I’m attracted to Cassian’s writings and the work of other early monastics because they reveal parallels between the era of the desert fathers and our own; they, too, lived during a time when the known world was coming unhinged. In 313 CE, when the Roman emperor Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, thereby marking the beginning of Christendom, men and women of conscience knew that the wedding of church and state was not a betrothal: it was a betrayal. The early anchorites withdrew from this arranged marriage because they knew that Christendom could no longer sustain their inner lives, that civilization had in fact gone mad. They left the cities and withdrew to the Egyptian desert, where the vastness of their spiritual hunger could be met by an equally vast landscape.
From Keeping the World in Being: Meditations on Longing, by Fred Bahnson. This is a wonderful a piece which resonated deeply with me after this long, eremetical year. I sought the desert fathers frequently in recent months and found, especially in the Conferences and Institutes deep wisdom well-suited to this enclosure-of-circumstance.