Four Kinds of Monks, er… Christians

According to the Rule of St. Benedict (RB 1:1-13) there are four kinds of monks.  Cenobites are those monks who have ordered their lives around a rule (called such because it regulates the lives of those who obey it) and under the authority of an abbot.  Anchorites are those who have lived life well under the rule and proven themselves to be mature and holy.  They often move on to a life of solitude where they battle the devil through intercession.  The sarabaites are those monks who follow no rule, have no abbot, call holy whatever they believe in, and forbid whatever they dislike.  In word they are followers of Christ but in action their loyalty is to the world.  The gyrovagues are monks who spend their times drifting from one location to the next indulging their own selfishness and self-oriented preferences.

These terms are strange to our ears, but the realities are not.  I pray that I be found a cenobite-Christian on my way to becoming an anchorite-Christian.  I want to know that my life is ordered around the rule of Jesus Christ and under the authority of my Abba abbot, God the Father.  Likewise, I want to be found faithful to the community that I belong to (my local church) and submit to the proper authorities.

I fear that too many in the church today are more like sarabaite-Christians and anchorite-Christians.  We give lip service to Jesus but our lives are clearly under the rule of the world.  We show no loyalty or faithfulness to the community to which we belong; instead, we leave when feel we aren’t “being fed,” when we don’t like the music, or when the demands of Christ become too great.

As St. Benedict wrote, “Let us pass [the sarabaites and the anchorites] by, then, and with the help of the Lord, proceed to draw up a plan for the strong kind, the cenobites.”


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