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The scale of the movement to the desert during these early centuries of the Christian Church is, however, undeniable. In the often-cited words of Athanasius, ‘the desert was made a city by monks who left their own people and registered themselves for 19 Cf. Benedicta Ward, SLG, Harlots of the Desert: A Study of Repentance in Early Monastic Sources (London & Oxford, 1987); Norman Russell, The Lives of the Desert Fathers: The Historia Monachorum in Egypto, Cistercian Publications (London, Oxford & Kalamazoo, 1981); B.
31–3. Colgrave, Two Lives of St Cuthbert, p. 95. , p. 215. , Felix’s Life of Saint Guthlac (Cambridge, 1956), p. 101. Patricia J. F. Rosof, ‘The Anchoress in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries’, in Medieval Religious Women. Volume Two: Peaceweavers, ed. Lilian Thomas Shank and John A. 123; cf. Elizabeth Robertson, ‘An Anchorhold of Her Own: Female Anchoritic Literature in Thirteenth-Century England’, in Equally in God’s Image: Women in the THE WILDERNESS AND MEDIEVAL ANCHORITIC SPIRITUALITY 31 orders became less willing to admit women, and the numbers of unmarried women remained substantial,51 the anchoritic life increasingly offered a way for the pious woman.
17 Repentance and renewal The desert is therefore potentially a place of repentance, where God’s people may rediscover a relationship with him. This is clearly demonstrated in the New Testament account of the ministry of John the Baptist (Mark 1: 2–5). Finally the wilderness itself is portrayed as a place capable of renewal: Waters are broken out in the desert [in deserto], and streams in the wilderness [in solitudine] . . In the dens where dragons dwelt before, shall rise up the verdure of the reed and the bulrush.
Approaching Medieval English Anchoritic and Mystical Texts (Christianity and Culture: Issues in Teaching Research) by et al Dee Dyas (Editor)