The Spiritual Meadow

John Moschos
John Wortley

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The second most valuable source of information, after the History of the Monks of Palestine of Cyril Scythopolis, regarding the history of monasticism in the Judaean desert is the collection of stories and anecdotes by John Moschus, a monk of the Judaean desert in the late sixth century. Moschus traveled frequently between the monastic centers of Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and Asia Minor. He collected his stories during his travels and compiled them in a Greek work known as Pratum Spirituale or Spiritual Meadow.

John Moschos entered monastic life near Bethlehem, and withdrew after his formation to a remote site in the Judaean desert. Seeking the holiness of the Desert Fathers, which he believed was fast being eroded by the slackness of the new generation of monks and ascetics, he and a companion, St. Sophronios (Patriarch of Jerusalem who reposed in 644 - Commemorated on March 11), journeyed to Egypt. After making the rounds of the communitiees of the Thebaid, they went on to Mount Sinai, where he stayed ten years. He returned to Palestine but civil discord and Persian raids caused him to wander again, this time up the coast through Phoenicia and Syria Maritima to Antioch, then to Alexandria, and finally to Rome, where he put the finishing touches to his "Spiritual Meadow" and, in 619 died.

"I have plucked the finest flowers of the unmown meadow and worked them into a row which I now offer to you", wrote John Moschos as he began his tales of the holy men of seventh-century Palestine and Egypt.