Thursday, December 12, 2013


The 40 Days of Blogging Challenge has asked us to blog about this important, yet often ignored, component to the Orthodox way of life. Monasticism is an ancient way of life that evolved out of the freedom granted ultimately by the Edict of Milan in 313. With the ending of often violent forms of persecution, many felt the need to separate themselves from the world as an offering and martyrdom for God. As the persecution, which led to martyrdom, offered the faithful an opportunity to be inspired by the faith and dedication of the martyrs, monasticism offered a similar level, albeit no unto death, of inspiration to the faithful who were struggling to maintain their Orthodox way of life in the world.

Over the centuries, monasticism has, due to its separation from the world, been able to assist the Church maintain the fervor of Orthodoxy without being “watered down” by the worldly influences. As a reader of this blog, you know my commitment to guiding Orthodox faithful to rebuilding a real practice of their faith. Thus, the subtitle of my blog, “Live a New Life in Christ,” so I am pleased to address this important topic of monasticism.

In the Church ecclesiology following the Edict of Milan, with the establishment of Monasticism, a dual ecclesiology developed which the Church referred to as “Monastic Rite” and the “Cathedral (or city Church) Rite” as two valid expression of the Orthodox way of life. BOTH were valid and BOTH were honored by the Church, and BOTH had their proper place in the greater ecclesiastical scene. It would not have been proper for monastics, for example, to enter into a city Church and expect the exact form of religious practice to take place as they would experience in the monastery. It would have also been improper for a city Priest to enter a monastery and expect the same experience.

This, I believe, is the single greatest difficulty in the contemporary Church, especially in America since there are very few monasteries, relatively speaking. It has become fashionable for monastics, or laity who may attend monasteries, to belittle the practices of the city Church as somehow lacking in spirituality. Likewise, many in the city comment about the fanaticism of the monastics. This tension is not always a good thing in an environment when the faithful are under constant attack by the devil and struggling in the society.

I think there is a blessing available for every lay member of the Church to visit an Orthodox Monastery as a spiritual retreat. It is in the monasteries, not bound by the secular limitations and expectations of the society, where every Orthodox Christian can leave the world behind, if even for a day, and devote that day to prayer and communion with God. Even the Lord went off to pray every now and then. Having said that, however, I’m not sure a monastic who is not completely aware of the daily struggle of “the city folk” are able to offer the most nuanced spiritual advice outside of the monastery. It isn’t impossible, as there have been many holy monastics, through whom the grace of God has been present, but not every monastic in a holy elder.

There is also a blessing when a monastic travels to a city Church to offer the witness of a pious and faithful Orthodox way to dedicate an entire life to God. It is still possible to “pray without ceasing” as Saint Paul urges every Christian. The Monastic way of life is not always possible for someone living and working in the world, but monastics can serve a vital role in the constant prayer of the Church.

So there should exist a mutual benefit between the city Church and the monastery, but we must remember that they are both valid expressions of Orthodox Christianity. It is not proper to expect a monastery in the city, nor is it proper to expect a city spirituality at the monastery.

This post is written for the 40 Days of Blogging Challenge sponsored by the Preachers Institute. You may find other blogs participating in this challenge. I hope you enjoy this year’s Advent journey.

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