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Author Topic: Elder Ephraim growing in popularity - cause for concern?  (Read 10146 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: November 25, 2011, 12:04:46 AM »

A Greek Orthodox monk, Elder Ephraim, has opened a number of monasteries in North America over the past 22 years. Two collections of his teachings are in circulation. Some say he has encouraged them in their faith and dedication. Others see him as overly strict and not adherent to established practices.

From the article:
Quote
The “Ephraimite” monasteries stress reclusive living, fasting, bodily mortification, vigils, and constant recitation of the Jesus Prayer, according to sociologist Frances Kostarelos of Governors State University. In a paper on the Ephraimite monasteries presented at the meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in late October, Kostarelos found that Elder Ephraim, who was a monk on Mount Athos in Greece, is viewed as a living saint by his followers who is said to have a divine gift for working miracles and healings.
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« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2011, 12:16:22 AM »

Others see him as overly strict and not adherent to established practices.

Which is code for "don't you stupid people know that this is the 21st century and that such things are bad and aren't necessary anymore?"
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« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2011, 12:21:42 AM »

What do the elders of Mt. Athos say concerning him? If they approve, then it is not likely he is acting or teaching outside the tradition. It is my understanding he is trying to root the Athonite spiritual tradition in the monasteries he has established. That is a very strict and demanding monastic tradition. Theirs IS the established tradition at heart. So one wonders what established practices he is supposedly in conflict with. Those established by and consistent with the highest standards of contemplative monastic practice, or those consistent with less stringent monastic life which is lived either as a concession and condescension to the times and local needs, or as a long standing diminution and departure from a stringent standard.

If the elders and holy ascetics of the Holy Mountain or other similarly highly respected traditional places of monastic life speak with caution or reservation concerning his work, then maybe there is cause to question what he does. If not, better to be silent lest haply we risk speaking ill of God's servant doing the task that he was blessed by his sainted elder to do.
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« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2011, 12:32:12 AM »

What do the elders of Mt. Athos say concerning him? If they approve, then it is not likely he is acting or teaching outside the tradition. It is my understanding he is trying to root the Athonite spiritual tradition in the monasteries he has established. That is a very strict and demanding monastic tradition. Theirs IS the established tradition at heart. So one wonders what established practices he is supposedly in conflict with. Those established by and consistent with the highest standards of contemplative monastic practice, or those consistent with less stringent monastic life which is lived either as a concession and condescension to the times and local needs, or as a long standing diminution and departure from a stringent standard.

If the elders and holy ascetics of the Holy Mountain or other similarly highly respected traditional places of monastic life speak with caution or reservation concerning his work, then maybe there is cause to question what he does. If not, better to be silent lest haply we risk speaking ill of God's servant doing the task that he was blessed by his sainted elder to do.

I spent a bit of time with a Monk from the Great Lavra Monastery on Athos. He said Elder Ephraim is "the real deal".
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« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2011, 01:45:56 AM »

when I was in Greece and on Athos in June eeeeeeeeeeeveryone excitedly asked if we had been to AZ and if we knew Geronda. He is still the spiritual father for 4 or 5 monasteries on Athos and 8 women's communities throughout Greece in addition to his monasteries here. America should remove its head from its butt and realize the blessing we have been given.
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« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2011, 01:58:10 AM »

He was the very successful abbot of the Philotheou Monastery on the Holy Mountain.

I've read these negative reports about Elder Ephraim and his monasteries from someone in the Chicago area.  However, he has two convents in the GOAA's Holy Metropolis of Pittsburgh in which I reside, Nativity of the Theotokos in Saxonburg, Pennsylvania, and Holy Protection in Weatherly, Pennsylvania.  There are 20 nuns at the Weathery convent, I don't know how many there are in Saxonburg.  Both convents built their own facilities.  These monasteries are exemplary spiritual havens of the angelic life; they are assets to our Holy Metropolis, are supported by our recently retired Metropolitan, the clergy, and many of the faithful; a priest of our metropolis is assigned to the Saxonburg monastery.  Their facilities are used for Metropolis ministries, such as retreats and lectures.  The icons produced by the Weatherly convent are extraordinary.  A friend of mine in Scottsdale, Arizona is close to the Elder and is most supportive of his work and the work of his St. Anthony Monastery in Florence, Arizona.  One drawback, the services in Saxonburg are in Greek.   Prior to the mid-1980's. the GOAA didn't even have any monasteries.  My direct information about the work of his numerous monasteries is very positive.
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« Reply #6 on: November 25, 2011, 02:01:40 AM »

Holy Protection Convent in White Haven, Pa. is an Ephraimite community & frequented by many visiting laity.  The nuns are most hospitable & welcoming & the only requirements I have seen extended towards visitors is that those entering a convent church to worship must be Orthodox & dressed modestly in the church (on the general grounds & facilities of the convent is a different matter).
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« Reply #7 on: November 25, 2011, 02:48:50 AM »

Others see him as overly strict and not adherent to established practices.

Which is code for "don't you stupid people know that this is the 21st century and that such things are bad and aren't necessary anymore?"

I'm inclined to agree.  I wonder what some of these "established practices" are? 
It's rumored that Elder Ephraim uses some arcane and irrelevant sorcery called Triple Immersion Baptism, whatever that is.  Wink

For what it's worth, my spiritual father, who's a well-respected elder priest and confessor himself, wholeheartedly endorses him.  That said, others have expressed concern about people, primarily inquirers or recent converts, seeking the hardest core Orthodoxy available, and blowing off their priests in favor of him.  I'm not sure if Elder Ephraim can be blamed for that though. 

On the accusation that he and his monks give overly rigid guidance: If you're asking a long-time monastic, it shouldn't be completely unexpected to receive advice suited for a monastic. 

[On a semi-related note/rant, I wish to point out that my spiritual father refers to himself as that.  I'm not particularly defensive about it, but the accusations of people playing psuedo-monastics by using terms like this are growing tiresome.  He's very traditional, isn't jumping on the bandwagon of hip and sexy Orthodox jargon terms; it's a real and established relationship (even in some "old countries")]
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« Reply #8 on: November 25, 2011, 02:53:19 AM »

Holy Protection Convent in White Haven, Pa. is an Ephraimite community & frequented by many visiting laity.  The nuns are most hospitable & welcoming & the only requirements I have seen extended towards visitors is that those entering a convent church to worship must be Orthodox & dressed modestly in the church (on the general grounds & facilities of the convent is a different matter).

I've experienced similar hospitality from Ephraimite communities. 

Is outrage they don't let Kim Kardashian dressed women in.  This is 21st century! Skimpy dressing is finely established custom.
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« Reply #9 on: November 25, 2011, 02:57:28 AM »

Thank God for the monasteries established by Elder Ephraim!
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« Reply #10 on: November 25, 2011, 03:01:38 AM »

They use the julian calender at his monasteries, right?   I'd visit the various monasterii (new word btw) but I'm not going to drive that far out of my way either, gas is expensive and the liturgy is the same there as it is at my church (well, we sing galacian chant but you know what I mean).
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« Reply #11 on: November 25, 2011, 03:10:31 AM »

They use the julian calender at his monasteries, right?   I'd visit the various monasterii (new word btw) but I'm not going to drive that far out of my way either, gas is expensive and the liturgy is the same there as it is at my church (well, we sing galacian chant but you know what I mean).

They use the Revised Julian Calendar a.k.a the New Calendar.
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« Reply #12 on: November 25, 2011, 03:22:50 AM »

They use the julian calender at his monasteries, right?   I'd visit the various monasterii (new word btw) but I'm not going to drive that far out of my way either, gas is expensive and the liturgy is the same there as it is at my church (well, we sing galacian chant but you know what I mean).

They use the Revised Julian Calendar a.k.a the New Calendar.
I seem to recall that this is the practice at the Ephraimite women's monastery in Goldendale, WA.
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« Reply #13 on: November 25, 2011, 03:41:41 AM »

new calender = epic fail.
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« Reply #14 on: November 25, 2011, 04:29:18 AM »

new calender = epic fail.
We have another thread for that.
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« Reply #15 on: November 25, 2011, 07:07:35 AM »

I am never able to decide what to think about Elder Ephraim and his monasteries. One moment you ear about how saintly he is and how wonderful the monasteries are and the next moment he is a religious fanatic who brainswash people and makes them donate money so he can build luxury monasteries (I think, and hopes that the accusations are false).
So I have decided one day to go over there and see it myself.
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« Reply #16 on: November 25, 2011, 07:57:33 AM »

I don't believe there is any reason for concern.  My former priest (unfortunately for me, he retired) has two children who are monastics in his monasteries (his only son and 1 of his daughters), and he has spent a lot of time at both monasteries.  He has nothing but good to say about the monasteries, and I respect his opinion a lot.  If something was wrong, Fr. would have noticed it. 
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« Reply #17 on: November 25, 2011, 07:59:40 AM »

PetertheAleut, I would love to go to the women's monastery (St. John the Forerunner) in Goldendale sometime.  I am hoping that one day we will be able to get a group of women together from the parish to make a trip there.  That is where by former priest's daughter is.  His son is at St. Anthony's.
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« Reply #18 on: November 25, 2011, 07:59:56 AM »

The last sentence of the article is all I really need to have read.
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« Reply #19 on: November 25, 2011, 08:00:50 AM »

Others see him as overly strict and not adherent to established practices.

Run far far away from Elder Ephrem! If left unchecked, the churches in America will gradually come under the influence of Orthodoxy, and all the hard work by the faithful in the 20th century to get rid of orthopraxi might come undone! Before you know it, people will have to go under water when they're baptised, your children will start fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays, reading the Bible, attending Vespers on Saturday night, they'll confess their sins and regularly partake of the holy Mysteries without having breakfast first. God help save us all from such a fate!
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« Reply #20 on: November 25, 2011, 08:03:03 AM »

the accusations of people playing psuedo-monastics by using terms like this are growing tiresome.

That trope is indeed becoming incredibly tiresome. Lord grant that none of you supposedly over-zealous converts ever become like us nominalist cradles.
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« Reply #21 on: November 25, 2011, 08:04:42 AM »

Holy Protection Convent in White Haven, Pa. is an Ephraimite community & frequented by many visiting laity.  The nuns are most hospitable & welcoming & the only requirements I have seen extended towards visitors is that those entering a convent church to worship must be Orthodox & dressed modestly in the church (on the general grounds & facilities of the convent is a different matter).

I've experienced similar hospitality from Ephraimite communities. 

Is outrage they don't let Kim Kardashian dressed women in.  This is 21st century! Skimpy dressing is finely established custom.

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« Reply #22 on: November 25, 2011, 08:10:23 AM »

Not only will one good sneeze make the bride fall out of her dress, but the groom is wearing a *GAAAAHHH* white suit and no tie!! There oughta be a law against such travesties of taste ....  Tongue Tongue
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« Reply #23 on: November 25, 2011, 09:05:20 AM »

A bit redundant, but I asked my former Greek priest what he thought about the Fr. Ephraim monasteries. He gave me directions to one just south of the border right away, including the abbot's phone number, and a blessing to contact him for a visit (which I have yet to do, alas). He said that the bad rap the monasteries were getting was partially because some relatively lax North American Christians have gone to the monasteries to give confession and have been shocked to receive fairly grave penances for certain sins confessed. He said that the average parish priests often have to be fairly soft on lay people but monastics (not to mention monastics that are part of the Athonite tradition!), having a much higher standard, are harder on people. So, yeah... you all seem to have it right!
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« Reply #24 on: November 25, 2011, 10:09:33 AM »

^My priest has expressed his concerns over the Ephraimite monasteries for precisely the same reason, i.e. if you make confession and the priest bans you from the Eucharist for a year, then you must observe it.  I really don't believe that a confessor makes these calls lightly.  But I'm sure there's a growing mentality among the Orthodox, both cradle and convert, that a confession means that the priest MUST give absolution and if the priest prescribes a penance, all of a sudden, he's a pharisee!  I know we're not Catholics with their legalistic penances, but don't penance and repentance go hand in hand? (I'll have to check my etymologies on that one)
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« Reply #25 on: November 25, 2011, 01:40:50 PM »

I have heard rumors on Fr. Efrem on some issues, but not more than that. Some of his enthusiasts I've met I can see getting into such things, but of the Elder himself I've only met once and I found a presence about him.  Most of those surrounding him were very Greek, but not phyletist in the slightest.

So basically my opinion is that if he becomes more "popular," the rumors will either bring more (any) evidence into the spotlight, or fall by the wayside.  I've heard far more positive reviews, and even from those who are not gung ho supporters of Athonite spirituality.
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« Reply #26 on: November 25, 2011, 02:07:26 PM »

A bit redundant, but I asked my former Greek priest what he thought about the Fr. Ephraim monasteries. He gave me directions to one just south of the border right away, including the abbot's phone number, and a blessing to contact him for a visit (which I have yet to do, alas). He said that the bad rap the monasteries were getting was partially because some relatively lax North American Christians have gone to the monasteries to give confession and have been shocked to receive fairly grave penances for certain sins confessed. He said that the average parish priests often have to be fairly soft on lay people but monastics (not to mention monastics that are part of the Athonite tradition!), having a much higher standard, are harder on people. So, yeah... you all seem to have it right!

Perhaps it seems best to keep confession within the relationship that you have with your father confessor who knows you, unless circumstances require a change or exception?
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« Reply #27 on: November 25, 2011, 02:49:37 PM »

^ I know we're not Catholics with their legalistic penances

If only that were true. The fact is that most penances given by Catholic priests are a joke. (I'm Catholic and go to confession regularly and I know others who do so even more frequently. I'm not a holy man and I don't aspire to get hit by Athonite-style penances, but I know what laxity is.) It's not out of the ordinary for someone to confess to many habits of grave sin and get penances like "say one Hail Mary" or "do a good deed today" or "spend a few minutes before the Blessed Sacrament" or "read I Corinthians 13". Penances such as "10 rosaries" are already quite exceptional.
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« Reply #28 on: November 25, 2011, 02:53:28 PM »

I used to think that Orthodox consider us Catholics to be too lax. What I've found instead in many Orthodox Internet boards is a tendency to attribute to us Catholics a level of legalism and severity we don't have.
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« Reply #29 on: November 25, 2011, 03:19:33 PM »

A bit redundant, but I asked my former Greek priest what he thought about the Fr. Ephraim monasteries. He gave me directions to one just south of the border right away, including the abbot's phone number, and a blessing to contact him for a visit (which I have yet to do, alas). He said that the bad rap the monasteries were getting was partially because some relatively lax North American Christians have gone to the monasteries to give confession and have been shocked to receive fairly grave penances for certain sins confessed. He said that the average parish priests often have to be fairly soft on lay people but monastics (not to mention monastics that are part of the Athonite tradition!), having a much higher standard, are harder on people. So, yeah... you all seem to have it right!

Perhaps it seems best to keep confession within the relationship that you have with your father confessor who knows you, unless circumstances require a change or exception?

I would think so.  
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« Reply #30 on: November 25, 2011, 07:27:57 PM »

People who form opinions about Elder Ephraim and the monasteries associated with him ought to make sure that those opinions are based on having visited said monasteries and having met and developed a relationship with the monks.

My wife's and my SF is the abbot at one of these monasteries. He has never treated me like I was a monk. If someone can bear it, he'll hold them to a higher standard. He's very good at meeting you where you are and dispensing the spiritual medicine according to your needs. He'll approach confession, at least with me, as "for this issue, try this, and it will probably help. If not, talk to me and we'll try something else." if you want to be a monk there and it is determined that you can bear it, then you can be a monk there and be held to that standard.

Any less than charitable accusation about Elder Ephraim and "his" monasteries is unfounded. All they represent is patristic Orthodoxy. The monasteries are not parishes, of course, and we should not expect to live as monks when we are not monks. But the counsel that they give is not some novel, fringe form of Orthodoxy. Rather, they are lights to the rest of the laity and serve as a model toward which to grow to the best of our abilities as we work out our salvation living in the world.
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« Reply #31 on: November 25, 2011, 07:54:26 PM »

Great picture, Akimori! Grin So it's not just the ones I've seen. 

I'll bet any weddings conducted at these monasteries wouldn't let a Beatles song be sung during the ceremony (that happened recently at a parish I lived by).
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« Reply #32 on: November 25, 2011, 07:59:37 PM »

Run far far away from Elder Ephrem! If left unchecked, the churches in America will gradually come under the influence of Orthodoxy, and all the hard work by the faithful in the 20th century to get rid of orthopraxi might come undone! Before you know it, people will have to go under water when they're baptised, your children will start fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays, reading the Bible, attending Vespers on Saturday night, they'll confess their sins and regularly partake of the holy Mysteries without having breakfast first. God help save us all from such a fate!

So the rumors are true.  This man must be stopped!

The last sentence of the article is all I really need to have read.
It's pretty telling.
Quote
...the controversy is part of the long-standing conflicts in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese over episcopal leadership styles, with a lay movement pressing for a more modern and American-style democratic approach...

Edit: Actually, the article is worth reading, only for its atrociously inaccurate statements.  It claims that Elder Ephraim's books are viewed as being necessary to read in order to gain salvation. Hatchet job, whatever this publication is.
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« Reply #33 on: November 25, 2011, 08:02:14 PM »

Great post, Knee V.

All they represent is patristic Orthodoxy. The monasteries are not parishes, of course, and we should not expect to live as monks when we are not monks. But the counsel that they give is not some novel, fringe form of Orthodoxy. Rather, they are lights to the rest of the laity and serve as a model toward which to grow to the best of our abilities as we work out our salvation living in the world.

Of course the bold portion is the source of the perceived trouble.
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« Reply #34 on: November 25, 2011, 11:56:07 PM »

Great picture, Akimori! Grin So it's not just the ones I've seen. 

I'll bet any weddings conducted at these monasteries wouldn't let a Beatles song be sung during the ceremony (that happened recently at a parish I lived by).


Let's see what Yiayia thinks:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=We3MxsWdqOc&feature=relmfu
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« Reply #35 on: November 26, 2011, 12:12:28 AM »

Great picture, Akimori! Grin So it's not just the ones I've seen. 

I'll bet any weddings conducted at these monasteries wouldn't let a Beatles song be sung during the ceremony (that happened recently at a parish I lived by).


Let's see what Yiayia thinks:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=We3MxsWdqOc&feature=relmfu


I. JUST. LOVE. YIAYIA!! Someone should do a Babushka version - now that would be scary!
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« Reply #36 on: November 26, 2011, 10:30:21 AM »

When Father Ephrim first arrived in America nearly 20 years ago there were some issues. I remember when I visited Mount Athos in the mid 90's I was grilled at each of the monasteries about what I knew of Father Ephrim and his community. The main issue seems to be he was the leader of a group of monastics that was practicing second baptisms on the mountain.

With that said I think the Local Synod of the Greek Archdiocese was about to put corrective measures in and get Father Ephrim to repent from his practices of re-baptism. I have not heard anything about this since the Archdiocese established their rules for monastic communities. The spread of these monastic communities also did not spread until the guidelines were established.

Were there legitimate causes for concern? Yes. Are there still causes for concern? Yes.

The biggest cause for concern is the Pharisaical attitude that many of the faithful who visit these communities bring back to their parish. Instead of worrying about themselves they feel it necessary to make sure every knows how pious they are and force others to join them in their piety.
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« Reply #37 on: November 26, 2011, 10:35:24 AM »

The biggest cause for concern is the Pharisaical attitude that many of the faithful who visit these communities bring back to their parish. Instead of worrying about themselves they feel it necessary to make sure every knows how pious they are and force others to join them in their piety.

I have found the exact opposite the be the case. I'm sorry that you feel the way that you do.
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« Reply #38 on: November 26, 2011, 10:53:06 AM »

The biggest cause for concern is the Pharisaical attitude that many of the faithful who visit these communities bring back to their parish. Instead of worrying about themselves they feel it necessary to make sure every knows how pious they are and force others to join them in their piety.

I have found the exact opposite the be the case. I'm sorry that you feel the way that you do.

The issue has been in a only a few communities (Chicago, St. Louis and Toronto that I know of) were people who visited these communities were forcing changes in an unpastoral way.

The statement you just made proves the point. Instead of leaving it as you find the opposite to be the case, you instead add to it and critique me personally for reporting neutral observations. It is this type of "monastics can do no wrong" attitude that bothers many.

The biggest issue is not the communities but the people who go and visit the communities.
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« Reply #39 on: November 26, 2011, 11:32:21 AM »

A bit redundant, but I asked my former Greek priest what he thought about the Fr. Ephraim monasteries. He gave me directions to one just south of the border right away, including the abbot's phone number, and a blessing to contact him for a visit (which I have yet to do, alas). He said that the bad rap the monasteries were getting was partially because some relatively lax North American Christians have gone to the monasteries to give confession and have been shocked to receive fairly grave penances for certain sins confessed. He said that the average parish priests often have to be fairly soft on lay people but monastics (not to mention monastics that are part of the Athonite tradition!), having a much higher standard, are harder on people. So, yeah... you all seem to have it right!

Perhaps it seems best to keep confession within the relationship that you have with your father confessor who knows you, unless circumstances require a change or exception?

These two comments point to one of the real 'divisions' between historically Greek and historically Slavic Orthodoxy. There are a number of threads which speak to this issue - which is that for the Slavs, generally speaking,  confession is between one's local pastor and the penitent while in the Greek tradition, many local pastors are not granted the faculty to hear confessions and confession to a 'spiritual father' at a monastery is the historical norm so it may not be possible for many of us to have a confessional relationship with your pastor.

That being said, I have no real opinion on this as I have no direct knowledge. I would note that the former Greek pastor here for many years, a wonderful man, has two grandsons who are monastics in the local Ephramite monastery and our Diocese has used the White Haven monastery for a number of occasions.

I also agree with arimethea's observations as well as the monastic ideal is not suited for everyone. That is why there are monasteries and the Athonite tradition.

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« Reply #40 on: November 26, 2011, 11:42:38 AM »

Perhaps it seems best to keep confession within the relationship that you have with your father confessor who knows you, unless circumstances require a change or exception?
There are a number of threads which speak to this issue - which is that for the Slavs, generally speaking,  confession is between one's local pastor and the penitent while in the Greek tradition, many local pastors are not granted the faculty to hear confessions and confession to a 'spiritual father' at a monastery is the historical norm so it may not be possible for many of us to have a confessional relationship with your pastor.

I didn't say that the father confessor had to be one's pastor, I only meant that someone establish a relationship and not go around confessing to anyone and everyone they can find to hear their confession.
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« Reply #41 on: November 26, 2011, 12:20:25 PM »

When Father Ephrim first arrived in America nearly 20 years ago there were some issues. I remember when I visited Mount Athos in the mid 90's I was grilled at each of the monasteries about what I knew of Father Ephrim and his community. The main issue seems to be he was the leader of a group of monastics that was practicing second baptisms on the mountain.

With that said I think the Local Synod of the Greek Archdiocese was about to put corrective measures in and get Father Ephrim to repent from his practices of re-baptism. I have not heard anything about this since the Archdiocese established their rules for monastic communities. The spread of these monastic communities also did not spread until the guidelines were established.

Were there legitimate causes for concern? Yes. Are there still causes for concern? Yes.

The biggest cause for concern is the Pharisaical attitude that many of the faithful who visit these communities bring back to their parish. Instead of worrying about themselves they feel it necessary to make sure every knows how pious they are and force others to join them in their piety.

Dr. Veniamin at St. Tikhon's once spoke to this point when he (lightheartedly) said that there is a reason why the Deacon interjects "O Lord save the pious" during the Liturgy--it is because the "pious" need saved the most, particularly from their own self-righteousness and limited understanding.  Of course, he was not speaking of the truly God-fearing (i.e. true piety) to which all are called.  
« Last Edit: November 26, 2011, 12:25:48 PM by FatherHLL » Logged
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« Reply #42 on: November 26, 2011, 12:47:36 PM »

My experience is that the absolutist attitude of many laity is not something they bring back, but one that they generally go up there with beforehand.

What most laity are used to is the priest pounding away on them about THE Orthodox way of doing things, and so they understand the Church in a very black-and-white manner.  They can't fathom that there might be a number of differing practices.

I recall a few years ago visiting Mt. Athos.  On the ferry to Karyes, the pilgrims drank, smoked, and ate sausage (it was Advent).  What struck me was how little these pilgrims resembled the monks they were going to visit.  What I realized was that the monks still received them and still handed out the same advice, and most of the pilgrims understood that they were not going to follow much of the admonishments they were given, but they went nonetheless.

We are fools in a certain way because we assume we can follow the advice we are given and can pass the test.  In many ways, the monks are free to give advice as they want because they assume you are not going to follow it, or will try and fail.  For most of them, that's OK so long as you repent.  The real problem for you is if you think you can pass every test given to you by a monk.  The monk will tell you, "Fast like me, pray like me, be chaste like me!" because that's what he does.  Go ahead and try it, but don't be foolish and think that you can.  He went to a monastery and gave up the world to do that.  He's pointing out how little you have given up for Christ.  He is there to give you the gift of repentance, not an instruction manual on how to cook up a Christian life.

I know people who have destroyed their marriages and ministries trying to live out the letters of the advice they received, but the real problem was their own pride in not relenting once they saw that they could not carry out the impossible task.  We fast because it is, in all actuality, too hard for us.  Were it not, it would have no effect.

What our task here in America is about is to teach our people about the way of repentance, not the way of law-keeping.  They must understand that they are supposed to feel a bit bad about missing the mark, and we codependent priests need to back off and let people feel bad once in a while and not worry about lowering the bar so that no one feels inadequate.  We are all inadequate.  That's why we need Christ to begin with.


The biggest cause for concern is the Pharisaical attitude that many of the faithful who visit these communities bring back to their parish. Instead of worrying about themselves they feel it necessary to make sure every knows how pious they are and force others to join them in their piety.
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« Reply #43 on: November 26, 2011, 12:56:39 PM »

My experience is that the absolutist attitude of many laity is not something they bring back, but one that they generally go up there with beforehand.

What most laity are used to is the priest pounding away on them about THE Orthodox way of doing things, and so they understand the Church in a very black-and-white manner.  They can't fathom that there might be a number of differing practices.

I recall a few years ago visiting Mt. Athos.  On the ferry to Karyes, the pilgrims drank, smoked, and ate sausage (it was Advent).  What struck me was how little these pilgrims resembled the monks they were going to visit.  What I realized was that the monks still received them and still handed out the same advice, and most of the pilgrims understood that they were not going to follow much of the admonishments they were given, but they went nonetheless.

We are fools in a certain way because we assume we can follow the advice we are given and can pass the test.  In many ways, the monks are free to give advice as they want because they assume you are not going to follow it, or will try and fail.  For most of them, that's OK so long as you repent.  The real problem for you is if you think you can pass every test given to you by a monk.  The monk will tell you, "Fast like me, pray like me, be chaste like me!" because that's what he does.  Go ahead and try it, but don't be foolish and think that you can.  He went to a monastery and gave up the world to do that.  He's pointing out how little you have given up for Christ.  He is there to give you the gift of repentance, not an instruction manual on how to cook up a Christian life.

I know people who have destroyed their marriages and ministries trying to live out the letters of the advice they received, but the real problem was their own pride in not relenting once they saw that they could not carry out the impossible task.  We fast because it is, in all actuality, too hard for us.  Were it not, it would have no effect.

What our task here in America is about is to teach our people about the way of repentance, not the way of law-keeping.  They must understand that they are supposed to feel a bit bad about missing the mark, and we codependent priests need to back off and let people feel bad once in a while and not worry about lowering the bar so that no one feels inadequate.  We are all inadequate.  That's why we need Christ to begin with.


The biggest cause for concern is the Pharisaical attitude that many of the faithful who visit these communities bring back to their parish. Instead of worrying about themselves they feel it necessary to make sure every knows how pious they are and force others to join them in their piety.

Wonderful post Father.  Smiley
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« Reply #44 on: November 26, 2011, 01:28:48 PM »

The statement you just made proves the point. Instead of leaving it as you find the opposite to be the case, you instead add to it and critique me personally for reporting neutral observations. It is this type of "monastics can do no wrong" attitude that bothers many.

Please forgive me.
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