My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
A new life in Jesus Christ
(Source: The Eros of Repentance by Archimandrite George Capsanis, Egoumenos [Abbot] of the Monastery of Osiou Gregoriou, Mt. Athos)
The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is a 'god-spell' or 'good news' because it brings to the world something which is not merely new teaching, but a new life in contrast to the old. The old life is ruled by sin, passions, corruption and death, and is presided over by the devil. In spite of all its 'natural' pleasures it still leaves a bitter taste, because it is not true life, the life for which man was made, but a corrupted life, diseased, characterized by a sense of the irrational, of emptiness and of anxiety.
The new life is offered to the world by the God-man Christ as a gift and possibility for all men. The believer is united with Christ, and thus partakes of His Divine and immortal life, that is, of everlasting or true life.
A LIFE OF REPENTANCE
In order for the believer to be joined to Christ and to be made alive, he must first die to the old man by means of repentance. One must crucify and bury the old man, (that is, egoism, the passions, and the selfish will,) at the Cross and Tomb of Christ, in order to rise with Him and walk in 'newness of life' (Romans 6:4). This is the work of repentance and the carrying of the Cross of Christ. Without repentance, the continual crucifying of the old man, the believer is incapable of believing evangelically. He cannot give himself entirely to God and: 'love the Lord with all his heart, and all his soul, and all his mind, and all his strength.' (St. Mark 12:30).
It is for this reason that the Lord Himself set forth as the foundation of His preaching, and as the basis of faith, repentance: 'repent, and believe in the Gospel.' (St. Mark 1:15). He did not hide the fact that the life of repentance is a difficult and uphill struggle: 'Narrow is the gate and hard is the way which leads to life.' (St. Matthew 7:14)
To walk this way means to lift up the cross of repentance. The old man does not give way without violence, and the devil is not conquered without hard warfare.
The monk promises--throughout his life--to follow the narrow and hard way of repentance. He breaks away from the things of the world, in order to achieve the one thing which he desires. He dies in relation to the old life, that he may live the new one which Christ offer him in the Church. The monk pursues perfect repentance by means of continual asceticism: vigils; fasting; prayer; the cutting away of this will, and unquestioning obedience to his Elder (Geronda). In the practice of these he forces himself to deny his private and selfish will, and to love God's will. A monk is 'a perpetual forcing of nature.' The word of the Lord is thus fulfilled: 'The kingdom of heaven is taken by violence, and the violent take it by force' (St. Matthew 11:12).
In the midst of the birth-pangs of repentance, the new man according to God is slowly begotten. Belonging to the struggle of repentance is the effort of continually guarding one's thoughts. It is by putting away from one's self all the evil and demonic temptations that act to soil the mind, that one is able to keep the heart pure, and it is such a heart that reflects God. In the words of our Lord: 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.'
Victory over egoism and the passions makes the monk calm, meek, and humble, in a word--'poor in spirit'--and a participant in all virtues of the Beatitudes. It also makes him a 'child', like that child which Jesus blessed and whom He called on all to imitate if they wished to enter His Kingdom.
The whole life of the monk becomes a study of repentance, his way of life a way of repentance. A monk is a scientist of repentance, one who is: 'branded with the life of repentance', (Canon 43, 6th Ecumenical Council) for the whole Church. Contrition and the tears of repentance are the most eloquent sermon.
In addition, the monk's whole manner of life, the way of self-mortification, is a judgment of the world. Again the world, which is silently judged by the monk, does not take part in his repentance. It rejects him, it hates him, it despises him, and it sees him as a fool. Yet, with such men: 'the foolish, the weak, the ignoble and rejected of the world', the wisdom of the 'wise' is put to shame by God (1 Corinthians 1:27).
For those who do not partake of his spirit, the monk's hidden and secret life is a mystery sealed with seven seals. Those who do not (share in this) see him as no use either for society or for the missionary work of the Church. His life is hidden with Christ in God, though it shall be revealed in glory with the Coming of Christ (Col. 3:4).
Only if the heart of a man is continually being purified of egoism, of selfishness, and of the passions, is it capable through repentance of truly loving God and man. Egotism and love are incompatible. The egotist may often think the he loves, but in fact his 'love' is merely a disguised egotism, hiding (often from himself) his selfishness and self-interest.
The patient monk is aflame with divine desire. Love of God possesses his heart. He can no longer live for himself, but only for God. Like a bride, the monk's soul longs continuously for the Bridegroom. It cannot rest until it is united with Him. The monk finds no peace in loving God as would a servant--from afar--nor as a hired hand--for the sake of the reward of Paradise; he wants to love Him as a son, from a pure heart. 'I no longer fear God, because I love Him', says Saint Anthony the Great.
The more the monk repents, the more his desire grows for the love of God. The more he loves God, the more deeply he repents.
A LIFE OF PRAYER AND WORSHIP
Tears of repentance kindle the fire of love. The monk feeds his desire for the Lord with prayer, especially that spiritual and unceasing prayer which is the continual invocation of the sweetest name of Jesus.
The prayer: 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner', both purifies and establishes him in union with Christ. Worshiping in Church the monk also gives himself lovingly to God, and God gives Himself back to him. The monk spends many hours every day worshiping his beloved Lord in the Temple. His participation in worship is not an 'obligation', but rather a necessity of his soul which thirsts for God. In Athonite monasteries the Divine Liturgy is celebrated every day. The monks are not compelled to attend the services, however lengthy. Yet they do, for they know nothing better than to be in communion with the Redeemer, the Mother of the Redeemer, and the friends (Saints) of the Redeemer. Worship is a joy and a festival, an opening-up of the soul, and a foretaste of Paradise. The monks live, in other words, according to the way of the Apostles: 'And all that believed were together, and had all things common...and they, continuing daily with one accord in the Temple and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God...' (Acts 2:44-47).
And after the dismissal of the service, the monk lives worshipfully: his whole life in the monastery, the service which he performs, the refectory, prayer, silence and rest, his relations with the brethren, and the reception of guests, are offered as liturgy to the Holy Trinity.
The architecture itself of the monasteries bears witness to this reality. From the Church and its holy altar, all things proceed, and to them all things return. The corridors, the cells, everything is centered on the Catholicon (the main church or temple of the monastery) as a hub.
All of life is offered to God, and becomes worship. The material elements used in the worship witness to the Transfiguration of all life, and of the whole creation by God's grace. The bread and wine of the Divine Eucharist, the sanctified oil, the incense, the sounding-boards ('semantrons') and bells which announce the appointed hours, the candles and the oil lamps which are lit and extinguished at certain times of the service, the movement of the canonarch and the ecclesiarch, and as many other movements and activities as are provided by the age-old monastic 'typika' (rules), are not mere symbols, nor are they psychological props intended to generate sentimental feelings. Instead, they are signs, echoes, and actual manifestations of the New Creation. Everyone, as many as visit the Holy Mountain, discovers that its worship is not static, but possesses a dynamic character. It is a single motion toward God: together with itself, the soul which ascends to God raises up all creation.
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God