A monk is a person who practices monasticism, adopting a strict religious and ascetic lifestyle, usually in community with others following the same path. The word comes from the Greek monachos, commonly translated as a one alone and can apply to either men or women.
It should be noted, however, that monachos is a word that had to be forged especially to name the then new phenomenon of men living solitarily in the Egyptian desert. The phenomenon came to an abrupt rise in the 3rd century AD, when thousands of Egyptians, mostly men, set out to the deserts of Nitria, southwest of the city of Alexandria, in order to imitate the life of St. Anthony, the first Christian monk.
Monks usually live in a monastery following a single rule and governed by an abbot. Monasteries can be organized as Cenobiums (communal), where all live together, pray together, and share everything; or they can be more disjointed –that is, semi-eremitical- with the monks only coming together for Sunday services. A monk who lives alone, away from society and sometimes also from all other monks, is called an Anchorite or Hesychast (also called a hermit).
Benedictine Orthodox monks lead very strict lives. It is their overriding purpose to pray for the world and the salvation of all mankind. Monks and nuns do not, in general, do social work or teach school, like their Catholic counterparts, rather leave this for lay people to work out their salvation. Monks are spiritual warriors using prayer and discipline in order to conquer their own shortcomings. It is for this reason that Bishops are almost always chosen from the ranks of monks. As you may have already seen here in this website the motto of our particular monastic Congregation:
“With One Mind, One Heart, One Life-in-Christ,
we pray, weep and repent for all!”
This life is a “school” to learn how to love as Christ wishes us to Love. Our greatest contemporary example is St. Silouan the Athonite. So our motto reflects our unity with each other and in-Christ as we pray for ourselves and intercede for all mankind, we weep for our personal wretchedness but likewise for the blindness of those in the world, and we repent of our sinful ways as we petition the Merciful Saviour to show mercy on All Mankind. This is by far our first concern.
There four overarching aspects to our lives:
- Opus Dei (The Work of God) The Divine Office & Divine Liturgy (many call worship) is the synergistic work we do as monks seven to eight times a day each day typically.
- Divina Lectio (Spiritual Reading) and Theological study. It is Divina Lectio in particular that is a monastic’s meditation on Sacred Scripture and on certain Patristic Writings. Often done privately in one’s cell.
- Ora et Labora (Pray & Work) another opportunity for the monk to pray even though he or she is not in chapel or in one’s cell. Being Benedictines within the Orthodox Church we likewise understand the notion of “Pray & Work” as praying unceasingly the Prayer of the Heart as encouraged by St, Paul (1 Thess. 5:17) and practiced by the Hesychast Fathers. Such is accomplished during every little task as well as weekly walks and daily assigned labors (obediences).
- Askesis a term used by St Paul to illustrate the Christian Life analogous to the olympian or warrior. Both must train daily and be in top condition ready to defeat their greatest adversary. For the Christian therefore, askesis is training, discipline of both mind and body to submit to the soul. It is not punitive nor is it self-effacing or self-mortification. It is prescribed discipline over seen by one’s spiritual father or father superior. These include fasting, abstinence, prostrations during prayer, personal prayer-rule additional to the regular cycle of prayers, remaining vigilant or attentive (nepsis), and the faithful fulfillment of obediences (assigned work) free of resentment, animosity, or envy.
- Silence & Solitude – The monastic seeks to cultivate a spirit of silence and attention aimed at hesychia, which must accompany the monastic’s entire existence. The practice of Lectio Divina and personal prayer enrich the monastic’s silence while in solitude of his (or her) cell. Such solitude offers the favorable context for listening to God’s Word and uniting intimately with God through personal prayer. In Romualdian Spirituality it is one of the charisms called “the threefold goods”
Throughout this website we use the male gender but we are also assuming the female monastic is understood as implied in our words as well, since –with the exception of Holy Orders—they may be as accomplished monastics or more so than their male counterparts. Our Congregation would never exclude women vocations as long as we could make appropriate arrangements for a women’s hermitage or sacred cell clearly separate from the men.
What is the difference between Benedictine & Romualdians?
All Romualdians are Benedictines, but not all Benedictines are Romualdians. If you are a layman joining us you pass through your novitiate become an Intern Oblate, then a Monk (this is equivalent to the Eastern “rassophore”) who live as cenobitic monks typical of Benedictine life. The last two being the equivalent to the stavrophore and the Great Schemamonk live more the eremitic life typical of Romualdian life. Having both in one Congregation is the imperfect corollary to St Romuald’s foundations in his day.
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