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Skete, coenbotic, and other monastic forms


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#1 Justin Farr

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Posted 02 February 2008 - 04:46 PM

Can someone please explain the differences between a skete, a hermitage, a coenbotic monastery, etc.?

I have been visiting various monastic websites lately, and I have the gist of what the three types are, but not sure of their differences.

Thanks for any help!

#2 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 02 February 2008 - 07:00 PM

Cenobitic monasticism stresses the communal life of common work and worship. It comes from the Greek words koinos and bios which means "common life". It is generally rather formally organized. There is typically one person in charge of the monastery, the Abbot. Living quarters are close together, often "dormitory style" and there is generally a common kitchen and eating area.

Eremitic monasticism refers to solitary life, the classic idea of the hermit living alone in the woods or in a cave or on top of a mountain.

Sketic monasticism is a less formal arrangement. It may consist of several monastics or even small groups of monastics that live in proximity but generally "do their own thing" most of the time as far as work and private prayer are concerned, but they come together for regular common worship. There may not be a single Abbot, but simply common agreement, or one of the group may assume the role of abbot, but, being less formal in general, it depends.

#3 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 02 February 2008 - 07:05 PM

Can someone please explain the differences between a skete, a hermitage, a coenbotic monastery, etc.?

I have been visiting various monastic websites lately, and I have the gist of what the three types are, but not sure of their differences.

Thanks for any help!


In Russian tradition the cenobitic way of life usually involves a larger number of monks who follow a common rule- the monks live together; a skete is a smaller monastery with a common rule- the monks live together; a hermitage has one or perhaps two or three monks that follow their own rule & may only gather for Sunday services or Great Feasts.

In Byzantine tradition the cenobitic and solitary styles are followed in a similar way as in the Russian tradition. A skete however is a number of kelli situated around a common church. Each kelli has its own rule and can number one or even 15 monks or so. Each kelli also has its own small church/chapel where daily services are held. For Sundays and Great Feasts however (and often funerals) the monastics gather in the common church at the center of the skete.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#4 Olga

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Posted 03 February 2008 - 12:24 AM

Plural of kelli is kellia (pronounced kell-YA). Kelli is where the English word cell comes from.

#5 Daniel Harrison

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Posted 15 February 2009 - 07:54 AM

how does one become a eremitic monastic?

#6 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 15 February 2009 - 01:12 PM

how does one become a eremitic monastic?


Read the lives of the saints, particularly St. Mary of Egypt. I think the biggest issue is that you must be called by God to such a life. However, I think that many who follow the angelic life might recommend that one start out in a monastic community before deciding to become a hermit.

Heiromonk Alexander writes in the book The Living Witness of the Holy Mountain about the hermitages there. He writes: "Most of the sayings in our "Paterikon" come from the men living this way of life. Theirs is the hardest way, steep, rocky, and fierce, with always the danger of delusion and even of outright madness—it is not unknown on Athos for hermits to throw themselves off their cliffs in, so it is believed, the fatally mistaken idea that they can fly like angels. Yet it is also from among these men, both on Athos and elsewhere in the Orthodox world, that those with the greatest charismata have usually come. It is in its deserts that Athos most clearly embodies the Christian paradox of a loving God and human freedom. These men are free, free to choose the holy or the demonic, and the line between the two runs here at once at its narrowest and its most absolute..."

I remember reading a story some years back about someone visiting Ethiopia. Many young men were seen heading out into the desert. The visitor asked a young boy what was going on. The boy replied rather matter-of-factly that they were going out to become hermits and that many would probably be dead within a year.

All-in-all, the anecdotal evidence indicates that the eremitic way is not a choice one makes lightly.

Herman the Pooh and not a hermit

#7 Anthony

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Posted 15 February 2009 - 01:21 PM

I read somewhere that solitude makes you either a saint or an animal.

#8 Rick H.

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Posted 15 February 2009 - 01:54 PM

I read somewhere that solitude makes you either a saint or an animal.


This sounds right about solitude/isolation.

#9 Paul Cowan

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Posted 30 May 2009 - 05:02 PM

I read somewhere that solitude makes you either a saint or an animal.


No, worse than an animal. Animals do what they do from instinct. Man does them from conscious decision / choice. Animals cannot sin. Only man can. Aren't we special...

Paul




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