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What is 'white monasticism'?


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#1 Robin Elizabeth

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Posted 19 November 2011 - 10:17 PM

I am curious about something written by Metropolitan Jonah.

In it he said that Orthodox over a certain age, I believe it was 45, should not go to monasteries but practice something called "white monasticism" at home.

Exactly what is that? It seemed obvious from the content of the article that he was talking about something more than the prayer life of your "ordinary" Orthodox, but there was no other clue in the article as to what it entailed. Nor can I find anything on the internet.

It interests me because I was on the road to becoming a monastic, but started having serious health issues. That combined with my age (way over 45) makes it unlikely that any monastery would accept me.

It seems to me that being a monastic at home would entail some degree of eremitical life, but I know that being a hermit is discouraged in Orthodoxy for all but the most advanced monastics.

Label me confused!

#2 Jeremy Troy

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Posted 19 November 2011 - 10:49 PM

I haven't ever heard that term, but I suspect that he was referring to devoting yourself as much as you are able to prayer while "in the world". Probably not eremitical, but certainly aescestical. No cassocks or tonsure, but obedience to your parish priest and simplicity in your way of life.

#3 Paul Cowan

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Posted 19 November 2011 - 11:05 PM

Monasticism in the world.

sorry, running out the door. can't research more right now.

PC

#4 Father David Moser

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Posted 19 November 2011 - 11:43 PM

Metropolitan Jonah, when he was the abbot of the monastery, was known for not accepting older novices. HIs reasoning was that they were already "formed" in their way of life and therefore wouldn't make good monks. Not everyone agrees with him on that. As an example I offer St Anthony the Great and St Paul the Simple.

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#5 Kusanagi

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Posted 20 November 2011 - 03:14 PM

White monasticism is for those men and women to live like monastics without taking the monastic vows. It is pretty much a common practice in Romania. For eg. one of the priest in London is not married but keeps celibate.

#6 Paul Cowan

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Posted 20 November 2011 - 08:19 PM

For eg. one of the priest in London is not married but keeps celibate.


That doesn't quite count. If he is a priest, he MUST remain celibate or risk being defrocked.

But living a quasi monastic lifestyle for laymen is possible. Get up extra early, try not to sin, say extended (preapproved) prayers, try not to sin, go to work, try not to sin, come home and surround yourself with beneficial handicrafts or help other people, try not to sin, eat as little as possible, try not to sin, say your prayers, try not to sin, go to bed. Start all over.

#7 Robin Elizabeth

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Posted 21 November 2011 - 02:33 AM

My experience is that if most monasteries didn't accept older novices there would be a lot fewer monasteries in America. I don't know about the men's monasteries, but I've visited a number of women's monasteries and almost all of them were either started with older women or had mostly older women joining them in the beginning.

One of the reasons white monasticism piqued my interest is because in Orthodoxy it is considered to be a very dangerous thing to be a hermit or lone monastic without living for years in a monastery, and yet Met. Jonah seemed to be recommending it. Seems a bit odd.

#8 Paul Cowan

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Posted 21 November 2011 - 03:26 AM

Was he suggesting being a hermit or lone monastic or simply to put into practise a higher degree of self denial and attentiveness while still living in the world? I think one can do the latter and not run the risk of prelest or delusion as the former would inspire.

Paul

#9 Marie+Duquette

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Posted 21 November 2011 - 09:33 AM

Was he suggesting being a hermit or lone monastic or simply to put into practise a higher degree of self denial and attentiveness while still living in the world? I think one can do the latter and not run the risk of prelest or delusion as the former would inspire.

Paul


Why do you think that an older person seeking the monastic life would run the risk of prelest/delusion? A call to Monastic Life can be received at any age.
For God age is not an issue, it is the invitation to follow Him in a life of total self-giving. And, this self-giving is in the heart which receives the call whether to "white" or "black" monasticism. Why is it that labels seems so important? It is no wonder that the desert Fathers and Mothers went to the desert to fulfill the call received for a "consecrated" life, that is one set apart for total separation from the world to follow Christ more fully in a life of "repentence" and "Prayer"
This monastic life is surely not for everyone, but for one called, let him/her be given the freedom to respond.

#10 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 21 November 2011 - 10:53 AM

I don't believe "white" monasticism, however you define it, carries the same level of asceticism as "black" monasticism. It is "honorary" monasticism. There are no vows, there is no tonsure, there is no commitment beyond what any Christian makes. It is simply, as our own Paul tells us, a "higher" degree of self-denial and attentiveness. Perhaps a more demanding prayer rule? Remaining a widow/widower and not rushing out and getting married again. Living a simple life. Instead of spending one's money on travel it is spent on charity.

Why do you think that an older person seeking the monastic life would run the risk of prelest/delusion? A call to Monastic Life can be received at any age.

Prelest can happen at any age as well. But it is well-known that higher levels of asceticism provoke greater effort of the evil one against it. If we grow proud of our efforts and achievements due to that greater effort, the evil one can turn that against us. This is called prelest. We must practice watchfulness, we must be on guard, the evil one is a wily one. And there is still a shortage of "qualified" spiritual fathers/mothers to guide.

For God age is not an issue, it is the invitation to follow Him in a life of total self-giving. And, this self-giving is in the heart which receives the call whether to "white" or "black" monasticism. Why is it that labels seems so important?

Sorry but I think you are missing the point. Most monasteries in the US do not have the resources to be an "old folks home". They do not have access to extensive medical care and care-givers. Older people do not always have the same abilities as younger people to maintain the monastery, and may take up resources as the younger monastics end up taking care of them instead of the monastery. That can be difficult where there are few monastics to begin with. Many monasteries in the US have fewer than a dozen monastics and barely enough to support themselves, as they grow old, much less others.

This monastic life is surely not for everyone, but for one called, let him/her be given the freedom to respond.

Who is denying them? But monasteries in the US, at least, have a very tenuous existence as it is. The idea of "White" monasticism at least encourages people to greater levels of effort, but does not impose a burden upon the monasteries that are, in many cases, just barely getting along as it is.

There have been a few attempts to create Orthodox senior living centers, they are certainly needed. But the resources required to do so seem to be difficult to marshall. There is a ministry here I suspect that is yet untapped.

#11 Anna Stickles

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Posted 21 November 2011 - 05:56 PM

There is an article here from the St John of San Franscisco Monastery where this issue is mentioned. It is quite good.

One of the reasons white monasticism piqued my interest is because in Orthodoxy it is considered to be a very dangerous thing to be a hermit or lone monastic without living for years in a monastery, and yet Met. Jonah seemed to be recommending it. Seems a bit odd.


The issue seems to be as Fr David mentions above. Theconcern is that older men would not be able to bring themselves into obedience in the monastery. Another concern is older people who want to go to a monastery but aren't really willing to work. They want to retire to a life of prayer - which of course is not an attitude that really fits in with Orthodox monasticism.

The suggestion of white monasticism is given, then as a condescension for these. It is a higher level of obedience and asceticsm then your average parishioner, but not the level required in the monastery.

This is not at all the same as living as a hermit. True hermits are already completely formed in the spiritual life after years under obedience. They are now directly under obedience to God's spirit dwelling within them, (as St Macarius the Great says their soul is like a chariot with God the driver) rather then to a spiritual father. Usually they are living far from civilization or any material help.

There is a big difference between having spiritually been called to a true hesychasm in the wilderness, verses living in a way that is something more your average parishioner, but not the full obedience and intensity of a ceonobitic monastic.

The white monastic is not living as a "lone" monastic like a hermit is, but is still under obedience to a spiritual father and interacting with people in whatever obedience God calls them to in their particular situation in society.

#12 Paul Cowan

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Posted 22 November 2011 - 05:08 AM

Why do you think that an older person seeking the monastic life would run the risk of prelest/delusion? A call to Monastic Life can be received at any age.


I didn't. I did not suggest any age. Actually, in my mind's eye, I was envisioning someone rather young when I wrote this.

I ditto what Anna just wrote.

Paul




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