Welsh Journals

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Strata Florida Abbey, [Paper read by R. Osborne Jones at Strata Florida on July 30th, 1930.] A brief review of the origin of monasticism will enable the reader to appreciate more thoroughly the foundation of the two religious houses known as Strata Florida Abbey. The very general opinion-at least in Protestant countries-that monasticism is an offshoot of the Roman Catholic religion is quite erroneous. It was a common belief long before Christianity that man, by means of regulated labour and a strict discipline of the senses and appetites, could perfect his moral nature. These well-regulated practices were common in ancient Egypt and are still in existence among the lamas of Tibet, priests of a debased form of Buddhism. The Stoics among the Greeks, and the Essenes among the Jews, based their ascetic practices upon the same belief. In primitive times all the members of one family lived together, and when two or three different families agreed to live near each other, they did so for the purpose of mutual protection. This was the origin of society and the beginning of law. But in the course of time certain inconveniences arose from this living together. Men of a timid and gentle nature discovered that contact with their fellow men was an obstacle to leading a decent life, and so left the community to lead a solitary life. The men who thus segregated themselves were known as eremites' or hermits' because they chose a desert (Gr. eremos) or wilderness to live in as being more lonely. The transition from the solitary life of a hermit to the conventual life of a monastery arose prob- ably in this way. The reputation of a hermit as a holy or good man gradually spread among the sparse population, and men of a similar mind tended to frequent the neighbourhood of his cave or cell, and in course of time were admitted into it, and so paved the way for a com- munal life. We first hear of monks in Western Europe at Rome about A.D. 300. They are always referred to as 'Egyptians.' It is therefore a fair deduction to make that monasticism came to Rome from Egypt. But monasticism in Britain did not come through Rome. When Augustine and his forty monks landed in Kent, A.D. 597, he found that a system of monasticism had long been established. The British form of monas- tery differed from the Roman form in several respects. The British monk shaved the front part of the skull as a tonsure, the Latin monk shaved the crown. The Celtic church kept Easter at a different date from the Latin church-in this respect following the church of Con- stantinople. Moreover, a bishop was an inferior officer in