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Elder Paisios on the secularization of Monasticism




 1. Let us respect the Desert

(Source: Elder Paisios Epistles, by Evangelist John the Theologian Publications, pp.44-46).


Therefore we Monks should avoid (as much as we can) resorting to modern means for the operation of the Monastery, and show respect to the Desert by adjusting ourselves to it, so that the Desert in turn may grant us its blessed serenity and we be aided in ridding our soul of all our passions.  It is not proper to want to adjust the Desert to our secular self, because it is a sin to dishonor the Desert; should any modern-day Monk wish to do so, let him build a Monastery atop a multi-storey condominium in order to secure all the comforts of the world that he desires; to enjoy all the lights, or climb up to the third heaven with an elevator; as long as he lets the Desert be.


Source: http://pithlessthoughts.blogspot.com  )


Unfortunately, several such Monks with all that secular mentality of theirs tend to bring all of their secular spirit to the Desert, with all the secular means, and they constantly preoccupy themselves with changes and reforms, with external embellishments, with bricks and a whole lot of pot plants, and yet have no idea what a prayer-rope is; only fussing about, good food and bricks.  All of this reveals the kind of persons they are: carnal ones - who are merely bricks (clay) and not spirits of God.  (I am not referring to the newly-built Monasteries that they strive to build in order to house themselves). 

Thus, when a Monk does not find spiritual labours, when he is not guided by his Elder and instead preoccupies himself only with external things, he will of course become spiritually savage, and he will be unable to stay in his cell, even if strapped down. He will always be fond of contact with (visiting) people, provide guided tours, talk to them about the domes and the archaeological items, show them the pots with all the different flowers, offer them a rich secular meal, thus comforting only superficial people.  If one were to examine what kind of "comfort" that is, one will see that is it not true comfort; quite simply, with all that preoccupation, the people (visitors) forget their troubles for a while, but then return to their stress, because the secular phronema (conscience) is like a woodworm that keeps gnawing away.

Consequently, the purpose of Monasteries is a spiritual one, and there should be no secular element therein, only the celestial one, so that people's souls may be flooded with Paradisiacal sweetness.  We cannot compete against secular people when it comes to secular matters, because, well, truth be told, secular people have far more means.  And therefore, what does this mean?  The poor secular outsiders seek something loftier from us; however, in order to attain that loftier thing, we need to avoid all human consolation, because it is not possible to feel divine consolation (Paradisiacal sweetness) unless we avoid the secular kind and unless we totally mortify our secular mentality. After the secular mentality has been mortified it must become plant compost so that the divine mentality can develop inside us, because divine pleasures are not born out of carnal pleasures but out of carnal pains, which are acquired in struggles, with an awareness and discernment of Christ's life by His sincere children so that they can rid themselves of the "old" (secular) person. 

The Benevolent Father will then sustain His children with Paradisiacal foods, even while they are still on the earth,  and they will be leaping for joy - like a resurrectional day - but of course only after they have gone through a Great Lent with struggles, Good Friday at the Crucifix, and have been spiritually resurrected and living the post-Easter period, only now continually. In other words, they do not celebrate the Resurrection only once a year; rather, it is constantly Easter - the Lord's Easter.

Our Good Lord has made man's life very sweet (in its proper sense - the spiritual one) but some of us turn it into hell with our miseries, by not having discarded the secular mentality so that we can confront matters spiritually.  That is how we strive to "sweeten" our life (in the wrong sense) and we never want to die; instead, the more the years pass by, the more the "oh's" of our agony increase, filling our soul with stress. 

In other words, some of us poor wretches reach such a point, that we actually strive to retain the soul inside our 100-year-old, exhausted, intravenously-supported flesh and insist that "life is sweet" while we tremble lest we die.  Whereas, for one who is dead from a secular aspect but resurrected spiritually, there is absolutely no agony, fear and stress - ever - because he even awaits death joyously, knowing he will be going to Christ and will be rejoicing for living once again, as he will be living near Christ and feeling a part of the joy of Paradise while still on earth and even asking himself if there is a greater joy in Paradise than the one he is feeling here on earth.

This, therefore, is the sweet life - in its true and proper sense. Even though true Monks understand that what they are enjoying in this life is only a part of the joy of Paradise - and that in Paradise it will be even more - nevertheless, out of their bounteous love for their fellow-man, they want to live on earth in order to help people with their prayers so that God may intervene and help them.  Blessed are those Monks, and through their blessings, may the Lord show His mercy on me, the unfortunately still wretched one.  I would truly like the Good Lord to make all us Monks who have followed the Angelic life, to reach the measures of those Monks and to incessantly say - day and night - "Glory to God because I am alive!  Glory to God, because I shall die!"

This is the Angelic life, which Monks begin to live while still on this earth, when they put on the one and only Angelic Schema (habit) - whether young or old - which Angelic Schema converts the two genders into two Angelic wings and elevates souls to great heights through pure love, and there no longer is any carnal differentiation: "there is no longer male or female" (Gal.3:28)

This is the life that Monks live while here, and the life that all those who will become worthy of Paradise will live, because in Paradise they will not get married but will be like the Angels - which is what our Christ told the Sadducees (see Matth. 22:30).  That is why we Monks must thank and glorify God day and night for the great honour He has given us by inviting us into His Angelic Order and giving us every spiritual potential to become angels even while still here on earth.

Keep all these things in mind, my novice brother, and try to achieve that which you desire. Since you have begun well, pay attention to all the things that I have mentioned, so that you also end up well.


2. Monasticism, benefits and pensions

(Source: "The Words of Elder Paisios", vol.B)


-We have Christ Himself Who was crucified so that we may be resurrected, and yet we remain indifferent!  If the Church doesn't speak out, for fear of a confrontation with the State, or if Metropolitans don't speak out so that they can remain on good terms with everyone because they are aided in philanthropic foundations etc., or if the Hagiorites (the monks of Athos - the Holy Mountain) don't speak out for fear of having their allowances curtailed, then who is going to speak out?  I once said to a certain Abbot:  "If they tell you that they will cease paying allowances, you should say: "Then we too shall cease providing hospitality", so that it will get them thinking."  Theology professors etc. don't speak up, because they say: "We are employees; we will lose our salary and then how are we going to survive?"  Meantime, they have talked the monasteries into accepting pension plans.  Why don't I personally want to collect even that humblest of pensions (of the Agriculture Organization Fund)?  Because even if they have insured a monk with an Agricultural Pension, it is still not honest.  To have him insured as a pauper, yes, that will dignify him.  But to have him insured under the Agricultural Pensions Fund - why?   A monk leaves behind all large pensions, he departs from the world and he comes to the monastery, to... again receive a pension ?   And to reach the point of betraying Christ for the sake of a pension ?!

-Elder, of course you don't mean that if - for example - a nun has worked in the past as a teacher for several years, she won't be entitled to a pension?

-Well, I suppose in her case it is acceptable.  But let me tell you, if she were to give away her pension where it would benefit someone else, she would eventually receive a huge pension from Christ....  I can see what is waiting ahead of us, and that is why it pains me...


3. The secular spirit in Monasticism

Source: "The Words of Elder Paisios", vol.A, by Evangelist John the Theologian Publications)


-Elder, there are many who say to us: You are living in Paradise.


Well, you had better say a prayer to not lose the other Paradise.  I would be comforted, if secular people were impressed by your spiritual development, without you perceiving it (on account of your spiritual progress) and without you striving for it; instead, it should happen on its own - internally and naturally.  Try not to lose yourselves in lost issues, so that you don't lose Christ.  As much as possible, try to attain a monastic conscience.  Live spiritually like nuns; don't forget Christ, so that He will remember you.  I have no intention of sorrowing you - only to help you, to support you.  Try to discern the secular spirit which, when it penetrates Monasticism saddens Christ Himself, and discard it as a foreign spirit.


Unfortunately the secular spirit of the world has also entered many Monasteries, because certain Fathers of our time are channeling Monasticism through a secular channel and souls are not guided towards the patristic spirit of Grace.  I am seeing an anti-patristic spirit prevailing in Monasteries nowadays; they do not accept that which is good, and patristic - that is, they do not live patristically but instead, they flatten all the spiritual heights that are in the name of obedience and the excising of one's personal will, and they obey their respective secular wills.  That way, they no longer make any progress, because they have invited temptation - the secular spirit - as their coenobitic cell-mate.  We have no right to interpret God's commandments they way they suit us, nor do we have the right to present Monasticism the way we want. It is one thing to acknowledge our weaknesses and humbly ask for God's mercy; but for me, the greatest evil is that there are those who regard the secular spirit as "progress", when they should be perceiving it as a fall and should be vomiting it in order to be cleansed spiritually, so that the Holy Spirit will come quickly.  It is the Holy Spirit Who sanctifies, informs and supports souls.


There are also those who say:  "We should present our Culture".  What Culture should we present? The secular culture? Normally, we as monks should present our spiritual culture - our spiritual progress. Where is our spiritual progress?  We shouldn't outdo secular people in secular progress.  Secular people are tormented by that secular progress - monks even more so!  We need to run much faster "spiritually", so that secular people might do something also.  Even if we do what a very spiritual layman does, even that won't be of any help, because people will merely have a very spiritual layman as their example.  We need to surpass them.  A monk shouldn't have secular progress as his objective. It would be abusing Monasticism. A Monk who thinks in a secular manner has obviously lost his path; although he had set off for Christ, his soul is turned towards the world.  With secular development - which is regarded as progress - Monasticism is led into spiritual decomposition.  There are so many things that have been lost in Monasticism also - the same way as in the world, when honour and respect are lost and are regarded as mere conventions!  That's why it pains me and I feel I'm going to burst! I feel like heading for the mountains!  When a person has not experienced something sublime, he doesn't worry all that much about the spiritual life that he leads in his own manner.  But for one who is forced to live in that manner, have you any idea what kind of torture it is?  If Christ were to make me worthy of living the way I want - in isolation - and dying bravely, I would consider it as dying on the war front. Now it is worth dying, worth giving witness, worth offering a sacrifice, for the sake alone of not having the Holy Fathers slandered...


Shouldn't we pause to think a little about the Blessed Fathers whom we read constantly - where they lived and how they lived?  The Lord had said: "Foxes have lairs, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest His head!"  What an awesome statement!  And have you noticed how they strived to emulate Christ by living in caves?  They could feel the joy of Christ in everything, because they emulated Christ in everything.  All their attention was focused there. The Holy Fathers had made the Desert their spiritual polity, and yet today, we are turning it into a secular polity.  Christ's Church flees to the Desert in order to be saved, and we have turned the Desert into a secular polity, such that people become scandalized and are not helped and have nothing to reach out to. That is the immense danger that I can see in these difficult years that we are living in.  Even though we have more reason nowadays to live more monastically - in order to have divine strength - we are unfortunately being altered by the secular spirit and are becoming weaker.  In other words, we are driving away our spirit, leaving only our empty carcass.


Nowadays there are monks who live Monasticism superficially: they don't smoke, they live chastely, they read the Philokalia, they always refer to the Fathers. This is similar to the secular behavior, where those who refrain from telling lies, who cross themselves, who go to Church and when they grow up, pay closer attention to moral issues, and think that this is all that's needed.... well, this is what is happening in certain Monasteries too, and laypeople are initially attracted; but when they become better acquainted, they realize that those monks don't differ that much from people living in the world, because they have preserved the secular spirit in full.  If the monks smoked, read newspapers, talked politics, people would then avoid them, inasmuch as they would be just like the secular outsiders and that way, Monasticism would not be tarnished.


When a monk becomes weakened spiritually, with what can he sensitize the secular person?  If we leave a bottle of pure alcohol open it will lose all its zest. It will not kill germs, nor will it ignite with a flame. If you try to use it on a wick burner, it will ruin the wick. The same thing happens with a monk, if he isn't careful: he will drive away divine Grace, and he will be left with his monk's schema (habit) only.  He will be like the alcohol that has lost its zest.  He won't be able to "cauterize" the devil!  "To monks, angels are the light; to worldly people, monks are the light"! Well, he won't even be a light afterwards.  Have you any idea how destructive the secular conscience can be? If that spiritual element departs from Monasticism, there will be nothing left. Because "if the salt loses its savour", it isn't even suitable for the dunghill. While garbage can become manure, salt cannot be used as manure; and if you use it on a plant, it will wither it.  Our time is an era when Monasticism should be radiant.  This present, rotting state is in need of that "salt".   If Monasteries do not maintain a secular conscience but preserve the spiritual state, it would be their greatest offer to society. They would not even have to speak or do anything else, because their very manner of living would be "speaking" for them. And that's what the world needs today.


Have you seen the point that Catholics have reached?  I remember years ago, when I was at the Stomiou Monastery at Konitsa, someone brought me a newspaper clipping which wrote:  "Three hundred nuns protested, about not being permitted to watch a movie at a cinema, and why their skirts had to be long and not knee-length..."  I became so exasperated when I read it, that I exclaimed: "But, why did they ever want to become nuns in the first place?"  The news article mentioned at the end that they finally discarded their nun's habits. Although, judging by their manner of thinking, they had essentially discarded their monastic attire long before.  Another time, I had noticed a Catholic nun who was no different to a woman of the world.  She was supposedly on missionary work, but was totally..... well, like certain very secular young ladies.  We must not allow that European spirit to infiltrate us also; we must not reach that state too.


-Elder, it seems like a very difficult thing, getting rid of the secular mentality.


-It isn't difficult; you just need to be on the alert. Constantly remember what Arsenios the Great had said: "For what did you exit (the world)?"  We tend to forget why we came to the Monastery.  Everyone starts off more or less well, but they don't end up well because they forget why they went to the Monastery.


-Elder, you said that the secular spirit infiltrates Monasticism and spiritual handling is lost.  Will the true spirit of Monasticism be preserved?

-It is only a passing storm; God will not allow it.


-Elder, a thought crossed my mind: Do  monastic retinues who maintain a spiritual course still exist?

Woe betide, if they didn't exist!
There are monks who live very spiritually, noiselessly.  There are souls in every Monastery, in every Metropolis etc... It's those isolated souls that move God, making Him tolerate us...



4. The monk and modern facilities

Source: "The Words of Elder Paisios", vol.A, by Evangelist John the Theologian Publications)


-Elder, how should a monk utilize modern facilities?


-He should make sure he always possesses less than what the person in the world possesses. I am satisfied with using wood for heating, cooking and for hand crafts. But, when they're going the way they are with wood trading and ravaging the forests, thus making wood scarce, then I shall use the lowliest means that the world uses: an oil stove, or I don't know what else may be cheap and humble, for heating, cooking and handiwork etc...


-How can one discern just how necessary something is, in a Monastery?


-If one thinks monastically, he can tell.  If he doesn't think monastically, everything will seem necessary and he will thus become secular - even worse than secular.  As monks, we should live at least a bit below those in the world, or the way we ourselves used to live in the world, and to not possess better things than we used to have at home. The Monastery must normally be poorer than one's home.  That helps the monk internally, and it helps worldly people too.  God has arranged it thus, so that people do not find comfort in those things.  If laypeople are tormented by secular "progress", imagine how much more it affects a monk!   If I were to find myself in a rich house and the host asked me "where would you like me to put you up so that it pleases you? In the lounge with all the ceremonial furnishings, or in the stable that I have, with a couple of goats?", I can honestly tell you that I will feel far more comforted in the stable with the goats.  Because, when I embarked on being a monk, I didn't leave the world to find a better house - to find a palace.   I set off to find something worse than what I had. Otherwise, I would be doing nothing for Christ.  But with today's logic, it would be: "So, what's wrong with living in a palace? How will it harm your soul?  Inside the stable it will stink, whereas in the palace there will be a pleasant fragrance in the air and you will be able to do several prostrations."

There needs to be a spiritual sensor here. You see, a compass has a magnetized needle, and there is another magnet that makes it gyrate.  Christ has a magnet, but we too must acquire some magnet in order to gyrate towards Christ.


In olden times, how many arduous tasks Monastery life required!  I remember how there was a huge vat in the kitchen, and how they had a manual winch for lifting it.  They used wood to light a fire under it in order to cook meals. Sometimes the fire was too hot, sometimes too low, and foods would sometimes stick to the vat.  Whenever fish stuck to the vat during cooking, they used a steel scraping brush afterwards to scrape them off. Then came the task of collecting the cinders left over from the fire, placing them in an urn which had a hole at the bottom, then pouring water into it so that the lye (clean ash) would settle and then be used for washing the dishes. Our hands would become a mess. And in the refectory, we used to hoist up the water with a windlass.  Some of the things that are being done in the Monasteries nowadays are inexcusable.  In one Monastery, I noticed they were slicing the bread with a slicing machine. That was not at all appropriate!  If someone is sick or weak and unable to slice bread with an ordinary knife, well, I suppose he is justified.  But to see a brawny man slicing bread with a rotating wheel blade ? He was fit to work with a jackhammer and yet he used a bread-slicing wheel to cut bread and considered it a feat !


See that you stay ahead in spiritual matters. Don't feel delight with such things - gadgets, conveniences etc..  If the spirit of asceticism leaves Monasticism, then there is no meaning to monastic living.  If we place convenience above monkhood, we will not make any progress.  A monk avoids conveniences, because they do not benefit him spiritually.  In secular living, people have a hard time with the excess of conveniences.  For a monk, even if he did find comfort in such things, convenience is not befitting to him. We must not seek conveniences.  During the era that Arsenios the Great lived, there were no gas lamps or anything else; there were the official oil lamps in the palace, with a very fine oil.  Couldn't he have brought such a lamp into the Desert?  He didn't.  He had a wick or a strip of cotton, and the oil was made from seeds - whatever was available at the time - and that's what he used.


During our monastic chores we often justify to ourselves the use of machines or other conveniences to get the job done quickly so that we might supposedly dedicate more time for spiritual matters; however, we only end up in living a life of many cares, with stress - like worldly people, and not like monks.  When certain young men went to a Monastery, the first thing they did was to buy pressure cookers so that it would leave them more time for spiritual chores, but then they just sat idly around, chatting for hours on end. In other words, they weren't going to use those conveniences in order to gain extra time for contemplating spiritual matters.  Nowadays, time is indeed saved, thanks to conveniences, and yet, they find no time for prayer.


-Elder, I heard them say that Saint Athanasius the Athonite was "progressive"!

Oh, sure, he was progressive! He was as progressive as they are today! [*]  They should read the life of Saint Athanasius!  Ah, the monks had reached eight hundred, a thousand in number at the time, and there were so many people that went to them for help!  So many poor and hungry people who went there to eat some bread and be offered hospitality in the Lavra! [**]  For the Saint to be able to cater to those needs, he had acquired two oxen for the mill... let them try to use oxen today!  He was compelled to build an oven - a modern one by the standards of his time - so that he could supply all those people with bread.   The Byzantine emperors endowed Monasteries with entire fortunes, because they functioned as philanthropical institutions.  Monasteries were built, so that people could be helped, both spiritually and materially. That is why emperors provided them with donations.


We need to understand that everything will ultimately disappear, and we will appear before God in debt... normally, we monks must not possess those things that are discarded by today's people, but rather, those useless things that the rich used to throw away, into pits...


[*]  OODE note: the Elder was commenting sarcastically here


[**] In Orthodox Christianity and certain other Eastern Christian communities, a Lavra or Laura (Greek: ) originally meant a cluster of cells or caves for hermits, with a church and sometimes a refectory at the center. The term originates from the Greek for "a narrow passage" or "an alley".


5. The purpose of Monasteries is a spiritual one

Source: "The Words of Elder Paisios", vol.B, by Evangelist John the Theologian Publications)


A monk is concerned with his own salvation and the salvation of all the living and all the deceased.  For a monk, true, divine love is found in the pain that he feels for the salvation of his soul and the pain for the salvation of the entire world. The dedicated soul of a monk contributes towards the salvation not only of his kinfolk, but also of his compatriots. This is why there used to be a fine tradition in Asia Minor, whereby at least one monk out of each kin would intercede for everyone.  In Farasa, when someone was tonsured a monk, the entire village would celebrate: "He will even benefit the entire village" they would say...

Of course a monk will never say "I will save the world", but he will pray for the salvation of all the world, along with his own. And when the good Lord does listen to his prayer and helps the world, again the monk will not say "I saved the world", but instead "God saved the world".  A monk needs to reach such a state where he will say "My God, do not look upon me, do not show mercy on me but on the world" - not because he himself has no need of God's mercy, but because he has so much love for the world. 

-Elder, to what degree must a monk abandon himself in order to benefit the world?

-To the degree that he can see those people are being helped.  If I abandon myself completely in the hands of secular people, I too will become secular.  When a monk - supposedly for the sake of helping secular people - does things not befitting Monasticism, then those people will not be benefited. A monk can, for example, do a great job as a taxi driver: he won't charge any fare, he might also say spiritual things to the customers, but that's not the monastic way.  Sometimes you may encounter monks with a secular spirit and secular people with a monastic spirit. That's why Christ in the other life will say to them respectively: "You - take off that monk's robe, and you - put it on...".  When a worldly person covets the life of a monk he is sanctified, whereas when a monk covets the secular life, he is condemned.

Can someone understand if he doesn't have the proper stance?  Even if he doesn't understand if something is incorrect, he will not attain perfect peace - comfort - inside him.  In whatever does not befit Monasticism, his soul will also not find comfort.  And from the moment that his soul does not feel comfort, he needs to find out what is to blame.

An acquaintance of mine had been to a Monastery, and he afterwards commented that: "It's a workshop there; the abbess is good for the flea market in central Athens, selling buttons. That's the kind of work that suits her! In other words, the Monastery was a workshop; then it will become an industrial unit, then a supermarket, and then a franchise !  Those poor people want something loftier from us monks; but in order for us to attain that loftier thing, we need to avoid all human consolation.

The purpose of Monasteries is a spiritual one and there should be no secular element therein; only the celestial one, in order for souls to be flooded with Paradisiacal delights.  In secular things we cannot compete with secular people, because, truth be said, they have more means.  When a monastery lives spiritually, do you know how it intrigues people? It is when there is piety, a fear of God, and there is no secular logic or a spirit of commerce. That is what appeals to the layperson. But unfortunately, the spirit of commerce is slowly creeping into the marrow of Monasticism.  A monk came to my Hut at one time, while I was knotting a prayer rope. "You give away prayer ropes as blessings" he commented. "I can sell this 33-knot one for 5oo Drachmas. And I don't make it the way you do. As soon as I've finished all the knots, I cut off the ends and sew them together a little so that the strands don't fray. I also use the thread that I cut off from the embedded cross and I don't add any beads, and that way I make even more profit."       "And aren't you ashamed of yourself?" I said to him. "Don't you see that you have a commercial spirit here? I've been a monk since 1950, and this is the first time I've seen such an attitude!"

- Elder, there are so few people who are spiritually mature enough to be able to help the world!

- Yes, unfortunately they are few!  And what is the world expected to do after that?  Do you know how much I pray to God to present proper people who can benefit the world?  Poor souls... all they want is to be shown a little compassion and to not be exploited. They don't want anything else.  In the world they are in constant war and they feel insecure.  When they go to a Monastery that lives correctly, they are benefited because they are given a sense of security and that gives them courage to continue with their struggles.

In these difficult times, people are not so much in need of material sustenance as they are of spiritual sustenance. In other words, people are not in need of bread (although even that will unfortunately be difficult to provide), but of spiritual assistance. We need to help all the world through prayer.  For example, help a family to not break up, or a mother to bring up her children correctly; to somehow support those who have piety.


6. Secularization on the Holy Mountain and the Theotokos' educational "chastisement"

(Source: The Elder Paisios told me, by Athanasius Rakovalis)


After the devastating forest fire on the Holy Mountain, I had gone to visit the Elder. He was angry and kept shouting: "It was a slap in the face by the Holy Mother. The fire began on the first day of the fast and it stopped on the last day (per the Old Calendar of Feast-days, as observed by the Holy Mountain).  They said the fire would be extinguished earlier because there was no wind blowing, and yet, it was extinguished on the last day of the fasting period, even though it was windy.  It was as though a hand was guiding the fire - it followed a roundabout course, where they least expected it, and it bypassed the safety zones. So, the forests were burnt! But was the secular conscience burnt?

-One of the monasteries asked for reinforcements.

-Well, they didn't have a single spiritual clue! All they have is a secular intelligence. (Angered). They become the cause for God's name to be blasphemed; it was raining everywhere, throughout all of Greece!!  The only place it didn't rain was the Holy Mountain!!  Making people say "Where is their Holy Mother?"  Why doesn't She help them?"  How were people to know that it was a "slap in the face" by the Holy Mother?  There are some people who are in agreement with God's wrath, who did not pray with a single prayer rope for the cessation of the fire (he was implying himself).

- Elder, you scare me, the way you say these things!

- What do you mean?  Are the monks also going to wage war against me?

- Yes, Elder!

- So? Let them I'm only saying what I say out of love. Do you know what Fr. Herodion said, when they told him to say a prayer for the raging fire?

- What did he say?

- "No praying for the fire.  Too much greenery, too much hullabaloo by the monks.  Less greenery, no hullabaloo (idle talk)." 

They have plans to create roads for tourists to visit; the monks will then become exhausted with the hospitality; so then they will say to them: "Let's build a hotel for you, so that you don't tire yourselves too."  "Yes", they'll say, "that's a proper thing to do".  Then they'll give money for the maintenance of the temples.  Then they'll say "Look, it's not right to burn candles and incense; we have given so much money for the restorations.  Choose a spot that you like in the area of the Monastery, for us to build you a church."  Then they'll probably install a guard, probably sporting a beard and a monk's robe, with a wife in Ouranoupolis (trnsl.note: the township situated on the border of the Holy Mountain province, which acts as a gate to the Monastic territory and past which point no women are allowed to enter)... they will turn us into a Museum...

I'm not saying that the Holy Mother will allow this; just that this is their plan. And there are even some who want this!... in fact, they are monks - can you imagine that?! but of course, the Holy Mother will have the last say. If they don't mend their ways, they will get "another slap in the face".


7. Addendum: The Announcement by the Sacred Monastery of Koutloumousion of the Holy Mountain

In response to the persistent request of many pilgrims and with full awareness of the evils of our times, our Sacred Monastery has decided to break its silence temporarily and announce the following general estimations, on account of the scandalization that has been persevering for a long time in the people's conscience because of the turmoil caused by the Mass Media regarding the activities of certain monks of a Holy Mountain monastic institute. At a time when the exploiting of institutions, principles and values is a prerequisite for social rise and acceptance, it is with sorrow that we realize we need to speak of things that once used to be self-evident.

1. Monasticism is the renouncing of the world and all things related to the world, which is why one of the monastic promises is the rejection of ownership. Regardless where a monk may find himself, he is obliged to cultivate inside him the awareness that he possesses nothing, that he is possessed by nothing, and that any form of personal property constitutes a serious breach of promise.  A coenobitic monk with a personal bank account for his own use constitutes a contradiction, both in the terminology and in the essence.

2. A Monastery is either a small or a large institute, which offers lifelong hospitality to possession-less monks as well as to pilgrims.  It provides them with shelter, sustenance, clothing, covers, hospitalization. As such, it is at the same time an organized, autonomous, productive and economic unit, whose objective is certainly not the incrementing of a financial commodity, but the perfecting of its members in productivity and in their offer of love. Its financial basis merely secures its continuity through time, in the same manner that the first apostolic community of Jerusalem was maintained by a community fund.  On his own, a monk can remain a monk and spend this lifetime anywhere: in the mountains, in cities, as a beggar or with hospitality that may be offered, or be a cave-dweller.  A monastery however that lacks a steady financial basis and autonomy is condemned to death, given that at a certain point it will cease to support monks, it will turn into a museum, but even until that point in time, it will be dependent on dependencies. The emperors were well aware of this, which is why they endowed the monasteries with lands, heirlooms and letters of confirmation sealed with golden bulls.  It is wrong to want to impose poverty on a monastery, given that poverty should normally be the personal virtue of each monk. Our Monastery continues to this day to feel the bitter aftertaste of deprivation that was inflicted on it by predatory actions that were to its detriment; a deprivation that endangered its operation and its continuing survival.

3. The maintenance and utilization of a monastery's holdings is a responsibility undertaken in every brotherhood.  Of course this utilization does not include any concessions for business activities that can drive to a psychotic state of continuous accumulation and investing of wealth - something entirely contrary to monastic philosophy; and there is always the inherent danger that the monk who is commissioned with the administrating will slide into this kind of passion, because spiritual life - and especially extreme monastic life - hangs from very fine silk threads. The existence of the Mammon of injustice - of money - is justified, only when it is utilized for the needs of the beseechers.

4. Any form of moral deviation whatsoever, whether of one monk or many, offers itself as a springboard for the promoting of the plans of the upcoming New Order. Everything appears to be mobilized in a rigged, violent game, where every malevolent system of pre-decided conclusions and every kind of clever chicanery are being implemented.  The New Order, which is striving to shape a universal community of terrorized people, is attempting to undermine institutions and values that comprise the spiritual foundation of a populace and the factor of its cultural unity. The Holy Mountain, as a self-governed monastic state that professes freedom of spirit - an axial point of Orthodoxy - cannot be anything but an undesirable dissonance in a homogenized and manipulated society that will be at the absolute disposal of a small number of potentates, who are presently accumulating capital and every other form of power in their own hands.  In this planned course of events, the Holy Mountain must be weakened; it must be sacked, from the inside and the outside, with the contribution of many corruptive powers.  Whatever is not accomplished by money will be accomplished by the misinterpretation of History, by the withholding of the truth, by exploitation and everything that is consecrated by populist propaganda.

5. The Church (and a Monastery - which is a miniature of the Church) follows a dramatic course in History.  This means it has its stumblings and its rises, its downfalls and its flights; it approaches Paradise and it is also tossed about by the devil. However, all the blows inflicted throughout History pertain to the shell of the Church and not to Her essence. And Her essence is the Charismatic presence of the Holy Spirit which vitalizes the members and the fibers of the Body of Christ and produces fruits of holiness. And that holiness does not disappear; not from the Holy Mountain, nor from the world. Each crisis, each historical tribulation, provides everyone with the opportunity for self-critique and re-composition; for a painful cleansing and a return to the essential and the true.

The Holy Mountain does not belong to anyone. To be exact, it does not belong to anyone impious - whether he is a monk or a secular person.  It is the centuries-old fruit of the collaboration of God and His saints,  It belongs to the Mother of God and to those who have sanctified it with their lives, from the past, through to the end.  The true Holy Mountain is the invisible quintessence of holiness that continues to exist to this day, for the sake of the life of the world.  Therefore, if some of us want it alive and active, we need to protect it, just as we would protect a glasshouse.  And even if today's monks are unworthy of its history, we must protect it, for the monks who will come after.

Sacred Monastery of Koutloumousion,
Holy Mountain, 2009.


Translation: K.N.

Article published in English on: 19-6-2011.

Last update: 19-6-2011.