My beloved brothers and sisters in Our Risen Lord, God, and Savior JESUS CHRIST,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
The Focus and Aim of All Christians is to Love God WITH ONE’S HEART, SOUL, AND MIND, AND TO LOVE ONE’S NEIGHBOR AS ONESELF (Luke 10:27). The central role of agape (love) is even more pertinent for monastics, who are called to be exemplary Christians. This is why Saint Paisios of the Holy Mountain declared: "The whole work of a monk is love." Elder Aimilianos said: "What kind of life is monastic life? First of all, as we live it and feel it, it is a life of love." When Elder Paisios of Sihla was asked: "How must monks live in order to save their souls?" he replied, "Live in love, for the Savior says, "By this shall all men know that ye are My Disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35).
Saint Paul warned: "Even if we speak with the tongues of men and of Angels, have the gift of prophecy, know all mysteries and all knowledge, have all faith to move mountains, give away all our possessions, and surrender our body to be burned but have not love, WE ARE NOTHING" (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). In the same way spirit, Saint Athanasios the Great said: "No matter how hard a person labors, if he lacks love for this neighbor he has labored he has labored in vain," and Saint Maximos the Confessor taught: "Every ascesis lacking love is foreign to God." Saint Achard of Jumieges (in the 7th century Gaul) on his deathbed warned his monastic disciples: "You have borne the yoke of penance and are grown old in the exercise of religious duties in vain if you do not sincerely love one another." Saint Sophrone of Esex remarked: "If in our monastic life, we do not learn to love, how can the meaning of monasticism be esteemed?" Thus the most serious accusation we could ever hear–assuming the accusation has some basis in reality, of course–IS THAT LACK OF LOVE, WHETHER COLLECTIVELY OR INDIVIDUALLY.
Since we are called not only to love God with our whole heart but also to love our neighbor as ourselves, a monastery not only should be dedicated to worshipping God, but also should care for others: by offering advice and hospitality to pilgrims, by giving material and spiritual alms to the needy, and especially by PRAYING FOR THE ENTIRE WORLD. For as the Theotokos revealed, a monk is someone "who prays for the whole world."
Abba (Father) Moses taught: "The aim of our [monastic] profession is the Kingdom of God…but our [temporal] objective is a clean heart, without which it is impossible for anyone to reach our aim." Thus, our primary work is to attain a clean heart by uprooting the passions and cultivate the virtues: AGAPE, OBEDIENCE, HUMILITY, CHASTITY, PRAYER, FEAR OF GOD, SILENCE, REPENTANCE, PATIENCE, WATCHFULNESS, FASTING, SELF-DENIAL, AUTHENTICITY, DETACHMENT, SIMPLICITY, SERIOUSNESS, FORCEFULNESS, ZEAL, TRANSFORMING ANGER, SELF-REPROACH, REMEMBRANCE OF DEATH, etc.
Saint Basil the Great taught: "The ASCETICAL LIFE has one aim–THE SOUL’S SALVATION–and all that can contribute to this end must be observed with much fear as a Divine Command." Thus, the purpose of a monastery IS THE SALVATION OF SOULS.
What is a Monk?
Saint John of Sinai explained: "A monk is one who holds only to the commands of God in every time and place and matter. A monk is one who constantly constrains his nature and unceasingly watches over his senses. A monk is one who keeps his body in chastity, his mouth pure and his mind illumined. A monk is a mourning soul and both asleep and awake is unceasingly occupied with the remembrance of death. Likewise, Saint Efthymios the Great taught: "Brethren, strive for what brought you out here, and do not neglect your own salvation. You must at all times stay sober and awake. As Scripture says, "Keep awake, and pray not to enter into temptation (Matthew 26:41). …[Monks] must always await and ponder the hour of death and the Dread Day of Judgment, fear the threat of eternal fire and desire the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven. Saint Nilus of Ancyra wrote: "It is said that a monk is an altar on which and from which pure prayers are offered to the Most High God." Similarly, Saint Maximos the Confessor stated: "A monk is a man who has freed his intellect from attachment to material things, and by means of self-control, love, psalmody, and prayer cleaves to God."
Saint Paisios Velichkovsky gave the following definition of a monk:
"What is a monk? A monk is a fulfiller of hte Commandments of Christ, a perfect Christian, an imitator of and
a participant in the Passion of Christ, a daily Martyr, a voluntary dead man who willingly dies in spiritual
struggles. A monk is a pillar of patience, a depth of humility, a fount of tears, a treasury of purity, one who laughs
at all that is considered splendid, sweet, glorious, and attractive in this world. A monk is a soul that is pained,
constantly meditating on the memory of death, both in wakefulness and in sleep. A monk is one who constantly
forces nature, and who guards his feelings without weakening. A monk is of the order and condition of the fleshless
ones, though preserved in a material body, having in mind at all times, in every place, and in every work, only what is
Saint Nektarios of Aegina described the monastic life as follows:
"A monk’s way of life consists of ceaselessly seeking God’s countenance, yearning
for Him, possessing a strong love for Him, and perpetually hastening toward Him. The
monk offers his heart as a sacrifice to Him alone–an offering that is holy, pure, and
perfected in love. Truly, he does not live for himself, but for the Lord, and the Lord visits
him mystically; He mystically reveals Himself to the eyes of the soul of the monk who is
devoted to Him, and such a monk receives the betrothal of the grace of the future vision
of the Lord’s Countenance."
Several Saints emphasized the necessity of withdrawing from the world in order to be a monk. For example, Saint Isaac the Syrian said, "A monk is he who remains outside the world and is ever supplicating God to receive future blessings." And Saint Efstathios of Thessaloniki wrote: "A monk is primarily he who has formed (or rather renewed) his heart in solitude and understood all the works of God. This deep understanding is a manifestation of his theoretical training and virtuous life.
Saint Efstathios also gave the following advice to a monk to remind him of his calling:
"Bear in mind that you are an angel of light even though you are wearing black. You have been appointed to stand
beside the True Light. You are ow a close friend of God Himself and have vowed to acquire various virtues. Therefore,
you have a great obligation, O magnificent monk, so do not delay in fulfilling your duty."
A monk holds a torch from the Father of Lights, and from there he radiates a light that shines and illumines, if not
the whole world as the Apostles did, then at least many places on the earth. This is what is typically accomplished by
lanterns perched in high places. They emit light that warns of any enemy onslaught, or as a lighthouse, they show
where rocks lie beneath the surface so that people avoid dangerous reefs, and they do other such salvific things.
A true monk is a citizen of heaven, not of the earth, even though he dwells on the earth. His way of life is ethereal,
he is celestial since he flies above everything earthly." (Source: The Angelic Life)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Divine and Most Glorious Resurrection,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God