A Life Completely Consecrated to God
A Call to Repentance
“...the Lord also saith in the Gospel: He that heareth these my words and doeth them, shall be likened to a wise man that built his house upon a rock… Having given us these instructions, the Lord daily expects us to make our life correspond with his holy admonitions. And the days of our life are lengthened and a respite allowed us for this very reason, that we may amend our evil ways. For the Apostle saith: Knowest thou not that the patience of God inviteth thee to repentance? For the merciful Lord saith, I will not the death of a sinner, but that he should be converted and live.”
— The Holy Rule, Prologue
The monastic life is a practical, disciplined, prayer-centered way of responding to God’s invitation to repentance. Does this mean that there are no other ways of living in true repentance? No, of course not. But perhaps none is so focused, intense, and demanding as the so-called “angelic life,” called this by the Fathers because, through a highly focused embrace of asceticism, it directs our attention – as much as possible in this mortal life – beyond the material needs of the body and the dictates of self-will towards the spiritual freedom of the Bodiless Powers of Heaven.
Asceticism is not its own goal. The disciplines, sacrifices, rules, and customs of Orthodox monastic life are tools for cultivating true repentance, dynamic charity, and the abundant life into which our Lord Jesus Christ invites us. The “Evangelical Counsels” of poverty, chastity, and obedience – which in the Rule of Benedict are summed up in the vows of Stability, Fidelity to Monastic Discipline (which includes poverty and chastity), and Obedience – are extensions of our Lord’s teaching to all who would take up their cross and follow him. Faithfully lived, these vows give shape to a martyria of dying to the self and the world such as is rarely possible for those who answer God’s call through marriage, parenting, and engagement with the secular world.
A Call to Love
“…as we advance in the religious life and faith, we shall run the way of God's commandments with expanded hearts and unspeakable sweetness of love; so that never departing from His guidance and persevering in the monastery in His doctrine till death, we may by patience share in the sufferings of Christ, and be found worthy to be coheirs with Him of His kingdom.”
— The Holy Rule, Prologue
God has given us so much, not stopping short of giving himself in humble love and service, even to the point of dying, voluntarily, in shame and agony at the hands of evil men. His generous love is beyond the ability of human language to convey adequately. Does this Divine love touch your heart, soften it, strengthen your faith, and inspire you to respond as fully as you are able? Do you desire to respond generously to God with your love, your service, your self-sacrifice?
From the time of the Apostles, Orthodox Catholic Christians have sought to consecrate the totality of their lives to God in repentance, prayer, worship, study, work, and charity. Countless men and women have found what they sought in monastic life and, by cooperation with God’s grace, attained to a sanctity that is both deeply rooted and highly exalted, even as the world around them continued to run, heedlessly, towards the abyss that is life apart from God.
Our world, like the Roman world in which the Church was born and the world of 5th century Italy in which St. Benedict lived, is drunk with values that are not “of God.” Yet God continues to call out to the world in patience and mercy, revealing the foolishness of the “wisdom of the world,” and entreating us to be converted to the “foolishness of the Cross.” Is God asking you to “come apart from them,” and embrace the struggles and blessings of monastic life?
Can you allow your heart to be “expanded” enough to hold “the unspeakable sweetness of love,” a love found only in and through the Most Holy Trinity? Can you give yourself to him completely, receiving him ever more fully in return?
At the Monastery of Our Lady and Saint Laurence, we welcome you to discern with us whether Orthodox monastic life, in the tradition of St. Benedict, offers you a fitting, faithful way to respond to God’s free and unstinting gift of love to you, and to us all.
Lord, to whom shall we go? (John 6:68)
Come unto me… take my yoke upon you and learn of me. (Matthew 11:28, 29)
“Having, therefore, ascended [the twelve] degrees of humility, the monk will presently arrive at that love of God, which being perfect, casteth out fear (1 John 4:18). In virtue of this love all things which at first he observed not without fear, he will now begin to keep without any effort, and as it were, naturally by force of habit, no longer from the fear of hell, but from the love of Christ, from the very habit of good and the pleasure in virtue. May the Lord be pleased to manifest all this by His Holy Spirit in His laborer now cleansed from vice and sin.”
— The Holy Rule, Chapter VII