translation in Review for Religious, 27 (1968), pp. 80-103].


[94] Ibid., p. 789. [Eng. trans. p. 83.]


[95] Ibid., p. 790. [Eng. trans. p. 84.]


[96] Ibid.


[97] J. Colson, Ministres de Jésus-Christ ou le Sacerdoce de l'Évangile. Études sur la condition sacerdotale des ministres chrétiens dans l'Église primitive (Paris, 1966).


[98] Cf. J. Lécuyer, "L'épiscopat comme sacrement," in L'Église de Vatican II, ed. G. Baraúna and others, vol. 3, p. 754 ff


[99] Ibid., p. 755.


[100] J. Lécuyer, "La triple charge de l'évêque," ibid., p. 907.