Sunday, April 10, 2011

Monastic Vocation

Centuries ago in Greece and Russia any married priest who became a widower was expected to enter a monastery and take monastic vows. This is what I was told in the 1970s by Greek and Russian Orthodox monastics. I should google and see if there is any information on this.

There is some mention of widower priests here
ki/Clerical_celibacy In my 20s and 30s I spent a number of years living in monasteries around Greek and Russian bishops and monastics and it became clear to me that the Orthodox church drew its essence from the life and spirit of the ascetic renunciate. It is true that certain jurisdictions would take widower priests and consecrate them as Bishops but the problem is that said individual has never tasted of the monastic ascetic renunciate experience. It is necessary to live it and experience it to understand what this means.

People who have never lived in a monastery cannot grasp the essence of it.... so for them everything is in terms of cookie-cutter external practicalities... Some people suggest that there would be more clerical vocations if marriage were allowed and yet denominations who ALLOW married clergy also suffer a decline in vocations. Unless one lives for a year or two in a monastery or convent and tastes the life and reads things like the Philokalia or Brachianinov's "The Arena" one has no conception of what the motivation for that life is and everything is understood as mere externals quid pro quo and economic practicalities. The best line I ever heard was in The Sound of Music where the old abbess says to the young novice something to the effect of "monastic vows are something you should be running TOWARDS and not something you do to run away from or avoid something in life." Another way to glimpse is to read the first 100 pages of The Brothers Karamazov which is an account of how a young man on the path to a military career slowly becomes drawn to spiritual life and becomes Staretz (Elder) Zosima who was based on the real life monastic Ambrosy that Dostoevsky met and used as a model for the fictional character.

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