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Author Topic: Monasticism and Salvation  (Read 3278 times) Average Rating: 0
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Sophia1925
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« on: February 05, 2008, 07:13:04 PM »

This discussion was split off from the thread "Communion, Confession, Confusion":
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,14530.msg207529.html#msg207529

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Wow - I know many monks who would completely disagree with you!  Monks are generally not purer but rather more strongly tempted, and many monks are actually sources of great temptation for the few Holy Elders that exist.  Your line of thinking in the above statement does not match up with reality - monasticism is a hard road to walk on, and only a very small percentage of those who do tread upon it actually succeed. 

Okay. So only a small percentage of monks according to you reach Heaven?

And the percentage of lay people reaching Heaven is higher?

Is that what you are saying?

Someone in a monastery spending life in prayer, fasting, struggle with passions and obedience is less pure than person looking to make money and please wife? Is that what you are saying (I am asking honestly)?

« Last Edit: February 08, 2008, 01:54:49 PM by cleveland » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2008, 07:18:03 PM »

Someone in a monastery spending life in prayer, fasting, struggle with passions and obedience is less pure than person looking to make money and please wife? Is that what you are saying (I am asking honestly)?

Right, because no one outside of a monastery ever prays, fasts, struggles with their passions or tries to be obedient to the Gospel and their spiritual father.  In fact, we all refused to enter monasticism because all we wanted to do was make lots and lots of money and have lots and lots of sex. Roll Eyes
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« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2008, 10:54:41 PM »

Okay. So only a small percentage of monks according to you reach Heaven?

And the percentage of lay people reaching Heaven is higher?

Is that what you are saying?

Someone in a monastery spending life in prayer, fasting, struggle with passions and obedience is less pure than person looking to make money and please wife? Is that what you are saying (I am asking honestly)? 

I'm saying that I've had monks tell me this and that I've read Elders who say this!  The road through monasticism is difficult indeed - I've heard multiple times that an Elder will say that for each Holy Father on Mt. Athos there are 10 un-holy ones that the Evil One is using to tempt the Fathers.  In the end, there are plenty of monks and plenty of non-monks making it into heaven - but the road for the monks and the priests is particularly hard because of their focus; they are targets for increased attention by the evil one.  I don't know what the percentages are, and I never have and never will claim to - but I don't think that saying that monks are generally holier than regular people is accurate, and certainly not edifying.
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« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2008, 01:28:22 PM »

Wow - I know many monks who would completely disagree with you!  Monks are generally not purer but rather more strongly tempted, and many monks are actually sources of great temptation for the few Holy Elders that exist.  Your line of thinking in the above statement does not match up with reality - monasticism is a hard road to walk on, and only a very small percentage of those who do tread upon it actually succeed. 


No the passions in monks that are in us all are rather exposed, fought aganist and transfigured as opposed to left like serpents coiled at the bottom of our hearts poisoning every thought, word and deed of ours at its roots. It is a teaching of the Orthodox Church that monasticism is superior to marriage. Monks dedicate the whole of their lives to God. What lay person does that?
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« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2008, 01:33:13 PM »

No the passions in monks that are in us all are rather exposed, fought aganist and transfigured as opposed to left like serpents coiled at the bottom of our hearts poisoning every thought, word and deed of ours at its roots. It is a teaching of the Orthodox Church that monasticism is superior to marriage. Monks dedicate the whole of their lives to God. What lay person does that? 

No, the teaching of the church is that celibacy is superior to marriage for those who can bear it (that comes from St. John Chrysostom, who was an excellent monk before he became a bishop).  We're not going to continue this discussion in this thread.  You want to keep going?  Start a new thread elsewhere.
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« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2008, 01:34:05 PM »

but I don't think that saying that monks are generally holier than regular people is accurate, and certainly not edifying.

Of course it is accurate. Regular people in the world are surrounded by all sorts of evil temptations and impressions that cannot but scar their souls. Monks are surrounded by things reminding of us of God, of death and repentance. A lot of regular people do not even say their morning and evening prayers or read the Bible everyday. Monks spend much of their day in prayer and reading the Holy Scriptures. Most of the Saints are monastics...Does that not say something?

How is it "certainly not edifying" to state what the Orthodox Church has always believed?

Theophan.

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« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2008, 01:47:22 PM »

I'm going to split our discussion into its own thread in a minute...

Of course it is accurate. Regular people in the world are surrounded by all sorts of evil temptations and impressions that cannot but scar their souls.   

Haven't you read the fathers?  Monks - especially the Holy Ones - are surrounded by demons, by temptation, by physical manifestations of evil.  They fight temptation on both the spiritual and physical levels, often being assaulted by demons in a very tangible way.  And they are tempted and drawn away by their fellow monks.  I've had this conversation with monks who have lived on Mt. Athos, men who have traveled there, priests, bishops, students - you name it.  The consensus is that while the monastic lifestyle is one to be aspired to, it is not easy, not designed for most people, and there are many monks within the lifestyle that are not holy.

Monks are surrounded by things reminding of us of God, of death and repentance. A lot of regular people do not even say their morning and evening prayers or read the Bible everyday. Monks spend much of their day in prayer and reading the Holy Scriptures.

Monks are indeed surrounded by Church and obedience and icons and prayer.  But it doesn't mean that they follow it.  Like those who enter the priesthood, they've chosen to walk the narrowest of paths- and there is more peril that awaits them for stumbling than those who are in the world.

Most of the Saints are monastics...Does that not say something?

Prove it.  There are many Holy Fathers who have become recognized as Saints - but to claim that most of the Saints in the Orthodox Church are monks either (a) ignores that we don't know even 1/10000th of the saints in heaven, or (b) is a sweeping overgeneralization based on facts you haven't gathered.

How is it "certainly not edifying" to state what the Orthodox Church has always believed?

Because most people aren't monks - so what is edifying is teaching people how to live pure lives where they are, in their homes and cities.  If you say it can't be done, then you're the one practically blaspheming the Holy Spirit by denying It's Power.
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« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2008, 02:26:29 PM »

Of course it is accurate. Regular people in the world are surrounded by all sorts of evil temptations and impressions that cannot but scar their souls.

So are monks, probably moreso than the laity.  As cleveland points out, the holier the monk, the more beset he is with temptation. 

I'm currently reading the Ladder of St. John Climacus as part of my Lenten reading and it dawned on me while reading this thread that St. John would have never written that work for monks if they were not beset by the temptations and impressions you write about moreso than the laity.  He then goes on to repeatedly mention monks who are certainly not the paragons of virtue you seem to ascribe to all monastics.  And he writes of it as if it is commonplace.  Just because someone takes the cowl doesn't mean he or she will live up to the higher standards set for them.  Indeed, St. John writes at the end of step 2 on detachment, "For those sailing the tides of spirituality know only too well that the religious life can be a harbor of salvation or a haven of destruction and a pitiable sight indeed is the shipwreck in port of someone who had safely mastered the ocean." (emphasis mine)
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« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2008, 02:38:06 PM »

I always like to bring up the Canons passed at the Council at Gangra in discussions like these:

http://www.synaxis.org/cf/volume37/ECF37THE_COUNCIL_OF_GANGRA_HISTORICAL.htm

Quote
CANON I.


IF any one shall condemn marriage, or abominate and condemn a woman who is a believer and devout, and sleeps with her own husband, as though she could not enter the Kingdom [of heaven] let him be anathema.


NOTES.


ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON I.


Anathema to him who disregards legitimate marriage.

Quote
CANON IV.


IF any one shall maintain, concerning a married presbyter, that is not lawful to partake of the oblation when he offers it, let him be anathema.


NOTES.


ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON IV.


Anathema to him who hesitates to receive communion from presbyters joined in matrimony.

Quote
CANON IX.


IF any one shall remain virgin, or observe continence, abstaining from marriage because he abhors it, and not on account of the beauty and holiness of virginity itself, let him be anathema.


NOTES.


ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON IX.


Whoso preserves virginity not on account of its beauty but because he abhors marriage, let him be anathema.

ZONARAS.


Virginity is most beautiful of all, and continence is likewise beautiful, but only if we follow them for their own sake and because of the sanctification which comes from them. But should anyone embrace virginity, because he detests marriage as impure, and keep himself chaste, and abstains from commerce with women and marriage, because he thinks that they are in themselves wicked, he is subjected by this canon to the penalty of anathema.  

Quote
CANON X.


IF any one of those who are living a virgin life for the Lord's sake shall treat arrogantly the married, let him be anathema.


NOTES.


ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON X.


Whoso treats arrogantly those joined in matrimony, let him be anathema.

Quote
CANON XIV.


IF any woman shall forsake her husband, and resolve to depart from him because she abhors marriage, let her be anathema.


NOTES.


ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON XIV.


Women who keep away from their husbands because they abominate marriage, anathema to them.


It is very true that there are many holy monks....but there are also many holy people living out their lives in purity and chastity as well. I think it was St Anthony who once asked a visiting angel if he could be shown the holiest person in the world. The angel took this great monastic saint not to a hermit, but instead to a cobbler who, as he was repairing and making boots, was saying under his breath to all passersby:

"All we be saved; only I will be lost"

It is this humility that both monastics and married people need to find. Some find it in the outside world, through their service to their spouse and to others; some others obtain this humility in a monastery within their brotherhood or sisterhood; still others only find this through an eremitic life, but even they have relationships with others. The Spirit can work through all avenues.
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« Reply #9 on: February 10, 2008, 09:04:49 PM »

In fact, we all refused to enter monasticism because all we wanted to do was make lots and lots of money and have lots and lots of sex. Roll Eyes

I Lol'd.

From what I've heard from my priest's stories, many monks on Mt. Athos can be extremely judgmental. And as Fr. Chris pointed out, a cobbler was seen as one of the most holy people in the world. Of course, this is not the rule, but to say that one lifestyle is more holy than another runs entirely contrary to Christ's teachings.

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« Reply #10 on: February 10, 2008, 11:57:02 PM »

In fact, we all refused to enter monasticism because all we wanted to do was make lots and lots of money and have lots and lots of sex. Roll Eyes

Looks like we've been rumbled!  Wink
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« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2008, 12:05:33 AM »

Some elders talk about acquiring an "inner monasticism" while still living our day-to-day lives.  Perhaps this is something as an in-between? 

Also, let's look at this practically.  If everyone in the world were a monk, there would be NO married people, hence after 100-150 years there would be no more people on the planet, and hence no more monks.  Marriage = children (or at least male/female relations).  So...practically speaking...
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« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2008, 05:59:22 AM »

Same problem the American Shakers have (or had, are any still alive?)
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« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2008, 06:30:04 AM »

I would agree that, in principle, monastics are not, simply by virtue of being monastics, holier than laity (was it not revealed to St Antony the Great that there was a physician living in the city who had achieved the level of sanctity that he had?). Nevertheless, I don't find objectionable the idea that monastics are generally, in reality, holier than laity. Considering the Synaxarion, if we were to put all the accounts of martyrs aside, we would essentially be left with monastics and clergy. Another practical indicator of the idea that monastics are generally holier than laity is the fact that they are the ones generally sought when in need of vital spiritual direction and guidance (a long-standing tradition). Again, in principle, I acknowledge that a lay person can serve as an effective spiritual adviser on account of his/her exceptional sanctity (his being married, or earning wages does not in any way necessarily undermine his sanctity), but such does not appear to be the practical norm.
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« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2008, 10:56:05 PM »

I would agree that, in principle, monastics are not, simply by virtue of being monastics, holier than laity (was it not revealed to St Antony the Great that there was a physician living in the city who had achieved the level of sanctity that he had?). Nevertheless, I don't find objectionable the idea that monastics are generally, in reality, holier than laity. Considering the Synaxarion, if we were to put all the accounts of martyrs aside, we would essentially be left with monastics and clergy. Another practical indicator of the idea that monastics are generally holier than laity is the fact that they are the ones generally sought when in need of vital spiritual direction and guidance (a long-standing tradition). Again, in principle, I acknowledge that a lay person can serve as an effective spiritual adviser on account of his/her exceptional sanctity (his being married, or earning wages does not in any way necessarily undermine his sanctity), but such does not appear to be the practical norm.

Yes it was St. Anthony. 

And I LOVED your practical approach to this.  the truth sucks.  we just arn't that holy.  there are VERY few holy people in the world "toughing it out" as they say. 

Not that there are all THAT many holy elders left either...
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« Reply #15 on: February 12, 2008, 09:45:28 PM »

I always like to bring up the Canons passed at the Council at Gangra in discussions like these:

The sooner than Arian Council is laid to rest the better.

Basil Lourie explains why it does not fall within Orthodoxy canonically in "The Vocation of Abraham" though some of his arguments about how it is not Orthodox dogmatically may indeed go aganist the teachings of the Church.
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« Reply #16 on: February 12, 2008, 10:38:35 PM »

The sooner than Arian Council is laid to rest the better.

Basil Lourie explains why it does not fall within Orthodoxy canonically in "The Vocation of Abraham" though some of his arguments about how it is not Orthodox dogmatically may indeed go aganist the teachings of the Church.

You mean the canons from the same Council of Gangra that is accepted by Trullo (Canon #2)?  Those canons that are deemed binding on the whole Church by an Ecumenical Synod?

Trullo must be followed by order of the 7th Ecumenical Synod (Canon 1 I think).  Trullo says that Gangra has full force (Canon 2).  Why should we reject the judgment of the fathers of TWO different Ecumenical Synods? 
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« Reply #17 on: February 12, 2008, 11:50:31 PM »

You mean the canons from the same Council of Gangra that is accepted by Trullo (Canon #2)?  Those canons that are deemed binding on the whole Church by an Ecumenical Synod?

Trullo must be followed by order of the 7th Ecumenical Synod (Canon 1 I think).  Trullo says that Gangra has full force (Canon 2).  Why should we reject the judgment of the fathers of TWO different Ecumenical Synods? 

Your quotes checked out.  All your numberings are correct.  I took a look into it.  Not that you have to take my word for it, but I thought that I'd let you know that you were right. 
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« Reply #18 on: February 13, 2008, 01:31:21 PM »

Your quotes checked out.  All your numberings are correct.  I took a look into it.  Not that you have to take my word for it, but I thought that I'd let you know that you were right. 

Thanks for the assist.
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« Reply #19 on: February 27, 2008, 10:54:53 PM »

Same problem the American Shakers have (or had, are any still alive?)

Just a random note. Yes, there are 4 Shakers alive as of 2005 or so. I believe they live in Sabbathday Lake Community in New York.  All of them are fairly old, at least in their 50s I think.
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