On the periphery of the Roman empire, the sixth-century desert city of Gaza served as a crossroads between Palestine and Egypt. The nearby village of Tawatha was home to the thriving monastery of Abbot Seridos and the renowned anchorites Barsanuphius, known to the people as the Great Old Man, and his disciple John. The laity of the area looked to the monks for spiritual leadership, as did their brother monks, bishops, and religious leaders from as far away as Jerusalem and Constantinople. Having adopted a life of physical isolation, the monks communicated with others by letters.
This extraordinary correspondence opens a window into the spiritual world of the desert monastery and the lay community it served. In Disciples of the Desert, Jennifer Hevelone-Harper uses a careful study of the letters to reveal fascinating insights into the monastic community and sixth-century Christian spirituality.
"Hevelone-Harper demonstrates with real subtlety how spiritual authority developed and came to be transmitted among the monastic communities in Gaza. A first-rate work of scholarship."-- Choice
"Hevelone-Harper's fine study offers vivid and persuasive evidence from the early centuries of monasticism of just how central to Christian life the monastic impulse was. For this reason, the book should be part of the field of vision not just for specialists in monastic history but for all who wish to understand Christianity in its historic context."-- Fides Et Historia
"A responsible and sensitive introduction to the authority and practice of these remarkable monastic spiritual directors--how they established and maintained their authority despite challenges to it, how they guided disciples from their first interest in the ascetic life to their monastic maturity, and how they interacted with lay Christians and other authoritative figures in Palestinian Christianity and the wider society."-- Spiritusshow more