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Taking monastic tonsure


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#1 John Konstantin

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Posted 19 September 2012 - 01:23 PM

Forgive me if this question has already been addressed. I was wondering if any of our monastic folk on the forum, or others for that matter, can clear up a question for me. Much is written about the two forms of monasticism i.e. coenobitic and idiorrythmic. I was wondering where individuals who take monastic vows outside of living within either a skete or a monastery fits in?

What I mean by this is that one hears occasionally of individuals, like Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh for example and others, who never 'joined' a skete or monastery formally but whom took monastic tonsure. I believe he even went on then to serve as a doctor in the Army and kept his monastic status secret. I know personally of one English gentleman who took monastic tonsure many moons ago abroad but travelled widely teaching around the world and lives alone in his own modest flat, not retiring to a monastery or a skete.

Does this present a 'third' way or are these folk a 'sort of' idiorrythmic monk?

#2 Niko Barounis

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Posted 19 September 2012 - 03:21 PM

interesting, who would tonsure you if you wont live in the monastary? never herd of Metropolitan Anthony, but thats amazing, do u know who made him a monk.

the above aside, your example of the Englishman situation sound like someone living as, i belive its called 'white monastasisim". when someone lives as a monk but within the world, holding a job, paying bills...BUT i did not know you can live like this and be tonsured. I thought 'white monastics" just decide to live like a monk and just go ahead and do it. without geting tonsured.

Looking forward to more information from everyone.

#3 Father David Moser

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Posted 19 September 2012 - 03:56 PM

Bishops, while monastics, do not generally live in a monastery - but they are part of a monastic brotherhood. I say this to point out that there are monks who may not appear to be joined to a monastery but who are in fact within the monastic brotherhood. Some bishops, when they have a number of monastic clergy in their diocese, or even in the cathedral city, will form a monastic brotherhood which encompasses those monks who are there. In other cases a bishop will remain a member of his original monastic brotherhood but not live in the monastery because his monastic obedience is his episcopal ministry. He will usually return to his monastery to be buried, but never to live there.

Whether a monk lives in a monastery or not, it is extremely important for a monk to be formed initially within the monastery. Once his life and person have been shaped in the "mold" of the monastery, then he can safely live and work elsewhere. Secret monasticism does exist, but usually only in a situation where there is persecution.

RE: Your question about a "third way" or a type of idiorhythmic monasticism. The best answer is that such monasticism is a type of idiorhythmic monasticism.

Fr David

#4 John Konstantin

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Posted 19 September 2012 - 04:12 PM

To reply to Niko : Metropolitan Anthony was tonsured by another monk who I believe was pastoring a small church of emigres in Paris. This was long before he had the whiff of even being a priest let alone a bishop. He had no time whatsoever in a monastery to my knowledge. The English man was not a 'white monk', something I have never heard of or encountered, but very much a real priest who has been tonsured in a monastery and followed a somewhat peripatetic life teaching. I have not chatted intimately with him but he is now under the omphorian of the Greek Archbishop in this country but is not domiciled in a monastic house. Hence my questioning.

#5 Father Stephanos

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Posted 20 September 2012 - 12:18 PM

I was wondering where individuals who take monastic vows outside of living within either a skete or a monastery fits in?

Dear John,

All Orthodox Christian monastics who do not have as their permanent physical residence their cenobitic monastery where they dwell, except when under obedience they are occasionally visiting others, are idiorhythmic monastics.

I hope this helps!

With agape in our Lord Jesus Christ,

+ Father Stephanos



#6 John Konstantin

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Posted 20 September 2012 - 07:46 PM

Thank you Father Stephanos. Would such monastics who are found living in their own homes, in most cases, have been formed previously for some time in a Cenobitic or idiorrythmic monastery?

#7 Father Stephanos

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Posted 22 September 2012 - 03:52 AM

Thank you Father Stephanos. Would such monastics who are found living in their own homes, in most cases, have been formed previously for some time in a Cenobitic or idiorrythmic monastery?

Dear John,

I am not aware of any statistics concerning an answer to your question. My unsubstantiated guess would be that more often than not, monastics who are found living in their own homes were formed in an idiorhythmic monastery, but there are many valid reasons why a devout cenobitic monastic might find themselves to be homeless (without a monastery). In these cases, sometimes such a monastic does choose to live idiorhythmically.

I hope this helps!

With agape in our Lord Jesus Christ,
+ Father Stephanos

#8 Fr.Alexei

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Posted 22 September 2012 - 01:31 PM

Dear Father Stephanos,

your blessing please!

Could you please elaborate on your above statement, "but there are many valid reasons why a devout cenobitic monastic might find themselves to be homeless (without a monastery)"?

Thanking you!

#9 Archimandrite Irenei

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Posted 22 September 2012 - 05:13 PM

Dear John and others,

Allow me to say this from personal experience: to be a monk outside of a cenobitic environment is a profound challenge and terrible spiritual difficulty. Idiorhythm has never been the highest ideal of Orthodox monastic life (witness the profoundly damaging effects it had upon the Holy Mountain, and the God-graced restoration that occurred there simultaneous to the return to proper cenobitic life), and when a monk finds himself in such a context, he will always be struggling in the context of a monasticism that does not provide the full protections, comforts and solaces of cenobitic asceticism.

That being said, the world at times requires that monks live outside a monastery, or otherwise in such a context. In such cases, the Church provides help and support (in various forms, some of which - such as the brotherhood - Fr David already mentioned) to help him in these struggles; and we must remember that such situations are an ancient and abiding part of the monastic tradition of the Church (indeed, almost every bishop is more-or-less forced to give up the cenobitic life). It isn't the case that cenobitic monasticism is 'real' and non-cenobitic is 'false'; but are parts of the tradition of the Church. It is, however, the case that non-cenobitic is far less desirable, and ought to be a fact of necessity, not a choice of preference.

INXC, Fr Irenei

#10 John Konstantin

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Posted 22 September 2012 - 07:54 PM

Thank you Fathers for your profound wisdom and answering my question.




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