Note: This is a post that helps the reader to become more acquainted with where I–the author of this site–stand on the topic.
I go by One_Monk on here and I have called it a sort of “pen name” but that is about as far as I have gone in explaining it.
You may be thinking right now, “really? You’re going to write an entire article on this?”
That is exactly what I am going to do!
I could have as easily called this article “On Ascetics” as it is for ascetic reasons I picked the name that I did, but not nearly as many people are familiar with that topic. So, I’m going to fixate on my chosen online pen name and address my angle on ascetics as well as describe my name in one go!
Let’s start the explanation.
“One” should be fairly straightforward here as it is simply counting the individual that is me. I am singular. The name is not shared. I am one lone monk.
Monk. These days in the US all sorts of images come to mind. From my experiences, I first came into contact with Roman Catholic monks and therefore these are the first images I think of but they are not the only ones as I have had students in my past who would admit that they first thought of Buddhist monks.
Even so, I would not want to emulate either one. So, why would I choose “monk” as part of my name?
In Christian monasticism, it has not been uniformly observed in history. The earliest monks or ascetics (as they were also called) would separate themselves from the world in order to dedicate themselves fully to the study of God’s Word and to prayer and meditation. They often did this alone in the wilderness but in time communities came to be formed and it also became a practice in the early Christian church that Church leaders would come out of these ascetics. In other words, they didn’t stay in isolation forever–unlike many of the later and even modern ones.
I have found the most redeeming value in the practices of these earliest monks/ascetics over any of the others. Even so, that does not mean I am standing here today agreeing with everything any of them ever said or did that we have recorded.
One_Monk was created with these early monks in mind and the ideal I aim to embody is to be separate from the ways of the world but to fully recognize that I am but one individual. I am to be separate from the world but not isolated from it. I am but one individual of entire humanity. If I lock myself away, how can I be salt and light unto the rest?
I do not think we should be afraid of terms like “monk” or “ascetic” but should reclaim them. In fact, we are all trying to aim for a particular asceticism in our lives as Christians as we aim to simplify our lives from the things that distract us from Him. This means making a conscious effort to abstain from various things of this world and activities.
Now, let’s get a few other things clear.
Many of the ascetics did take their lives to a point of extreme denial as you would typically find in other ascetic lifestyles in other religions. This includes abstaining from sex. I can certainly agree with them in doing so (to a point) but the Christian ascetics often took it to their graves. Not something I agree with!
They would take personal vows of chastity to set themselves aside for service to Christ. This was an individual choice and not all of them did this (many did though). In addition, I can remember some that took such a vow for a time but later after coming out of their isolation, renounced it upon marrying. In other words, not all of these early ascetics followed the same pattern.
I may not be married as of this writing but I would like to think that one of these days I will be and start my own family. I certainly do not take things to the extent that some of the earliest Christian ascetics did.
Several ascetics I have read about also took on extreme diets. Also, not something I do as I am currently eating pizza as I write this. Even so, I am conscious about my diet and between my own health concerns and what I have found is best for my overall health. I do abstain or have reduced my consumption of sodas, many other sweets, pasta, citrus, and a few other things. (Note: Please do not take this as any sort of directive from me as to what you should stay away from. For example, I stay away from citrus because of inflammatory responses my body gives me when I consume any citrus)
I do very much think we should live simplified lifestyles–especially as Christians. Getting swept up in the drive to accumulate material items and wealth ultimately puts more stress on you as such things tend to demand more of you.
Of course, I do have a real name. If you do a little bit of digging you are going to find it. I go by the name of Eli but here and in my role with this online ministry, I go by my pen name One_Monk.