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Abbot, igumen, or archimandrite


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#1 Guest_Augustine Martin

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Posted 24 September 2012 - 09:44 AM

What is the difference between abbot, igumen, or archimandrite? Can a celibate priest be an igumen or archimandrite?

#2 Father David Moser

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Posted 24 September 2012 - 01:27 PM

These are monastic titles, therefore only monastics may be given them.

Abbot and Igumen are the same thing. As a monastic priestly rank it is essentially the equivalent of the non-monastic archpriest. An Archimandrite is the monastic equivalent of the non-monastic protopresbyter. Usually it is assumed that an igumen has the responsibility for ruling over a single monastery while and archimandrite oversees all the monasteries in a certain district. Of course there are abbots that are not the superior of a monastery and there are monastic superiors that are not abbots (in some cases not even priests). Similarly there are archimandrites that do not oversee a group of monasteries, but who function as a bishop's assistant or in some other administrative capacity.

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#3 Olga

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Posted 24 September 2012 - 01:31 PM

These are monastic titles, therefore only monastics may be given them.


In Greek tradition, a married priest of many years' service who becomes widowed is often given the honorary title of Archimandrite, without necessarily receiving monastic tonsure.

#4 Father David Moser

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Posted 24 September 2012 - 01:36 PM

In Greek tradition, a married priest of many years' service who becomes widowed is often given the honorary title of Archimandrite, without necessarily receiving monastic tonsure.


Interesting. The Greek priest here was a long time celibate priest (I would guess close to 30 years now). The metropolitan tonsured him a monastic and raised him to the rank of archimandrite just a few years ago (around his 25th anniversary of ordination). It seems odd to me, given what you said, that he would have made this priest a monastic before making him an archimandrite.

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#5 Father Stephanos

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Posted 24 September 2012 - 02:56 PM

In some Orthodox Christian monastic traditions an hegumenos does not also have to be an ordained priest even if they are the leader of an active Orthodox Christian monastery.

With agape in our Lord Jesus Christ,
+ Father Stephanos

#6 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 24 September 2012 - 10:42 PM

'Igumen' in Russia is often an honorary title given to a hieromonk. 'Archimandrite' is often a title of honour to one who is not a superior; thus at the monastery here in Essex, the late Fr Symeon was an archimandrite, and Fr Zacharias is an archimandrite though the superior is Archimandrite Kyrill.

#7 Ryan

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Posted 25 September 2012 - 01:30 AM

Is it possible for a woman to become an archimandrite of women's monasteries?

#8 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 25 September 2012 - 01:35 AM

Never heard of that; in Russia, a woman can be 'hegumenya', superior of a women's monastery.

#9 Guest_Augustine Martin

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Posted 25 September 2012 - 06:14 AM

Now I'm more confused than before. What is the difference between a superior and an abbot? What is the significance of being a protopresbyter or an archpriest?

I think I've heard about some jurisdictions (I think Antioch) giving the titles to celibate secular priests, much to the anger of some people.

#10 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 25 September 2012 - 12:40 PM

Now I'm more confused than before. What is the difference between a superior and an abbot? What is the significance of being a protopresbyter or an archpriest?

I think I've heard about some jurisdictions (I think Antioch) giving the titles to celibate secular priests, much to the anger of some people.


In Orthodox terms the difference is between the position you are appointed to and an award you may have been given. Thus I am the priest of a given parish in a given city. This is the position my bishop has appointed me to somewhat like someone could have been appointed to head a certain monastery.

On the other hand though for service to the Church, certain awards can be given- which can vary by church, jurisdiction or even diosese. So the appointed head of a monastery for example could have the award of being an igumen (abott) or archimandrite, or he could have no awards yet and be a hieromonk, which isn't an award but rather just a description of being a monk priest.

One source of the confusion though is when we think in terms of western titles (superior, etc) along with our own Orthodox ones. This ends up combining the two ideas of appointed position and awards.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#11 Olga

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Posted 25 September 2012 - 12:52 PM

In Orthodox terms the difference is between the position you are appointed to and an award you may have been given.


This distinction nicely explains the situation I described earlier of senior widowed priests - the title Archimandrite is an award, a recognition of long and distinguished service, not a description of his actual ministry.

#12 Father Stephanos

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Posted 25 September 2012 - 01:38 PM

Is it possible for a woman to become an archimandrite of women's monasteries?

No.

With agape in our Lord Jesus Christ,
+ Father Stephanos

#13 Father Stephanos

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Posted 25 September 2012 - 02:16 PM

Now I'm more confused than before. What is the difference between a superior and an abbot? What is the significance of being a protopresbyter or an archpriest?

I think I've heard about some jurisdictions (I think Antioch) giving the titles to celibate secular priests, much to the anger of some people.

From what I know and have seen in our Holy Orthodox Church an hegumenos/abbot is a monk who is installed as the leader of a monastery, but a superior is the leader of a monastery who has not yet been installed as an abbot. In other words, the difference between a superior and an abbot is somewhat — but not exactly — similar to a Bishop-elect before and after his installation to his see.

The significance of being a protopresbyter or an archpriest is that they are titles of honor and precedence which are used in part to determine the order Orthodox Christian priests do/make liturgical actions, et cetera — which otherwise is usually done by ordination date as a priest — when they are concelebrating liturgical services together. There is a dilemma though in that various Orthodox jurisdictions have differing traditions and customs as to who can become an archpriest and who can become a protopresbyter and what it means for a priest to become either a protopresbyter or an archpriest or both.

I hope this helps!

With agape in our Lord Jesus Christ,
+ Father Stephanos

#14 Father David Moser

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Posted 25 September 2012 - 05:01 PM

Maybe it would help to clear up the confusion a little to relate these various clergy designations to secular corporate management:

Married Clergy ------------ Monastic Clergy ------------ Secular corporation
Priest ---------------- Hieromonk ------------ Team Leader/Line Supervisor
Archpriest ------------ Igumen (Abbot) ------- Middle management/ Program manager
Protopresbyter -------- Archimandrite --------- Vice President
NONE ----------------- Bishop ---------------- CEO

All of the above are ordained positions - they describe separate ranks within the priesthood which are eviqualent across horizontal lines. There are also positions which are not by ordination, but by the assignment of responsibility or function for example:

Dean: The supervising clergyman of a particular subarea of a diocese
Monastic Superior: The head of a monastery - sometimes also called abbot (abbess) or igumen (igumena)
Deputy Abbot: assistant to the abbot - often in charge of the day to day oversight of monastic life when the abbot is otherwise engaged
Rector: The priest who is in charge of a parish
Vicar: Junior bishop who functions as the assistant to the ruling bishop of a diocese
Ruling Bishop: Bishop who is in charge of a diocese
Economos: monk (may be ordained or not) who has the responsiblity for overseeing the business/financial aspects of a monstery
Canonarch: the person (may be ordained or not) who is responsible for the texts for the services
Liturgist: the person (may be ordained or not) -who is responsible for directing the liturgical actions of the service
Catechist: the person (may be ordained or not) who is responsible for catechizing new converts

These are just some of the various "functionaries" that come to mind - I'm sure there are more.

Fr David

Edited by Father David Moser, 25 September 2012 - 11:03 PM.
spacing, spelling


#15 Guest_Augustine Martin

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Posted 26 September 2012 - 06:28 AM

These help a lot, especially Fr. David's graph. I'm assuming the archpriest/protopresbyter/dean is like the Anglican archdeacon.

#16 John Konstantin

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Posted 26 September 2012 - 10:19 AM

These help a lot, especially Fr. David's graph. I'm assuming the archpriest/protopresbyter/dean is like the Anglican archdeacon.


They are nothing like an Anglican archdeacon. He has a distinct geographical area or responsibility as has been made clear. The titles to which you refer are honorific and their responsibilities may vary.

If one is looking to find a correlation one might see the Archpriest as a Canon in the Anglican Church or a Monsignor in the Latin Church.

#17 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 26 September 2012 - 02:20 PM

They are nothing like an Anglican archdeacon. He has a distinct geographical area or responsibility as has been made clear. The titles to which you refer are honorific and their responsibilities may vary.


This is exactly the point I also was trying to make.

Let's take a normal example to illustrate this point.

Let's say that I'm a monk priest (hieromonk) and assigned to a particular post by my abbot or bishop- to serve liturgies and services in the monastery on particular days & hear confessions; to do molebens/panichidas. Or the bishop assigns me to a particular parish. These are particular assignments none of which in and of themselves change my priestly rank as a hieromonk.

However during this assignment after a certain period of time has past I may be given the following awards: nabedrennik, gold cross, igumen, palitsa, archimandrite, jeweled cross, mitre, etc.

The latter don't change the nature of my assignment however- the fact that I'm assigned to serve on a particular day in a monastery or in a parish. They are awards given in consequence of (or sometimes in support of) my service.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#18 Archimandrite Irenei

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Posted 26 September 2012 - 07:55 PM

Until the recent council of the Russian Orthodox Church, the title igumen (which in English is 'abbot', though is often simply transliterated) could be given as an award to monastics priests (the term 'award' here is nagrada in Salvonic: a means of a bishop identifying a priest who has been faithful in his service to the Church, as a spiritual encouragement to him and to his flock); but since that council, the title of igumen has been removed from the list of awards for monastic clergy, and is now only given to those who are actively the head of a monastery.

A bit of history might help make some sense out of the confusing intermingling of awards and offices within the monastic ranks. Earlier in history, monks were not given awards (nagradi), as it was seen as antithetical to the humility and self-abasement of the monastic office. A monk could thus either be simply a monk, or if ordained, a hierodeacon (monk-deacon) or hieromonk (monk-priest), which were simply indications of clerical status; and within a community, the monk who was spiritual father and head of the monastery would be called igumen ('abbot', which literally means 'leader'). This was not an award, but an office: he was the monk (whether he be monk or hieromonk) who led the community. Later, the office of archimandrite was established (the word literally means 'chief of the enclosure'), again not as an award but as a functional office: an archimandrite was either the overseer of a group of monasteries within a region (e.g. all the monasteries in a diocese), or the head of a particularly large or significant monastery (e.g. a great lavra, or an imperial community).

But again, the basic premise was that there were no clerical awards for monks. Igumen and archimandrite were purely functional offices. Similarly bishop (episkopos) is not an award, but a functional office - the monk given the charge of overseeing the spiritual life of a whole diocese.

Later, as history progressed and monastics were often incorporated into the ecclesial operations of the Church more directly (e.g. in serving within diocese, assisting bishops, etc.), it became desirable to have some means of differentiating seniority and rank in order to preserve the harmonious distinctions within the functional hierarchy of the Church (particularly so within Russian Orthodoxy, which holds these things quite dear). Degrees of rank existed already (and would be expanded upon/added to) within the ranks of married clergy: priest, archpriest, protopresbyter, etc.; but within the monastic ranks there were no awards.

When awards began to be conferred upon monastics, they came in the form not of distinct nagradi, but as the donning of a title of office, even if one did not actually exercise that office. Thus, rather than concocting a special award for a monk (still something remained of the idea that monks should not be given awards), a monk might be given the title of igumen or archimandrite even if he did not head a monastery or oversee a set of communities. Hence the origin of the confusing tradition of these titles referring both to offices and ranks in later and current Church history (though, as I say, as of the recent council igumen is no longer to be used as a rank/title in the Russian Orthodox Church).

Later, things blended more fully, and there are, in fact, now nagradi given to monastic clergy - though still few. According to formal Russian Orthodox practice, a hieromonk may be given the nabeddrenik (square shield at the thigh) after five year's service as priest in the Holy Altar; and the gold pectoral cross ten years after the nabeddrenik. Technically speaking, those are the only monastic awards for priest-monks; though in practice, the title of archimandrite may be awarded to a monk who does not oversee a group of monasteries or head a large lavra, nonetheless this is still usually only done when it is associated with some type of administrative office in the Church (some of the types of things Fr Raphael mentioned), so it is not, except very rarely, issued as a nagrada without administrative duties.

INXC, Fr Irenei

#19 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 26 September 2012 - 08:30 PM

Until the recent council of the Russian Orthodox Church


Can you say when this council was, please, Father?

Incidentally, as regards "the term 'award' here is nagrada in Salvonic", I think I am right in saying this is not the right word; 'nagrada' means only a medal or similar award, which can be metaphorical in the sense of someone having some good happen to them in life, but would not relate to the conferment of a Church title such as hegumen. In Russian, this would be титул or ранг (звание).

Edited by Andreas Moran, 26 September 2012 - 08:59 PM.


#20 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 26 September 2012 - 09:02 PM

Interesting! I heard a couple of years ago that this was being discused within the church of Russia (MP). But I didn't know that an actual decision had been taken.




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