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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 Great Old Men of Gaza: Learning to Die through Obedience

The Great Old Men of Gaza: Learning to Die through Obedience

Chapter:
(p.143) 5 The Great Old Men of Gaza: Learning to Die through Obedience
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/9780198724940.003.0006

This chapter argues that the Gazan Fathers—Barsanuphius, John, and their disciple Dorotheus—expanded and nuanced the memory and practices of death in accordance with their personal emphases on obedience and the cutting off of the will. After a discussion of the memory of death, this chapter shows how Barsanuphius, following a line of thought from Basil of Caesarea’s Asceticon, makes death the limit and requirement of endurance in ascetic practices. Most of the chapter unpacks the practices of renunciation and withdrawal, together with the renovation of relationships within monastic communities, which the Old Men advocated, often in the language of dying. Dying describes a central feature of Gazan spirituality, the cutting off of one’s own will in favor of obedience to God through one’s spiritual father. The chapter closes by discussing the ambiguity and problems presented by the language of death in Gazan literature.

Keywords:   Gaza Fathers, Barsanuphius, John of Gaza, Dorotheus of Gaza, Basil of Caesarea, spiritual direction, penthos, individual will

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