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June 18, 2012

The Role of Monasticism in our Time

From an interview with Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos:

Question: Coming now to contemporary Orthodox monasticism, what would you consider to be its primary role in the present circumstances compared to that in the past? Would you say that every epoch puts a different challenge before the monastic community, and if that is so, what specific mission it has in our time?

Answer: In the Orthodox Church, genuine monasticism is the one that lives fully the hesychastic tradition we mentioned above, and the monks should be, according to an ancient saying, “the ones who live by the Gospel”.

It is significant that anchoritism developed as a reaction to the “spirit” of secularism, when the persecution of the Church ceased in the fourth century and the “spirit” of secularism entered the Church. Because of this, Orthodox monasticism, in contrast to western monasticism, is the experience of the prophetic, apostolic, martyric life and, unlike in the West, it is not the monks who save the Church but they are saved by remaining within the Church.

Consequently, monasteries function, and have to function, as spiritual medical schools of the Church. The physicians learn at medical schools what physical illness is, what a healthy organism is and how the sick are cured. Similarly, the monks learn in these spiritual medical schools the method for men’s spiritual cure. When monasticism misses this objective, it is secularized and causes greater disappointment to Christians. Because in such cases monasticism becomes a secular organization, a place where all passions, aggressiveness and fanaticism are cultivated.

From Sobornost, September 2006.