Sunday, February 12, 2012

Anachōreō: To withdraw

Anchorite (female: anchoress; adj. anchoritic; from Greek: ἀναχωρέω anachōreō, signifying "to withdraw", "to depart into the rural countryside") denotes someone who, for religious reasons, withdraws from secular society so as to be able to lead an intensely prayer-oriented, ascetic, and—circumstances permitting—Eucharist-focused life.

...The anchoritic life became widespread during the early and high Middle Ages. Examples of the dwellings of anchorites and anchoresses survive. They tended to be a simple cell (also called "anchorhold"), built against one of the walls of the local village church. In the Germanic lands from at least the tenth century it was customary for the bishop to say the office of the dead as the anchorite entered her cell, to signify the anchorite's death to the world and rebirth to a spiritual life of solitary communion with God and the angels.

...Hearing Mass and receiving Holy Communion was possible through a small, shuttered window in the common wall facing the sanctuary, called a "hagioscope" or "squint". There was also a small window facing the outside world, through which the inhabitant would receive food and other necessities and, in turn, could provide spiritual advice and counsel to visitors, as the anchorites gained a reputation for wisdom.

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