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A Spirituality of Desire: A Meditation on The Life of Pshoi vis-à-vis The New Asceticism by Sarah Coakley

Compared with other eminences of early Christian monasticism in Egypt—Antony the Great, Evagrius, Macarius of Egypt, Macarius of Alexandria, Poemen, Moses the Black, and others—Pshoi of Scetis is relatively unknown, at least in the West. 4 In Coptic Egypt, however, he is a major saint, with one of the four ancient and seminal monasteries in the Wadi Natrun named in his honor.5 In the literature of early Christian monasticism, Pshoi goes by a number of names: Pshoi (Coptic), Pa'fsios (Greek), and Bishoi or Bishoy (Arabic). Pshois name is Coptic, not Greek;6 it probably derives from sha, “to rise,” of the sun.7 Rene-Georges Coquin, signaling our historical uncertainties about the saint, states that Pshoi “was born at Shansha, in the province of al-Daqahliyyah,” but then notes that “the precise location of his birthplace” remains in doubt.8 However murky Pshoi’s beginnings, the tradition clearly links the saint to Scetis in the Wadi Natrun.9 Thus he joins the monastic worthies mentioned above and a cloud of monastic witnesses of the 4th~5th centuries;10 his feast day in the Coptic calendar is 8 Abib.

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