Mount Athos into the 21st century
Posted 19 May 2003 - 02:08 PM
I am somewhat hesitant to post notice of this here, since I dislike self-promotion; but since the topic directly relates to recent discussion in this thread...
I shall be the speaker at the upcoming meeting of the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius in Oxford, England. The talk, entitled 'Walking on Mount Athos: Ancient Monasticism and Contemporary Athonite Practice', shall take place on Tuesday, 27th May 2003 at 8.15 p.m. in Oxford. Please send me an email if you will be in the area and would like details on the location.
The talk, to be accompanied by photographic illustrations and followed by discussion, will address the history of early monasticism, both in Egypt and in the early days of the Holy Mountain, and compare contemporary Athonite monasticism to the life of those early days.
Posted 20 May 2003 - 04:36 AM
Mathew, for those of us who won’t be privileged to hear you speak, I would like to suggest that you post a copy of your speech when you get back. The subject sounds very interesting and I,like John, would love to hear more about it.
This has nothing to do with the above but, ever since I read song 82 On The Beauty of God,(found on this site) I have wanted to say how much I loved reading this poem and how much it spoke to my heart.
Posted 15 July 2003 - 06:33 PM
Posted 15 July 2003 - 08:08 PM
Actually, the word lavra seems originally to have meant 'marketplace'. The term was taken up for communal monastic communities which were, in some sense, formed after the model of such marketplaces: an open courtyard surrounded by the buildings in which 'business' happened. In the monastic life, this 'business' was the work and labour of a life of prayer; but the actual physical structure of the civil lavra was well suited to the monastic setting.
Posted 23 July 2003 - 12:22 AM
There are twenty cenobitic (lavra) monasteries. The huts and hermitages of the eremitic monks are concentrated mostly at the southern end of the peninsula of Athos. The hermits live in caves or ramshackle shacks built into the cliffs.
"Theirs is the hardest way, steep, rocky, and fierce, with always the danger of delusion and even of outright madness--it is not unkown on Athos for hermits to throw themselves off their cliffs in, so it is believed, the fatally mistaken idea 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 tht 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."
From The Living Witness of the Holy Mountain, translated by Heiromonk Alexander
Posted 24 July 2003 - 07:59 PM
Cenobitic (sometimes called lavras) where a community of monastics live together under a single abbot. This is the type of monasticism predominately practiced on Mt. Athos.
Idiorythmic (sometimes called sketes) which are smaller communities built around one or more elders, small groups that function independently but may come together for common worship. This kind of monasticism was most popular in the forests of Imperial Russia and is often seen in the US.
Eremitic (oftimes called hermitages) where monastics live solitary lives--in clefts, in caves, on solitary islands. It could be considered X-treme spirituality, and is wisely only practiced by monastics of mature Faith, who have spent many years in either a cenobium or skete beforehand.
Posted 24 July 2003 - 08:17 PM
Thank you for your last post in this thread. However, a bit of clarification might be helpful on the various forms of monasticism in Orthodoxy.
The coenobium refers simply to life in common. Monasteries and collective monastic houses fall under this term, by virtue of the fact that the monks or nuns therein live a common life amidst and together with one another. However, a coenobium can be idiorhythmic, for this latter term suggests not so much a living arrangement as the method of discipline/obedience: idio-rhythm means 'self rhythm' or 'self patterned', implying 'obedience' to one's own ways rather than to a rule or an abbot. For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, the majority of the large houses on the Holy Mountain were idiorhythmic coenobia.
The re-flowering of Athonite life in the 20th and now 21st centuries has been due, in large part, to the reverting of all the twenty main monasteries to coenobia of professed obedience: one common life lived under one spiritual head (the abbot).
You are right to say that some sketes are idiorhythmic, however, a great many (if not the majority) are not: they are smaller communities where a small group of disciples gathers around a wise elder under a rule of absolute obedience. There is no aspect of such life that is idiorhythmic. Yet some sketes are idiorhythmic by nature (though in general, idiorhythm is considered a spiritually dangerous manner of seeking after the monastic sacrifice. It is not fit for most).
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