My beloved spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
ORTHODOX MONASTICISM: ‘LIVING THE ANGELIC LIFE.’
"If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast,
and give it to the poor…and come follow Me" (St. Matthew 19:21).
Orthodox Christian Monasticism is a diakonia (ministry) or service to God. It is a way of life, a life of obedience to His commandments, a life of virtue, prayers night and day, a life directed towards contemplation, and denouncing the worldly life. Being a monk or a nun is a vocation not unlike being a priest.
The beginnings of monasticism go back to the very beginning of Christianity. The majority of the features were to be discovered in the more ancient Christian communities. Celibate ascetics, men and women, were thought of as a unique class. In the epistles of Saint Paul, the concept of celibacy was praised. The ascetically leaning Christians formed the core of this brotherhood. They were the glue that held the brotherhood united.
The word "μοναχός," monk, did not mean the solitary one, but "the unique one" and "the perfect one." "Within the Christian community, the monk was originally "the perfect one" who strove to fulfill the evangelical commandment: "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (St. Matthew 5:48). The Messianic title of Christ as the Only-begotten Son (St. John 1:14) was thus carried over to the perfect Christian, THE MONK. He was the image of Jesus Christ, and being so, was exalted to the rank of an only-begotten son of God.
Monasticism became an established institution of the Christian Church during the 4th century at a time when the ascetic movements throughout the Church were gaining strength. The spread of Christianity in the 4th century was directly related to the spread of the Christian Faith. It flourished among the people of Egypt and Syria. Although the ascetics sought a greater isolation from the world, they realized they could not shut themselves entirely from other people. They were forced out of necessity to use tombs, caves, abandoned villages, and eventually the deep interior of the desert. It was here that they were perfectly situated to fulfill their principal task, the struggle with devils. The emptiness of the desert was thought of as the ideal place where they dwelt. It is also believed that the corruption and secularism within the Church at the time drove many of the faithful away from it and into the desert.
"The original form of the monastery in the East was not a common building with many cells united under one roof, but an assemblange of hermits’ huts within a fenced area: architectural expression of the bridge between the ideal of solitude and the ideal of community life." Saint Pachomius established a monastic rule which it served to regulate the physical life of the monastery. The final shaping of the monastic community life and the clearest statement of its nature and principles must be credited to Saint Basil the Great. His treatise on asceticism, originally written for the monks of Cappadocia, provided the theological foundation for cenobitism, the community life of monks. He was the creator of the monastic rule that later became the standard one for Orthodox Monasticism.
The life of the ascetic was austere and at times reached an extreme physical penance, fasts, prostrations, sleep deprivation and other extraordinary practices. Orthodox monks dedicated themselves entirely to liturgy, mysticism, and contemplation. Their fundamental attitude of withdrawl from "the world" led to their turning thier backs on all forms of secular knowledge. The highest form of asceticism was supposed to be complete liberation from the world and solitude, in which the pious monk’s entire moral and intellectual energies were directed toward God. The conditions of the monastery were intended to further the prayer and contemplation that were the monk’s principal challenge.
Orthodox Christians living in the world have been inspired and have learned much from the monastics of our Church. The faithful have been encouraged to have a spiritual life, a life of prayer, fasting, vigils and combating the passions. Orthodox Monasticism has been the protector of the Faith throughout the centuries when the Church was threaten by heresies, secularism, and a life of comfort. There is no difference in what is required and expeced spiritually from a monk, nun, or, clergy and laity living in the world. There is only on standard within the Orthodox Church and it is encouraged that everyone will remain streadfast and follow it faithfully and obediently.
I believe that all of us realize that we must wage war against the powers of evil and darkness. We believe that constant and unceasing prayer is as natural to us as breathing. Just as oxygen is necessary to live, prayer is necessary to maintain communion with the Life-Giving Savior, Who is the only Source of Life. The heart of the ascetic is filled with love of God and love for his fellow man, and so it should be with our heart as well. The purity of mind, heart and soul is one of the major challenges for all the faithful to attain. To become lithargic spiritually is dangerous and it leads to the crippling of the soul and finally to its spiritual death. We must acquire "APATHEIA," the fruit of love and chastity. It is the state of a soul in which love towards God and people is so ruling and burning as to leave no room for self-centered passions.
An Orthodox Christian believer can hardly conceive of salvation wihtout a certain severance from the secular world without a complete SELF-DENIAL. Our first duty is to achieve the Kingdom of God in our own soul. The best way to attain such an end, is to stand face to face with the Almighty God in silence. The great Saints, holy Fathers, holy Mothers, Confessors, Martyrs, Ascetics, Monks and Nuns, serve as our par excellence examples of what it means to be a true follower of Jesus Christ, our God and Savior. If we are looking for inspiration, we look to them and not to anyone outside our Holy Orthodox Church. There is nothing out there that is not polluted and corrupted. The world is an abyss of evil and sin.
Turn to our Holy Church for refuge, for inspiration and healing. The Church is led and guided by God the Holy Spirit. He is our True Physician and He provides the spiritual medicine that we all need to be restored and renewed. It is in the Church liturgical life that we seek and find the successive stages of the normal development of the Christian soul. Saint Cabasilas recommends meditation and mental prayer as the safest way to bind us to Christ. He says in penetrating accents: "The one pattern is Jesus… The Savior is more intimate to us than our own soul…We are concorporeal with Him, living His life, and have become His members." The person of Jesus Christ, according to him, is the heart of the Mystical Body of Christ."
It is through the Sacrament of Baptism that we are reborn through water and the Spirit and become members of the body of Christ. We then immediately follow it with the sealing of the grace of the Holy Spirit. "Do Thou, O Compassionate Master, King of all, grant to him also the SEAL of the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the participation of the Holy Body and of the Precious Blood of Thy Christ…". As new creatures now we are able to receive the Precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ as full members.
When we are in communion with Our Lord Jesus Christ, we feel that inner warmth and we may even sense His Divinie Light within us. We no longer have doubts of His presence and of His perfect love. All fear and uncertainty is destroyed and replaced with Divine strength and hope. There is confidence and we come to understand that there is nothing that we cannot achieve and accomplish in life. There is certainity. There is surety that comes from trusting in God’s wisdom and power. Christ and you have become one and you no longer act apart from Him. "For in Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).
"Glory Be To GOD