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 (Part II)
By Metropolitan Hierotheos
The way the Apostolic Churches were organized reminds us very much of the organization of contemporary monasteries. The way the first Christians in Jerusalem had everything in common recalls the common use, shared ownership and poverty of monks. A person renounces material possessions in order to be purified and acquire illumination of the nous and noetic prayer. It is only in this light that we should look at the subject of having everything in common. This is not merely a sociological issue, but plainly an ascetic and spiritual one.
The Apostle Paul’s Epistles to the Churches clearly show the context in which the first Christians lived, as well as their aims. They had to mortify the passions and live the Cross of Christ in their daily lives, because it is through the Cross that a person becomes dead to the world, and then the world becomes dead to him. Even married people had to live as though they were not married (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:29), and all had to observe God’s Commandments in their everyday lives. It is also obvious from Saint Paul’s Epistles that the first Christians had noetic prayer in their heart. He says characteristically “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19). It is also clear that in the Apostolic Churches there were Christians belonging to all the categories of those on the way to salvation: THE PURIFIED, THE ILLUMINED, AND THE DEIFIED.
Usually people choose the monastic life in order to live the commandments of Christ to the utmost. Divine inspiration arises within them and inwardly prompts them to accomplish God’s will perfectly, to do what He wishes and NOT what their old self wants. They want to mortify everything reminiscent of their former sinful life. Thus an intense impetus towards God develops, but also A GREAT HATRED FOR THEIR SINFUL SELVES. THE SEEK TO BE REBORN. They feel, however, that anthropocentric societies do not allow them to show perfect repentance or express their ardent longing for God. So they choose to withdraw, in order to have freedom to express their love for God.
Essentially they want to live God’s Commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength…and thy neighbor as thyself” (Mark 12:20-31). And indeed, when we approach real monks who know their mission and their aim, we actually discern a purity in their movements and expressions, a pure love such as we do not encounter in those living in society. The pure love is the result of the sanctification of their being.
c) Monasticism and Healing
It is well known THAT THE CHURCH IS A PLACE OF HEALING, A HOSPITAL. Every hospital has outpatient clinics and intensive care wards for those patients who require continuous, total surveillance. The same applies to the Church and monasteries.
The Church has her “outpatient clinics” for dealing with various minor cases, or at least for those who do not have high aims and aspirations, or perhaps are not in very great need. There are some, however, who make great demands. They are seeking perfect purity of heart, or they may perceive the state they are in but do not know the cause of the illness. In other words, THEY HAVE A CONCEALED SPIRITUAL FEVER. The Church therefore has monasteries AS SPECIAL RESEARCH CLINICS OR INTENSIVE CARE WARDS TO CARRY OUT FURTHER INVESTIGATIONS AND DEAL WITH HIDDEN ILLNESSES, OR TO LEAD PEOPLE TO DEIFICATION (THEOSIS). They are also places when a person is spiritually free to attain deification (theosis). Obviously there are various reasons why someone enters monastic life.
Orthodox monasteries, however, are not just hospitals, places of healing. They are, above all, the Church MEDICAL SCHOOLS. When someone has been healed inwardly and learnt all the secrets of the spiritual struggle, then he is able to heal others and guide them to deification (theosis). In our Holy Tradition the monasteries WERE ALWAYS CENTERS OF SPIRITUAL LIFE. In Byzantine times Christians studied philosophy, mathematics, history, rhetoric, grammar, and the like in universities and schools, but THEY STUDIED THEOLOGY IN THE MONASTERIES. A REAL THEOLOGIAN IS SOMEONE WHO KNOWS HOW TO FIGHT INWARDLY WITH THE PASSIONS AND CONQUER THEM, AND TO OVERCOME DEATH THROUGH THE ACTION OF DIVINE GRACE.
The monasteries ARE HOSPITALS FOR THE SOUL and medical schools, where people learn the meaning of illness and health, and how they can be healed. For that reason the Church determined over the centuries that Bishops, who are the physicians par excellence of the diseases of mankind, SHOULD BE CHOSEN FROM THE MONASTERIES. It is in this context that we should see the dedication of celibacy or virginity required for the appointment of a member of the Clergy to the rank of Bishop. The supposition is THAT A MONK HAS PASSED THROUGH THE MONASTERIES AND BEEN INITIATED INTO THE THERAPEUTIC METHOD OF THE CHURCH. THUS HE BECOMES A BEARER OF REVEALED TRUTH AND IS ABLE TO LEAD CHRISTIANS UNERRINGLY TOWARDS DEIFICATION (THEOSIS). [Source: Orthodox Monasticism as the Way of Life of Prophets, Apostles and Martyrs]
“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