My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True Lord, God, and Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
Orthodox Monasticism as the Way of Life of Prophets, Apostles, and Martyrs
By Metropolitan Hierotheos
Orthodox Monasticism clearly demonstrates that the Orthodox Church is ASCETIC and that Christian asceticism heals human beings. Through looking closely at genuine monasticism we come to a clear understanding that the Orthodox Church IS A HOSPITAL WHERE SPIRITUAL ILLNESSES ARE CURED. Monasticism is misunderstood by some, but ultimately it expresses the true spirit of Christianity. If we look at the Church without the monastic life, we see a secularized Church.
a) Monasticism as the Way ofLife of Prophets,
Apostles and Martyrs
Alghouth monasticism as a specific eremitic lifestyle mainly developed in the 4th century, it existed as a way of life from the beginning of the Church. The whole Bible describes the life of the righteous and the Christians as monastic life. The life of Adam and Eve in Paradise before the Fall was an experience of how the Angels live. The description in the Old Testament and the interpretative commentary of the Fathers show that Adam and Eve lived in a pure and holy way. They had noetic prayer, communion and union with God, and as a result the grace of God dwelt abundantly in their bodies as well. [Noetic is the adjective formed from NOUS. The NOUS is the EYE OF THE SOUL; THE PUREST PART OF THE SOU; THE HIGHEST ATTENTION. It is not the same as reason, which is another faculty of the soul. NOETIC PRAYER is prayed with the nous WITHIN THE HEART, when the nous frees itself from its enslavement to the rational faculty and returns to the heart.]
The Old Testament Prophets actually lived as monks live today. The companies of Prophets described in the Old Testament were groups that gathered around a divinely enlightened person and learnt how to live A LIFE DEDICATED TO GOD. We see this in the life of the Prophet Samuel, whom the people called “seer”, the title given to Prophets in general. Again, the life of the Prophet Elijah was clearly hesychasts, as has been expounded by many of the holy Fathers. Saint Gregory Palamas in particular takes the Prophet Elijah as an example and model of noetic prayer. We see the same thing in the life of Saint John the Baptist, who was truly the Forerunner of the Lord and of monks. [The terms HESYCHASTIC and HESYCHASM derive from HESYCHIA, meaning INNER STILLNESS, the peace of the heart, the undisturbed state of the nous. In the context of the Orthodox Church, HESYCHiA is A COMPLETE SCIENCE RELATING TO THOUGHTS, THE HEART AND THE SENSES,AND IS AIMED AT ENABLING CHRISTIANS TO ACHIEVE THEIR TRUE PURPOSE OF DEIFICATION (THEOSIS). The HESYCHAST is the person who follows this spiritual tradition.]
The life of Christ’s Disciples was MONASTIC and COMMUNAL. The Disciples left everything in order to follow Christ. First THEY RENOUNCED MATERIAL POSSESSIONS and left their families, as did Abraham, then came OBEDIENCE. For three years they were purified from the passions and received healing from Christ through His word. Then some of them attained to the vision of God’s UNCREATED GLORY in the human nature of the Logos/Word on Mount Tabor. Finally all the Disciples except Judas were found worthy of Pentecost. They received the Holy Spirit and became members of the Body of Christ.
If we carefully investigate Church Tradition we see that the testing someone undergoes nowadays before becoming a monk is the same as a person used to go through to become a Christian. The NOVICES in a monastery ARE THE CATECHUMENS (those under instruction) of the early Church and the monks are the “ILLUMINED” Christians.
Monks are also the Martyrs of the early Church, and continue to live in the spirit of martyrdom. The Martyrs were those WHO KEPT ALL CHRIST’S COMMANDMENTS IN THEIR EVERYDAY LIVES AND REACHED DEIFICATION (THEOSIS). The persecution and the martyrdom that they underwent were the fruit of theoria, as we can see from Christ’s Beatitudes. Otherwise they would not have been able to endure. Monks continue TO BEAR WITNESS TO THE NEW LIFE THAT CHRIST BROUGHT INTO THE WORLD. Through their struggle against the devil, death and sin they receive the same grace as the Martyrs, so when circumstances require, they can bear witness to the faith and undergo martyrdom. Saint Silouan the Athonite said that he knew a monk (clearly meaning himself) who received great grace from God, which passed to his body so that he could have suffered martyrdom to the glory of God. That is why Saint Greglory Palamas presents Saint Demetrios, a soldier-saint, as a virgin.
As regards the charismatic life they lead, true monks are therefore successors of the Prophets, Apostles, and Martyrs. They continue to live as the Prophets, Apostles, and Martyrs lived, and thus represent the genuine spirit of the Orthodox Church. It is characteristic that MONASTICISM as we know it today developed at a time when many Christians had become secularized, because monasticism IS A REACTION AGAINST THE SPIRIT OF SECULARIZATION.
b) Monasticism and Christ’s Commandments
If we wish to see THE ESSENCE of Orthodox Monasticism we should truly study Christ’s Beatitudes. Monks begin their struggle with SELF-KNOWLEDGE, HUMILITY, REPENTANCE AND PURIFICATION OF THE HEART and they reach the point of longing for persecution and martyrdom. So it is possible to assert that the monastic life is actually THE AUTHENTIC CHRISTIAN LIFE AS LIVED BY THE CHRISTIANS OF THE EARLY CHURCH.
(To be continued)
“Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Divine and Glorious Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God