Dear Monachos Community, Dear Fellow 'Monachoi without Monasteries:'
"Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water" . . . and by way of introduction, this thread is the third and final "spin-off" (from this good ol' boy) of the good ol' An American Orthodoxy? thread. As it relates to both monastic heritage and practice, as well as principles of monasticism, monastic ascesis, the spark for what is being attempted was actually from one of the earliest posts on A.O.--from the pen of Seraphim98, when he said:
Think of how monasteries were instrumental in converting pagan Europe. They became centers of the Christian communities as they grew and spread...anchor points. So I'm thinking this model might be adaptable to the American circumstance.
Serahim98 continued to develop this point very well in other posts just before this past Christmas (some of which I will include, at the conclusion of this initial post, for your review).
And, for the one's who just couldn't get enough of the original retrieval effort, possibly this one will be appreciated to a greater degree in terms of the evolving nature and overall method; however, I am fully persuaded and suspect that the opposite is also true. In this thread, God willing, we will firstly, look at: 1.) The invention of monasticism; 2.) What monasticism was originally, and what it was sought to be; and 3.) The origination, meaning, and purpose of spiritual direction.
Again, while acknowledging the evolving nature, and allowing room for both intuitive linguistics and addressing special needs as they arise, God willing, we will secondly, and possibly in less of an abbreviated mode compare our initial investigation of the above three second level sub-headings and: 1.) Consider the question, 'Is there an American Monasticism?' and if so what is its current state or non-state of being; 2.) Ponder the possibility of the need of a rescue effort for a modification or a change in the monastic tradition, which may also include a rescuing of the special vocation of the spiritual director?
So, there may very well be a perpetual oscillation here in this conversation, as we attempt to continually look back via monastic studies and patristic theology, and then look at the present day forward. Again, as with another thread, it is my hope that both the monastics and the theologians and the historians will converge here on this one place, this one ground, and attempt to reach a place of union and communion as it relates to our question (which is not a short conversation and which begins now
The Heart of the Eastern Church/ The Mark of the Eastern Church: Monastic Rule
Hopefully, not to the extent that St. John of the Cross borrowed from the Sufi poets, but equally unembarrassedly, I will begin now 'with a little help from our friends at Tübingen as we take a very simple and brief look at the invention of monasticism:
Monasticism is not a Christian nor even a Jewish invention (Qumran!), but an old Indian institution. The Upanishads already give a reason why renunciation can be one of the supreme virtues. Monasticism is central to Buddhism, which in its origin and nucleus is a monastic religion, since those who followed the Buddha and accepted his teaching as normative were mostly hermits and itinerant monks, and then also cenobites (monks living together) in monasteries. Moreover it is monks who are addressed everywhere in the Sutras of Buddha Gautama, through the message also applies indirectly to the laity.
So, our consideration of the invention of monasticism took about 60 seconds. I don't think any educated person would disagree with [or 'quibble'] what has just been said, do you? Whereby, not hearing any objections, we just begin to move towards the question of "What monasticism originally was and sought to be" in the following:
If we now move from Indian and Buddhist monasticism to the history of Christian monasticism, we can see striking similarities between Buddhist and Christian spirituality, despite the very different backgrounds. And, since the downfall of the militant monks in the second Jewish Roman War in 135, Jewish monasticism in Qumran had come to an end and nothing is reported to us of a Jewish Christian monasticism . . .
And, I think this is enough for now, possibly with the exception of providing one answer of a question that has been asked repeatedly over the past four months here on monachos.net without answer viz. "What does the word monachos mean?" Because if this one question is not fully understood, then I cannot see how one could understand anything that is being said here in this thread!
For what is characteristic of the monk is a retreat from the world into solitude--which was not the attitude of the earliest [Christian] community. The monk, from the Greek monachos = living alone, is someone who lives alone in the world; he can also be an 'anchorite,' one who has 'escaped,' 'withdrawn' (from the world into the wilderness), or--since the Greek for wilderness is eremos, a 'hermit,' dweller in the wilderness.' So the ermitic-anchoritic-monastic tradition aims at a critical distancing and withdrawal from the world, in the name of Jesus Christ. This withdrawal (even from the regular community of Christians) first took place around the villages or even the cities, and finally was made into the complete solitude of the wilderness, through often in groups which gathered around 'father' figures.
And, I threw in a little extra measure on this last quote as both bonus pack and a segue into the afore mentioned inclusion of more of Seraphim98's pen in the following which concludes this initial post.
"Truth leading reason!"
From: "An American Orthodoxy?"
It might well be that monasticism as it is shaping up in America might hold a key to reverse this trend. In the US monasteries are places laity goes to forge deeper connections with the faith before going back to their normal lives. They are places of respite and spiritual hospitality. While it is nice to dream of an American Athos/Valaam or two we might be better served to think in terms of holy Holiday Inns in the interim. Our own supernodes as it were seeded across the continent to serve and root the faith across the breadth of the land...at least one or two per state/province, if not more. And if they were seeded in large part by bringing over select monks and nuns from the "old countries" so much the better...a few scions of Mt. Athos, Siahastra, Valaam, and Mt. Sinai among others would be quite welcome. Each diocese ought to have at least two reasonably sized monasteries (men's and women's) in its borders in addition to any other smaller ones it might have. And honestly, I don't think it would hurt if we encouraged our young people to spend at least 3 or 4 months at one at some point in their lives, if not a year or more...hey if Mormons can demand a year or two of the lives of their young men...given our day and time maybe its not too much to ask our youth to invest a little of their lives in their faith as well....just a thought.
At any rate increasing the number of monasteries would increase the opportunity for Orthodox Christians to be "rooted" in the faith not just in relation to their parish...which too often can be a cultural ghetto, but to the deeper aspects of their faith, things they can bring home with them....sort of a desert/oasis ecosphere approach. As the super nodes grow the community...increasing the nutrient base for new life to expand from the desert shrinks a little...and in time the life generated by the nodes meets up to form a pasture...a prairie (or prayery if you prefer) where all God's little sheep can graze. Then as that job is done the better rooted and established of the monasteries can work on deepening their own lives as monasteries until we have at least a few that can stand in the same company as the great monasteries of the old world...and produce our own Xenia's and Seraphim's and others of that caliber, God willing.
Our day to day lives in the western world are hurt by our disconnectedness. A mutual connection to the rooted lives of monasteries though can ameliorate that to a certain extent. still, we don't have nearly enough of them yet. But if our heirarchs press for it, and bring over some key monastics from abroad we will see this or something much like it. If our heirarchs don't, I rather suspect in the coming generation we shall see more monasteries grow on the model of Platina. Two or three young men or woman who want that life and band together to learn it and become as much as possible the sons and daughters of the saints they've read of and admire...they might even import their own abbas an ammas.
I say this because of what I see in the young catechumens in our parish...there is a genuine longing for some connection to monastic life. In some it is strong enough it may eventually turn into a monastic vocation. What is true here must be true elsewhere...people are still people. A recent example is that Punks to Monks group last decade that ended up on Spruce Island. Such things may never be a flood tide...but I would be very surprised if we don't see more of them popping up here and there in the next twenty or thirty years.
(buh-buh . . .buh-buh . . .buh-buh . . . buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh . . .)