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Originally posted by babloyi
The very idea of separating yourself from society means that you are not contributing anything to helping society, helping your neighbour, and any skills, qualities or strengths you have or had gained from your time with society are going unused, or are only being used for yourself or a small group of people.
"However much you may toil in scattering seed on the path that you walk on, not a green leaf will grow. As well, as much as you labor to cultivate a heart weighed-down with worldly cares, you toil in vain; it is impossible to foster virtues there. For this reason the Fathers chose to leave the world," a certain Abba says.
"When the Hebrews ceased being occupied with labors for the Egyptians, and lived in tents, they learned to worship God," said a wise Father. "And ships do business and make profits in the harbor, not on the open seas. It is the same with the soul; if it does not cease being occupied with worldly things and does not stay in a quiet place, it neither finds God nor acquires virtues."
Then there was a woman who was suffering from cancer and, having heard of the reputation of Abba Longinos, decided to find him that he might restore her health. While she was looking for him here and there in the desert, she encountered an elderly monk cutting wood. She approached him and asked him where Abba Longinos stayed.
"What do you want with him?" the monk asked. "I advise you not to go to him because he is not a good man ... But maybe something is troubling you?"
The unfortunate woman then showed him an open sore which gave off an unbearable odor. The monk made the sign of the cross over her and told her: "Return to your home and God will heal you. Longinos cannot help you in anything."
She left, receiving the words of the unknown monk with faith. By the time she reached her home, not a trace of her fearful illness remained. She later learned from the other brothers that the one who made her well in this strange way was Abba Longinos himself.
I can't speak for you, but I have irredeemable flaws. Greed, Anger, Lust, Gluttony, Pride, Hatred, Sloth, all are part of me, and I suspect in a few others as well. If cutting off my tongue, or retreating to solitude, would save me, wouldn't I be foolish not to?
Jesus advocated (metaphorically, some say) pulling out your own eyeballs/cutting off your own hand/tongue if they tended you towards sin. Perhaps people who see what they consider an irredeemable flaw in themselves (tendency towards alcoholism or some sort of deviancy) could then cut themselves off from society.
Monks wouldn't speak well of themselves, controversy or not. At least they shouldn't. And I know enough evil is in me not to want to speak well of myself either. Who would dare to stand and say of himself, "I am good. I am holy. I please God?"
Of course, this doesn't speak well for the monks themselves, especially considering some of the controversy involving the Catholic Church in recent years.