Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

'Active' monastics in Eastern Orthodoxy?


  • Please log in to reply
5 replies to this topic

#1 Brad Simmons

Brad Simmons

    Junior Poster

  • Members
  • 5 posts

Posted 01 March 2009 - 05:52 AM

Greetings to all on this list!

I am a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy, and I have questions about monasticism as it's practiced in the Orthodox Church. I'm a bit more familiar with monasticism as it's practiced in the Catholic church, where numerous orders exist and these orders are divided between "contemplative" and "active" orders. (For further explanation, see
http://www.religious...ous_orders.html).

From what I can tell, the "contemplative" style of monasticism is the only one that exists in Orthodoxy. There are is no equivalent of "active" orders, which the above-referenced site describes thus: "While still principally prayer-centered, active orders generally dedicate more time to certain apostolates, such as feeding the hungry, teaching, preaching, missions, youth retreats, and various forms of service to the community. In this sense, they tend to follow Scripture in a more literal way; to "feed the hungry", "give drink to the thirsty", help the desolate and shunned of society....Active orders tend to be less bound by the walls of a monastery, and may reassign members of their community to different locations abroad."

Are there monastics in Orthodoxy who choose to engage the world and its problems and live out Christ's words in The Beatitudes? I can think of one - the Holy Martyr St. Maria Skobstova, whose extrordinary life is described here:
http://orthodoxwiki....Maria_Skobtsova

"Mother Maria made a rented house in Paris her "convent." It was a place with an open door for refugees, the needy and the lonely. It also soon became a center for intellectual and theological discussion. In Mother Maria these two elements—service to the poor and theology—went hand-in-hand.

"When the Nazis took Paris in World War II, Jews soon approached the house asking for baptismal certificates, which Father Dimitri would provide them. Many Jews came to stay with them. They provided shelter and helped many escape. Eventually the house was closed down. Mother Maria, Fr. Dimitri, Yuri, and Sophia were all taken by the Gestapo. Fr. Dimitri and Yuri both died at the prison camp in Dora."

So, does St. Maria have contemporaries today? Monastics who choose to feed the poor, teach, and help others, in addition to praying?

#2 Fr Raphael Vereshack

Fr Raphael Vereshack

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,420 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Monastic Cleric

Posted 01 March 2009 - 02:33 PM

I don`t have much time to respond to this right now. But you might want to look at this site: http://www.obitel-minsk.by/index.html
Press the English button for the English version of the website. This convent follows a way of life very much along the lines of the St Elizabeth convent in Moscow. For example they serve the poor and are very active with other charitable activities.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#3 Herman Blaydoe

Herman Blaydoe

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,157 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 01 March 2009 - 09:01 PM

While Orthodox monasticism does not have formal orders, there is not uniformity in practice. Some monastics are more "contemplative" than others. I think it is true that "active" monasticism gets less of an emphasis within Orthodoxy, it is not absent.

Mercy House is just one example of an "active" Orthodox monasticism and there are certainly many others. If you check out the Orthodox Monasteries of North America website, you will get a flavor for the diversity that exists.

Herman

#4 Fr Raphael Vereshack

Fr Raphael Vereshack

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,420 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Monastic Cleric

Posted 01 March 2009 - 09:17 PM

Brad Simmons wrote:


From what I can tell, the "contemplative" style of monasticism is the only one that exists in Orthodoxy. There are is no equivalent of "active" orders, which the above-referenced site describes thus: "While still principally prayer-centered, active orders generally dedicate more time to certain apostolates, such as feeding the hungry, teaching, preaching, missions, youth retreats, and various forms of service to the community. In this sense, they tend to follow Scripture in a more literal way; to "feed the hungry", "give drink to the thirsty", help the desolate and shunned of society....Active orders tend to be less bound by the walls of a monastery, and may reassign members of their community to different locations abroad."


This is not really correct. It is true that there are no orders in Orthodoxy. But this is because there is a certain level of freedom as guided by the Holy Spirit in Orthodoxy to pursue different ways of life.

This results in the fact that as Herman says, there is much variety in Orthodox monasteries. All are based on prayerfull dedication to God: asceticism, chasitity & obedience being the basic parameters which drive their life. But the shape this way of life takes varies greatly from monastery to monastery and even within monasteries between different monastics.

A last point is monastics in parishes. This can never have been from a monastic's own will but rather from obedience. Indeed it is a particular way of monastic life.

This means though that we are not at all comfortable with the either/or label of contemplative/active in Orthodox monasticism. Almost all Orthodox monastics have a degree of both withdrawal and interaction with others. These are both seen as essential to one's monastic life but in their own way that is connected to the personal life of each monastic.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#5 Robin Elizabeth

Robin Elizabeth

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 85 posts

Posted 01 March 2009 - 10:17 PM

St Elizabeth the new Martyr is a great example of an "active" monastic. Her convent had a hospital, dental clinic, orphanage, and a school. Although she was criticized a lot during her life for her work. Her monastery is open again with the same type of missions.

There is some info about St Elizabeth and her convent at: http://en.wikipedia....riinsky_Convent

Some information on the restoration of her monastery: http://02varvara.wor...its-foundation/

And the monastery site: http://www.new.mmom.ru/index.php

There is St. Mary of Egypt Orthodox Monastery in Ohio that has an active life around helping the needy. Their web site is: http://www.saintmaryofegypt.org/

I'm sure there are more.

#6 John W.

John W.

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 142 posts

Posted 02 March 2009 - 02:05 AM

In the West, "active" seems to signify social outreach, charitable organization, almsgiving. "Contemplative" is associated with silence, withdrawal, life of prayer.

"Active" and "contemplative" are not dichotomies in the Orthodox monastic tradition but are are the two stages of the ascetical life ("living out the commands of the Gospels"):


St. Seraphim of Sarov:

A person consists of a soul and body, and therefore his life’s path should consist of both physical and spiritual activities — of deeds and contemplation.

The path of an active life consists of fasting, abstinence, vigilance, kneeling, prayer and other physical feats, composing the strait and sorrowful path which, by the word of God, leads to eternal life (Mt. 7:14).

The contemplative life consists in the mind aspiring to the Lord God, in awareness of the heart, focused prayer and in the contemplation of spiritual matters through such exercises.

Anyone desiring to lead a spiritual way of life must begin with the active life, and only later set about the contemplative, for without an active life it is impossible to lead a contemplative one.

An active life serves to purify us of sinful passions and raises us to the level of functioning perfection; at the same time it clears the way to a contemplative life. For only those cleansed of passions and the perfect can set out on that other life, as can be seen from the words of the Holy Scriptures: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Mt. 5:8), and from the words of Gregory the Theologian: "Only those who are perfect by their experience can without danger proceed to contemplation."



St. Isaac of Nineveh:

The work of the cross is twofold...Practice purifies the passionate part through the power of zeal; contemplation refines that part capable of knowing by means of the energy of the love of the soul, which its natural longing.

Therefore whoever before discipline in the former part passes eagerly - not to say slothfully - to that second because of its sweetness, brings to pass the anger which God breathes against him. This is because before he has put to death his members that are on the earth, namely, before he has healed the sickness of his thoughts by patiently enduring the labor and shame of the cross, he has presumed to imagine in his mind the glory of the cross. And this is what is said by the saints of old: 'If the mind desires to ascend the cross before the senses cease from weakness, the anger of God will attack it.'





0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users