Monday, September 23, 2019

What the US synaxis of EP monasteries accomplished

If you don't want to read the whole thing: they will meet again next year, they will try to formalize more documents related to monasticism, and written communications will be both in Greek and in English.

NEW YORK (GOARCH) – The first ever Monastic Assembly of the Sacred Monasteries of the Holy Archdiocese of America convened on the invitation of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros, September 21-22 at the Sacred Monastery of Saint Nektarios in Roscoe, NY concluded today.

Abbots and abbesses of 18 Sacred Monasteries of the Holy Archdiocese of America participated in this assembly. In addition, the following hierarchs attended: their Eminences Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, Alexios of Atlanta, Nathanael of Chicago, and their Graces Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, Apostolos of Medeia, and Bishop Ierotheos of Eukarpia, Abbot of the Sacred Patriarchal and Stavropegial Monastery of St. Irene Chrysovalantou.

His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew blessed the Assembly with an inspiring video message (transcript below) in which he congratulated the Archbishop for his initiative and encouraged him to continue to promote and support the blessed Orthodox Monasteries in the USA. “Orthodox monasteries express Christian authenticity, 'what is needed' according to the faith concerning man and his eternal destiny, within the pluralistic, technocratic, and economically focused world of our age,” concluded the Patriarch in his message.

At the conclusion of the inspirational opening address of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America—in which he made reference to the principles and values of the monastic life as angelic life and the observance of the word of the gospel—the following presentations were made:

  • Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta spoke about the current General Regulations and the Regulations of Internal Operations of the Sacred Monasteries of the Holy Archdiocese.
  • V. Rev. Archimandrite Paisios, Abbot of the Sacred Monastery of Saint Anthony spoke on the topic: “Monasticism: The Apostolic Life."
  • The Reverend Mother Superior Melani, Abbess of the Sacred Monastery of Saint John Chrysostom spoke on the topic: “Commentary of the Orthodox Monastic Experience.”
The following points were raised during the discussions that followed:
  • A desire was expressed to update the General Regulations and the Regulations of Internal Operations of the Sacred Monasteries of the Holy Archdiocese. A period of time was requested in order to afford the Sacred Monasteries to express their opinions on these to the Archbishop and the members of the Holy Eparchial Synod.
  • The beneficent presence of Elder Ephraim, former abbot of the Sacred Monastery of Philotheou on Mount Athos, was raised, as was his great contribution to the spreading and strengthening of monasticism in the USA.
  • The need to draft a Protocol for the Sacred Monasteries in the USA was recognized.
  • It was decided that the minutes from the Assembly would be published in both Greek and English.
  • Following the kind invitation of His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco, it was decided that the second Monastic Assembly will be held at the Sacred Monastery of the Life-Giving Spring in Fresno, CA, the days of October 9-11, 2020 with the theme: “The spiritual inheritance of the blessed Elder Joseph the Cave-dweller and his offering to Orthodox monasticism in America."
The Assembly culminated with the festal celebration of the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, September 22 presided over by His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America together with the Reverend Abbots of the monasteries. In closing, thanks were expressed to His Grace Bishop Apostolos, Chief Secretary of the Holy Eparchial Synod, for organizing the Monastic Assembly. Gratitude was also expressed to the V. Reverend Archimandrite Joseph, Abbot of Sacred Monastery of Saint Nektarios and his sacred brotherhood, for their Abrahamic hospitality.
Message of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the Monastic Assembly in the United States

To the Most Reverend Archbishop of America Elpidophoros, most-honorable Exarch of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, beloved brother in the Holy Spirit and co-celebrant of our modesty, grace to your eminence and peace from God.

Every attempt to promote Orthodox spiritual culture is a good and admirable work. Monasticism is a most precious component of our Orthodox tradition. It is the powerful incarnation and expression of the ascetic spirit of the Church, and of the eschatological fervor of Her life. Monastics personify limitless and boundless dedication to God, and to the observance of His salvific commandments; ceaseless prayer; self-surpassing and self-sacrifice; severance of their own will; humility and obedience; lack of possessions, and the life of purity; sacrificial service; respect towards the “very good” creation of God and the uninterrupted care for its protection; the unquenchable desire for eternity, and the certain hope of the Kingdom—of a world where God will “wipe away every tear from the eyes of men,” where “there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain” (Rev. 21:4–5).

Monasticism “belongs to the heart of the Church.” It is, as has been said most appropriately, “the fruit of the ascetic ideal of the entire Church, because it is not a movement beyond or above the Church, but flesh from Her flesh and Her pride.” In Orthodoxy, asceticism is not a personal achievement, but an ecclesiastical virtue that is associated with the eucharistic identity of the Church. In the sacred monasteries there is preserved the truth of the “eucharistic fulfillment” of the Church, which is unbreakably connected with the eschatological character and orientation of ecclesiastical life. The monk is the eucharistic and “truly eschatological” believer, whose life revolves around “asceticism and the Eucharist.” The coming together of all the monastics in the Catholicon, the all-holy center of the monastery, is the culmination of monastic life. It is characteristic that the Divine Eucharist and monasticism served and serve as “eschatological antibodies,” on account of which the Orthodox Church avoided becoming secularized, and preserves to this day Her tradition and unique identity.

It is particularly significant that, within our secularized communities, the holy monasteries constitute a center of attraction, a place of consolation and “healing of the pains of the heart,” and a gate of heaven. Not one of the pilgrims and visitors who come to the monasteries depart without being deeply moved to their core, without having experienced an internal rebirth, without many of their worldly convictions having been shaken. It is not by chance that many of these visitors come to comprehend that the essence of monastic life and withdrawal from the world is the unadulterated witness “concerning the hope within us,” freedom in Christ and according to Christ, and the living of its eschatological dimensions. It is revealed to them that the authentic ascetic life is a fountain of internal freedom and an alternative offering of life, in opposition to the blissful self-gratification that constitutes the standard for innumerable people.

Orthodox monks and nuns knock at the gate of the Kingdom with persistence and patience, with unshakeable certainty that, according to the Lord’s words, “each one who asks receives, and he who seeks shall find, and to the one who knocks it shall be opened” (Mt. 7:8). They remind us of the “one thing needed” (Lk. 10:42); to “seek the things on high, … care for that which is above, not for the things of the world” (Col. 3:1–2); the principle of relinquishing one’s “individual rights” in the name of love; and the limits of the worldly “unethical ethics,” which are fed by the cold words, “what is mine and what is yours.”

As the ever-memorable Metropolitan of Stavropolis and Dean of the Holy Theological School of Halki, Maximos Repanellis, stated, the monk’s greatest offering to society is that he offers himself completely to God. This self-offering, which constitutes the core of monastic identity, was and continues to be an inexhaustible fountain of vigor and godly zeal, creating an exalted culture responsible for the miracles of art that gives glory to God, of iconography, of miniature carvings, of hymnography, of psalmody, and of church architecture. The genuine monk does not consider any of this to be his own personal achievement. Everything is a gift of divine philanthropy, a grace and endowment of the Triune God.

All of these God-given, blessed, modest and righteous attributes, constitute monasticism’s challenge and invitation to modern civilization and societies. Orthodox monasteries express Christian authenticity, what is needed from an Orthodox concerning man and his eternal destiny, within the pluralistic, technocratic, and economically centered world of our age. Professor George Manzarides correctly emphasizes that, “a living Christian Church without monasticism is, particularly in our modern secular society, inconceivable.” In this spirit, I encourage you, holy brother, to support the development of Orthodox monasticism in your large country, so it may serve as a witness for the “cultivation of the person,” of the love that “seeks not its own,” and of the ascetic, eucharistic, and eschatological spirit of our blessed Orthodox Faith.

Accordingly, we extend to your beloved eminence, to the most reverend and God-loving brother bishops, to the rest of the God-loving reverend clergy, to the monks and the nuns, and to the pious faithful of the Holy Archdiocese of America, wholehearted blessings upon the dawning of the new ecclesiastical year. I congratulate you once again on your inspired initiative in organizing the present monastic assembly, and we bestow upon its participants our Patriarchal blessings, invoking upon all of you the grace and mercy of the God of love.

September 12, 2019

Your beloved brother in Christ,

Bartholomew of Constantinople

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if there were representatives from St Gregory Palamas Monastery in OH, the GOA's only active monastery not founded by Fr Ephraim, and pre-dating his monasteries.