Living the evangelical life in imitation of the angels
Monastics are an integral part of the Church and should not be seen as independent of the Church Universal. Monks are bound by the same Gospel as other Christians and need to avail themselves to the missionary and pastoral needs of the Church, as needed. Although a primary role of monasticism is to be found in worship and contemplative prayer, monks also have a long history as missionaries.
Many of the great monasteries of Russia, as an example, where founded in remote places but became centers of pilgrimage, attracting countless people. Whole cities often formed around monasteries, precisely because the monks had reached out with the Gospel and worked among the people. Where there was a need, monks responded with charity and evangelical witness.
In these difficult times where people are suffering economic hardship, loss of jobs and foreclosure on homes, monks can bring a different perspective that can give hope to those who’ve lost all hope. Monasteries become centers of spiritual healing and empowerment. People who’ve been struggling to find meaning in their lives can walk away with a new vision, gained through the interior work of the monks who’ve availed themselves as therapists for those who are hurting.
The strength of Orthodox monasticism is not to be found in the sameness of every monastery, for each monastic community has its own expression, often quite different from other monasteries. In Greece and Russian, there are monastic communities that run printing presses, care for the elderly and infirm, run Orthodox bookstores in cities, live as hermits, run large retreat facilities, run schools, and even, on occasion, parishes.
Monasticism is not something that is mastered through academic pursuits, but is rather acquired over many years of struggle, through obedience, long nights of prayer, ascetical practice, and communal life. A monastic, who is true to his vocation, will often see himself as just a beginner, even though he’s been a monk for forty years, for he realized how far he is from the perfection that comes with total surrender to Christ.
Many would wish to see monasticism in a romantic way, with monks quietly and silently living out hidden lives, yet there are monks who work with people as spiritual fathers, preachers, teachers, participating in an active way in service to the world. Each monk, and each monastery is called apart for the service of God and His Church, as God wishes. Thus, it is dangerous ground when we judge a monastery or a monk from our own fanciful image of what we think they should be like, for even on the Holy Mountain of Athos, there are many varieties of monastic expression, none being better than the other, and all based on the prompting of the Holy Spirit, as the monk attempts to live out the evangelical life of the Gospels.
Although the Orthodox Church does not have religious orders as the Latin Church does, there are in Orthodoxy different styles of monastic life, both individually and in community. Generally speaking some monasteries may be more liturgically oriented, while others may be more ascetic, while still others may have a certain mystical tradition, and others be more inclined to spiritual guidance and openness to the world for the purpose of care and counseling. These various styles of monasticism, which take both a personal as well as a corporate form, are not formally predetermined or officially legislated. They are the result of organic development under the living grace of God.
Yet all monastics share the common vows of poverty, chastity, stability, and obedience, ever following the words of Jesus which are the cornerstone for this life, “be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
With love in Christ,
Photos: Aerial photos of All-Merciful Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island. (You may click on the photos to enlarge them.)
Saturday December 22, 2018 / December 9, 2018
30th Week after Pentecost. Tone four.
Nativity (St. Philip’s Fast). Fish Allowed
The Conception by St. Anna of the Most Holy Theotokos.
New Hieromartyr Vladimir priest (1919).
New Hieromartyr Vladimir priest and Virgin-martyr Ephrosia (1920).
New Hieromartyrs Basil and Alexander priests (1937).
New Martyr Priest Sergius Mechev of Moscow (1941).
Prophetess Anna (Hannah) (1100 B.C.), mother of the Prophet Samuel.
Saint Sophronios, Archbishop of Cyprus (6th C).
Venerable Stephen the “New Light” of Constantinople (912).
Icon of the Mother of God, named “Unexpected Joy”.
Martyr Narses of Persia (Greek).
St. Valeria of Aquitaine (2nd c.).
Martyr Sositheus of Persia (553).
Martyr Isaak (Greek).
The Scripture Readings
Walk in Love
5 Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them.
Walk in Light
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
18 Then He said, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.”
The Parable of the Leaven
20 And again He said, “To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”
The Narrow Way
22 And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?”
And He said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.25 When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying,‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ 26 then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ 27 But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ 28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. 29 They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God.