A Defense of Monasticism

Martyr Pegasias of Persia

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

[Saint Augustine]

O Lord Jesus Christ, Word of God, O God the Logos, You are the light that created the perceptible light. You are the way and the truth and the life. In You there is no darkness, no deception or lie, no vanity and no death. You are indeed the Light, and apart from You there is spiritual darkness. You are the Way of Truth and Virtue, and without You mankind wanders in error. You are the Truth, without which there is only vanity. You are the Life and without You there is death.

Lord, give the command to my soul which You gave in the beginning: "Let there be light!" that I may see the Light of Your Spirit and avoid the darkness of ignorance and of sin; that I may see the way of virtue and of salvation and return to You and away from what is not a real way; that I may see the spiritual life and avoid the death which is brought about by sin. Lord, shine Your spiritual light abundantly upon me. You are my enlightenment and my Savior, Whom I will respect and fear. You are my Lord to Whom I will sing songs of praise. You are my God, Whose Name I will bless and glorify, You are my Father, Whom I will love. You are my Bridegroom, for Whom I will keep my soul faithful and devoted.

O Lord, the light of my soul, shine Your enlightenment upon me. As I stand now before You in prayer, shine Your Light upon me who am blind of soul, sitting in spiritual darkness and under the influence and power of death. Guide my works on the way of virtue, which brings peace, so that I may worthily approach the wondrous tabernacle, Your Holy Temple, the House of God, and there offer to you, with joyous voice, words of thanksgiving and doxology. For this doxology, when truly coming from the heart, is a way and a means by which I will first be able to turn away from the path of sin, and then directly return to You. For You are truly the way that leads to life. Amen.


On November 2nd Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics and Teachers of Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Holy Martyrs: Akindynos, Pegasios, Anempodistos, Elpithophoros of Persia; Saint Marcianos of Cyrrhus; Holy Martyrs Domna, Domnina, and Kyriake; Saint Cyprian of Storozhev; Holy Martyrs Attikos, Evdokios, Agapios and others.

HOLY MARTYRS ATTIKOS, EVDOKIOS, AGAPIOS AND OTHERS. These men were Roman soldiers from 4th century Sebastia. Because they were Christians, these and other soldiers with them were interrogated and tormented by the ruler of the city and the military governor. The soldiers had pledged their loyalty to Jesus Christ first. The authorities called this seditious and had their backs and stomachs flogged. Yet the soldiers urged each other to stand firm. Their teeth were extracted without the benefit of drugs, yet they remained undeterred. Finally, this group was thrown into fire, where they received their martyr's crown.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.


Holy Epistle Lesson: Colossians 4:10-18
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 12:2-12


"Jesus Christ fervently and with love performed the task for which His Father sent Him. We should also conscientiously and zealously perform the duties which are laid upon us by God and civil authorities. Jesus Christ loved everyone and did good to all. So should we love our neighbor and do good to as many people as possible. Jesus Christ did everything possible for the salvation of mankind. So must we do good to others, not sparing our own well-being and time". [Saint Innocent of Alaska]

by Metropolitan Anastassy

Is it not strange, some will say, to defend monasticism, which has existed already more than fifteen hundred years, firmly established by the testimonies and examples from the lives of numerous ascetics, justified in the profound writings of such theologians as Saint Basil the Great, Saint Gregory the Theologian or Saint Theodore the Studite, its roots embedded in the bosom of Christianity and its history, become the stronghold and the adornment of the Church?

Monasticism, in fact, can find for itself an entire cloud of witnesses and advocates. Nevertheless, it is even to this day subjected to constant attacks by its many opponents who seek to deny it of its very right to exist. If they have been scandalized only by the examples of those among monastics who lead imperfect lives and who defile and demean this lofty calling, then their negative attitude towards monasteries and monasticism in general would have some basis. But to judge monasticism as a whole is not appropriate.

But the world, that is, human society formulates its life not according to the Commandments of Christ, but according to the spirit of this age and thus does not comprehend even the ideal of monasticism, considering it wrong and foolish, thus proving, more than all else, that monasticism in its essence is a phenomenon that is not of this world. The words of Christ which He directed to His disciples apply fully to those in the monastic life: "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (St. John 15:19).

A monk, as is proven by the word itself (Greek: monos, one, alone), is always and everywhere alone. He is separate from the elements of the world, even though he might live in the midst of a noisy city. The majority of humanity sees in him something of an alien quality which is unfamiliar to them.

It is surprising that even those who are of the faith and evidently close to the Church often show a lack an understanding of the monastic ideal, which for them remains inconsistent with their usual notions. They are ready to grasp and accept every act of service to the church--pastoral, missionary, philanthropic, educational, and all other paths of Christian life--except that of monastic asceticism. In the course of centuries the latter has manifestly become a disputed standard around which the struggle over application does not subside, while the principle theoretical polemics have grown ever stronger during this period of the moral decline of Christian life.

Spiritual qualities, according to the words of the Apostle, are discerned by the spiritual. "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God...because they are spiritually discerned" (I Cor. 2:14).

Life constantly demands of us the ascetic struggle of self-restraint, and even at times self-renunciation, and we are subject to its command, willingly or not, then the monastic accomplishes nothing contrary to the nature of things and still less contrary to the moral law by adhering to the path of inner and outer asceticism: he only goes deeper and further than others in that direction, in harmony with the goals he has set himself--the purification of the soul and body in order to prepare himself for another, eternal blessed life.

It is for the attainment of this aim that the monastic withdraws, first of all, from the world--not from the world as the beautiful creation of God, but from the world which lies in evil, rampant with seductions and temptations. Of course, he cannot withdraw from himself, from his own sinful nature, but, by withdrawing from the external, worldly impressions which distract the mind and feed the passionate urges of the soul and body, he enters more deeply into his inner cell in order to keep watch over himself, as the ascetics put it, and gradually attains complete victory over the passions and the world of the soul.

Our soul is like the most sensitive photographic plate: it involuntarily imprints on itself all that it sees or hears around it. Therefore, surrounding society exerts a greater effect upon us than we ourselves notice. The ewll-known saying of the Psalms: "With the holy man wilt thou be holy…and with the elect man wilt thou be elect, and with the perverse wilt thou be perverse" (Psalm 17:26-27), is daily vindicated in life. Man is made such that he ever strives to assimilate the views and attitudes which dominate around him in the order of social life. Even the most forceful personalities are not able to resist the depersonalized influence, the so-called public opinion and way of life, which despotically demands subjection to itself from each person.

The more the monastic secludes himself from the world, the farther he will flee from temptation. This is why the dispassionate wilderness becomes for him a lovely place. There he, as it were, finds himself. Not idly did one wise man say: "The more I am with people, the less human I feel myself to be." With its untroubled peace and serenity "the wilderness listens to God" and therefore becomes the best converser and tutor for monastics.

The monk must purify himself of all the passions, beginning with the crudest and ending with the most subtle and scarcely perceptible. He must humble himself and enslave his flesh which rebels against the spirit, crucify his self-love and pride, which engenders a dangerous "isolation.: IN a word, he must follow unswervingly the path of ascetic struggle so that in going from stage to stage he can finally attain perfect love of God, and with is also love for his neighbor, realizing the acme of Christian virtue and the crown of his spiritual activity.

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George