Called to the Holy Mountain: The Monks of Mount Athos

The title of this fragment of my blogging is from of Fr. James Coles’ WordPress page http://frjamescoles.wordpress.com/2009/11/23/called-to-the-holy-mountain-the-monks-of-mount-athos/#more-1982 . There is much in it that held my attention. My own desire to explore this fashion of spiritual development melds well with the work that Fr. Coles pulled from National Geographic.

A piece of this work brought out a conflict that must be kept in our conversations. From our western, seemingly progressive fashions of life, the idea of excluding women is a serious violation of equality. Yet, as the monk said,“If women were to come here, two-thirds of us would go off with them and get married.” The intent of identifying a healthy part of life as a stumbling block, tripping up another fashion of living looks like evil to the rest of us.

In spite of restricting the sex of those in the system, it is sexism only when meant to exclude women from accomplishing the same thing. Women, though, have the same issue, in reverse, as nuns. Attempting to keep at bay, the usual maelstrom of life while walking with God does require focused restrictions. Restrictions, though, are problems only when mismanaged and monastics, like the rest of us, can mismanage those things.

Our deep tendency to see walking with God as what fixes life in the here and now is where the problem really lies. Our struggle, while walking with the Risen Christ, is to learn to set aside those expectations. Monastics intend, at levels, to exclude a few of the natural conflicts of life. By doing so the effort is meant to give self time and energy to better focus on the ‘No Thing’ who is calling to us. It is our constant tendency to expect politics, economics and the religious behaviors to fix things as we expect that is the foundation of the conflict.  Those expectations are bondage to problems not the solution.

On the whole, there is no fully escaping the conflicts of life. Monasticism by actively excluding some conflicts does not resolve the problem but intentionally sacrifices self’s attention.

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Church, Eastern Orthodox, hesychastic

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