Monasticism: America's Forlorn hope?
Last saturday we had the pleasure of spending some time with a young Monk named Kyrill from The Monastery of St. John of San Francisco. The monastic life has always been intriguing to me, even in those times when my christianity was a slave to secular utilitarianism and I believed monasticism to be a waste of time. Now days, I am virtually enamoured by these men and women who have followed St. Anthony in fully rejecting the evils of our culture.
Fr. Thomas Hopko said (my paraphrase) that in Russia, what the atheistic soviet death camps failed to do, McDonald's and the floppy Disc may yet accomplish - which is the death of the human soul. As we Americans continue to strive to make the world like America, we need to stop and ask ourselves if the product we are peddling is really all that great. If freedom, democracy, and evangelical protestantism make for such a great society, how do we explain our culture today? How do we explain the most popular TV shows? How do we explain the sometimes unfathomable moral laxity? How do we explain the Top 40? How do we explain Hollywood? How do we explain Enron? How do we explain Abortion? How do we explain the rampant commercialism?
I like to tell me eldest daughter (who has of late become quite a fan of Star Wars) that our Monks are like Jedi Knights. Wielding their chotki instead of a light saber, they fight evil through prayer and self-denial. Besides all the other good they do, they also serve to remind us of what is truly important in this world...by the very fact that they have stepped away from the world and yet live. Indeed, I believe they live more abundantly than we can imagine.
There are not enough Orthodox monasteries here in the US and I believe that it is unhealthy for the Church. America desperately needs to see THIS alternative lifestyle (as opposed to the one's more prominantly displayed on TV). Fr. Kyrill tells us that they are forced to turn away many many people who yearn for the monastic life simply because they do not have room for them...not now at least. There is great hope for establishing a new and potentially large monastery right here in the Northwest and I could not be more excited about it. As I look around this world, I can think of nothing we could use more than a bigger dose of a literal acceptance of Christ's commands in regards to the world. Indeed it was the words of Christ which lead our father St. Anthony (whose feastday it is today...MANY YEARS to my godson Jared-Anthony) to go into the desert.
If you build it, I believe they will come...in droves. As young people begin more and more (through the prayers of our Holy Fathers and Mothers) to realize the absurdity of our hectic lives, they will seek peace in something radical, something real, and something exceptionally Holy. The extent to which this hope is forlorn, I suppose is simply up to us and the rest of America...having seen too much TV lately - I'm not holding out too much hope.
Thou didst follow the ways of zealous Elijah, and the straight path of the Baptist, O Father Anthony.
Thou didst become a desert dweller
and support the world by thy prayers.
Intercede with Christ our God that our souls may be saved.
Thou didst abandon the world's tumult and live in silence, and emulate the Baptist, O Anthony.
Wherefore we acclaim thee with him,
thou summit of the Fathers.
...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 3:11 PM [+]