July 26, 2014

“60 Minutes” and “Behind the Scenes” Video of Mt. Athos [VIDEO]

A rare access to monks in ancient monasteries on a remote Greek peninsula who have lived a Spartan life of prayer in a tradition virtually unchanged for a thousand years.

Read more: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7363734n#ixzz1KZeq7lSi

Comments

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    I find it very interesting that it is more difficult for a monk to be accepted at Mt. Athos than it is for a high school senior to be accepted at Harvard University.

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    I think he should have gone to see his father. If he could keep unceasing prayer even while talking to the show host, he certainly could during the trip. It stroke me as cruel, vain and unchristian, God forgive me if I’m wrong. His laugh appeared to me more like the nervous laugh of a person who was getting too near to a truth he did not want to see (in this case, the sin of hurting his dying father for the sin of spiritual vanity) and needs to cover the pain, than for the reasons he gave. Again, God forgive me if this is judgemental, but it’s the impression it left on me.

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      Scott Pennington says:

      I think he was sincere and correct. For normal persons, it might be cruel. For monks who have forsaken the world and assumed the identity of an angel devoted to prayer without family ties, it strikes me as completely correct. If monks took off for family deaths, family illnesses, natural disasters that affect their family, etc., then it would make a mockery of their commitment. His best defense, without having to say all of that, was when he simply asserted that he would see his father again on the other side. He seemed to be certain about that. If he is not, then his chosen life is a waste of time. If we are not certain of that, then it makes sense to blame him for not seeing his father for “one last time”. Of course, assuming they will both pass to a heavenly repose, there is no such thing as “one last time”.

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        The *only* criteria Jesus said in no equivocal words about admittance to heaven is to visit the sick, feed the hungry, in sum, show love toward our neighbours in action. I can’t see how excluding your own parents from this would be an accomodation much less angelic. To me, it seems pretty much what a Romanian elder in one of those videos in Youtube called a “temptation of the right side”, a temptation of doing evil things for the sake of virtues, mainly for vanity of being virtuous.

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          Raphael Shelton says:

          I think the words of Christ address this specifically:
          “Let the dead bury dead.”
          “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me”
          “And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. “

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          Michael Bauman says:

          Simply no way of making only’s when it comes to salvation, IMAO. That is why St. Paul says that we are to work it out in fear and trembling. Certainly none of us are in a position to judge this monk and his salvation are we? Seems like a real tempation to even be discussing it, don’t you think?

          It was his decision; we don’t know any of the context; it is quite likely that the monk approached his decision prayerfully and in consultation with his elder, don’t you think? We need to butt out.

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          Scott Pennington says:

          “The *only* criteria Jesus said in no equivocal words about admittance to heaven is to visit the sick, feed the hungry, in sum, show love toward our neighbours in action.”

          So belief in Christ is not necessary at all?

          When a man wanted to bury his father and then come and follow Jesus, Jesus Himself said, “Let the dead bury their dead.” A monk has no family but his fellow monks. They change their names to obliterate family ties. Most likely he did the right thing for the right reason. Reading what you want to be true into his explanationt is simply a projection of your own attitudes toward asceticism.

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            Replying to Raphael and Scott about burying the dead and similar arguments:

            His father was not dead yet. I *could* understand that if someone had phoned a monk and said “Listen, your father has unfortunately passed away. The rest of the family would appreciate you coming to the funeral” and he declined. It is a “mere” family obligation, a psycho-social ritual, the kind of thing every Christian should detach from.

            That was not the case. His father was alive and in need of consolation. It was a suffering person begging for a demonstration of mercy and love. And a his own father on top of that.

            What the line of though being presented by Raphael and Scott implies is that a Christian should be compassionate about everybody; except your own parents. Whatever meaning those hard words of Christ may have, I am sure it is not about being uncompassionate with the sufferings and pains of our own parents. Christ was harsh with the Virgin Mary and His step-brothers when they wanted privileges from Him. But while His mother was in agony at the feet of the Cross *because* of His kenotic self-sacrifice, He immediately offered Her consolation by putting her at the care of St. John.

            I think the words of Christ regarding this is about parents actions that aim at preventing you from living a Christian life. In that case compassion is not advisable because it would be to share in their lack of love for Christ. But to deny consolation to them, even if they were Christ-haters? I doubt so. God loved us when we hated Him and calls us to imitate Him.

            Replying to Scott about what is necessary for salvation:
            That is a vastly complex question. Will there be non-Church people saved? Will there be Church be condemned? Why? What’s the criteria?

            It is spelled very clearly in St. Matthew 25:34-46:

            Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
            For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
            Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
            Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed {thee}? or thirsty, and gave {thee} drink?
            When saw we thee a stranger, and took {thee} in? or naked, and clothed {thee}?
            Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
            And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done {it} unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done {it} unto me.
            Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
            For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
            I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
            Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
            Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did {it} not to one of the least of these, ye did {it} not to me.
            And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

            The King will not ask what do you believe, what do you think, nothing of this. He will ask only: Have you loved Me *through* the love for your neighbour?

            Maybe you have learned to do this through monastic asceticism. Maybe through marriage. Maybe through social work. The means are less important. But whichever means, if they do not produce, in the end, love for God through love for your neighbours, them it was sterile like the fig tree and shall be cast away. One does not enter monastic life to have extasis, visions of God or angels, to have daily liturgies but *only* to be able to love more. This is the end and target of ascesis, and *true* visions of Eternity a mere consequence since it through Love that we enter it.

            The importance of the correct doctrine and of the correct glory is that it guides us (potentially) to a more perfect love. A Roman or Protestant will never have perfect love for the Spirit of Truth while they think that a specific element of the Church (the head of bishops or the Scriptures) actually has a specific attribute of the Third Person of the Trinity, namely, infallibility and the prerrogative of guiding the Church in times of doubt and turmoil. That’s how they may end up deviating from the love of God, since it prevents them from understanding the full nature of the name “Spirit of Truth”.

            But if salvation depended on our rational understanding of doctrine, or on the quality of our faith I fear no one would be saved. Love shines through all our imperfections though. And that’s probably why God has told us that this will be the ultimate criteria for our Eternal Participation in His Body.

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            Scott Pennington says:

            Fabio,

            Two points:

            “What the line of thought being presented by Raphael and Scott implies is that a Christian should be compassionate about everybody; except your own parents.”

            You’re knocking down a straw dummy. I never said that Christians in general should ignore their parents. What I did say was that the situation of this monk is analogous to that of the contemporary of Christ who was told not to go “bury his father”. To follow the Savior in the flesh would be the type of commitment that a monk makes. Thus he forsakes everything, even his previous identity.

            As far as the rest of what you wrote, you wrote above: “The *only* criteria Jesus said in no equivocal words about admittance to heaven is to visit the sick, feed the hungry, in sum, show love toward our neighbours in action.”

            That has never been the Church’s teaching. It’s not that it is inaccurate as far as it goes, it’s just that it leaves too much out. He also said, “No man cometh to the Father but by me.” And Peter said that it was through the name of Jesus alone that we know salvation. One cannot simply mouth ones faith and neglect the works you listed – - true enough. Christ was explicit on that as well. But it does matter what you believe.

            I’m also not sure that there is a distinction between the two situations in terms of living vs. dead. I recall reading that the term the man who approached Christ used could mean to stay with his father at his death bed and then handle the funeral arrangements. Regardless, ignoring funeral arrangements for a relative at that time was a very serious social taboo.

            Christ made it a point to force a distinction between two types of relations – - blood and faith. “Who are my mother and brothers?”

            Condemning the monk for doing the same type of thing that Christ told someone else to do is rather misguided.

            “It is a “mere” family obligation, a psycho-social ritual, the kind of thing every Christian should detach from.”

            That’s amazing. On the one hand you begrudge a monk for a decision which was obviously given considerable thought and prayer by him and his superior. On the other hand you suggest that Christians in general, if they have a parent die and the other relatives ask them to come to share their grief, should avoid it.

            Who’s being harsh?

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          Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

          I went to Chrysostom to see what he wrote about Jesus’ words “Let the dead bury their dead.” From Homily XXVII:

          Didst thou mark the difference? how one impudently saith, “I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest;” but this other, although asking a thing of sacred duty,11701170 ?????.saith, “Suffer me.” Yet He suffered him not, but saith, “Let the dead bury their dead, but do thou follow me.” For in every case He had regard to the intention. And wherefore did He not suffer him? one may ask. Because, on the one hand, there were those that would fulfill that duty, and the dead was not going to remain unburied; on the other, it was not fit for this man to be taken away from the weightier matters. But by saying, “their own dead,” He implies that this is not one of His dead. And that because he that was dead, was, at least as I suppose, of the unbelievers.

          Now if thou admire the young man, that for a matter so necessary he besought Jesus, and did not go away of his own accord; much rather do thou admire him for staying also when forbidden.

          Was it not then, one may say, extreme ingratitude, not to be present at the burial of his father? If indeed he did so out of negligence, it was ingratitude, but if in order not to interrupt a more needful work, his departing would most surely have been of extreme inconsideration. For Jesus forbad him, not as commanding to think lightly of the honor due to our parents, but signifying that nothing ought to be to us more urgent than the things of Heaven, and that we ought with all diligence to cleave to these, and not to put them off for ever so little, though our engagements be exceeding indispensable and pressing. For what can be more needful than to bury a father? what more easy? since it would not even consume any long time.

          Chrysostom teaches that this phrase has to be considered in the context of the pressing concerns of this world against the calling of Christ. He does not teach that ignoring the burial of a father is a virtue or even a virtuous principle that Christians should follow. His only point was that the calling of Christ exceeds even the obligation to bury a father. This does not diminish the responsibility of honoring your father by being present at his burial.

          It is not standard monastic practice to avoid funerals of parents. To do so would violate the commandment to honor mother and father. Again, why did Jesus say “Let the dead bury the dead?” Chrysostom writes that the young man raising the objection to Jesus needed to see that the calling of Christ exceeded even his obligation to his father.

          Why did the monk not attend the funeral of his father? Who knows? But to conclude that avoiding the funerals of parents is a monastic virtue misreads the intention of this passage. Chrysostom is clear on what Jesus meant, and Chrysostom is a reliable guide.

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            Scott Pennington says:

            I do not know what standard practice is in most monastaries. Athos is an unusual place. If Christ called a man to follow Him and he wished to fulfill family obligations first, then Christ said that was not so great an idea, it seems quite applicable to the monastic situation where a man is called to a complete and uncompromising commitment to follow Christ outside of the world. When Christ was on earth among us in the flesh, it was more important to follow Him immediately than to tend to family obligations. It seems quite on point to remark that this is analogous to the situation a monk finds himself in. His quest is to forsake all for theosis. His name, his apparel, his grooming, his daily habits, his lack of worldly ties – - everything in his life is designed to set him apart from the world on his journey to acquire the Holy Spirit.

            “If indeed he did so out of negligence, it was ingratitude, but if in order not to interrupt a more needful work, his departing would most surely have been of extreme inconsideration. For Jesus forbad him, not as commanding to think lightly of the honor due to our parents, but signifying that nothing ought to be to us more urgent than the things of Heaven, and that we ought with all diligence to cleave to these, and not to put them off for ever so little, though our engagements be exceeding indispensable and pressing.”

            I agree, Chrysostom is quite clear. The man in the story could easily have buried his father and then gone on to follow Christ. There was no other needful work than to follow Christ immediately.

            I do not suggest that it is wrong for a monk to go to his father’s death bed. I do not suggest that it is wrong for an abbot to allow a monk to go to his father’s death bed. However, the monk and the abbot can certainly decide that the weightier matter is to follow Christ in the monastery and not go to the funeral without violating the commandment to honor ones father and mother. If not, the story regarding Christ’s actions in telling the man not to go and bury his father has no meaning for us today at all.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Monasticism is a radical committment. Monks therefore tend to be radical people. We who live in the world make thousands of accomdations with the world on a daily basis that (whether we will admit it or not) impact our salvation negatively. It may seem odd to us that the monk did not visit his dying father, but in the context of the monk’s life and comittment, quite normal and reasonable (even if economia was possible). The monk even made that point that it was a perfectly reasonable request for his father to make. It also seemed as if the monk gave the request prayerful consideration before deciding not to go. I am also certain that the monk consulted with his elder. Even within the same monastery, different monks have different struggles and paths. Evidently for this monk, see his dying father was not part of his path, nor his father’s

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      Harry Coin says:

      The four bits I wish they would have clarified further were:

      1. There is in a nearby peninsula monasteries for Orthodox women where male tourists are not invited. Do you see women in male Tibetan monasteries? Male Roman Catholic/Vatican monasteries? Men in monasteries for women elsewhere? No.

      2. The idea the suggested in the work was normative — that because one monk formely Bill from MA denied his father the comfort of a death bed visit the suggestion that all of them do– that’s wrong. If you knew the personal stories there you’d find the explaination has to do with issues and histories in that particular family. Certianly it happens but the idea a monk can’t go here or there for a day or a few days when it’s a very big deal.. please. And, other monasteries have fax machines etc, etc…

      3. The monk and former Harvard professor now Maximos, saying ‘there is no art here’ after the segment showed an impressive storage facility for panel after panel after panel of rare and ancient iconography that looked alot like everyone everywhere stores expensive art… Ah, it looks like a duck… That could have used a little more clarifying.

      4. I suppose the worst suggestion not said but pervasively implied in the piece was that Athos was portrayed as being free from mistakes and problems and so forth from one end to the other, from financial shenanigans, spiritual authority abuse, sexual mistakes, political intrigues, disputes between the EP’s imposition and theology of it here and there. Anyhow the monasteries have different characters and are not monolithic. There are problems, the point of importance is the struggle they do despite them. They live their lives in ‘high relief’ or ‘high contrast’. I suspect quite a few of them wouldn’t last a week if they had to comprehend the needs of someone knee high crying for juice during their afternoon siesta.

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        Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

        Excellent points Harry. Thanks for the clarification on the monk. There is no rule that monks cannot to the funeral of dying family members. I’ve met monks who left Athos for a week or two for personal reasons. You explanation that it was particular to the monk makes sense.

        These days monks have cell phones too. I know people in frequent contact with monks because of them.

        You are correct too in saying the monasteries are not monolithic in their practices. In that sense they are kind of like parishes. Some parishes fit some people better than others. So it is with the monasteries.

        Overall I thought the report was very well done. My hunch is that it will lead some people to the Orthodox Church. All the more reason to keep cleaning our house, ISTM.

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          Harry Coin says:

          Fr. H: Yes and thanks. All the grand vistas taken by the long lenses catching the sunsets and the sonorous chanting and the colorful buildings set in dramatic geographic relief. Galleries of stored art, excellent tomatoes– Gives people the idea it’s the Beard Division of Club Med. Then they put on the monk who says not even to visit his dying dad would he leave for a second, and another who says the vast display in frames and mounts was not art. Then the scene of the vastish pile of skulls in bins, passing their days since the 1500′s.

          I remember going to Paris some years ago, a first time tourist. On the ‘to do’ list was the church of Sacre Coeur, being quite the peak-top landmark. However, I was very warmed to have stopped only a couple streets over at the very nearby comparatively flash-less Church of Saint Pierre, dating from the 1100′s.

          I left wondering whether the most that could be said of what they shared began and ended with being on the same hilltop.

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        Michael Bauman says:

        Harry, you are perhaps correct in that many monastics would not be able to bear the rigors of being a father to a small human being. That may be because it is not their vocation. The monk who spoke of the lack of silence that women and children would bring tacitly acknowledged as much. The vocation of being a husband and a father is just as important as the monastic vocation. The Church should do more in her recognition and support of that vocation don’t you think without denigrating the monastic vocation?

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          Harry Coin says:

          Denigrate?

          Swish….

          …. Check swing…

          Ball 1. The joys of Bright Week to you!

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            Scott Pennington says:

            “I suspect quite a few of them wouldn’t last a week if they had to comprehend the needs of someone knee high crying for juice during their afternoon siesta.”

            “Beard Division of Club Med”

            Looked like two strikes to me.

            Is monasticism passe? Never a good idea in the first place?

            Anyway, Christ is Risen!

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            Harry Coin says:

            Scott, the first is simply true. The second was an impression some may have taken from the 60 minutes show, though it wasn’t my impression.

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            Scott Pennington says:

            Actually, Harry, the first is speculation based on attitude, not fact, the second is a demeaning charactarization.

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        Scott Pennington says:

        It may be that some monasteries have faxes, cellphones, etc. Unless it particulary pertains to sales that help to support the monastery, there is always a danger of distraction. There are also parishes where fasting rules are ignored in the parish hall. Athos is a special place, even among monasteries. It does not surprise me that they take the saying, “let the dead bury their dead” seriously – - not that they never allow exceptions.

        I have met a monk from Athos who visited our parish twice over a period of about a year; however, he was being treated (he had a pacemaker) by a Greek doctor in a nearby city (gratis).

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        Andrew says:

        Lets not forget marriage. An Orthodox Christian marriage lived in its fullness is just an ascetic struggle as those of the monks on Mt. Athos. I know many married couples who live far more ascetic lives than your average monk -especially in America. Indeed I would argue that some of the most healthy ascetics are the married ones. This is something that should be celebrated.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    The monk from Australia pretty well summed it up talking with the interviewer in the olive grove telling the man that while it may look like a resort, it was not, Mt. Athos is an arena where unseen warfare is fought constantly. Of course the interviewer had zero comprehension. However, whenever we are drawn into contact with monastics who are actively engaged in the warfare, we are drawn into the battle–even if just a little. They are battling for us just as much as they are battling for themselves.

    The speculation on the salvation of others and the efficacy of their path is part of that battle. The Apostles faced it, every Christian faces it. Obviously, we are facing it. Such speculation and interference is precisely why monastics resist public intrusions such as press reports into their lives. The interviewer had zero understanding of Orthodox monastic practice and its rigors; thus he and the producers framed Mt. Athos in this soft focus, romantic lens: pretty, changeless, dedicated. The piece was respectful despite the utter lack of knowledge the authors brought to their subject. We should know better and not be roped into the romanticism and the out of context snap shots of specific monks.

    Monasticism is an integral part of life in the Orthodox Church. IMAO, if someone has serious problems with the existence and practice of monasticism, serious difficulty with the Church exists. We have a responsibility to discern the integrity of any monastery/monastic with whom we are in direct contact especially if he/she is advising us spiritually. Other than that, it really is none of our business. We need to tend to our own vocation, whatever that is.

    Icons are not ‘art’ as the west understands them to be (even the ones in storage). Any nuance on that point will simply be lost. It is much better to simply be blunt about it as the monk was: polite, but blunt.

    The best comment from the interviewer: “You stain the silence just by walking into (the) monastary”. He was beginning to engage the living presence at that point I think, beginning to see how much noise he and his crew bring with them.

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    Eliot Ryan says:

    I do not think monks obey “rules”, they obey their elders (spiritual fathers). Their duty is to obey and faithfully observe the guidance of the Elder. The Elder’s advice on the same issue can be different for different people.

    Men and women lived their lives consecrated to God under the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience; monastic’s look up to and emulate the Angels in obedience and humility. The monastery is directed by a superior (abbot or abbess) and all members of the monastic community live in obedience to their elder.http://www.kurskroot.com/monastic_obedience.html

    Saint Simeon counsels us as follows:

    «Brother, beseech the Lord extensively that He might show you a man, who is able to shepherd you well, to whom you will owe obedience as if to God Himself, and the things that he says to you, you should unhesitatingly heed, even if those instructions appear to be against you and harmful.» (Catechesis 20, SC 104, 334).

    3. The spiritual father’s mission

    What, exactly, is the work of a spiritual father? «To attend to the souls that are redeemed by the blood of Christ» we are told by Basil the Great (Epitome of Terms ΒΕΠΕΣ 53, 305). The spiritual father is a guide to in-Christ living. He is the physician of the soul, who, «with much compassion, according to the science of the Lord’s teaching» (Basil the Great, “Ethika” ΒΕΠΕΣ 53, 129), heals the passions and helps his spiritual child to acquire an in-Christ health; that is, a live faith and a stable spiritual life. If the condition and the purpose of Christianity – we are taught by Basil the Great – is the emulation of Christ, then «those who are entrusted with the guidance of the many ought to project the emulation of Christ to the weaker ones, with their (personal) intermediation». (“Oroi Kata Platos” ΒΕΠΕΣ 53, 204). On the path that leads to communion with Christ and theosis (deification), our spiritual fathers are the experienced guides and untiring supporters. But for a pastor to serve such a lofty and responsible opus, he must necessarily be truly spiritual himself – an instrument «attuned and played by the Spirit», as Saint Gregory the Theologian writes. Only one who has learnt something out of personal experience is capable of imparting it; thus, for a spiritual father to guide others into the Christian way of life, he must first be living it himself. He must be a «norm for the faithful» (1 Tim. 4:12) and a «living Gospel». According to Basil the Great, he must provide «his own life as a distinct exemplar of every commandment of the Lord» (as above, ΒΕΠΕΣ 53, 204). His example should speak more than his words; He should inspire, with his virtuous living, edify, with his love and paternal affection, since – according to Saint John of the Ladder – «a true shepherd is proven by his love. It was for the sake of love that the Great Shepherd was crucified.» (To Poemen 24, PG 88, 1177Β).

    4. Two fundamental characteristics: perspicacity and love

    We shall therefore very briefly touch on two of the most essential charismas of a spiritual father.

    The first is perspicacity and discernment, «in other words, the ability to intuitively penetrate the secrets of another’s heart; to comprehend the secret depths that the other is not aware of. The spiritual father sees beyond the conventional gestures and habits with which we hide our true personality from the others – and even from our very self. And beyond all these trite details, he conceives the unique persona – the one that was created in the image and the likeness of God. This power is a spiritual one and not a physical one; it is not a hyper-sensitive perception, nor is it a sanctified divination, but a fruit of Grace, which has the prerequisite of continuous prayer and uninterrupted ascetic labour.» (Ware, as above, pp. 126-127).

    The spiritual father’s charisma of insight reveals itself par excellence as a discernment of thoughts. Discernment according to saint Simeon is the spiritual «lamp» and «eye», with which the spiritual father can see, both within his own heart as well as the hearts of his spiritual children. That way, he is able to make the correct diagnosis every time and impose the most suitable therapy (Catechesis 18, SC 104, 292). The discernment that has a cleanliness of the heart as a prerequisite is a charisma – a gift of the Holy Spirit. A spiritual father therefore, «who does not have the light of the Holy Spirit inside himself, can neither see his own actions clearly, nor will he be fully informed if they are pleasing to God. But neither will he be able to guide others or teach the will of God, or be worthy of perceiving foreign thoughts…» http://www.oodegr.com/english/psyxotherap/Spiritual_Paternity.htm

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Fabio, above you say: That was not the case. His father was alive and in need of consolation. It was a suffering person begging for a demonstration of mercy and love. And a (sic) his own father on top of that.

    That is an assumption on your part that is without any evidence to support it. Maybe his father wanted another chance to heap abuse on his son for becoming a monk in the first place and to offer him curses and official disinheritance. You don’t know, you have no way of knowing and it is none of your business. You are still offering a condemnation of a fellow Christian simply because you don’t like the choice he made. That’s ridiculous. Leave the monk alone, leave him to his prayers and attend to your own life.

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      Michael,

      yes maybe. In that case, it would make sense.

      And by the way, I’m not condemning anyone. To condemn a person is to say he is going to Hell or to have an attitude of putting the person apart from me. I’m doing neither. I’m criticizing, always with relativization because of the partial knowledge, what seems to be denial to offer comfort to a dying person just because of bad analogy with a Gospel passage, which, *if* true, would be spiritual vanity.

      Obedience and respect is *not* accepting as good everything just because it comes out of a monk, bishop, priest, deacon or even a saint. They are references and better references than us most of the time. But in the end, I will be judged by who I am, not by who they are. And who I am is pretty much informed by how I discern the world around me. Both the discernement or the lack of it, will affect what I am, and how much I love God and my neighbours, and in the end, *this* will be the final criteria wherein those who are inside the Church will remain in it or not in its post-eschatological manifestation.

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    theodore says:

    What a useless endeavor the life of a monk is. We are not called to “go out of the world.”

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      They don’t go “out of the world” in the sense you might think Theodore. What they do is order their life by a different calculus, like people who prefer living way out in the country, or in small towns, for example. It’s a different life but it has its community, its service, its work, its responsibility, but also a different way of approaching, even seeing, how life functions. If you have ever visited a monastery you will see that although they life their life differently than you and I do, they give back a whole lot, especially to the pilgrims who visit.

      When I ran Spiritual Odyssey at Ionian Village, I always had a few people who had the hardest time encountering God. There was a lot in their background that hindered them such as abuse, or years of promiscuous living, and so forth. I knew that they joined the trip to find God (people don’t go on religiously themed events otherwise), but they needed something deeper than what people with less trauma needed. I knew that they would find it at a monastery called Osios Lukas (the Venerable Luke).

      And they would. Some kind of divine miracle would occur meant for them, and for them alone. It got to be predictable in a sense. They would finally meet God, although of course it could be upsetting for them. The way they were seeing the world had to shift, and that kind of shift, while welcome, still took some adjustment.

      The monastery was a holy place. There are all kinds of monasteries, some are better than others, and this was a good one. These events happened for the people because of the monastic life there. You could say that God could have accomplished that anywhere, but I don’t put much credence in theoretical speculations. My experience was that it always happened there, a concrete space-time event in a specific place. It was the prayers of the men who lived there that made it happen.

      I never saw them as “out of the world.” I saw them as present more deeply in the world, in a way that I and others could not reach. Their manner of life enabled them to provide the help in the way they did, primarily through their prayers.

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      Eliot Ryan says:

      Wow … What a useless endeavor the life of a monk is?!
      http://sceptik.wordpress.com/2009/04/06/interview-with-father-andrew-philips-2009/

      Father, everything is happening so fast around us, as if we don’t have enough time. Stress is the main word for each of us. It even affects the Church. It might be a foolish question, but how can we get rid of stress? More and more people are depressive. Especially in the West, with this financial crisis… We see in the media, TV, newspapers, many youngsters that are upset with life and choose to kill others in their path. They take a gun and just shoot everyone they meet, and then kill themselves. How come? Could it be that most of them, almost all of them, are treated for depression? Who’s to blame? Education? Friends? Television?

      FrA – Lack of prayer is to blame. Without communion with God, the human being goes mad, because where there is no prayer, the demons invade. These young people who go berserk and shoot ten or twenty people, are possessed by demons. The demons are killing. Demons have no bodies, they need bodies to operate through them. This is why they possess people. It is very easy to do this now, because so many people, especially among the younger generation, are not baptised. The modern world is calling up all the demons from hell. Soon, if this continues, God forbid, hell will be empty, for all the demons will be on earth.

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      Rob Zechman says:

      I spent some time in a Trappist abbey in New York. I can see how, for some who may have at one time misused the things of this world, a life of austerity, discipline, renunciation and reflection can be a powerful means of drawing closer to God. We all, at times, need to fast and deny ourselves. I spent a good, solid year avoiding almost all television and radio and attending daily services. It was difficult but, for me at the time, necessary.

      At the same time, I consider vows to be serious things: one should never make a vow without an intent to keep it. To promise to keep to the monastic life seems problematic however, considering that one’s spiritual growth may lead one out of that path and life and into something else. That is, unless I misunderstand monastic vows.

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        Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

        Rob, if a monk’s path leads him outside of the monastery, he seeks a blessing from his elder and goes. That happens now and then. The Orthodox Mission in Calcutta for example was started by a monk who lived on Mt. Athos at the time. The vow is made to God, but He is the ultimate arbiter of it. That’s how it can change.

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      Scott Pennington says:

      Actually, Theodore, “outside of this world” means outside of the normal world of humanity. They are called to be angels and devoted to prayer. Early on in the Church, most all Christians lived a life in the world but not of the world. That became more difficult as the Church emerged from the shadows and became first tolerated then established. It was around that period that monasticism in the sense we know it became established. Not all are called to live “outside the world”, but Christ Himself said that if you want to be perfect, go sell everything you have, give it to the poor and follow Him uncompromisingly.

      Some definitely are caled to live “outside the world”.

      The disconnect comes from being unaware or ignoring spiritual warfare and the efficacy of prayer. A monk pursues theosis. Part of that endeavor is to quell the passions within him. This is not easy. Worldly attachments complicate matters infinitely. The normal emotional ups and downs of dealing with worldly situations and difficult people are distractions for a monk from “getting his own house in order” to receive the Holy Spirit. This entails discipline in habits, but also emotional discipline – - getting and keeping his heart clean and clear as much as possible and allowing it to be filled with God’s grace.

      Monks also pray for the Church and all humanity and we believe that their prayer is efficacious and a form of warfare against the evil one and his minions. So, no, it’s not a waste of time. However, if a monk is immersed in the world, perhaps it is a waste of time unless he is an exceptionally holy monk who is unwavering in his equanimity.

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    Hi Scott!

    I never said that Christians in general should ignore their parents. What I did say was that the situation of this monk is analogous to that of the contemporary of Christ who was told not to go “bury his father”. To follow the Savior in the flesh would be the type of commitment that a monk makes. Thus he forsakes everything, even his previous identity

    .

    I know. My point is that 1) he is not in the situation of the “bury his father” guy in the Gospel, and 2) his father is a real person, not a trait of identity. It’s like the abortion thing: it’s a child, not a choice. Putting that behind in life means, yes going to the monastery, yes spending your life there, even though your parents may have wanted you to be a lawyer or a doctor and marry a beautiful wife and give them many grandchildren. To ignore a dying parent’s beg for a last visit, that I cannot see how it is *not* a break with every call for compassion.

    As far as the rest of what you wrote, you wrote above: “The *only* criteria Jesus said in no equivocal words about admittance to heaven is to visit the sick, feed the hungry, in sum, show love toward our neighbours in action.”

    That has never been the Church’s teaching. It’s not that it is inaccurate as far as it goes, it’s just that it leaves too much out. He also said, “No man cometh to the Father but by me.” And Peter said that it was through the name of Jesus alone that we know salvation. One cannot simply mouth ones faith and neglect the works you listed – – true enough. Christ was explicit on that as well. But it does matter what you believe.

    It’s really a matter of levels of detailing. Alright, He said “not if not by me”, “only by Jesus’ name” etc etc. But, what does that mean in practice? Scott, these are way too generical affirmations. *Anything* could fit in “going to the Father through Jesus Christ”. So, if there is *one* place where He stated in a very clear and detailed way which the criteria of the Last Judgment will be, it is in that passage, that is part of one of His escathological discourses.

    The criteria for the Last Judgement is not the same thing as defining what the Church is before the Parusia and what constitutes participation in it. But simply states how both Church members and non-Church members will be judged.

    I’m also not sure that there is a distinction between the two situations in terms of living vs. dead. I recall reading that the term the man who approached Christ used could mean to stay with his father at his death bed and then handle the funeral arrangements.

    I remember reading from a missionary blog that while in Turkey he heard the expression from a local, that he had to “bury his dad”. The other day he was talking about meeting his dad on the weekend. They explained that the expression meant “saving money for future dare needs” and that he thought it might have been the meaning it had around 30 A.C. as well.

    Christ made it a point to force a distinction between two types of relations – – blood and faith. “Who are my mother and brothers?”

    And yet He did not deny comfort to His desparate mother at the Church. He *did* say that when the blood relations were used to deviate Him from teaching the people, but what He did while she was crying at His feet is very different.

    By the way, coming out of the Bible and into Church oral and pictorial tradition, we see the Resurrected Christ tell St. Mary Magdalen to not touch Him, what could be a symbol of monastic detachment from the past, even from dear friends. But when His mother died, He did not shun leaving Heaven itself to come receive her soul. This is what our icons teach us: http://is.gd/p3DKTG

    Condemning the monk for doing the same type of thing that Christ told someone else to do is rather misguided.

    My point is precisely that it is not the same thing.

    “It is a “mere” family obligation, a psycho-social ritual, the kind of thing every Christian should detach from.”

    That’s amazing. On the one hand you begrudge a monk for a decision which was obviously given considerable thought and prayer by him and his superior. On the other hand you suggest that Christians in general, if they have a parent die and the other relatives ask them to come to share their grief, should avoid it.

    Who’s being harsh?

    I think you missed the point entirely. I said precisely what you said before: that funerals and similar stuff are *social* things, in your words not attending them is a “social taboo”. So, for a monk, who breaks away from a number of social conventions, not attending a funeral would be harsh, yes, but understandable. To have as his own the Christian commitment of soothing the pain of every sick person, of every sufferer *except* his father, that is what I cannot understand.

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    Scott Pennington says:

    Fabio,

    Look, you admit above that it may very well be the same thing. We don’t know for sure. What I do know is that it is wrong to speculate that the monk is acting out of malice – - which you clearly did above – - without knowing all the facts.

    “It stroke me as cruel, vain and unchristian, God forgive me if I’m wrong. His laugh appeared to me more like the nervous laugh of a person who was getting too near to a truth he did not want to see (in this case, the sin of hurting his dying father for the sin of spiritual vanity) and needs to cover the pain, than for the reasons he gave. Again, God forgive me if this is judgemental, but it’s the impression it left on me.”

    You condemn him based on nothing more than your emotional reaction to incomplete facts and some “mind reading”.

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    Adam DeVille says:

    The 60 Minutes piece was generally well done, though there were a couple of predictable instances of credulity on the part of the interviewer who swallowed bogus claims, as I note here: http://easternchristianbooks.blogspot.com/2011/03/mount-athos.html

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      True, but I think what Orthodox mean by change and what the uninitiated mean by change are two different things. The incredulity may have something to do with no apparent “paradigm shift” for centuries (to use their terminology). Even if some things do change, they never violate a broad understanding of essentials. There’s no reductionism also there certainly is refinement, or, if something new is established, it retains harmony with has always been.

      Those elements I think are rare in the modern age and why it appears that Athos praxis is timeless.

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    Scott Pennington says:

    Adam,

    I’m sure things have changed over time on Athos. You’re problem does not seem to be with change but with Athonite attitudes toward ecumenism. I assure you that the majority of Orthodox probably agree with them to some considerable extent (given that the majority of Orthodox are Slavs).

    I assume the observation about the “quaternity” was in reference to the internal movement within Roman Catholicism to make the Virgin Mary a “co-Redemptrix”. That this movement failed does not mean that the sentiment has died out.

    As far as Pat. Bartholomew, the Athonite monks rightly criticized him for receiving a pope with the honors of an Orthodox bishop. Historically, the Orthodox have considered Roman Catholicism to be a her*sy. St. Mark of Ephesus did, St. Gregory Palamas did as well as the Patriarchs and synods of Constantinople, Antioch and Alexandria in their response to the 1848 Letter to the Easterners. That opinion is the mainstream of Orthodoxy. The more reserved tendency to consider the RCC as merely schismatic is the product of political correctness. You hear it often from the Greeks and I suspect that it has something to do with the time Pat. Bartholomew spent at the Pontifical Institute in Rome. Even his ecclesiology is colored by Roman ideas.

    In condemning ecumenism, the Athonites are an inspiration to us all – - a reminder that Orthodoxy has always considered itself the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Rome used to be quite unequivocal in living out the implications of their view that they are the Church. Lately, in allowing Orthodox and non-Chalcedonians to commune if they ask, in saying that the Church subsists chiefly in the RCC and in saying that the Orthodox Churches are indeed truly “Churches” but with a defect, Roman Catholicism has departed from principle in favor of . . . well, who can say?

Care to comment?

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