Saturday, June 27, 2009

Monasticism in Christianity

I AM CURRENTLY READING a book about one man's search for Orthodox Spirituality, and found this gem of a quote about monasticism:

"Shutting down the monasteries [Father Maximos] explained in regard to developments in the West after the Reformation, "was like snatching the heart out of Christianity." He meant that it was in monasteries that the religious experience was systematically cultivated, providing a living witness to the reality of God. By closing down monasteries, the West came to rely exclusively on the intellect in its quest for God. But the way to know God, Father Maximos would say repeatedly, is neither through philosophy nor through experimental science but through systematic methods of spiritual practice that could open us up to the Grace of the Holy Spirit. Only then can we have a taste of the Divine, a firsthand, experiential knowledge of the Creator. Otherwise, he continued, "we remain stuck on the level of mere beliefs and ideologies."*

This reminds me of an older post I made in which I recalled a Reverend Father explain that God dwells in our hearts, while Satan dwells in our mind. This couldn't be more true, for how many times does our Lord ask for our hearts? The heart, and yielding to it, and giving it in love is the true essence of Christianity.

Monasticism is precisely this, a complete devotion to God. There is no demand for study (although most, if not all, are very well read in Scripture and other text), but a call for one's own heart. I liken this to the Internet. A person can research a website with photos of the gorgeous scenery nature has to offer, or the most stunning of artwork, but until you witness it, and stand in awe at it's beauty, you haven't come remotely close to experiencing the real thing. Until you completely experience the surrender to God and know what it's like to be at peace with God, you have not fully experienced what Christianity has to offer. Another example is (and we all know what I'm talking about) the armchair quarterbacks who claim to know everything about the game of football, and claim to be the next Joe Montana, but couldn't hurl a football more than ten yards. Talk is cheap, but experiencing the game and all the emotions engaged in playing the game is beyond comparison.

I also understand that the West has seen a recent resurgence of monasticism. This is completely against its own tradition and is not as prominent or influential as Orthodox monasticism. Some from the Western Churches have accused the Orthodox Church of being antiquated and behind the times. By relying strictly on intellect for the quest for God, I stand here accusing the West of completely losing the essence of Christianity. And to be honest, I don't like change for the sake of change, I'd rather keep what works.

* The Mountain of Silence: A Search for Orthodox Spirituality by Kyriacos C. Markides

Sunday, June 7, 2009


I NEVER QUITE understood evangelism to its fullest extent.  It actually dawned on me this morning in the shower after contemplating a recent turn of events that have unfolded in my life recently.  I very rarely delve this far into my personal life, and it seems slightly ridiculous to do so on my blog, but I feel compelled to do it, so here goes:

I was recently speaking with a friend of whom is dear to my heart.  In her experience, she shared wisdom with me in regards to relationships.  To paraphrase, some things are simply not to be compromised in relationships.  What this means is, there are some things in which you care so much about, and a relationship (namely one involving the opposite sex) should not require you to sacrifice this.  Well, in my life, there are a few things that I care that much about, and the first one that comes to mind is my Church, for this is the most important thing to me.  

Well, this is what I was pondering in the shower.  How can I sacrifice the one thing I love most in life for a relationship?  How can God Bless a relationship that requires you to further yourself from Him?  I think it is bogus, it would never happen.  This is where evangelism comes in.  We aren't talking about salvation dating, that is stupid.  We are talking about the beauty of having your spouse on your team.  It is as if you love God so much, you want nothing more than for someone else you love to be experiencing the same bliss.  It simply doesn't work any other way, for how can someone who loves God sacrifice what is most important for someone else?  Unfortunately, you cannot expect a person to eventually become faithful.  It is beautiful when it happens, but it is few and far between.

The same goes for the complete stranger that needs Christ.  I think of it as experiencing a new food or a new song, and turning to a friend saying "you HAVE to try this, it is phenomenal."  There is a certain joy in sharing something you enjoy with a friend.  There is more to it than a self-less giving, it is an almost selfish (selfish in the sense that is done for your own gratification, yet out love for the other) giving of oneself.  Salvation, I always thought, was simply to guide a person to a life with Christ so they may see Christ in Heaven.  There is more to it than that.  It is loving your neighbor to the extent that you want to see them as joyful as you.  It is wanting them to taste Christ and believe.  That is why loving your neighbor is insufficient without bringing them closer to the Church.