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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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Biblical and Philosophical Foundations

Biblical and Philosophical Foundations

(p.52) 2 Biblical and Philosophical Foundations
The Role of Death in the Ladder of Divine Ascent and the Greek Ascetic Tradition

Jonathan L. Zecher

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the roots of ascetic engagement with death. From biblical material monastics took the vocabulary of death, dying, and judgment. Biblical material also provided ideas of the practice of mourning, of virtues such as humility, obedience, and discernment, which monastics would increasingly connect to engagement with death. From biblical literature comes the idea of remembering death in order to avoid sin, and the contours of imagining judgment. Philosophical schools of late antiquity provided monastics with exercises of meditation on oneself and imagination of death, as well as ethical practices designed to aid intellectual contemplation. These practices, especially meditative ones, were often detached from their philosophical contexts and applied in new ways by monastics, and the chapter closes with a discussion of how Platonic μελέτη τοῦ θανάτου‎ became the Desert Fathers’μνήμη τοῦ θανάτου‎.

Keywords:   praemeditatio futurorum malorum, practice of death, thanatology, spiritual exercises, eschatology, philosophical pedagogy, Clement of Alexandria

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