Saturday, November 20, 2010

Monastic Ideals of Prayer: Extreme

The role of a monastic his/her sole purpose is prayer (not outreach). If we believe in the power of prayer then it is not a futile or a selfish experience but a gift to all humanity. We are all cosmically better off for the hermit living on frozen tundras of Russia, cells in the deserted lands of Egypt, Serbia, Romania or Greece, etc.  In fact the health of the Church is directly linked or correlated to the health of our monasteries. We are each called to serve according to our own abilities.

The monk intercedes for all of mankind on an entirely different plane then the relief worker. To use the metaphor from yesterday's entry: the monastery is akin to the research lab. Not all physicians can operate within the lab nor should they; some work directly with patients and each according to their specialty. All serve in the spirit of healing. To marginalize the work of the monastic or hermit is to lack insight into the difficulty or impact of the task. Most of us who work tirelessly at something (if ever) receive secondary gains for our effort: salary, praise, recognition, status, perks, seeing the difference we make. The monastic must work or labor on faith; sights unseen without a visible system of support. They are engaged in an extreme adventure sport without any of the guarantees of organized events.

I try and strive for monastic ideals of prayer in my blessed life by setting up peak conditions for the activity of prayer. I am a novice and unlike monastic  prayer ninjas I come up short. The cares of this world choke off and encroach on prayer time. Laziness and the conditioned need for distracts have me watching t.v., surfing the net, or listening to music track rather then pray. We decide not to pray.

There are triggers which I employ to set the parameters for prayer beyond the Liturgy beyond Vespers. This practice has also dramatically improved my Church life. There is a reciprocal relationship which is clear. In actually there is nothing, no moment in our lives which exists in isolation. They are all threads in and part of the tapestry of our lives. To believe that moments of defeat or success are not consequential is a lie from hell.  

My experience in the martial arts gave me the humility, discipline, determination, self confidence and success to beginning running over 6 years ago. Running has provided the path for deeper personal understanding and prayer. For those of you who know a bit about me distance running is my niche. I am too old and lack the talent to succeed at running fast so I run longer where completion not time is the reward. More importantly it gives me the time and space to get the distractions of the day out of the way and find the prayerful space. The mile provides the difficulty level which gets my attention and helps make it real. It is reliable and a honest non judgemental partner. My next entry will discuss this in greater detail.


Elias Damianakis said...

"Pray without ceasing" (I Thessalonians 5:17)

A run is repetitive as is the komboskini and St Isichios teaches "repetition leads to habit and habit becomes second nature" How wonderful for prayer to be second nature!

Your running is a sword of the Spirit similar to the prayer rope helping you focus and to offer the opportunity of reflecting over the events of the past day—"Anaskopisis"

For many the sweat produced during this intense battle of spiritual and physical can assist one overcome the inabilty to cry, these dropplets, (if you have no tears), can remind you to weep because you cannot weep on your own.

"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

St John Climacus says the following: "Win the enemies in jour mind with the name of God. You will not find any other weapon more effective than this! Similarly you will manage both to appease your passions inside yourself and to efface them with the aid of the prayer".

Physical activity and prayer (meditation) are practices "now recommended by many physicians for the sake of a person's physical health, especially in overcoming stress. Better still, find such little pocket of time at various points throughout the day and regularly fill them with the precious treasures of prayer, a treasure no one can steal from you, that is laid up for you in heaven (see: Mat. 6:20)."

Angela it seems you have found the perfect combination... keep up the good race

Jeremiah said...

I guess after my last comment, then reading this post, I see your point. I like your example of the research lab. It reminds me of St Paul's first letter to the Corinthians chapter 12, where he rebukes there lack of understanding about the gifts, reminding them that each member of the body is vital, and that one cannot function without the other. This is the synergy between monasteries and parishes.
But I would hasten to add that we shouldn't create too sharp a dichotomy between the two, or elevate one above the other. I have heard that some monks see our lives as almost more perilous than theirs, because we struggle in the world (though I am not foolish enough to minimize their spiritual struggle and danger in the monastery.
As I have been learning, each of us is called to a path of salvation. Because we struggle in the world and help others by deeds, does not make us less spiritual than a monk, for we are fulfilling our call as they are theirs.
One of the things I love about the spirituality of the Church is that we see God in all things. So like a St Martin, we may simply give someone a thing they need, and we have done no less than a prayer ninja (I thought that term was pretty clever), even if we think ourselves to be a white-belt.
Being as you have been Orthodox a lot longer I'll ask your opinion; am I on the right track, or am I missing the point?

Maria said...

Thank you!! I love this!

Hieromonk Joshua + said...


I read your blog. You said something we need to clarify about monastics: "The role of a monastic his/her sole purpose is prayer (not outreach)." This is false. Everything a Christian does after Holy Baptism is outreach. Prayer, in and of itself, is outreach. Love is outreach. To be a monastic without love is to be a devil in monastic garb.

Duologue with me my sister! Also see the live of Saint Maria Skobtsova: A saint of the Ecumenical Throne.

Hieromonk Joshua +

Jeremiah said...

Father Joshua,
Forgive me for replying to your comment, but thank you for clarifying a question I asked in regard to this post.
I posted a link to a website that has St Maria's story in brief on my blog on wordpress. She was amazingly loving, even unto death. She really lived out the greatest expression of love.
Thank you again Father.


Angela Damianakis m.s.w said...

Yes. Hieromonk Joshua, of course you are correct everything done to advance the Kingdom is outreach. I was myopic in my analysis thinking solely in responding to Jeremiah's point.Thank you for taking your time to read and respond.