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The Role of Death in the Ladder of Divine Ascent and the Greek Ascetic Tradition$
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Jonathan L. Zecher

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198724940

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198724940.001.0001

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The Desert Fathers: “Like a body whose soul has departed”

The Desert Fathers: “Like a body whose soul has departed”

Chapter:
(p.103) 4 The Desert Fathers: “Like a body whose soul has departed”
Source:
The Role of Death in the Ladder of Divine Ascent and the Greek Ascetic Tradition
Author(s):

Jonathan L. Zecher

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198724940.003.0005

This chapter examines memory and practices of death in a broad range of literature from and associated with the Egyptian and Judean deserts, from the fourth through sixth centuries. It focuses especially on the Apophthegmata Patrum. Memory of death refers both to awareness of inevitable physical demise, and contemplation of postmortem judgment. With regard to the latter, two sides of contemplation are discernible: fearful imagining of possible condemnation, and hopeful imagining of possible beatitude. Practices of death index a range of behaviors, many of which center on refusal to judge one’s neighbor and the cultivation of dispassion. While many voices in Desert literature laud the usefulness of memory and practice of death, some are more cautious, and some entirely resistant. Evagrius and Mark the Monk share a distrust of the memory of death, while other figures dispute the viability of discourses of dispassion.

Keywords:   Desert Fathers, Apophthegmata Patrum, Evagrius, Diadochus, Psuedo-Macarius, dispassion, logismoi, penthos, eschatology

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