My beloved spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
A LIFE OF OBEDIENCE
"And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or
father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s
sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life" (St. Matthew 19:29).
Those Orthodox Christians answering Christ’s call to enter the monastic life, a life of chastity, celibacy, poverty, prayer, fasting, and obedience are selected to live the life of Angels.
This austere Christian life is a spiritual vocation that very few Christians are able to commit to. Those who accept the call must be prepared to surrender totally and be obedient to their geronda (elder) or gerondisa (abbess), which is not a small challenge. We see this type of obedience in the military where the soldier has obedience to his superiors and, no matter the danger of the mission, he or she is willing to be obedient even unto death.
According to Saint Basil the Great, the monks were to practice Christian virtues, especially agape; to practice obedience to a spiritual father; to practice chastity and poverty, and share the common goods of the monastery. Once they had accomplished Christian perfection, they were permitted to return to the world and help and support others to attain Christian perfection.
The Monastic life is one of discipline, sacrifice, and, of course, humility. Growing up in the world, one is taught to be independent and assume all responsibilities pertaining to his or her life. We are taught the importance of self-esteem and to face all life’s problems on our own. However, instead, we develop a strong ego and enormous pride to the point of being conceited and arrogant. This is unlike monastic life, which is determined through obedience to strip the monk or nun of all of ego and pride. Ego and pride are two very great obstacles to perfection and theosis (deification). It was out of his pride that Satan, as Jesus says, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven" (St. Luke 10:18). Because he pursued his own will, Satan is fallen from heaven. That is how very dangerous it is for the monk or nun to be possessed by pride, which will lead to their spiritual demise.
The life of the monk or nun is a painfully difficult life of trial, the cross. The novice monk or nun submits willingly to a life of prayer, fasting, ascesis, and obedience, as well as to their spiritual father and confessor, hard physical work, vigils, and prayer-rope. They understand that no personal decision can be about anything without the blessing or consent of their egoumenos or egoumenisa (Abbot or Abess). They also come to realize how important and gratifying it is to serve without any regret or resentment. Whatever they do must be out of gratitude, selflessness, and above all, love. It is also extremely important to note that they have an intensive sacramental life ("Mysteriaki Zoe").
The Monastic life is not for the fainthearted. The novitiate can take between five to ten years in some monasteries. The monastery is not a prison, and only those candidates who are not ready for this life can end up feeling as though it is. Both the Egoumenos (Abbot) or Egoumenisa (Abbess) must evaluate the actions, attitude, development, behavior, and commitment of the candidate. Each candidate also must have enough time to experience it, understand what monastic life is all about, and decide if he or she is willing to dedicate the rest of their lives to it. Either way, one must proceed with great care for the good of all.
It has been said that a novice faces constant attacks and temptations from the evil one. Thoughts of despair, of doubt, of uncertainty, of defiance, and even of hostility are used to discourage and confuse the young novice. Everything they endure from the evil one must be revealed to their geronda or gerontisa, so that they will be able to help them go through this ordeal and trying time. There are no such things as secrets between the monk or nun and their spiritual father. To hide something from confession is wrong and sinful.
Once tonsured a monk or nun, everything settles down and they assume their new life and its many responsibilities. By the grace of God, as they grow in Christ they experience untold joy and peace. The monk and nun feel Christ’s presence and an extraordinary fulfillment within. No longer does one think of himself, his needs, his dreams, his desires, his expectations, and his ambitions. His or her life is now dedicated and devoted to the service of the Master and Savior Jesus Christ. The Theotokos, our Heavenly Mother, intercedes for them and guides and protects them in their diakonia (ministry). The "cloud of witnesses" embraces them and supports them. The holy Angels comfort them and serve as the example par excellence of service to the Theanthropos (Godman).
While we are all busy with our lives, with our business, with our professions, and with our families, our monks and nuns pray for our protection and salvation. They hardly sleep at night, instead reciting the "prayer of the heart" or commonly known as "the Jesus Prayer". They participate in the divine services daily, usually chanting, praying, worshipping, prostrating, and receiving Holy Communion. Each monk and nun have their daily chores i.e., making candles, icons, cleaning the church, working in the kitchen, sewing, serving in the monastery bookstore, serving at tables, offering hospitality, working in the garden/s, and other manual work.
We are truly blessed to have our many Men’s and Women’s Monasteries in our country, thanks to our most beloved geronda Father Ephraim of blessed memory, the founder of Greek Orthodox Monasticism in America and Canada. Our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has been enriched and strengthened by our monastic community. Thanks be to God!
"Glory Be To GOD