A Preliminary Apologia for Athonite Monasticism in America

A blessed Pentecost to all!

It’s time for Yours Truly to come to the defense of Athonite monasticism as it is being practiced here in North America.  It is also high time that we address squarely, once and for all, the real scandal in American Orthodoxy, which is the hyper-worldliness of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.

In other words, we are going to put our cards on the table. All of us.  We can no longer ignore the elephant in the room.  I certainly won’t.  Hence, the following vlog.  I do ask you to forgive the spontaneity of it.  It’s very extemporaneous and not as polished as I wish it to be but for some reason I felt compelled to address this issue quickly.

For those of us who are Orthodox, what would you rather have: monasteries where Tradition is upheld, drawing thousands of pilgrims a year or a bunch of multimillionaires patting themselves on the back and giving out bogus awards?  “By their fruits, ye shall know them.” One institution engages in hospitality while the other can’t even finish a moderately-sized church in Manhattan without cost over-runs and the sudden attention of the Attorney General of New York as well as the Federal government.

One practices Christian hospitality; the other looks to be a racket.  You choose.

OK, enough said. 

P.S.  I am now lifting the embargo against further commentary however I ask that the arguments –both pro and con–be addressed to the issue at hand.  No personal attacks will be permitted, nor any unsubstantiated rumors. 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. George, True Holy Tradition, or bogus awards. True Christian hospitality or……..
    Enough said. Leave the monasteries alone.

    That said George you are walking on a thin line, please be careful your words. Many in Greek Orthodoxy in America are on the fence as well.

    I will light a candle for you now and pray for you.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Thank you.

      • I have just listened George to yr blogg and found myself nodding all way through.
        U got to the kernal of it re the secularised state of the Church in USA and above all of GOA, the monasteries are a scandal to them.
        And u connect with what some may see I am sure as my emphasis on ‘trivia’ but which is not and I want to add here I am greek, by nationality too, but lived in West Uk ( and George YES, yr history very correct. DOWTON ABBEY, not called ABBEY for nothing.)SO am not fanatic. It is the borgeoise mentality the Church has lost herself in a Happy hour greekfest greekness facade..
        And a major faith circa 1960-80 syndrome. And yes u can take fr ted to the country club.
        For many clergy the line between them and parishioner has been crossed as they look secular and act it. The young are just walking away. This weekend ireland voted over whelmingly for abortion which will become on demand as uk. The Catholic church in Europe is dying. Yes not just scandal but is scandal that has emptied it of moral authority. THESE ISSUES ARE, AND NEEDING to be considered within american scene where the same happening. There is good and some tradition returning to GOA and perhaps THIS effort will be the leven that can raise the Church up again

  2. S.W. girl says

    ….or what about a third option, which is learning to walk the narrow path and live, with sincerity and humility, while living in the world. Being not of this world while living in this world. That is what is being asked of us as Orthodox Christians and the more ‘support’ that we all get to live lives of faith, the better. I would prefer support and guidance to deepen my faith and help me grow as a humble servant of Christ in the here and now. Bloom where planted.

    Also, some of us are in the dark about the elephants that you are eluding to. Blissfully so, I guess. Some of us are busy praying, asking for forgiveness, being of service to others, attending services to have any clear finger on the pulse of what you are hinting at. And I am okay with that!

    God Bless.

  3. George Osborne says

    George… I agree with you that the unseemly debate on the merits or demerits of traditionalist Greek monasticism has over-reached itself in terms of civil, not to mention, Christian discourse. However, I hope that the rush to defend said traditionalism does not create the impression that it is somehow in a special category that does not permit valid criticism or questioning. I personally have not been to one of these monasteries, mainly because I am not Greek and have no particular affinity to either the Greek language, customs, or liturgical practice. Having said that, it has repeatedly occurred to me that what seems to be representing itself as Athonite monasticism is not Athonite cenobitic monasticism per se (regardless of the size of the community), but rather Athonite sketic monasticism which can be and often has historically been another species of spiritual animal altogether. Fr. Ephrem’s training seems to be by all accounts in what was one of the harshest and most severe kellia, that of Joseph the Hesychast. Many of the more moderate Athonite saints of our time had little use for that particular form of monasticism and, indeed, seemingly for the person of Fr. Joseph. Now, I’m not trying to get into a battle of personality here by these comments, but rather to point out that although the American monasteries are structured as cenobium, they seem to function fundamentally more as hesychiastic kellia. Yes, Fr. Ephrem was abbot of a cenobium, however, it seems evident to me at least that it was the skete he brought with him and transplanted to America. Any knowledgeable Orthodox Christian knows very well that the hermetic or semi-hermetic life is a special sub-set of monasticism and not its norm. In fact that great luminary St. Ingnaty Brianchininov makes an eloquent case in The Arena that such life is not really suitable to our time for various – and I think valid – reasons. So, my point is that any doubts I have about the transplanted Anthonite institutions are that they seem based on a praxis that was always extraordinary in Orthodox monasticism and has seemingly become the norm here by assuming the mantle of “traditional” when at its heart it is not the tradition that was normative. In the desert of our American parish life, our spiritual thirst is often quenched by any water, regardless of how salty.

    • M. Stankovich says

      Mr. Osborne,

      I am somewhat unclear, but I am questioning as to whether I have just read a review in Car & Driver of the “extraordinary praxis hesychiastic kellia powertrain” from one of its skeptics. “…at its heart it is not the tradition that was normative,” But? If you are thirsty at a – presumably – “arid” parish, I suspect you are barking up the wrong… well.

      Since this issue of monasteries and monasticism has arisen on this site, it seems to me that several very strong voices have arisen, and unfortunately they are exceptionally ignorant – and I would add, even offensively ignorant – of the monastic tradition within the church, most importantly in regard to “mission” to the world. I believe this issue is examined extraordinarily well by Fr. Georges Florovsky is an essay entitled, “Antinomies of Christian History: Empire and Desert,” which is contained in Volume Two of his Collected Works: Christianity and Culture.

      Fr. Florovsky saw this paradox as “monasticism’s attempt to fulfill the Christian obligation, to organize human life exclusively on a Christian basis, in opposition to ‘the world.'” Yet, looking at S.W. girl’s comment above, “what about a third option, which is learning to walk the narrow path and live, with sincerity and humility, while living in the world. Being not of this world while living in this world,” and your discussion of a monastic “paradigm,” Florovsky wrote,

      Monasticism had been reinterpreted as an exceptional way. Not only was the Christian Society sorely rent asunder and split into the groups of “religious” and “secular,” but the Christian ideal itself was split in twain and, as it were, “polarized,” by a subtle distinction between “essential” and “secondary,” between “binding” and “optional,” between “precept” and “advice.” In fact, all Christian “precepts” are but calls and advices, to be embraced in free obedience, and all “advices” are binding. The spirit of compromise creeps into Christian action when the “second best” is formally permitted and even encouraged. This “compromise” may be practically unavoidable, but it should be frankly acknowledged as a compromise. A multiplicity of the manners of Christian living, of course, should be admitted. What should not be admitted is their grading in the scale of “perfection.” Indeed, “perfection” is not an advice, but a precept, which can never be dispensed with. One of the greatest merits of Byzantium was that it could never admit in principle the duality of standards in Christian life.

      Florovsky wrote that the major danger of Christian history is, “the double-standard.” As I have written here many times, the Church calls all of us, without distinction, to the same narrow path of obedience, faithfulness, single-mindedness (σωφροσύνη – Целомудрие), and repentance.

      In everything I’ve seen discussed on this site recently, it seems absolutely unimaginable to some that the Church relies essentially on its monastic foundation, whether it is individually experienced or not, and understand foundation: not as a visitation destination for pilgrims, not as a source for candles, incense, and so on, but because of their willingness to struggle, because of their willingness to battle, because of their willingness to “endure every affliction and deprivation of the Monastic life for the sake of the Kingdom of the Heaven,” and because of their endurance. Can you imagine! We know that our God listens to fervent prayers of repentance, and His mind can be changed (cf. Jer. 18:7-8, Jonah 3:8-10).

      And finally, Fr. Bernstein’s words follow Fr. Florovsky’s enthusiastic report exactly sixty later:

      And again, in recent times “the call of the Desert” has assumed a new urgency and thrill, not only attracting those who are tired of the world and are dreaming of “escape” or “refuge,” but also awakening those who are zealous to enforce a “renewal” upon a world, confused by fear and despair. Monasticism attracts now not only as a school of contemplation, but also as a school of obedience, as a social experiment, as an experiment in common life.

  4. Jane Rachel says

    Staying out of trouble. Excerpts only, without comment except WWJD?

    “Geronda Ephraim knows everything about me, including the things I am not able to tell him… As soon as I ask for his help in my mind I find solutions to all my problems.”

    “While Elder Joseph allowed a little laxity concerning fasting, he was quite strict in every other aspect—for speaking two or three words on a trip Elder Ephraim received a first penance of two hundred prostrations, and he relates to Constantine Cavarnos that six or seven continuous hours of the Jesus Prayer replaced Matins, and in the afternoon it also replaced Compline.”

    “in those twelve years that I lived with [Elder Joseph], rarely did I hear him call me by name. To call me or address me, he used all kinds of insults and appropriate adjectives.”

    “At the same time, his spiritual children testify that in this difficult period Elder Ephraim had so much grace that he exuded a sweet fragrance. Everything the elder touched began to sweetly smell. When he confessed children, covering their heads with his epitrachelion, their hair had this fragrance for a few days. If he touched napkins they began to emit this fragrance. His clothes and skufias emitted the fragrance. The stronger were the temptations, the stronger this fragrance was felt.”

    “You’re touched by the prayers of the holy Athonite elder Joseph the Hesychast, through the prayers of his spiritual children who have themselves become great elders. This prayer and love can be felt anywhere on earth, even at a distance of a thousand miles. You pray in your mother tongue, and in some miraculous manner, by the grace of the Holy Spirit Who gave the apostles the gift of speaking in other tongues, the elder, having acquired this grace, understands you.”

    “Elder Ephraim silently and humbly accepts the shame of such accusations, thus putting Himself in the path of Christ.”

    “The deceased was brought into the church. We took a picture for remembering. The Psalter was read over her body, according to tradition. When they took more pictures after forty minutes, they were amazed. A smile had appeared on her lips.”

    • George C Michalopulos says

      Jane, I find nothing controversial about saying the Jesus Prayer for several hours instead of attending Matins or Vespers. I agree that that’s not everybody’s cup of tea but neither is monasticism. It’s only for those who are called to it.

      • Jane Rachel says

        George M,,

        You are right! The Jesus Prayer is wonderful, and so is true monasticism. Without true monasticism, there is no Orthodoxy. I simply cannot understand where kindness and love is present when one’s spiritual father uses “all kinds of insults and appropriate adjectives” on his spiritual children, and this is only one example. If I am “out of control” for using quotations from an article written in favor of Father Ephrem’s monasteries, and for being concerned, I truly am flummoxed. There’s nothing I’d like better right about now than to visit Dormition of the Mother of God Orthodox Monastery in Rives Junction, Michigan. Sigh. Clearly, I am unable to get the point across (and I’m not the only one). Glory to God for everything!

  5. George Osborne says

    George….as we say over here in Tennessee, I really don’t have a dog in this hunt…but I do have a thought. The lack of simple civil Christian discourse aside, my concern with Fr. Ephram’s establishments is that while the monasteries appear to be cenobitic in praxis, they seem rather be built on the Athonite models of hesychiastic kellia or sketes in pistis. I base this observation not only Fr. Ephram’s experience as a cenobitic abbot but upon his monastic formation under Fr. Joseph. I also note that Fr. Joseph’s style of spiritual eldership was controversial in his own time and not without criticism from several of the most recent recognized Athonite saints. This being said – and assuming truth – the traditional spirit of an Athonite skete or kellia is radically different from life in an Athonite cenobitic monastery. Perhaps the real and somewhat non-apparent issue here is what kind of monasticism is being represented as traditional and, if it is the Athonite skete variety, is that the best model for American Orthodox? St. Ignaty Brianchininov in The Arena (an excellent book!) had a lot to say about the hesychiastic life in total obedience to an elder as being extremely rare, subject to great abuse and delusion, and not given to our time – and he was writing in the mid-19th century. So, wrapping the issue in the extremely broad term “traditional” is maybe the wrong argument or basis for discussion. Perhaps a better discussion is the actual nature of the foundation itself and – although traditional – is it the best actual model? If I’m right, the friction could simply be attempting to apply “post-doctoral” spiritual models of a very rarified nature to be normative expressions. In our desert of parched parish spirituality, even salty water seems a blessing.

    • Jane Rachel says

      George Osbourne,

      YES!!!! THANK YOU!!

      Would the Lord Jesus want this: “While Elder Joseph allowed a little laxity concerning fasting, he was quite strict in every other aspect—for speaking two or three words on a trip Elder Ephraim received a first penance of two hundred prostrations, and he relates to Constantine Cavarnos that six or seven continuous hours of the Jesus Prayer replaced Matins, and in the afternoon it also replaced Compline.”

      One follower of Elder Ephraim initial capped the pronoun “Himself” in reference not to Christ, but to the elder. How is that okay? The elders emit fragrances, apparently. And a young woman who had passed away and was lying in the open casket was reported to have a smile on her face after 40 minutes. If we accept this as REAL, we are accepting that God did this on a dead woman’s face. She would have had to have been alive in order to smile. It’s simply too much to accept. An abbess tells her novitiate that a broom is not a broom but a mop. That black is white and white is black. How is this acceptable anywhere? A young novitiate states that she is in constant contact with the Elder though he is a thousand miles away, that she prays to him and he helps her.

      Why the controversy around these monasteries only? Why is there no controversy around the other monasteries? (I hope this post gets posted.)

      http://orthochristian.com/113139.html

      Thanks!

      • Antiochene Son says

        “six or seven continuous hours of the Jesus Prayer replaced Matins, and in the afternoon it also replaced Compline.”

        Do you think this was invented by Elder Joseph? The Rule of St. Pachomius dates to the 4th century. If you’re going to be in church praying for seven hours, from a monastic standpoint, who cares if it’s the Jesus Prayer, the Psalter, or Matins? (Parish worship is different, which needs an element of instruction, but monastic worship is not primarily about education.)

        Before hymnody was written, most of our services (especially in monasteries) consisted of reading from the Psalter, which was entirely memorized. How is that so different from saying the Jesus Prayer?

        Do we have some modern adherents of Barlaamism in the Orthodox Church?

        • Jane Rachel says

          Hi “Antiochene Son”!

          I thought about not including that one phrase. I figured someone would take it out and use it against the entire post. “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest” (from “The Boxer,” Simon and Garfunkel.) You did not, however, address the 200 prostrations required after saying three words on a trip, nor did you address the woman’s lips turning into a smile after she was already dead. Nor did you address initial capping a living, human person, nor the smells that are said to have exuded from said persons. “Barlaamism” is an accusation. It may be more like “Balaamism.” Numbers 22:21-38

          • I have to say I cannot say but non of this is unknown spiritual experience in Orthodox. I am not saying be credulous but be humble, humble yrself. If of a God it will stand and if not it will fall, so why worry. Do u know the life story of St John of SAN FRANSISCO.
            I recently read the apologia! ( Σοκ και δέος) οf former priest George Miskos, and yes as i read I said, YES YES AND I KNOW WORSE, but when he said re saints that these are good people who would be good anywhere. I thought YES NATURALLY, but then he said! AND WOULDVBE SPORTSMEN AND SCIENTISTS, I then realised he truly in wrong job and good to leave ( good man do not abuse him if u know) but totally rationalist. Not ‘getting it’ that the Church is a spiritual training ground and hospital to hear and direct towards God. And then all these things fall into place. In every time and place the rationalist will not see or understand.

          • Johannes Ypsilantis says

            Whether the words of his disciples reflect well or poorly on Elder Ephraim depends on his reaction to them and this is not for me to judge: I’ve never met the man.

            For someone under spiritual discipline a thousand prostrations for one word might not be excessive, and ten prostrations for an angry outburst might be. This is the intensive care unit. Everything is particular. I wasn’t the man’s elder or a disciple of his elder. It’s not for me to judge.

            I know that submission to Christ as a slave is very important. I am Christ’s slave, although a sick and disobedient one. Or perhaps better: I pray that Christ accepts me as his slave. I might not make the cut.

            In the incarnation God took on the form of a slave to serve us and we are his body.

            Sometimes in relationships with a spiritual director you become a slave to them. This slavery can be good for you and keep you out of hell. It is an enactment of our slavery to Christ with another person. Perhaps there will be no one left who can handle this soon. Perhaps Elder Ephraim can’t handle it. It’s not mine to judge. I merely state that there is no principled objection to any of this within Orthodoxy.

            The most evil thing I have seen a Bishop do since becoming Orthodox (I think – it is possible he was demonstrating spiritual insight on behalf of the person in question and I am wrong to criticize – I think though that I have seen this same thing more than once and it concerns me so I am speaking out on it) is refuse to give someone a blessing. I think the Bishop was offended by the inequality of status implied with this. “We’re all modern people here.” Who is he to give a blessing? Perhaps these rationalizations covered over a deeper sense he had of his own sinfulness. Perhaps it was simply an outward sign that he was in fact so sinful that he had lost the ability to bless.

            We are bound by love, not law. Your Bishop has the keys. He can enact your eternal damnation. If he does it for petty or egoistic reasons he will have to answer for that – maybe even answer your accusations before the judgment seat – but mutual recriminations themselves are a form of hell.

            I am not saying that a Bishop denying a blessing is a death sentence. That kind of thinking is itself a very great problem. But your Bishop’s judgment does participate in, is an icon of, the actual one.

            Since we don’t ever actually die and our bodies remain part of us from birth to resurrection the smile should not strike you as that strange. This does not mean it happened or if it did that it was a miracle. I wasn’t there. But I have seen Orthodox funerals for ordinary OCA parishioners with a touch of the miraculous about them, and I saw angels flying over one of these monasteries. I don’t judge.

            It is inevitable that there will be a “cult-like” aspect to serious monasticism in Babylon. There is a “cult-like” aspect to serious Christianity, even heterodox Christianity, in Babylon.

            I’ve spent more than a week at these monasteries and it was nothing but spiritual nourishment. I recommend them. There may be predatory monks and abbots at some of them. There may not. How could I know such a thing? Or there may be men struggling for salvation who screw it up sometimes. Pray for them either way.

          • Antiochene Son says

            Regarding all the other items on the list dry list, they are all well-attested to in Orthodox tradition, and other examples can be found in modern times. I have no reason to dispute them.

            There are far more fantastic things that happened in the Book of Acts, yet nobody doubts those things.

            • Jane Rachel says

              The corpse that smiled.

              Elder Ephraim said Elder Joseph did not speak with him or call him by name, except to insult him, for TWELVE YEARS.

              “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:32

              “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18

              On the death of Elder Ephraim’s mother:

              “This was the first time after being unconscious for so many days that she showed some attention to the world around her. Lying, because she was unable to move, with open eyes, she looked all around, to the right, left, up, and down. And as the moments flowed by, her face more strongly revealed a state of terrible agony and terrible fear—a whole river of fear. I saw such fear reflected on her face as when some killer is drawing near with a knife, ready to cut you.

              I began to cover her with the sign of the Cross, repeating aloud the Jesus Prayer to calm her. I understood that what was happening was a demonic temptation. After a while the danger passed, and the invisible powers departed. Mama calmed down, and she was still conscious. Then I asked her: ‘Mama, what happened? What’s with you’—‘Oh… so many, they are so many!’ And from that moment mama began to pray: ‘O Mother of God, save me! O Mother of God, save me!’ Day and night! From that point her mouth never stopped. Day and night she besought salvation from the Mother of God.”

              On the death of my Grandpa Meeks Haley

              My Grandpa Haley died at age 57 from pneumonia. He had lost everything in the drought that swept across the nation. My mother was one of 11 children: ten girls and one boy. They were raised in poverty, but all went on to college and had many children and grandchildren. My grandpa became very ill due to walking miles in the rain to get home, because the bank had taken the horse and buggy away and Grandpa lost his farm. He did not want to go into debt. During good times, before the drought and the dust bowl, Grandpa had apple orchards and grape vineyards in Arkansas. He was a man of great faith, but was broken physically by the drought. He became ill to the point of death, and lay in a coma for a few days. The family laid his six-foot body on top of a large wooden chest that held linens. Suddenly, as he lay dying with his daughters, his son and his wife and other relatives gathered around him, he opened his eyes lifted his head, and looked upward with a beautiful smile on his face. My mother and all the others around him heard him exclaim, “This is a beautiful place to live! This is a wonderful place to live!” He slipped back into a coma and passed away within a few hours. Memory Eternal, Grandpa!

              • George Michalopulos says

                Jane, let’s try and keep a civil tongue. For the record, there is nothing “counterfeit” about these monasteries. I would know. As someone who’s been practicing retail pharmacy for over 30 years now, I can spot a conman at 20 yards. (I can also spot would be robber.) My chain has been yanked so many times that I know when I’m being played.

                Nothing of the sort has ever transpired in my presence at the two monasteries I’ve been to. I dare say no one has ever reported anything “cult like” to me either.

                I’m afraid I must pull rank here and reiterate that the opinions of those who have been there matter more than those which are formed by secularism. (To say nothing of those which are asserted by people who have never deigned to even go and find out for firsthand oneself.)

                Please, for charity’s sake go and search for yourself. Clearly, you respect Fr James Bernstein (as do I). Prayerfully consider his opinion on this matter.

                • Constantinos says

                  George,
                  I was reading on Orthodox Christian Laity that Metropolitan Nathaniel is going to crack down on the Ephraim Monasteries cult. That’s right! I believe these monasteries are a dangerous cult that should be avoided at all costs. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” There is more than information to form an opinion that the sacrament of confession is abused especially toward female visitors. They ask them sexual questions that are none of their business. I sincerely hope that they are put out of business.

                  • Jane Rachel says

                    Hello Constantinos,

                    Do you have any more news on this?

                    Thanks!

                  • Gail Sheppard says

                    Oh, that story has been done, Constantinos. A very long time ago when I was entering the Church. It frightened me. Imagine how I felt sitting in the narthex at St. Anthonys, alone, in the dark, and seeing Father Paisios suddenly appear at my side. I had never been to a monastery before. I didn’t know Fr. Paisios. He didn’t ask me my name. He didn’t ask me what I was doing there. He asked me one question: “Do you love the Church?” “Yes!” I replied. He then said, “Follow me.” I followed him into his office where he instructed me to kneel before him. On the basis of a SINGLE question, Constantinos, he made me a catechumen and brought me into the Church so I could participate in the Liturgy.

                    • Jane Rachel says

                      Gail,

                      I’m surprised to read this. You walked into Father Paisios’ office and kneeled before him and became a catechumen after one question? My husband and I became catecumens several weeks after attending a Divine Liturgy and Holy Baptism on Saint Nicholas Day. We were undone by the beauty of the Divine Liturgy and the water of the baptism flying everywhere, and we wanted to become Orthodox. After much inquiry and many hours of teaching and conversation, we became catechumens a couple of months after our first encounter. We would never have kneeled before our priest. Our priest did exactly this:
                      The Process of Catechism:
                      Courtship-
                      Engagement
                      Marriage
                      The process of becoming an Orthodox Christian can be compared very closely to the process of becoming a married person for it involves the same basic movements of courtship, engagement and marriage. When a person first becomes interested in the Orthodox Church a series of initial interactions take place. Perhaps one visits for a liturgy, researches Orthodoxy on
                      line, or engages in a conversation with a friend who is Orthodox.
                      If these initial interactions are blessed, a more studied process of inquiry follows which can be compared to the process of courtship. One who launches into this dance with the Church is called by the Church an inquirer or a seeker. These early days of exploration
                      can be overwhelming and eye popping for an inquirer, who perhaps has never seen anything like the Divine Liturgy, a church temple full of sacred icons staring at the inquirer, and persons crossing themselves, bowing, and prostrating. It may be the inquirer’s first exposure to sacred chant, incense, and sacred space. As such it takes a while to become familiar and comfortable with these new liturgical surroundings, and the inquirer is encouraged to be patient and to expect to slowly and progressively come to a greater understanding and appreciation of the deep meaning of each liturgical action. During this courtship with the church the inquirer is encouraged to be focused, and to
                      attend as many divine services as possible. The best catechism
                      is in frequent and watchful attendance at the divine services. This is true because the Church prays what she believes, and believes what she prays. 3 Every service of prayer is deep theology, and all true theology is prayer. During the period of inquiry/courtship the seeker is also encouraged to read at least one basic text that introduces the Orthodox Church. 4 If all proceeds well, the seeker will begin to ask himself if he could, in fact, become an Orthodox Christian; if he could envision himself living the Orthodox life. This is a natural development, much like a couple in courtship beginning to envision the possibility of wedlock.

                    • Constantinos says

                      Gail,
                      That’s a beautiful, inspiring story. I would love to read your conversion experience sometime. What made you move in the direction of the Orthodox Church, etc. How long you have been Orthodox.
                      The world is so sinful, I can really understand the desire to flee to the desert. I do not mean this in any disparaging way. These have to be the most immoral times in world history.

                • True story, with a happy ending!
                  My father spent the last few years of his life in and out of hospitals, and it was a miserable existence for him. He was both depressed and angry by his condition, and was a very hostile patient.

                  He was never a very religious man, and I knew time was running thin for him. The last year and half of his life, against his will, I told him I invited our Greek Orthodox parish priest to visit him.

                  He resisted because he thought the priest, actually most priests, were phony, sissy, hypocrites, and as his “friends” told him, most were money grubbing elitists, and would not give the time of day if he was not a big donor.

                  He was not only pleasantly surprised how humble, kind, and patient the priest was, but after a while he would become anxious when the priest would arrive a bit late, or miss a day. BTW, never asked about stewardship.

                  By luck, or more likely the grace and mercy of God, my father ran into a Russian Orthodox priest in the hospital. My father loved speaking Russian with him, as it was the language of his youth in Soviet Georgia, and the Russian priest also became a frequent visitor. Not long after that my father began to confess, and commune again for the first time since he was a child. His anger and depression left his soul.

                  His sour impression of priests, by the “murderous gossip”, of “friends”, who heard gossip from other “friends”, whom never met the priest, or any priest in their lives, might have murdered my father’s soul if he did not breakdown and meet his fears, and false impressions head on, and face to face.

                  After my father passed away, he was flown from San Francisco, to the state I currently live in. When the mortuary called, and asked to check on my father’s body and the casket to make sure everything look proper, my uncle and I left for the mortuary together.

                  When the mortician opened the casket, my uncle and I both laughed out loud, and cried at the same time. My father had a smile on face, as if still alive! May his memory be eternal!

                  • Gail Sheppard says

                    What a GREAT story, Dino!

                  • Exactly. Will the rationalist understand or worse, they know and deny. Yes there are bad clergy as bad doctors but we would not avoid the doctor or medication..Often Attacks on clergy are protection of our own vanished and excuse not ro bother.

                    • Bad text. Projection of our own failings on to priest to give excuse not to bother.

              • Antiochene Son says

                Jane, I’ll echo Dr. S from another thread: you are out of control.

              • Jane Rachel says

                Hi George,

                I have never said they were “counterfeit,” nor do I know what you mean by “nothing of the sort” since my post consists almost entirely of excerpts I cut-and-pasted from an article I found in favor of the monasteries. I did say I know about cults and there are many, many testimonies and articles from people who believe it and attest to it.

                I don’t know why you use “secularism” in reference to anything I’ve posted. I LONG to visit, for example, Dormition Monastery in Rives Junction, MI, if I could afford the trip.

                I apologize for questioning the smile on the nun’s face.

                • Johannes Ypsilantis says

                  St. Sarah is best known for her comments as recorded in The Sayings of the Desert Fathers:

                  It was related of Amma Sarah [i.e. Mother Sarah] that for thirteen years she waged warfare against the demon of fornication. She never prayed that the warfare should cease but she said, ‘O God, give me strength.’

                  Once the same spirit of fornication attacked her more insistently, reminding her of the vanities of the world. But she gave herself up to the fear of God and to asceticism and went up onto her little terrace to pray. Then the spirit of fornication appeared corporally to her and said, ‘Sarah, you have overcome me.’ But she said, ‘It is not I who have overcome you, but my master, Christ.’

                  It was said concerning her that for sixty years she lived beside a river and never lifted her eyes to look at it.

                  • Vladimiro says

                    When there are legit problems in a monastery (fornication, hypnosis, torture, etc.), these problems need to be addressed – but when the monastery is of a traditional nature and is being criticized by folks who are highly secularized, this is another story altogether.

                • Johannes Ypsilantis says

                  Jane,

                  Mother Gabriella and the nuns at Holy Dormition are very much worth visiting. Pray also at the graves of Father Roman and Mother Benedicta if you go.

                  I wish I could understand what troubles you in the stories you post. The story of Elder Ephraim’s mother’s death seems very proper to me. We should all fear the last judgment.

                  That does not mean a Christian may not also die with a smile surrounded by those he loves. The fear of God and the love of God are both part of the Christian life. Every story is unique.

                  J

              • Vladimiro says

                Modernists like Jane are fond of slandering what are referred to as the “Ephraimite monasteries” – it’s nothing new – been going on for quite some time.

                • Jane Rachel says

                  Ah, Vladirimo,

                  NOW I understand what you are saying when you decide that I am a “modernist” and a “slanderer.” AHA. Here is Metropolitan Sotirios speaking to his people and praying before an icon of Christ with his hands raised up. What a prayerful person this man is (I chose the link that is most critical of His Grace, in case anyone would like to watch, read, and see):
                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7EMKMvdQzc

                  • Vladimiro says

                    I see Ron Haler (aka “Lazar Puhalo”) gave that video of Met. Sotirios a rave review in the comments section – not a good sign – very sad to see the Greeks and OCA succumbing to the Religion of the Future that Fr, Seraphim Rose warned us about. The video itself is pretty vague in some areas – he doesn’t mention what his priests were criticized for.

                • George Michalopulos says

                  Saunca, I’m glad you are not anti-monastic. However, if I may: I too, have heard these rumors about some monk-priests asking overly probing sexual questions. I used to believe them uncritically.

                  But let’s be honest; the source is almost always a parochial priest, and these men are no different from anybody else in the world I that they are prone to exaggeration. I’m sorry, but I’ve come to the regrettable conclusion that many such priests view these monasteries as a financial threat.

                  This is especially true if they are heavily dependant upon food festivals for their survival. The worldliness quotient cannot be overstated when these pastors (many of whom are fine men) give out spiritual advice.

              • Johannes Ypsilantis says

                St. Sarah is best known for her comments as recorded in The Sayings of the Desert Fathers:

                It was related of Amma Sarah [i.e. Mother Sarah] that for thirteen years she waged warfare against the demon of fornication. She never prayed that the warfare should cease but she said, ‘O God, give me strength.’

                Once the same spirit of fornication attacked her more insistently, reminding her of the vanities of the world. But she gave herself up to the fear of God and to asceticism and went up onto her little terrace to pray. Then the spirit of fornication appeared corporally to her and said, ‘Sarah, you have overcome me.’ But she said, ‘It is not I who have overcome you, but my master, Christ.’

                It was said concerning her that for sixty years she lived beside a river and never lifted her eyes to look at it.

        • Alitheia1875 says

          Monks are taught to attempt to repeat the Jesus Prayer, also called the Prayer of the Heart, at all times, even when in church for services. Some even are granted the blessing from on high that they do not have to say it, it springs uncalled from the heart.

      • M. Stankovich says

        I sat alone with Bp. Basil (Radzianko), of blessed memory, in the kitchen of his niece’s home overlooking the Hudson River, and he told me the story of when Archbishop John Maximovich called and invited him to serve the liturgy together the next morning. Vladka Basil explained that his wife had just returned from being in the hospital after having had a stroke; she was experiencing partial-paralysis and was completely bedridden. Vladyka John said that he was coming to anoint her and bring her Communion. Before the anointing, Vladyka Basil said she made sounds but hardly moved and rarely opened her eyes. After anointing her, Vladyka John said, “She must stand for the Eucharist.” Before Vladyka Basil could speak, Vladyka John gently took her hand and she stood up to receive Communion. They all had tea together and Vladyka John went home. I asked Vladyka, “What did you think happened?” He smiled, “He was a fiesty man…” It was also Vladyka Basil, who during a conversation with a small group, asked me to go to his bedroom and get a specific book for him. I went into the room, turned on the light, and was immediately confronted with a picture of Vladyka’s wife in her casket. When I asked him later, he said, “Our crowns are together in heaven and I do not feel separated from her.”

        “Truly, truly, I say to you, Whatever you shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Till now have you asked nothing in my name: ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full.” (Jn. 16:23-24)

        Jane, you are out of control.

        • Tim R. Mortiss says

          While it is not really on point with this thread, the mention of Bp. Basil, taken together with the news posted in a recent thread of the death of Fr. Vadim Pogrebniak, prompts me to my own remembrance of Bp. Basil at tiny Holy Trinity church in Wilkeson, Wa. in the early 1980s. Fr. Vadim came down a couple Saturdays per month to serve liturgy at Holy Trinity, and it was in those days that Bp. Basil was at the church, and I was, too. His homily on the Transfiguraton was a major factor in leading me to Orthodox conversion, albeit many years later. I’ve told the story here before so won’t repeat it.

          Anyway, yesterday my newly-baptized four youngest grandchildren were communed at Divine Liturgy at Holy Trinity. It had a special meaning for me.

          I never knew who Bp. Basil, then OCA bishop of San Francisco, was until many years later. But that long ago day in that village church, I said to myself, there stands a true bishop of the Church of Christ.

          • M. Stankovich says

            Mr. Mortiss,

            That is a wonderful impression that you share of him. He was tall and imposing, but his features were gentle, and his voice was very soft.

            He had been appointed by Ronald Regan in the late 1990’s to attend the Madrid Peace Conference as an official observer. He said that for the entire week, he was surrounded by Soviet diplomats and officials (he was, after all, continuously broadcast into the Soviet Block by the Voice of America) debating with him, arguing with him. But he was always so peaceful and virtually unflappable. The last day, he said they came by to tell him they respected for his calmness, civility, and debating skills.

            He told me about another time he was in Moscow as a Bishop, but he had also come to see his sister who was very ill. Apparently the law at the time was that foreigners who were registered at hotels in Moscow had to return to their hotel by a certain hour, and he was long past that time. He was sitting next to his sister’s bed when he heard a big commotion at the front door of the apartment where the police had arrived. As the argument grew louder, he put on his cassock, riasa, and klobouk and went to the door. Whomever they were expecting, it certainly wasn’t him, and they went silent! They asked him if they allowed 90-minutes, would he agree to return to his hotel? He agreed, and they returned and picked him up.

            And finally, when I met him, I had just bought a new Honda Civic Wagon. At one point he asked me if I would drive him to a church he was visiting in the NY area to serve the Liturgy. I came to his nieces’ to pick him up, and as I was putting his bags in the trunk, I heard a subtle “bang.” When I looked around the side of the car, Vladyka had been speaking with his sister & niece, started to enter my car, and knocked the klobouk clean off his head. I quickly picked it up and was brushing off the veil. He said, “This car was designed for Japanese Bishops.” Unfortunately, this was only the beginning…

            Mr. Mortiss, he was a memorable man. Memory Eternal and Blessed Bishop Basil pray to God for us!

      • Michael Bauman says

        Jane, the broom-mop, white-black instructions are fairly typical of intense spiritual training. They have been around in one form or another forever. They are meant to break down the unhealthy obsessing with one’s self and the necessicity of being “right”. They can be abused but their presence is not prima facie evidence of abuse. Even physical self-flagelation is not that although not typical, in my understanding, in Orthodox practice.

        It is also quite possible that someone could be in communication with someone else thousands of miles away. Shoot even little ol’ sinful me has, by grace, done that on an empathetic basis. Not hard to imagine it being more specific and regular. How do we communicate with saints or the saints us? This is not even in the least an impossibility. Not schocking either. Love finds a way.

        “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy” Jane.

        Rationality is a wonderful tool but it does not describe much in the spiritual life. Rationality describes limits. Rationality as a guide to the spiritual life leads eventually to one sitting alone in an empty room waiting for God to act. Pretty soon after that, you leave the room, lock the door and become one of four types of person: a souless cypher, a brash libertine following one’s passions, a tryant or a critic.

        If you want to know what I mean by “a critic” you need to read Stanislavski’s book “Building a Character”. He describes the manner in which a vibrant young man becomes a gray-green despiser of everything human and the toll in takes. As a recoverying critic, you do not want to be there.

        Do not allow what you do not like, do not trust or what you fear to rule you. Practice gratitude and thanksgiving. This is the day the Lord has made. Emphasis on Lord.

        • George Michalopulos says

          Spot on, Michael!

          Zen koans come to mind, as do the impaases one finds in Talmudic narratives” in which there are no right or wrong answers.

          • When as a student studying for my psychology degree, the lecturer gave us a koan to think about ‘What is the sound of one hand claiming? ‘
            It took me 33 years and a disaster in my life to understand it. TOTALLY.

            • Michael Bauman says

              The Orthodox Christian faith is full of koans, rather antinomical realities.

              Just a few: What is one who is fully human and fully Divine? How do you trample down death by death? What does it mean that I am the greatest of sinners?

              • Fr. George Washburn says

                Doesn’t trampling down death by death mean that He dies so we don’t in the ultimate sense?

              • Monk James Silver says

                These statements of faith aren’t akin to a Zen koan in any way.

                The Buddhist discipline is one of freeing the mind to contemplate an absurdity which our rational intellect intuitively rejects.

                But here, we are considering what has been called the ‘Orthodox Paradox’, the apposition of two concepts, both of which are true and must be believed, but seem mutually exclusive. We know, for instance, that no one is both human and divine — except for our Lord Jesus Christ. This is a reality of Orthodox Christian theological anthropology, and is the linchpin of our own salvation, or theosis (divinization).

                In the same way as the eternal and only Son and Word of God lost nothing of His divinity by taking our humanity upon Himself, so we will lose nothing of our humanity when he shares His divinity with us, becoming children by adoption with every privilege He has by nature as the Son of God.

                In the words of St John Chrysostom’s precommunion prayer, words which he borrowed from St Paul (1 TIM 1:15), when we describe ourselves as ‘the first of sinners’, we aren’t merely exaggerating (although that’s in there). Rather, we are standing next to the Publican in our repentance, rather than with the Pharisee in his self-justification, and humbly assuming better of our neighbors than of ourselves.

                The paschal apolytikion could use a better translation, and I don’t mean the one ‘officially’ adopted by the GOA a couple of years ago. Rendering this hymn as ‘Christ is risen from the dead, by His death trampling Death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life’ has three great advantages.

                First, it clearly emphasizes the theological point that the redemptive work of our Lord Jesus Christ wasn’t accomplished by His manipulation of death in the abstract, but by His own death and subsequent resurrection.

                Then, by capitalizing ‘Death’, we personify that awful calamity as do St Paul and many of the Fathers in their homilies, and regard it as the ‘last enemy’ (1 COR 15:26), now destroyed by Christ.

                Finally, this translation avoids the redundancy of ‘trampling down’, yet altogether remains compatible with the melodies we know.

            • Clapping not claiming!! ?

          • Billy Jack Sunday says

            You want a Zen koan? One that’s even American in origin?

            You’ve heard it before (since the late 80’s), but didn’t realize it was a koan:

            Who would win in a fight between Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal?

            • Billy Jack Sunday says

              Or alternatively

              Who would win in a fight between Peter Cetera and Michael Bolton?

              Wait

              Joel Osteen sword and shield v.s. Ted Haggard triton and net?

      • George Osborne says

        I distinctly remember when I was a young Orthodox Christian many years ago, naive and un-instructed, I was visiting Sts Theodore in Buffalo, NY. The priest at that time was a disciple of Panteleimon of Boston and related with seeming relish and piety that he and his family turned to Panteleimon’s portrait in their dining room and, bowing, asked his blessing before partaking of meals. I was so dumbstruck and flabbergasted that I forgot to ask if he also asked Christ for a blessing. My point being that the kind of response I hear some folks making (“He knows my thoughts, etc.”) just scares the bejeebers out of me! Hope I’m wrong…….

    • George C Michalopulos says

      Good points, George.

      My own hypothesis is that Elder Joseph’s paradigm was not without its controversies. Specifically its rigor and its insistence on having a spiritual elder. Yet it is being planted here in America with great success.

      The question is: why is this?

      My (tentative) answer: America has had a long delusion with individualism. The remedy for this swings mightily in the other direction. In other words, since we believe in the paramountcy of the individual, that individual (if he desires salvation) is going to have to have to go to great lengths to “rejigger” his persona 180 degrees in the other direction.

  6. Bravo George! Many of the younger monastics in these monasteries are children of convert families from within the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese. These are children that have unlike many others – remained Orthodox, precisely because of the deeper spiritual life that they discovered in these spiritual oases (plural of oasis). Orthodox in this country have lost an entire generation of children to secularism. They are gone. Our Orthodox retention rate this last generation has been abysmal. In contrast these monastics have become a great blessings to family members, friends and others who have been impacted by the quality and depth of their spirituality. Helping the more secular to recommit themselves to the Faith. Helping deepen the spiritual lives of ordinary parishioners in local parishes that have a connection to one or more of these monasteries. Helping us all – by praying for us.! And by providing a place of refuge from an orthodoxy of comfort, compromise and worldliness. Those who criticize these monasteries and want to “dialogue” and “understand” the prevailing decadent culture – are deluded. So long as we present the unchanging Apostolic, Patristic Faith in humility and love – there will be by God’s Grace authentic growth in the Orthodox Faith in America. The best means of evangelism is the presenting of an authentically changed life that is being healed and filled with the Holy Spirit. Other organizations and religious groups can be much more effective in impacting our culture both good and bad but only a spirit filled life in the One, Holy, Catholic – Orthodox, Apostolic Faith can deify and make a saint. God Bless.

    • Fr. David Hovik says

      I heartily second Fr. James assessment! A tree is known by its fruit. I have had the great blessing to have visited 8 of Elder Ephraim’s Monasteries: St. John in WA (frequently), Life Giving Spring in CA, Holy Archangels in TX (occasionally), St. Paraskevi in TX, St. Anthony’s in AZ (occasionally), Nativity of the Theotokos in PA, St. John Chysostomos in WI and Holy Transfiguration in IL. In every case, my visits have been spiritually uplifting, I have been treated warmly and the Monks & Nuns seemed to be joyful. Those that I have visited more regularly have enabled me to see the parents and family members frequently visiting their children. It is been a beautiful experience to witness “normal” individuals who have chosen to commit their lives to a deep pursuit of God. I spoke to a mother who has 7 daughters: 5 are married and 2 are nuns. I asked her: Which of your children are the happiest? She replied: The two that are nuns. A young lady from our parish is a nun at one of these monasteries and she is one of the most joyful, peace-filled people I know. They engage in spiritual warfare that we cannot comprehend but the fruit of their labors (at least from my personal observations and interactions) is: Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness… My life, as a priest, has been so enriched by my encounter with these (and other) monastic communities it is hard to put it into words. When I look out at the beginning of Orthros on Sundays, who do I see: Women who have spent time in the Monasteries. By their fruits! Forgive me.

      • George C Michalopulos says

        Thank you Frs James and David for your comments.

        And thanks to all of the commentators on this blog who have heeded my wishes to keep their comments as elevated as possible.

        • I had not wanted to come back into this bear pit and last time I had my head snapped of and my psychologist ability. When really that not related except in general way, put in doubt. And as a Anglo Greek born Orthodox living on Bulgaria but knowing USA and its greek church to degree , wanting to express how I see it.
          I have no axe to grind. My experience of Monasticism is Greece and St John Baptist monastery near london Uk..I have gained so much there in it’s loving environment and seen the support and Depth it gives to the parishes in greek archdiocese in Uk .
          A church without Monasticism is a church on one lung.
          When monasteries started appearing in USA Greek church I was overjoyed initially that authentic worship,spirituality, acapella chant and byzantine Iconography style, would now influence the 19c pseudo decadent western rather kitsch worship of greek archdiocese and its business suited clerics. Although thank God over last two decades this has begun to change in chant and clerical appearance etc, but long way to go.
          I cannot know or make comment on the various accusations brought up but quite honestly in an environment where it was considered strange I fasting in Holy Week, well anything out of Kardashians America comfort zone would be considered deviant. Perhaps Orthodoxy that teaches ascetism IS DEVIANT in USA. A child lost to drugs etc is fine but one in a monastery a crisis?? IF we do not face that, all you doing is peddling a nice Civilized greekfest Culture. The result speaks for itself. As does the bureaucratic pseudo monk business man bishops you have. The call to ascetism, in a quiet way (!as Christ said) is for each one of us and yes a monastic is crucified to this life totally and witnesses for us all…But this can only be done ( St Seraphim of Sarov, etc) WITH LOVE AND JOY. ‘CHRIST IS RISEN MY JOY ‘
          What is of God will be of God, what is not will die. Will secular organ playing sitting in nice pews after breakfast being entertained at liturgy, greek America, such as is left, hear or understand this?.
          Perhaps greek Orthodox Americans should raise their eyes and open their earns to the wider Orthodox horizon.
          Maybe they should realise in too many of these parishes all they have is the greek language as some talisman.
          But a healthy Monasticism that does not vere to extremes needs a healthy Parish life just as much as the Parish needs a healthy monastery. GOD BLESS
          I wanted to discuss Irish abortion referendum but another time.

    • Jane Rachel says

      Father James Bernstein,

      You know, I think I may have had dinner at your home back in the early 1970s! I was with CWLF at the time and you and your wife Bonnie served up beef tongue! Well, you don’t know my first name but perhaps you might remember CWLFers coming to your house for dinner?

      In any case, you wrote: “Those who criticize these monasteries and want to “dialogue” and “understand” the prevailing decadent culture – are deluded.”

      I would have to disagree that “those who criticize these monasteries… are deluded.” My mind is as clear as it can be.

      Questions are okay, and until the questions are answered, the discomfort lingers. Of course the rest of your post is true. There are many great monasteries in the United States. Indeed, I’m sure many have been blessed by and are happy at these Ephraimite monasteries. God is everywhere and fills everything. Nevertheless, the questions and concerns continue.

      • Antiochene Son says

        If someone has questions, they ought to go to Arizona and ask Fr. Ephriam themselves, or write him a letter. It is not appropriate to speculate and gossip endlessly on Internet fora that Fr. Ephraim will never read.

      • Very Rev. A. James Bernstein says

        Jane Rachel.
        How amazing! BEEF TONGUE! Yes I actually remember because my wife Bonnie was only willing to serve that because I told her that in NYC my Jewish mother often served beef tongue and chicken liver etc and it was considered to be a delicacy as it has no bones. Bonnie served it for me as a special act of kindness. But was only willing to do so a couple of times as peeling the thick taste bud lined skin off of the tongue was totally disgusting as was the thought of eating the huge skinless tongue itself. She was willing to do amazing things for me back then.! I am surprised that you ate it! Well – we were young then in the early 70s. We were adventurous. And living in Berkeley.
        Please forgive me. Both for serving you tongue and also for not making clear why I stated in my previous post that those dialoging with and seeking to understand the prevailing decadent culture are deluded. It is an over statement as I did not clarify what I meant. Dialogue can certainly be commendable and express Christian love and charity. But at times it can also be an excuse to minimize sin and to even justify it. Sort of “Sympathy for the devil!” (Remember that?) We all know of various denominations in their desire to dialogue with the decadent culture and be relevant resulted in their introducing that very culture into their churches and losing what ever remnant of christianity that they may have had. I am very concerned with present Orthodox Christian efforts in that direction as it seems to me that those motivated in doing so are not securely rooted in the Apostolic/Patristic Faith and its deeper spirituality and are therefore at risk. This risk increases when there is not a connection with traditional Orthodox Christian monasticism that acts as sort of a spiritual anchor. Seeking to somehow “understand” sin can be very dangerous as there is a deep mystery to sin and dialoguing with it can be risky – even for saints! Thank you for noticing the need for clarification. God bless – and perhaps by God’s grace we will meet again in this life. Bonnie and I live in the Seattle area now – and if you visit us – I promise not to serve you beef tongue. How about chicken liver?

        • Spot on,

        • Tim R. Mortiss says

          Beef tongue was common fare when we were kids in the ’50s; and this was West Coast Protestant circles. We’ve forgotten how common organ meats were in the grocery stores and on menus then.
          Our mom made tongue sandwiches frequently. Slices of the cold boiled tongue were perfect sandwich size. Add mayo and mustard.
          I haven’t seen tongue in a store for decades.

    • George C Michalopulos says

      Good points, George.

      My own hypothesis is that Elder Joseph’s paradigm was not without its controversies. Specifically its rigor and its insistence on having a spiritual elder. Yet it is being planted here in America with great success.

      The question is: why is this?

      My (tentative) answer: America has had a long delusion with individualism. The remedy for this swings mightily in the other direction. In other words, since we believe in the paramountcy of the individual, that individual (if he desires salvation) is going to have to have to go to great lengths to “rejigger” his persona 180 degrees in the other direction.

    • Yes yes and YES. And true of world wide Orthodoxy.

  7. I love monasteries. Always have, though I’ve never been to one.

    I’ve seen Elder Ephraim on YouTube and I liked him. The allegations that I’ve seen have not been well substantiated. My intuition could be wrong, but I’d need to see better evidence to change my mind.

  8. Johannes Ypsilantis says

    These monasteries are a divine gift to the USA. Flee to them or visit them for nourishment while you can. For soon enough every island will flee away, and mountains will no longer be found.

  9. Antiochene Son says

    St. John of Shanghai was severely abused by many in his own day. Some of the accusations I see of Fr. Ephraim could easily have been applied to St. John, and probably were. Many (though not all) of his abusers wept over his relics at his glorification, begging for forgiveness.

    I’m not saying Fr. Ephraim is a living saint; I don’t know enough about him. But many find spiritual help through Fr. Ephraim’s work, and from a traditional standpoint, it seems solid, so what’s the problem?

    If Fr. Ephraim’s method of binding and loosing does not help you, don’t seek his advice. But don’t attack those whose lives have been transformed either, or spread rumors and gossip about Fr. Eprhaim. (Nor should those who do find nourishment in Fr. Ephraim’s teachings attack those who do not. “Some eat meat, others only eat vegetables…” etc.)

    • Jane Rachel says

      “But don’t attack those whose lives have been transformed either, or spread rumors and gossip about Fr. Eprhaim.”

      I can’t help asking, what “rumors and gossip” have been spread about this man on this blog? I’ve pretty much stuck with sworn testimonies. I have to confess to being a bit put off by the man’s description of watching a kid get tormented by demons. But I guess that’s just me, and clearly, I don’t “get it.”

      • Antiochene Son says

        No, I don’t think you do.

        I would suggest reading some more about Orthodox monsticism, before continuing this crusade, because those of us who DO understand think you’re making a bit of a fool of yourself, unfortunately. None of the accusations you’ve tossed out regarding Fr. Ephraim’s techniques are really surprising.

        • Jane Rachel says

          Antiochene Guy,

          I’m glad I’m making a fool out of myself, and I’ll wager there are silent readers who shake their heads, not at me, but at those of you who claim these Ephraimite “techniques” are good, normal, honorable, pure, righteous, pleasing to God, worthy of praise, edifying, Christlike, loving, helpful, not abusive, and finally, reflecting the Lord Jesus or any other Saint, ever.

          Not my words, so don’t be snappy:

          Monastic Review Committee report. Mamalakis. Godlevsky. Investigative reporting. “Assets in the hundreds of millions.” Electrical cords. Interviews. Depositions. 18 monasteries at $18 million each. Cayman Islands.
          https://newsfraudalert.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/complaint-00619024.pdf

          • Antiochene Son says

            It’s pretty sad to see you doubling down on something you admit you don’t understand. It shows your mind is made up and you can’t be reasoned with.

            Read the Desert Fathers or the lives of any number of lives of monastic saints. You will find these techniques are standard practice and bring about true holiness. I would tread lightly about blaspheming Christ when you admit you don’t know what you’re talking about.

      • Antiochene Son says

        No, I don’t think you do. I would suggest more study before continuing the crusade.

    • Great Point Antiochene Son!
      Another Saint that was popular with laity, and scandalized out of jealousy was Saint Nectarios. His accusers spread rumors that he secretly sought to displace the Patriarch, and removed him from his Episcopal Throne. He was despised and alienated.

      I don’t know, nor understand Jane’s heart. But, maybe she should seek where this dark fascination and fervor comes from inside her heart. Scandalize a man who has dedicated his life to promoting God’s saving light, to those who seek to remove the darkness from their own hearts.

      Imagine how gleeful demons must be that seek to destroy the spiritually unprepared and accused, while at the same time destroying their accusers. We must always keep Matthew 5:11 in our hearts! Forgive our accusers!

      QUOTE: Christian religion is not a philosophic system, about which learned men, trained in metaphysical studies, argue and then either espouse or reject, according to the opinion each one has formed. It is a faith established in the souls of men, which ought to be spread to many and maintained in their conscience.

      There are truths in Christianity that are above our intellectual comprehension, incapable of being grasped by the finite mind of man. Our intellect takes cognizance of them, becomes convinced of their reality, and testifies of their supernatural existence.

      Christianity is a religion of revelation. The Divine only reveals its glory to those who have been perfected through virtue. Christianity teaches perfection through virtue and demands that its followers become holy and perfect. It disapproves and opposes those who are under the influence of imagination. He who is truly perfect in virtue becomes through Divine help outside the flesh, and the world, and truly enters another, spiritual world; not, however, through the imagination, but through the effulgence of Divine grace. Without Grace, without revelation, no man, even the most virtuous, can transcend the flesh, and the world…

      …The Divine Light illuminates the pure heart and the pure intellect, because they are susceptible to receiving light; whereas impure hearts and intellects, not being susceptible to receiving illumination, have aversion to the light of knowledge, the light of truth; they like darkness…God loves those who have a pure heart, listens to their prayers, grants them their requests that lead to salvation, reveals Himself to them and teaches the mysteries of the Divine nature. END QUOTE, (Writings of Saint Nectarios)

      • Exactly. Above and beyond all human failings. I worked in health care and often said that if patients could see our Petty intrigues and quarrels, they would run other way, yet we accomplished I can say daily miracles. To quote Oscar Wilde ‘i may be in the gutter but I am looking up at the stars’

        As i say I cannot say personally re monasteries in USA and possibly people needing help psychiatrically down there may have caused problems etc or extremes, we are all human, but at same time ANY MIND SET looking at things from a secularised western mind and no matter how insulated we feel from this,we are not, well we will be shocked at anything outside of a pseudo greek anglicanism.

  10. Alitheia1875 says

    Men and women who go to monasteries will tell you that they go to find their salvation. It is not possible to progress in the spiritual life without a spiritual elder (in a monastery) or spiritual father in the world. But we here have been secularized. How many clergy insist on confession and fasting as prerequisites for receiving Holy Communion? Indeed, the American infatuation with individualism and pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps have no place in the spiritual journey of the Orthodox Christian. And, please don’t think that it is only in kellia that the elder commands obedience. It is the same in coenobitic communities. Spend some time in a monastery abroad, at a time when there are fewer visitors who come just for a day, and you will see that the monastics are under obedience to the elder. I think (believe) that some of the antagonism towards Fr. Ephraim and his monasteries comes from two things. As an example of the first is the woman who told me she just didn’t understand why she had to cover up when going into St. Anthony’s in Arizona. The other is that (especially in the GOA) the thought of obedience, in the true Orthodox meaning of the word, is abhorrent to the movers and the shakers who think the Church would collapse without their leadership and money. St. John Chrysostom said that when there is a problem in the church first look to the bishop. Most bishops and many archimandrites in the GOA are not monastics and those that claim to be have never spend any time under obedience in a monastery. The pot cannot call the kettle black.

    • Alitheia1875,
      Individualism is slowly overcoming tradition, Holy and/or cultural. Saint Anthony Monastery is wise to keep strict rules and traditions. Your friend’s question is an innocent one. What she/many do not realize is when strict traditional rules are slightly bent, they end up broken to levels never imagined.

      Twenty five years ago it would be unheard of to witness young ladies wearing summer mini-skirts, or tight fitting pants, thin leggings, and over exposed tops in Greek Orthodox Churches, but now I witness it all the time.

      Seems some priests are not eager to offend parents, and both don’t want to risk turning off teenagers, from coming to church. Many of these parents, come from families that go all the way back to generations of founding immigrant ancestors who originally built these churches.

      It’s tragic how sensitive, and fragile our youth have become. One would imagine all they are exposed to would harden them, but instead I sense it has broken many to veil thin insecurities. To levels I can’t relate to.

      Two weeks ago my parish had a meeting for all the kids to get together with the priest, and discuss bullying, social media issues, abuse, porn, drugs and peer pressures by their peers, as a result of the Greek American shooter in Texas.

      I asked myself back then is this necessary? My son is about as perfect as one would want from a child, and I’m not bragging. I’m truly blessed with a near perfect son. My 18 year old altar boy son did not attend.

      Three days ago a 13 year old altar boy, in my parish committed suicide, and now we are having a crisis meeting for the kids again. This time with the priest, town chief of police, and crisis therapists to answer questions for our grief stricken children. My son will attend this one.

      What will my two and a half year old daughter witness and be in danger of in ten years scares the hell out of me!

      I ask we pray for little Basil’s soul.

      • Typo! the boy in my parish that shot himself was not a altar boy. At the moment George’s blog does not allot me time to clear errors. Not a big error, just wanted accuracy out of respect.

        • Gail Sheppard says

          Lord have mercy, Dino. There are no words . . . May Basil’s memory be eternal and may God rescue him and pull him close.

          Lord, pour out your grace on Basil’s parents, on his family, and on his friends and give them strength: Not to get over it, because they never will, but to get through it. In Jesus’ name, we pray.

          • Zoe se mas

            • George Michalopulos says

              Dino, I ask all of us to put Basil and his parents on our prayer lists.

          • Gail thank you for leading us all in that beautiful simple prayer. A mother’s prayer, as eloquent in its simplicity as that of any theologian. I have nothing worthy to add, so I humbly add my unworthy prayers for this family to yours. God bless them and you.

  11. George C Michalopulos says

    This came to me from one of our readers via e-mail.

    https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/morningoffering/2018/05/men-in-black/

    It’s one of the most succinct, yet profound analyses on monasticism.

    • Gail Sheppard says

      I enjoy Abbot Tryphon’s writing. He’s on FB. FB, being FB, requires him to post under the name of David Parsons for those who are interested.

  12. Francis Frost says

     A Happy Feast to all!

    Well, it seems our doughty George has appointment himself to the office of the protector of tradition monasticism. I really can’t see that Fr. Ephraim and his monks actually need ‘defending’ from internet criticism that they will never see nor read; but what the heck: defend away. What is bothersome, is that George has never once spoken up in defense of those Orthodox monastics who are quite literally “under the gun” – those monastics who have been brutally murdered or driven from their churches by George’s heroes in the Kremlin.

    During the genocidal campaign of 1992, Hieromonk Andrea Kurashvili and the Subdeacon Giorgi Adua ,who were restorers and guardians of the Shrine of the Repose of St John Chrysostom in Komana, were brutally tortured and martyred. You may read the their Life and Martyrdom on the Mystagogy web-site at:

    http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2012/01/hieromonk-andrew-new-martyr-of-comana.html

    The Human Rights Watch Organization has posted updated reports on the on-going persecution of the Georgian Orthodox faithful in occupied Abkhazia

    http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2011/02/18/georgians-gali

    http://www.hrw.org/en/features/abkhazia-living-limbo

    In August 2008, the Russian bishops, Panteleimon of Kabardino-Adyghe and Feofan of Saratov (since transferred to Machkhala) accompanied the invasion forces and publicly “blessed” the weapons used to attack civilian populations. On August 8, 2008, the missiles “blessed” by Bishop Feofan were used attack the ancient Ghvrtaeba Cathedral and the Shrine of the Protomartyr Razhden in Nikozi. On August 9th, the Russian military and their Ossetian allies looted, desecrated and burned this ancient House of God. These weapons were used in bombing raids and missile attacks on civilian populations throughout Georgia, including areas well outside the so-called “zone of conflict”.

    The 2008 documentary “Orthodox Occupation” has been re-released and posted on You Tube at the following url:
     
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FRMy143Nm0
     
    Portions of this documentary plus additional footage are now available with English voice over, titled “Orthodox Occupancy Part 1 and Part 2” at the following urls:
     
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dWSx4scmP0
     
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmw7jY3gzj4&feature=related
     
    A television documentary on the destruction of Ghvertaeba and the work of reconstruction carried out by Metropolitan Isaiah and his monastic community may be viewed at:

    http://pik.tv/en/war/film/1755

    Following the 2008 invasion of Georgia, the ROC’s point man in Abkhazia, the renegade monk, Vissarion Apliaa, led the forces that expelled the last legitimate Orthodox clergy from the newly occupied Gali and Kodori districts in eastern Abkhazia in April 2009.  Reports of the persecution of the legitimate Georgian Orthodox church by the schismatic “Abkhaz Eparchy” and its sponsors may be read at the Forum 18 Religious Freedom web-site:

    http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1183

    http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1118

    http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?query=&religion=all&country=2

    All that being said, my family has always been supported the monastics in our lives, the nuns of Baghdati, Vani and Samtavro convents. I cannot describe to you what a joy is is just to see them even from a distance.

    Hopefully, God willing I will be able to reach the monastery of St. Maximos the Confessor in Tsageri – Lechkumi on out next visit to Georgia. Several years ago, archeologists from France were able to confirm the presence of St. Maximos’ relics and those of his disciples buried near the altar. The trip is dangerous due to winding roads along the cliffs and ravines that lead into Racha (foothills of the Great Caucasus range) but hopefully with God’s help we will make it. Of course, St. Nino’s grave in Bodbe, the shrine of St. Shio Mghvime and the Dormition monastery in Zugdidi (which shelters the robe of the most Holy Theotokos) are also on my wish list. The monastics in Georgia have no controversies; just incredible peace, stillness and clear mountain water.

    Francis Frost

  13. Francis Frost says

     
    Well, it seems our doughty George has appointment himself to the office of the protector of tradition monasticism. I really can’t see that Fr.Ephraim and his monks actually need defending from internet criticism that they will never see nor read; but what the heck: defend away. What is bothersome is that George has never once spoken up in defense of those Orthodox monastics who are quite literally “under the gun” – those monastics who have been brutally murdered or driven from their churches by George’s heroes in the Kremlin.

    During the genocidal campaign of 1992, Hieromonk Andrea Kurashvili and the Subdeacon Giorgi Adua ,who were restorers and guardians of the Shrine of the Repose of St John Chrysostom in Komana, were brutally tortured and martyred. You may read the their Life and Martyrdom on the Mystagogy web-site at:

    http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2012/01/hieromonk-andrew-new-martyr-of-comana.html

    The Human Rights Watch Organization has posted updated reports on the on-going persecution of the Georgian Orthodox faithful in occupied Abkhazia

    http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2011/02/18/georgians-gali

    http://www.hrw.org/en/features/abkhazia-living-limbo

    In August 2008, the Russian bishops, Panteleimon of Kabardino-Adyghe and Feofan of Saratov (since transferred to Machkhala) accompanied the invasion forces and publicly “blessed” the weapons used to attack civilian populations. On August 8, 2008, the missiles “blessed” by Bishop Feofan were used attack the ancient Ghvrtaeba Cathedral and the Shrine of the Protomartyr Razhden in Nikozi. On August 9th, the Russian military and their Ossetian allies looted, desecrated and burned this ancient House of God. These weapons were used in bombing raids and missile attacks on civilian populations throughout Georgia, including areas well outside the so-called “zone of conflict”.

    The 2008 documentary “Orthodox Occupation” has been re-released and posted on You Tube at the following url:
     
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FRMy143Nm0
     
    Portions of this documentary plus additional footage are now available with English voice over, titled “Orthodox Occupancy Part 1 and Part 2” at the following urls:
     
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dWSx4scmP0
     
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmw7jY3gzj4&feature=related
     
    A television documentary on the destruction of Ghvertaeba and the work of reconstruction carried out by Metropolitan Isaiah and his monastic community may be viewed at:

    http://pik.tv/en/war/film/1755

    Following the 2008 invasion of Georgia, the ROC’s point man in Abkhazia, the renegade monk Vissarion Apliaa led the forces that expelled the last legitimate Orthodox clergy from the newly occupied Gali and Kodori districts in eastern Abkhazia in April 2009.  Reports of the persecution of the legitimate Georgian Orthodox church by the schismatic “Abkhaz Eparchy” and its sponsors may be read at the Forum 18 Religious Freedom web-site:

    http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1183

    http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1118

    http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?query=&religion=all&country=2

    All that being said, my family has always been supported the monastics in our lives, the nuns of Baghdati, Vani and Samtavro convents. I cannot describe to you what a joy is is just to see them even from a distance.

    Hopefully, God willing I will be able to reach the monastery of St. Maximos the Confessor in Tsageri – Lechkumi on out next visit to Georgia. Several years ago, archeologists from France were able to confirm the presence of St. Maximos’ relics and those of his disciples buried near the altar. The trip is dangerous due to winding roads along the cliffs and ravines that lead into Racha (foothills of the Great Caucasus range) but hopefully with God’s help we will make it. Of course, St. Nino’s grave in Bodbe, the shrine of St. Shio Mghvime and the Dormition monastery in Zugdidi (which shelters the robe of the most Holy Theotokos) are also on my wish list. The monastics in Georgia have no controversies; just incredible peace, stillness and clear mountain water.

    Francis Frost

    • George Michalopulos says

      Francis, may I ask you a question? Do you believe that the EU/NATO was justified in cleaving off Kosovo from Serbia?

      A simple yes or no would suffice.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Mr. Frost, the ‘defense’ of monasticism was brought forth by several postings that lack understanding of Orthodox monasticism. Posts that are both accusatory and close to defamatory. The counter posts have, for the most part, been charitable and an attempt to inform.

      The destruction going on in Eastern Europe is horrible to contemplate. I appreciate you bringing them to our attention. God forgive.

  14. George Michalopulos says

    [Editor’s Note: I am reposting this link from Gail Sheppard regarding the nature of monasticism. I thought it was rather eloquent unfortunately, because of my computer problems, some comments are either getting lost or are buried too deeply. (If anybody else is having problems please get a hold of me.)]

    Regardless, it’s quite good.

    https://www.monomakhos.com/why-werent-we-told-about-this/#comment-122783

  15. Gail Sheppard says

    Pope Francis was present at the “New Policies and Life-Styles in the Digital Age” conference sponsored by the Centesimus Annus – Pro Pontifice Foundation on May 28. The EP was purportedly one of the speakers but I don’t see him. Could he have spoken and his speech was omitted? I don’t see him sitting with the other speakers, either. (See Video)

    https://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=37064

  16. I have visited the Monastery of the Life-Giving Spring of the Theotokos in California. I do not have the words to express the true joy and peace that emanates from these nuns and this holy monastery. In my opinion, Gerondissa Markella is a living saint. My family has been spiritually nourished by this monastery and I will be forever grateful. We hope to visit many more times…..as well as some of the other monasteries, God willing.

  17. Matthew Panchisin says

    Dear George,

    There is not really a huge difference between ‘regular’ parish life and monastic life (just adjustments) when the Bishop’s ethos is the fruit of the monastery.

    When you have a Bishop with the monastic ethos telling the people “don’t say the Jesus prayer, your not a monastic, make sure you pray your morning and evening prayers, push yourselves to attend as many of the services as possible even though you are tired from work and have a family etc.”

    Anyway George, what happens is a deep respect is established within the diocese through the simple obedience of the willing.

    In Christ,

    Matthw Panchisin

  18. Vaseili Doukas says

    Since this is the week of Pentecost when we are celebrating the speaking of “tongues” which could be understood “each in his own language,” then why O! why do the Eframite Monasteries only use Greek and a Greek which is unintelligible even for the native Greek speakers (please decline the Middle Passive voice)? The non-use of English in the services is a betrayal of Orthodoxy pure and simple!

    • You reveal your true disdain when you use the pejorative term “Ephramite.” Therefore, your comments are inconsequential.

    • GEORGE G OSBORNE says

      More fundamentally, it is a betrayal of the Gospel command to “teach the Nations” (i.e. us Barbarians). Or as the Apostolos says “How shall they hear without a preacher?”

    • Antiochene Son says

      I don’t disagree about the use of English in parishes, but monasteries are a different matter, in that evangelism is not their primary calling.

      • George Osborne says

        Aren’t they? When has any Orthodox institution been exempt from true Orthodox evangelism? Their very presence and service is evangelism…perhaps of the purest sort. Because of that, they should be true evangelists in every word…and deed!

        • George Michalopulos says

          ASon, if I may add my 2c. I agree with Bro George here. Evangelism is very much going on at these monasteries. Way more than at your typical ethnic parish. Trust me, I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

          What kind of evangelism? If I may quote St Francis of Assissi: “Preach the Gospel always; if necessary, use words.” That is exactly what’s going on at these monasteries. On any given day you will see a grouping of pilgrims that approximates what you see at the United Nations during one of their General Assemblies.

  19. Vasili, I agree. The Ephrem monasteries are as ethnocentric as the GOA.

  20. Matthew Panchisin says

    Some would argue that if you are there for everything to be the way you want it to be you have some work to do, how could that ever be the basis for Christocentric peaceful pursuits?

    Anybody that attempts to impose their own will on a monastery embracing whatever language has no idea what they talking about, it seems rather American protestant or secular minded to say the least.

    In Christ,

    Matthew Panchisin

    • Matt, a monastery should be guided by Gods will. Gods will is revealed through the scriptures and life of the church. I clearly see conflict between the Ephrem monasteries and tradition, teaching and practice of the church.

      • That’s interesting. Most clearly see tradition, teaching, and holiness in these monasteries.

        Having eyes, see you not? and having ears, hear you not?

      • M. Stankovich says

        Johnkal,

        First, let me explain to you why I consistently provide the Greek text and translation along with the English so frequently when I quote the Scripture or the Holy Fathers. As has been said here many times, referring broadly from to the Evangelists to Solzhenitsyn, words have power. I, for one, am exceptionally curious when I know something originates in another language – in particular when it pertains to the Holy Scripture – why the writer chose the specific word he or she chose to convey the concept he or she chose to describe. Further, did the translator accurately capture the full power or essence of what the author intended. As Google Translate demonstrates, you can receive an accurate, verbatim translation, word-for-word, and be delivered non-sense. More importantly, you may also receive an incorrect, inappropriate interpretation of the translator’s views of theology, and, as I learned in a nearly overwhelming translation course, the translation of poetry and verse is gruelingly difficult, particularly in non-spoken languages such as New Testament Greek. Nevertheless, your continuous complaints about the utilization of foreign languages because they are not “understood” are – like far too many of your statements – generalizations which you could never substantiate, but seem emphatic enough to get by. And given that you, presumably, neither read nor understand the languages of the New Testament or the Holy Fathers, you strike as disingenuous by stating, “Gods (sic) will is revealed through the scriptures and life of the church,” in that someone was inspired by God to translate the Scriptures and the Holy Fathers for your edification.

        The way I see it, you take great pleasure in arguing, in fact, you love to argue. More to the point, my observation is that the more arcane/inane the argument, the more you love the pursuit. So, here is a lesson in New Testament Greek I hope you will enjoy: today’s word is λογομαχία (logomaxia) and it means a “trivial and empty disputes of words.” It occurs exactly one time in the Holy Scripture, in St. Paul’s First Epistle to Timothy 6:4: “He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and [λογομαχία], whereof comes envy, strife, railings, [and] evil surmisings”

        Now I ask you honestly, have you ever been to one of the monasteries in questions? If not, the discussion is ended and shame on you for your pretentious accusations as to the spiritual life of a monastery(-ies) that don’t seem to fit your model of “God’s Will.” How, in fact, are you to judge what the state of their relationship might be with the Will of God without visiting them and speaking with them? Perhaps, Johnkal, you are absolutely wrong because you have relied solely the criterion of language? Or like Jane, are you able to read both the hearts and minds of men from the internet? λογομαχία, Johnkal. I suggest you terminate this silly, pretentious discussion about people you have never laid eyes on, nor exchanged a glance, or exchanged a single word. You would be better to silently pray for their salvation than openly dogging them on the internet for no good reason I can see.

        • George Michalopulos says

          I for one, am grateful that you do so.

        • Thank God for some blunt but not rude, just plain clinical speaking. As i Say Have an abortion and makes the female a justified person, go down in drugs and u need supporting, and yes u do and I am health professional, BUT JOIN A MONASTERY AND ITS THE BIGGEST DISASTER SINCE 1453 OR 8?/11/2016, TAKE YR PICK. That is the prism through which people are seeing the monasteries .. Yes there may well be some things, Happened and I am aware through this blog of one tragedy, but do not know reasons, but this true of every institution, and does not detract from what i just said.

        • Michael, as usual you assume your posts are definitive responses to every issue. You of course are the expert in Greek. This blog is meant for dialogue and people may have opinions different from you. Nevertheless, you continue to pontificate.

          I have visited 2 Ephraim monasteries and found them interesting. I still believe worship should be in English. All of the 4 monastics I visited with were converts and knew little Greek. I actually know a fair amount of Greek because it was my first language and still cannot pray the Lord’s Prayer in Greek. I wonder what is going on with those who know far less Greek than I.

          • M. Stankovich says

            No, Johnkal, my batting average is “definitive” because 1) I do not make any comment that I am not reasonably sure is correct, which first presupposes that 2) I do not feel compelled to say/post every dumb thought that passes through my head.

            Again you would attempt to suggest that my disgust for anyone that would feel “righteous” enough to proclaim on the world-wide-web that a monastery (-ies) is/are in opposition to the “will of God,” yet so blatantly, flamboyantly, and embarrassingly has no clue as to the monastic tradition of the Orthodox Church inhibits dialog? Madonna Mia! Don’t you ever use this cheap parlour trick with me again. My comments to you had absolutely nothing to do with the Greek Language, or which language is spoken or understood by anyone involved. My comments were about your lack of openness to possibility of edification, and your “pretentious accusations as to the spiritual life of a monastery(-ies) that don’t seem to fit your model of “God’s Will.” Did you miss that, or were you already formulating your sarcastic response?

            I am, however, willing to compromise. I would ask you to look for and read two things:

            1) St. John Chrysostom, Homily Against Publishing the Errors of the Brethren. An excerpt:

            Your mind is inflamed by the memory of the conflict, and swells, and your heart rises, and when recurring in memory of him who has caused pain, you are unable to reduce the swelling of your thought. But set against this inflammation the memory resulting from your own sins committed the fear resulting from the punishment to come. Recall to memory for how many things you are accountable to your master, and that for all those things you owe Him satisfaction; and this fear will surely overcome that anger; since indeed this is far more powerful than that passion. Recall the memory of hell and punishment and vengeance during the time of your prayer; and you will not be able even to receive your enemy into your mind.

            and 2) St. John Chrysostom, That We Should Not Anathematize the Living or the Dead. An excerpt:

            Having spoken to you in a reasonable way about anathema, and having demonstrated the power of this evil which is reckoned to be of no significance, let us restrain our unbridled mouths from it as we uncover for you the sickness of those who employ it haphazardly. For to such a deplorable state of affairs have we been reduced that, even in the throes of death, we are not aware that we have gone beyond the worst of the passions; hence, the saying of the Prophet finds its fulfillment in us: “It is not possible to apply a plaster, nor oil, nor bandages” (Isaiah 1:6). For from where shall I begin to speak about this evil? From the demands of the Masters commandments, or from your irrational stupidity and obtuseness? And surely I shall be mocked by some when I say this, and be thought to have lost my mind. Shall I not be shouted down, since I am going to speak about matters that are melancholy and worthy of tears? Listen: He did not cast out Judas, nor does He cast out those who come to grief as he did, until each of them is led astray by deception and surrenders himself to it… And who are you, that you lay claim to such authority and great power? For “when the Son of man shall sit upon the throne of His glory…, He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left” St. Matthew 25:31-33). How, then, did you obtain such great dignity, which was granted only to the community of the Apostles and those who truly became their successors in the strictest sense, full of Grace and power?

            Now convince me, Johnkal, with the assistance of the Holy Scripture and St. John Chrysostom, that it is both acceptable and well-pleasing in the site of God our Savior to openly & publicly belittle, berate, scorn, and call into question the spiritual life and practice of Orthodox Christians without any corroboration. And sadly, I will not even ask you if, while visiting the two monasteries, you were courageous enough to take your “conflict between the Ephrem monasteries and tradition, teaching and practice of the church” to the Geronda present and discussed them. It’s irrelevant. Convince me, Johnkal, and I will repent.

  21. TheFutureOfTheChurch says

    A few points

    – I think the title of this post is incorrect. It seems this is not an apologia for Athonite monasticism in America but rather an apologia for the monasteries of Elder Ephraim in America.

    – Some people are defending the monasteries by saying negative things about the GOA. There are certainly problems in the GOA. The latest financial troubles come to mind. But these seem to be separate issues. And these sort of problems have occurred in many Orthodox jurisdictions in this country.

    – No matter how you feel about the monasteries there is no denying that there has been widespread controversy about them for years. I can’t comment directly on many of the claims made against the monasteries but they are certainly easy to find on the Internet.

    They are controversial enough that the GOA formed a Monastery Review Commitee to investigate the monasteries. A report was produced but never released. Why not? I think the GOA should release the report to put an end to speculation.

    – Some people defending the monasteries give examples of various Orthodox Saints that were maligned by people in the church (St. Nektarios, etc.) and suggest the same could be the case with Elder Ephraim. A weak argument I think. It may be true and it may be false.

    – I have only two direct encounters with the monasteries that made me feel uncomfortable about them.

    I visited one of the monasteries with my wife. Everything seemed normal. However, we had a discussion with one of the nuns that had been at the monastery for many years. When she heard that some of my wife’s relatives were Protestant Christians she instructed us to pray for them to become Orthodox or they would not enter heaven. When asked she said this was the teaching of the monasteries of Elder Ephraim.

    Years ago, a couple of families that attended our church began visiting the monasteries. After a time, their behavior changed drastically. One family removed all the mirrors from their house. In both families, the husband and wife started sleeping in separate beds and began believing that married couples should only have sexual relations for producing children. They claimed these were the teachings of Elder Ephraim. Now maybe that is true or maybe these people just became deluded. These people eventually moved closer to a monastery so they could visit all the time.

    – I believe that monasticism is a fundamental part of the Orthodox Church and I get spiritual benefit from visiting monasteries. But for me, there are plenty of monasteries to visit that are not so clouded in controversy and I prefer to visit those.

    • Like u I do not know. I think a useful comparison historically and something u yanks miss, would be the Nikon reform movement in 16c Russia where monastic norms were introduced into parish churches with services lasting hours and monastic rules re sex etc to families. Obviously this is a extreme trend and was eventually corrected post Nikon. Trouble is the GOA is spiritually secularised with western forms of worship music etc that u do not even notice because u habituated to it, organs etc. Bourgeoisie very and come to church with a full stomach, GREEKFEST piety. It’s natural the other extreme, but at least expressing a living real witness, has made waves. Yes GOA in crisis but that good.Crisis for those who speak Greek, means Choicees to make. How come none of the slavonic churches went down this organ playing 19c world? I thank God and van Greek living in Bulgaria but know USA quite well.from visits.

    • The Future,
      Don’t know about the families that make you feel uncomfortable. Question is why does that make you uncomfortable? Elders, monks, nuns, have opinions, they are not always right. The opinion of a nun, monk or any elder is just that. No one on earth is infallible, even saints of our church.

      I believe some Orthodox Christians, especially after visiting a monastery, might want to live as monastics, but are unable to live in a monastery. So they live strict monastic, and ascetic lives, just not within the walls of the monastery. What business is that of ours? Not my cup of tea, but we all travel different paths to salvation, no?

      In regards to Protestants making it to heaven. Only God knows. But, the nun has a point. As we all should know, Orthodox Christians as well, as all other Christians, might not go to heaven, as the gift of salvation is not a one time event, as many Protestants believe, but a life-time process. This is what our Orthodox Church teaches, so the nun, and elder are not far off. Is it wrong to guide and warn a Protestant soul to seek salvation, as one’s soul remains stagnant, not moving towards salvation, as we are taught to believe. If a monastic would not heed such warnings, who would?

      Jealousy,vanity, and envy are deadly sins, many in Orthodoxy’s hierarchy are guilty of these sins. Many of our leaders that would not fall into the sins of the flesh, gluttony, or riches, are easily trapped into the sin of jealousy, vanity, and envy for power, over their brothers in clergy.

      Currently the GOA is experiencing an embarrassing crisis, as their lust for power and vanity, has blinded them, and come home to roost, while rubbing shoulders with the rich and powerful of governments, and big corp. heads. Meanwhile the monasteries, run separately for the most part, and are flourishing. Monastics advising their visitors to lead ascetic, Christ-like lives, and shun the limelight, sins of the secular world. Heaven is not guaranteed to anyone. This makes many uncomfortable, as it should.

      Where is the logic in allowing the GOA, which has shown no accountability, respect, or transparency with our Churches funds, get to control, or oversee the monasteries funds, and properties. The monastics strive to live humble, ascetic, holy, and virtuous lives, but they are not fools to the ways of the world. They will not be another enabler for the GOA.

      • Jane Rachel says

        DINO:
        “Future of the Church” and his wife witnessed an Ephraimite nun stating in no uncertain terms that people who are not Orthodox will not enter heaven, and that this is the teaching of Elder Ephraim. These are NOT the teachings of Christ or of the Orthodox Church.

        There is no escaping the facts. Future of the Church also wrote: “One family removed all the mirrors from their house. In both families, the husband and wife started sleeping in separate beds and began believing that married couples should only have sexual relations for producing children. They claimed these were the teachings of Elder Ephraim.”

        THAT IS NUTS!

        These are not the teachings of Christ, or of Holy Tradition, or of the Holy Orthodox Church. They are the teachings of Elder Ephraim. Period.

        What is the definition of heresy?

        • Jane,

          FACT: Future, never said, “no uncertain terms”, you did.

          FACT: We Orthodox are Christ’s Church, not the Protestants, or any other Church.

          FACT: Heretics who leave Christ’s Church greatly risk losing their salvation, by following the teachings of their heretic churches.

          FACT: Some couples want to live ascetic and as close as monastic style lives as possible without splitting their crowns, and living in Monasteries.

          FACT: The advice, and lifestyle of Elder Ephraim is not for all. The beauty of Orthodoxy is that we may choose different spiritual and discipline levels to follow, or advance to, as we progress through life.

          WHAT IS NUTS: Is to believe all Orthodox Christians, fit OUR VISION of normal, believing others business, is our own, or similar to our own, instead of paying attention to the logs in our own eyes, blinding us, and diverting us from our own salvation.

          WHAT IS NUTS: Is attempting to save the world, and Christ’s Church! Before we even attempt to save ourselves.

          • TheFutureOfTheChurch says

            You’re right, I did not use the words “in no uncertain terms”. We visited the monastery some years ago so I don’t remember the exact words of the conversation. But I do remember this. The nun was gravely concerned that we pray for the conversion to Orthodoxy of our Protestant relatives lest they not receive salvation. It was not anything to do with the belief of salvation being a one time event. It was a firm statement that only the Orthodox would be saved.

            • Future,
              Whatever Orthodox clergy instruct/advise I take serious, and spiritually to heart, and apply it to my life’s situation and sinful state. Most clerics, especially monastics, live, breath, and study Orthodoxy day and night.

              However you, Rachel, your defined”deluded” fellow parishioners, I, or anyone for that matter, accepts advice given, is up to the individual.

              Whatever the reason the nun gave you that opinion, right or wrong, and advised you to pray for them, point is, she is far more right than wrong.

              All religions outside of Orthodoxy are heretic religions, and will take their flock down the wrong path. Some more than others, as there are over 2000 protestant sects out there.

              What is the point of following Orthodoxy, if all religions are the path to salvation, so long as we are good, merciful, and faithful? Sure, God will save, whom He sees fit to save, but how far are you willing to gamble your salvation, or that of your protestant relatives?

              Will God approve of two female bishops married to one another, and the flock who follows their lead, or pastors telling their flock no matter what they do, they are saved, so long as they “believe” in Jesus Christ.

              Does confession, communion, baptism, sacraments, attending liturgy and repentance really matter? “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”(Matthew 7:14)

              The nun was trying to help you, without risking or gambling your relatives salvation away, yet all you took away from it were hurt feelings, and false impressions, about people who take salvation very serious. They will not please, nor comfort the happy go lucky crowd.

          • Jane Rachel says

            Dino, You must have taken debate classes in high school. Red herrings don’t change the truth.

            1) If the nun made a firm statement that “only the Orthodox would be saved,” and that this is the teaching of Elder Ephraim, then please address whether this is the teaching of Christ and His Church.

            2) Does the Orthodox Church teach “that married couples should only have sexual relations for producing children”?

            3) FACT: “They claimed these were the teachings of Elder Ephraim.” Do Elder Ephraim’s teachings line up with the teachings of the Church?

            • George Michalopulos says

              Well, the “teachings” the folks over at Public Orthodoxy don’t always line up squarely with real Orthodoxy either.

              I ain’t seeing anybody getting hot and bothered about their effluvia.

              As for having sex only for proration, that doesn’t mean a couple can’t have sex every day of the year, does it?

              • George,

                Don’t forget we Orthodox have at roughly 200 fasting days per year.

                Leaving about 165 days, for sex. Then subtract more days off, as sex must be planned around headaches, special time of the month, sporting events, and in-law visits.

                • George Michalopulos says

                  I hear ya.

                • Gail Sheppard says

                  Well, there is always confession. “Father, I had sex with my wife during the game.” – “Wow, you missed it when LeBron looked at JR and . . . ! Oh, never mind. Please, continue.” LOL

              • TheFutureOfTheChurch says

                I think it means once you are done having children you are also done having sex.

            • Christopher says

              Jane,

              I have followed your postings on this matter with interest. I admit that I find what George is pointing to interesting: given that there is in fact a kind of “diversity” of praxis in Orthodox both formally (i.e. monasticism, marriage, widowhood, etc. – all recognized by the Church dogmatically in that these are Sacramental) and informally (e.g. the limits, boundaries, etc. of “Church” and thus who is “in” or “out”). Given this fact, why is there an effort to censure the Ephraim monoastics, but no effort to censure Fordham/Public Orthodox/the average “secularized” GOA member, parish, or bishop when they promulgate diversity (e.g. on women’s ordination, homosexualism and homosexual “marriage”, etc.)? Why is one kind of diversity acceptable, but another kind is not?

              More specifically, I would really be interested in what you believe sex is for in a Christian, Orthodox context. The statement:

              ” “that married couples should only have sexual relations for producing children”?”

              is ambiguous, but behind such statements is usually some form of the Sexual Revolutions assertion that sex is not for procreation, but rather for pleasure and that it is a moral imposition to regulate pleasure in any real way.

              Christianly, as well as naturally, sex is for procreation, and even the natural pleasure of it is for this purpose. The selfish, Cartesian, “sex is for pleasure or anything else I myself and me decide it is for and your acestic take is evil” of the Sexual Revolution has not place in Orthodoxy, or for that matter most of the religions and philosophies of the entire history of mankind.

              • M. Stankovich says

                Christopher,

                You ask,

                Why is one kind of diversity acceptable, but another kind is not?

                I don’t know if, by saying that you having been “following” means you are new to this site, but in all fairness, censure of the matters you indicate has been taken up here; and in the customary fashion, have ranged from the reasonable & thoughtful, to the patently offensive & lunatic. And so it goes… As a rule, if the topic even hints of homosexuality, women’s ordination/deaconate, or similar “hot buttons,” trust me, it will be creep-savoured.

                Short and to the point: I posted a fairly extensive survey of the Fathers here – twice in fact – for the most despicable of reasons while this site was being held hostage by the notion that women are “sanctified ho’s” for the express purpose of procreation. My point was that the Fathers are clear that 1) in Eden, Adam & Eve lived the “angelic life” free from sexual passion; 2) If it were not for the Fall and our rebellion and descent into the destruction of this broken life and creation, they would have fulfilled the command to “Increase and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it,” (Gen. 1:28) multiplying, not sexually, and since we are not told specifically in what manner, the Fathers presumed “in the manner of the angels.” (cf. St. John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith); 3) Sexual passion, attraction, sexual “relations,” sexual pleasure, and sexual “relations” as the mechanism of procreation are necessarily of this world. Some Fathers even argue that, given this “inheritance,” and despite a marriage made “honourable” [τιμάω] by the presence of the Lord in Cana of Galilee (Jn. 2:1 ff.), it retains something of its “fallen” character. This is “background.”

                I would suggest that Professor Paul Evdokimov’s The Sacrament of Loveis an especially well written, especially thoughtful, and especially enlightening volume devoted to conjugal love – the expression of love in the sexual relationship of Christian Marriage – as you say – “in a Christian, Orthodox context.” Professor Evdokimov beautifully uses the imagery of the indescribable intimacy of the unity of Christ and His Bride the Church to explain the sexual relationship of marriage as “transcendent” to that same unity. So much so, that he discusses how it is that a long-held tradition that this marital relationship is so intimate and so transcendent, that even one’s confessor exercises the greatest cautious to enter. Certainly this aspect of the marital relationship is intended for procreation (how could it not?) – and as with nearly every aspect of our interaction with the forms of Christian discipline, some choose to discipline themselves strictly. But to imagine it is the sole purpose, or even the primary purpose of marital sexuality is ridiculous. Shall we require a medical “Certificate of Fertility” before we allow a couple to marry?

                Finally, for perspective, I increasingly have found myself forced to listen to the sort of mind-numbing presentation that deals with “equality,” that always needs to inform me that “Our love is the same as yours; we express our love in the same way as you; and we have a right to love exactly as you do.” Unfortunately, I have a reputation, and I cannot fight every battle, but each time I want to say, “I do not doubt you love one another, and I do not judge you. But outside the marriage of one man to one woman, and outside the Church, you cannot even being to approximate a love “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Eph. 5:25-27) This is a great mystery.

            • Johannes Ypsilantis says

              Jane,

              You ask, will the heterodox be saved… Why do you worry about them? They have a Saviour Who desires the salvation of every human being. He will take care of them. You and I should not be burdened with such a concern. Study yourself and your own sins… I will tell you one thing, however: should you, being Orthodox and possessing the Truth in its fullness, betray Orthodoxy, and enter a different faith, you will lose your soul forever.

            • Antiochene Son says

              2) Does the Orthodox Church teach “that married couples should only have sexual relations for producing children”?

              Virtually all Christians were in general agreement about this before the 20th century.

            • Jane,
              I have answered your questions, you are not listening.

              Some find comfort in darkness, because light is blinding.

              “Apart from love nothing whatever has existed, nor ever will. Its names and actions are many. More numerous still are its distinctive marks; divine and innumerable are its properties. Yet it is only one nature, wholly beyond utterance whether on the part of angels or men or any other creatures, even such as are unknown to us. Reason cannot comprehend it, though it may perceive it. Many are the beauties of this holy Sion not made with hands! He who has begun to see it no longer delights in sensible objects; he ceases to be attached to the glory of this world.”-Saint Symeon the New Theologian

            • M. Stankovich says

              Don’t feed the Troll. Jane chums the waters…

              • M. Stankovich says

                Saunca,
                This has nothing to do with “Jane,” exactly like it had nothing to do with “Michael Warren,” exactly like it had nothing to do with “Rostislav.” I am no prophet, but I said to Mr. Michalopulos in 2011 on this site that tolerance for uncorroborated accusations and murderous gossip would lead to the “continuous descent of the threshold for truth,” and it has been realized. And as a “corollary,” Fr. George Washborne predicted that the “gullibility for what people will accept as truth, unchallenged, will rise proportionally”. This is referred to as an “information cascade.”

                As I have described here before, I have lived the real world consequence of taking a moral position and refusing to comply with policies that compromised my Faith. These are decisions that change your existence. Some of my colleagues treat me completely differently, and some, quite literally, avoid me completely. I know there are programs where I will never work, never lecture again, and will never consult for again because I refused to compromise. But I’m emphatic, Saunca: I did as my conscience directed me. But I also went back on this site looking for my comment in 2011, only to find anonymous Jane in 2012 saying verbatimwhat she is saying now without variance. Six years ago!. Pardon me, but I would have a law degree in that time and be making constructive use of it, not stooping to mock a Geronda’s mother as she lay dying, begging the Theotokos to save her. It is unimaginable to me when the truth is mocked and manipulated to such a disturbing end; and worse is the fact that the manipulation is not being perpetrated by the “best and the brightest,” but by weak-minded Google scholars and the laziest of thinkers. And six years later, the complete “psychosis” being sold here is that power & influence is still but a moment away, “within our grasp.” Seriously consider for a moment, if every single one of the “regulars” – each of us – on this site were to agree that Geronda Ephraim is a complete fraud and a criminal, conducting a criminal enterprise, then what? NOTHING. Do you get it, Saunca? Nothing. You were perhaps expecting we would go to AZ and string up a few of those monks and burn the house down? Ha! See you here in six years! It is insanity.

                As to “empathetic responses,” Saunca, who exactly is being “harmed” and why feel “unease,” sitting at home viciously digging up filth from the internet for six years? Who exactly is hurt by the “rumors” of the Ephraimites? Saunca, you were “warned by 3 separate Orthodox priests (in three separate states)” about the Epraimite monasteries? Madonna Mia! How many of us have met the Geronda and visited these monasteries and sincerely benefitted from the encounter? And for heaven’s sake, one of these “frightful monasteries” was Gail’s initiation into very Ark of Salvation, the final harbinger and very Sanctuary of the Lord’s chosen and anointed! How is this possible? Antiochene Son makes a “state-the-obvious point”: “Geronda Ephraim will never see this.” Antiochene Son is Jean Paul Sartre. Pardon me, Saunca, but Jane should feel unease regarding Geronda Ephraim; she will answer for every murderous bit of unsubstantiated gossip she has spread about him.

                And finally, Saunca, where and when does this end? Perhaps you don’t grasp the nature of obsession, but it is characterized by recurring, invasive, and persistent thoughts and urges. There will be no “resolution,” and don’t kid yourself into imaging “Jane,” or “Rostislav,”or “Michael Warren” will finally be satisfied and “blend in” with the rest of the community. It will never end. Without being the constant focus of attention – these constant demands of “Answer this…” “What about…” always baiting to draw a response, always provocative like the classic “precocious child,” always sarcastic and mocking to draw derogatory comments to “prove” their persecution and justify their mission. In fact, “Jane,” or “Rostislav,”or “Michael Warren” get more benefit from provoking insult than empathy.

                It is ironic that I also today stumbled across an old comment I made to Dean Alexander Webster, back in the day, regarding the “perceived arrogance of physicians, and it bears repeating:

                The [writer of the essay] believed the perception of arrogance is derived by one of two things: entitlement or zeal. The fact that I have been physically injured & disabled by my work; I am not wealthy; and I lack position & title pretty much sums up my case against entitlement. I am, however, a wildly zealous advocate for patients, their care, their rights, their dignity, and for the truth. And most importantly, as near as I can tell, I have nothing to lose. In my zeal, to make a point about distraction – I indicated that it is easier to focus on [a handful of Greek monasteries because we love gossip and savour descriptions of the failures of men] – than it is to focus on any number of issues that face us in the Church in America. My point was not simply about [the monasteries founded by Geronda Ephraim]. It was about distraction. If anyone was offended, I sincerely apologize. I am zealous, I can be prideful. This was one of those time.

                • George Michalopulos says

                  And on that eloquent note, I am closing down all further discussion on the Ephramite monastic movement here in North America. Everybody has said everything that can be said.

                  Thank you for understanding.

        • M. Stankovich says

          And what is the definition of “TROLL LOGIC?” An anonymous commentator relates a discussion with an anonymous nun, and a discussion with an anonymous couple – the second of which “Future of the Church” indicates, “Now maybe that is true or maybe these people just became deluded…” – Read it again: twice “maybe,” once “deluded” – and this is sufficient for Jane the Troll to declare heresy and “There is no escaping the facts.” Seriously? Jane, who is “Future of the Church”; who is the nun; could the nun be confused or “deluded?” Obviously, they are of absolutely no importance to a Jane the Troll because they fit her narrative. But are they, in fact,”NOT the teachings of Christ or of the Orthodox Church” as she claims?

          Trolls love to declare “witnesses” speaking “in no uncertain terms” because it would seem to limit our ability to challenge their authority, or the voracity of their report. In this case, we are told that a nun reported it was a “teaching of the monasteries of Elder Ephraim” that [Protestants] world not go to heaven. “Period.” Well, it turns out that, in reality, it is not a teaching exclusive to Elder Ephraim, nor is Jane correct that is is “not the teachings of Christ, or of Holy Tradition, or of the Holy Orthodox Church,” and it most certainly not heresy. I could quote the Scripture & the Holy Fathers for pages, so wrong and so foolish is this idiotic accusation of heresy, but I refuse to conduct “Sunday school” for Trolls.

          Nevertheless, Jane inadvertently delivers the process by which she makes her “decisions”, and by which she can tell me, in the most emphatic of terms, “I KNOW I’M RIGHT.” She latches on to people she doesn’t know nor can identify, and in a matter of sentences read on the internet, declares them “fact.” No, Jane, as I have insisted since your return, you are fabulously unqualified, offensive, rude, childish, and immature. The Holy Scripture and the Fathers compel you to face your accused, and you have yet to address this issue. What have I described? TROLL. Silence is golden, Jane? Damn right it is. I’m vile and attacking you? No, Jane, you know better than to bring your filth to me. Dino, sing her some Buddy Guy…

          How long will you permit this unbridled tirade of unfounded & uncorroborated accusation that violates your own rules, Mr. Michalopulos? How will long will you sponsor this obsessive, unending vindictiveness, character assassination, murderous gossip, and even shameful and callous mockery of a man’s mother as she lays taking her final breaths, crying to the Mother of God to save her? Geronda Ephraim is a living, breathing human being, Mr. Michalopulos, and you are shielding this troll under your wing. Shame on you.

          • TheFutureOfTheChurch says

            I remain anonymous for reasons of privacy but so do many others who post to this blog.

            I was careful to only speak of things I have experienced directly (although there are numerous rumors one could refer to). I will not name the people involved for their privacy as well. This isn’t a court of law. It’s a blog.

            You can choose to believe me or not but I speak the truth. I have no reason to lie. I am a supporter of monasticism and have visited many monasteries.

            Even if I were not anonymous or named specific people and places you could still choose to not believe me. I suppose you think this would allow the people mentioned in my commentary to speak for themselves but then it just becomes my word against theirs. So what would be the point?

            We don’t all make video recordings of our daily lives so we can prove to you what we say is true.

            George has entered into an area of extreme controversy here but I applaud him for it. This has been going on far too long. It won’t be resolved in a blog. To me, the leaders of the Orthodox Church need to resolve this once and for all in public. Are there issues with these monasteries or not? I am sure the Hierarchs know of this controversy but remain silent.

            • M. Stankovich says

              TheFutureOfTheChurch,

              I raised the issue of anonymity for one reason only, and that is the specific directive of the Holy Scripture:

              If your brother shall trespass against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone: if he shall hear you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear you, then take with you one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it to the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be to you as an heathen man and a publican. Truly I say to you, Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the middle of them. (Matt. 18:15-20)

              It seems to me the words of the Lord Himself could not be more simple, nor more explicit, go and tell him. What are the inherent expectations in this directive? Maturity; courage; responsibility for one’s accusations; and trust in our God that He will not suffer injustice against the righteous and that He promises vindication. What if you are not strong enough for this task? First and foremost, you need to be silent and either pray for strength or forbearance. To continue to make accusations and to ignore the direction of the Lord is hypocrisy, cowardice, and a lack of trust in the words of St. Paul: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13) I would add that there certainly is nothing shameful in making the decision to bear one’s conflict and continue on, but there is no defense for hypocrisy and cowardice.

              Let me end by saying that it was not my intention to question your credibility in the least. Nevertheless, I believe you can appreciate the danger in accepting the report of an anonymous source on the internet who provides a “casual report” (i.e. you did not “scrutinize” this nun as to her theological “education” or her ability to appreciate the theological precept in its fullest) and be declared fact. I have heard the same opinions about salvation & sexuality hundreds of times, even from the ordained clergy (I argued with Fr. Thomas Hopko about his early position – read that as “when he was younger” – that sexual relationships end when you stop having children). We are simply discussing the matter. A troll, however, seizes your comment, and suddenly your statement is “eyewitness testimony” of unequivocal statements… You are now an unlikely distributor of Janes’s Shinola.

              So, let me offer one of the best responses I have come across, this being from Patrick Barnes, the webmaster of the Orthodox Information Center (orthodoxinfo.com), who wrote an excellent overview of the matter, The Non-Orthodox: The Orthodox Teaching on Christians Outside of the Church. His first response, written in correspondence to a Protestant, speaks to the question at hand directly:

              [The statement] “Outside of the Church there is no salvation could be demonstrated from Holy Tradition; however, the Mind of the Church, as noetically discerned by the Holy Fathers, does not seem to have borne witness to this as an accurate statement (let alone dogma) of the Church’s attitude towards the heterodox. [It] is not necessarily “incorrect,” it is just not balanced enough by other truths. And it certainly does not have to be affirmed to be an Orthodox Christian.

              And his conclusion is “balanced” at the “median” of other truths to reflect the Church’s attitude:

              [Consider] Saint Theophan the Recluse’s reply to an “inquirer” concerning the question of whether the heterodox can be saved. He replied: “Why do you worry about them?… You and I should not be burdened with such a concern. Study yourself and your own sins….” Your desire to find and embrace the purity of the Truth is admirable. But you must keep in mind that there are certain things that God has chosen not to reveal to us. One of these is how He will ultimately judge others on that Day. He has revealed certain aspects of that Day of Judgment in order that we may repent and prepare ourselves; but He has not told us how He will-in His infinite knowledge of our incredibly complex nature and His providential ordering of our lives — ultimately weigh each of us in the balance. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). This being true, we should not concern ourselves with whether God will save others or how. For us it is enough to know where and how we can be saved. We affirm this to be only within the Orthodox Church; but we can also make a compelling case from Holy Tradition that we do not also have to affirm that He will not save a portion of those who do not enter the Church in this life.

              The point is, these teachings most certainly align with the teachings of the church, and Patrick Barnes – as well as Fr. Georges Florovsky in his brilliant The House of the Father – address them thoroughly. Even if the nun was absolutely correct in quoting Gerona Ephraim verbatim, neither would be incorrect, per se, and neither would be speaking heresy. Period. Extreme controversy? Fr. Florovsky rightly concluded that

              the Byzantine ideal of an empire and a desert [i.e. monasticism] had failed, grievously failed… It did not succeed in unlocking the gate of the Paradise Lost. Yet nobody else has succeeded, either. The gate is still locked. The Byzantine key was not a right one. So were all other keys, too. And probably there is no earthly or historical key for that ultimate lock. There is but an eschatological key, the true “Key of David.” Yet Byzantium was for centuries wrestling, with fervent commitment and dedication, with a real problem. And in our own days, when we are wrestling with the same problem, we may get some more light for ourselves through an impartial study of the Eastern experiment, both in its hope and in its failure. “Antinomies of Christian History: Empire and Desert,” in Christianity & Culture, Volume Four of the Collected Works.

              Neither the empire or monasticism will be necessary in the Kingdom which is to come. “Why do you worry about them?… You and I should not be burdened with such a concern. Study yourself and your own sins…”

              • TheFutureOfTheChurch says

                “If your brother shall trespass against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone…”

                I would not regard the nun’s view on salvation as trespassing against me personally. The same goes for this blog. If you disagree with me on something I don’t think you are trespassing against me.

            • Jane Rachel says

              Thanks, “Future of the Church.” Please, Hierarchs, do your JOB.

              • M. Stankovich says

                Do your JOB or be QUIET.

                If your brother shall trespass against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone: if he shall hear you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear you, then take with you one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it to the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be to you as an heathen man and a publican. Truly I say to you, Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the middle of them. (Matt. 18:15-20)

                Hypocrisy looks good on you. Calvin Klein.

              • TheFutureOfTheChurch says

                Yes, to me this is important.

                According to the GOA:
                The monasteries are “ecclesiastical institutions functioning under the direct canonical jurisdiction and supervision of the Hierarch in whose Metropolis they are located”.

                Some of the people on the Monastery Review Commitee, established to investigate the monasteries, have stated publicly that they produced multiple investigative reports. But the Hierarchs of the GOA have done nothing since.

                This only leads to the type of discussion taking place here. The Hierarchs need to summon some courage, release the reports, and deal with any issues if they exist. To not do this only leads to chaos.

        • This jane person is beginning to abuse me Somewhere obscessed with what should not bother her..
          Sure these things she quote are strange to secular Kardashian America. Listen quite frankly the whole of Christianity is not wanted in USA, and as for us nutters!! and not wanted behind the pseudo facade of GOA, see commendation for New big bucks organ in Los Angeles, Greek church,and as anything if done for show, empty, as Christ said,, all nothing unorthodox in itself,. And if they are wanting to live Monasticism in the world. They need a spiritual guide and regular worship, but i cannot discuss situation I not privy to.
          But with this jane something seems to be driving her, on and on. If not for u fine, Do not have contact. Life yr life, pray, attend church and SHOW LOVE TO ALL.
          As to praying for protestant, surely we should for all, or why bother to be Orthodox.?

  22. Michael Bauman says

    Let us consider Proverbs 6: 16-19

  23. Matthew Panchisin says

    Dear Johnkal,

    Then cometh the accusers of the brethren from outside with their rules, anyway the monastic’s just suffer it quietly, it’s nothing new under the sun, just sadly repetitious. Sometimes they even come in groups to attack the bishop etc. “What are they doing here?” “They are here to persecute me.”

    Please don’t tell us all more about that tradition and that part of life in the Church?

    In Christ,

    Matthew Panchisin

  24. Constantinos says

    If people get spiritual sustenance from the Elder Ephraim monasteries, good for them. If people don’t like the Ephraim monasteries, good for them. I really don’t have a dog in this fight.
    As far as Elder Ephraim being a living saint, who knows? I’ve have known many people I consider living saints, and not one of them has been an Orthodox Christian. I didn’t come into the Orthodox Church because I thought it was the one true Church or anything like that. I came into the Orthodox Church because I thought it was better than the Episcopal Church. That’s the only reason. I gave the Catholic Church much thought, but I didn’t have time for RCIA so I figured the Orthodox Church seems like an okay church. I was really creeped out the first I attend a Divine Liturgy. Actually, I was frightened. I looked on the walls and thought to myself, “what are all these dead people doing staring at me?’ The only reason I returned was that I thought even with all this weirdness, it is still better than the Episcopal Church. I still think it is a weird Church with strange people, like all the weirdos on this forum. Go figure!

  25. Jane Rachel says

    Please read this article entitled Fundamentalism: Theology in the Service of Psychosis
    by Rev. Dr. Vaseilios Thermos

    https://publicorthodoxy.org/2018/05/30/fundamentalism-and-psychosis/#more-4444

    “The academic literature connecting religious fundamentalism and psychosis is extensive. In my experience as both a clinical psychiatrist and priest, I believe that we see this illness both individually and collectively within the Orthodox Church. Fortunately, the solution to this spiritual illness lies in the very proclamation of the incarnation.

    Paradoxically, although religious fundamentalism is a fanatical opponent of the discipline of psychology, it actually is a form of psychologism. It assesses through habit, not through truth. For fundamentalism, it is “familiar identity” that is at risk. Fearful of the complexity of the modern world (which has already evolved to the chaos of the postmodern one), it resorts to oversimplified solutions, because it cannot tolerate doubt, perplexity, or coexistence. In other words, fundamentalism “freezes” certain created and external elements of the tradition, which it believes to contain the truth of God. In doing so, fundamentalism immobilizes history, unaware that by doing so it enacts the very sin it claims to fight.

    Religious fundamentalism was born as a reaction to secularism; therefore, secularism and fundamentalism are mirroring phenomena that cannot be separated. The former yields to the fascination of the secular, the latter fights against the secular in panic and hatred. Both have elevated the secular to the status of an obsession, in opposite ways. Therefore, neither is free. They resemble to each other; that’s why they are rivals.

    Psychologically, fundamentalist violence (whether physical, emotional or spiritual) indicates insecurity. The fundamentalist is insecure in his faith, and sometimes split as for his desire. Freedom and joy in others can trigger anxiety, leading to envy and then hatred. In short, the fundamentalist is animated by fear rather than by love. Aggression becomes a critical issue of survival, not a manifestation of bravery.[1] Therefore, the noblest elements of his faith have not been adequately internalized.

    Consequently, the deep raw psychic aggressiveness seeks legitimization by claiming to defend “tradition,” a defense that does not stem from confidence but from fear. This is a fear that can evolve to a real paranoia, namely a morbid suspicion against non-existent enemies. We understand that the motivation for a defense of tradition is much more secular than the fundamentalist can imagine.

    Fundamentalism is unable to interpret the holy texts because it approaches them like fossils, disconnecting them from the context that gave birth to them. Its concrete discourse lacks the capacity for metaphor, which is an indispensable means for interpretation. From a psychoanalytic perspective, fundamentalism (as a collective, not as an individual diagnosis) functions in the Church like psychosis. It is in psychosis that discourse is concrete, lacking the metaphorical function.[2] Among the most important aspects of metaphor are translation and contextual theology; this is why fundamentalism fights against both translating the liturgical texts into the common language, as well as interpreting theological tradition in context.

    The other way in which fundamentalism converges with psychosis is paranoia, namely a fear that annuls any dialogue and reception. Usually, this fear is either disproportionate to the threat or an imaginary one in front of a non-existent threat. Actually, it is the inner aggressiveness that is projected under a Christian disguise, when the raw destructive forces of the psyche motivate a fight against the perceived enemy.[3] Therefore, the threat is perceived as coming from outside, while it is a projected aggressiveness.

    Religious fundamentalism is both a symptom and a self-remedy: while it makes the psychosis of the Church, it organizes its thought structures in such a way as to reduce psychotic anxiety. Thus, it functions simultaneously as both an ecclesiastical illness and a defensive mechanism against this illness in order to prevent it from becoming an individual diagnosis. In other words, a translocation from the individual to the group occurs: the fundamentalist makes the Church sick so that he will not become psychotic!

    Last but not least: to what degree is orthodox fundamentalism fed by the extensive conservatism and the centuries-long institutionalism of our Church? Does the ecclesiastical climate facilitate benign forms of the fear of the world to mutate into the malignancy of fundamentalism? In other words, do the endemic characteristics of the Orthodox Church favor extremities instead of discouraging them? Professor Saroglou, after counting a number of problematic mentalities and attitudes of our ecclesiastical life (separatism, isolation, helleno-centrism, hostility to the West, authoritarianism, legalism, mistrust), wonders about an umbilical cord that may connect fundamentalism with the mainstream orthodox life: “Is fundamentalism a stranger or a sibling of Orthodox theology?”[4]

    If our Church really wishes to decrease and disarm Orthodox fundamentalism, she will need to educate her congregation about the ways in which the Church historically opened itself to the world. Only then we will extinguish the psychological and ideological fundamentalist matrix. We know that things do not change quickly, but a clear strategy which is open to changes, more flexible, with a vision wider than nationalism, will bear fruits for sure. This developmental advance means that our ecclesiastical life (worship, sermons, catechesis, guidance, administration) will stop inducing defensive identities and, instead, will embrace the very essence of Incarnation.

    [1]James Davison Hunter, Fundamentalism in its global contours, “The fundamentalist phenomenon”, Norman Cohen (ed.), Eerdmans publ., 1990, p. 70.

    [2]James Powell, Jerry Gladson, Roger Mayer,‘Psychotherapy with the fundamentalist client’.Journal of Psychology and Theology, 1991, v. 19, n. 4, p. 344-353.

    [3]Gerald Arbuckle,Refounding the Church, Orbis books, 1993, p. 53. James Davison Hunter,Fundamentalism in its global contours, “The fundamentalist phenomenon”, Norman Cohen (ed.), Eerdmans publ., 1990, p. 56-72.

    [4]Vassilis Saroglou, ΟρθόδοξηΘεολογίακαιφονταμενταλισμός: αντίπαλοιήομόαιμοι; [Orthodox Theology and Fundamentalism: rivals or siblings?]. ΝέαΕυθύνη, 2013, n. 15, p. 93.

    Rev. Vasilios THERMOS is an Orthodox theologian and priest from Greece. He is a psychiatrist for children and adolescents in private practice. He holds a Ph.D. 6 from the Theological School of Athens University on the psychology of priestly vocation. He has studied as a Visiting Scholar in Harvard Divinity School, Boston College, and Andover Newton. He has been engaged in training clergy and giving lectures. His In Search of the Person: True and False Self according to Donald Winnicott and Saint Gregory Palamas has been published by Alexander Press, Montreal, 2002; it will soon be published in Russian. By the same publisher three collective volumes with a selection of articles from the Greek theological quarterly Synaxi are prepared, which include three ones of the author. Also his article Toward a Theological Understanding of Psychopathology and Therapy is now being translated into English by the same press in the proceedings of a conference. His email address is thermosv@otenet.gr .

    • Jane, thanks for sharing. Great post.

    • Christopher says

      The good pycho-Doctor is projecting his “anxiety” unto an abstraction which he calls “fundamentalism”.

      I find this effort to abuse and mis-use the term “fundamentalism” tragicomical…

    • Johannes Ypsilantis says

      What is his definition of “fundamentalism?” In its original meaning the word refers to a particular American conservative Protestant ecumenical movement. In the United States it has become a label to smear those with broadly traditional Christian beliefs. It does this by picking out especially disturbed and angry people who hold such beliefs and holding them up as exemplars of all traditional Christians.

      Fordham, an institution run by the very Jesuits who have been working to destroy the Church since their order’s inception, runs the Public Orthodoxy blog. George Demacopoulos of their Orthodox Institute also uses the word “fundamentalism” in this irresponsible way:

      https://orthodoxethos.com/post/fundamental-errors-a-response-to-tradition-without-fundamentalism-by-george-demacopoulos

      The problems are the same now as they always have been. What the Church teaches now is the same as what it as always taught. We can sometimes translate the teachings of the Fathers into the language of modern psychology and when we can do that there is sometimes, more rarely, reciprocal light thrown on those teachings by the contemporary therapeutic situation. Nonetheless the cult of the self which is followed today is the cult of antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:4) and much of modern psychological theory and practice is fundamentally at the service of this cult.

      I don’t know Father Thermos but it strikes me that there is an element in both this essay and the work out of Fordham’s Orthodox Institute that is trying to marshal the hatred carefully inculcated in middle-class Americans against the “fundamentalist” label in the United States (which has spread, through our media, to much of Europe by now I imagine) to try to purge Christianity from Orthodoxy. This will not happen because the gates of hell will not prevail against His church. But false prophets take who they can with them into the lake of fire.

    • Ha! “Public Orthodoxy” and the people at Fordham put out some of the worst pieces of anti-Orthodox propaganda I have ever witnessed. You may want to take them off the list of things that you reference.

    • Antiochene Son says

      How to know a commentator is garbage-tier: when he calls other people fundamentalists. This trash is the stuff of the post-conciliar Roman Church, and we see how that is working out. Maybe Fr. Thermos ought to go submit himself to Cardinal Marx.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Jane, several items that make this an un-trustworthy source: 1. It was published on Public Orthodoxy; 2. He uses the term “fundamentalism” which is merely a word designed to end all debate that means nothing. Using the term in any sort of debate is a bit like asking me when I stopped beating my wife; 3. He is a psychiatrist commenting on spiritual reality and given the usual ideology of psychiatrists these days, that is not a good mix; 4. it harmonizes with your obsession.

      For God’s sake let us not believe or act on anything that is fundamental. After all, everybody know everything is fluid and flexible. It all depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is. sarcasm off

    • Alitheia1875 says

      Through habit and not through truth. Hmmmm, what Orthodox y and Orthopraxy are you referring to? You are certainly right about modern and post-modern. But I know many Orthodox clergy who don’t reject psychology and psychiatry and who would clearly be termed conservative. However, when talking about the “faith once delivered to the saints”, we need to tread carefully. If the teachings and practices of the faith are observed and participated in correctly there is no such thing as fundamentalism. That term has been bandied about lately because the thought of monasticism is repugnant to those who have made their parishes into Greek American social clubs. God forbid someone should fast, go to confession and receive the Eucharist frequently. This not to say that monastics, clergy and hierarchy don’t err but the term fundamentalism is used to paint a very wide swath.

    • M. Stankovich says

      Just for the record, there is a reason this article was posted to Public Orthodoxy, and while it has nothing to do with the reason it is posted here, it is every bit as manipulative.

      This is the “music” of the “Let’s dialog about homosexuality – something you fundamentalist jihadists that have taken over the church refuse to do.” Then, behind your back, they incessantly dog you for holding the church “hostage” to a “dead tradition” that serves only as a museum, has lost its “charisma” and vitality, and they are going to have to educate you. In effect, Jane’s call to “Please read this” is an invitation, “Hey, dumbasses, maybe now you’ll get it…” But get what?

      While Dr. Thermos states, “The academic literature connecting religious fundamentalism and psychosis is extensive,” he provides four citations, three of which are not within this decade, and the fourth (and the only to mention “Orthodoxy”) is inaccessible to an audience in the west. Now, if you say to me, “These may well be “classic studies” of the issue,” I ask other clinicians to kindly name classic studies nearly twenty years old that have not been updated, replicated & updated, or supplanted with the product of better technique and protocol. Few & far between. That is the nature of research & discovery. Secondly, notice that in an essay specifically dedicated to religious fundamentalism and psychosis, he defines neither. He states,

      Fundamentalism “freezes” certain created and external elements of the tradition, which it believes to contain the truth of God. In doing so, fundamentalism immobilizes history, unaware that by doing so it enacts the very sin it claims to fight.

      For heaven’s sake, any “personal “piety,” anything and everything, could be considered a “frozen” external element of the tradition and judged to “enact sin.” And the obvious question is, who is to judge? Jane? I remember the brief second of awakening as a child to my grandmother making the sign of the Cross over me, then my brother, before going to bed. THIS IS NUTS!!!! some could say. What blessing does she have to give? She could just pray for you and not disturb your sleep. Blah, blah, blah? All I will say in regard to paragraphs 3-5 is that this presumptuous, discredited, and misapplied neo-Freudian generalized trash is that it is shamefully applied to explain what could also be explained in the Holy Scriptures in seven words: as Jesus cast the sellers out the Temple with a whip in His hand, St John tells us that the disciples remembered what was written (in the dramatic, full-on New Testament Greek): “Ὁ ζῆλος τοῦ οἴκου σου καταφάγεταί με.” Zeal for your temple has consumed me.” (Jn. 2:17)

      In addressing the “hot topic,”

      It is in psychosis that discourse is concrete, lacking the metaphorical function. Among the most important aspects of metaphor are translation and contextual theology; this is why fundamentalism fights against both translating the liturgical texts into the common language, as well as interpreting theological tradition in context.

      Dr. Thermos either lives in a cave or doesn’t go to church. I defy him to find a liturgical text – and I’ll even suggest even to some of the most obscure occasions – that has not been translated into the English language. I recall the laughter when Fr. Alexander Schmemann walked into class on a Friday morning and announced, “I am sad to announce that Mother [she-shall-remain-nameless] fell asleep in the Lord, and may her memory be eternal. But at least she is done translating.” His point, at least liturgically, was that, so much was now available in English that it was minimizing, for example, the love of the Biblical Odes of the Matins Canon, in calling for the singing of 5-6 canons commemorating “local” saints.” As to the second point, read it as you wish, but “theological traditions in context” reeks of “Let’s dialog, shall we?” to which we unleash the dinosaur, “Certainly, “I believe in One God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth…” Enough context for you?

      He terminates this essay with the thought of “Professor Saroglou,”

      After counting a number of problematic mentalities and attitudes of our ecclesiastical life (separatism, isolation, helleno-centrism, hostility to the West, authoritarianism, legalism, mistrust), [Prof. S.] wonders about an umbilical cord that may connect fundamentalism with the mainstream orthodox life.

      In my estimation, bro’, it worked for St. Mark of Ephesus, so it’s a “go” with me.

      In the end, this is what happens when a Google scholar stumbles on trash and drags it into your yard.

      • Johannes Ypsilantis says

        Amen.

      • Jane Rachel says

        So Michael Stankovich the expert decides the article is “trash” and Jane Rachel is nothing but a troll. Niko and all who speak from their direct experiences are liars. Niko is a liar because he needed therapy after being in the Saint Anthony Monastery and told to beat himself with an electrical cord.

        Whatever you do, Michael, please don’t throw us in the briar pit called https://scottnevinssuicide.wordpress.com/. We might learn something. Apparently, none of the rest of us can think.

        “Rev. Vasilios THERMOS is an Orthodox theologian and priest from Greece. He is a psychiatrist for children and adolescents in private practice. He holds a Ph.D. 6 from the Theological School of Athens University on the psychology of priestly vocation. He has studied as a Visiting Scholar in Harvard Divinity School, Boston College, and Andover Newton. He has been engaged in training clergy and giving lectures. His In Search of the Person: True and False Self according to Donald Winnicott and Saint Gregory Palamas has been published by Alexander Press, Montreal, 2002; it will soon be published in Russian. By the same publisher three collective volumes with a selection of articles from the Greek theological quarterly Synaxi are prepared, which include three ones of the author. Also his article Toward a Theological Understanding of Psychopathology and Therapy is now being translated into English by the same press in the proceedings of a conference. His email address is thermosv@otenet.gr .”

        Dr. Thermos writes this: “It is in psychosis that discourse is concrete, lacking the metaphorical function. Among the most important aspects of metaphor are translation and contextual theology; this is why fundamentalism fights against both translating the liturgical texts into the common language, as well as interpreting theological tradition in context.”

        Dr. Thermos is saying that FUNDAMENTALISM (not normal Orthodoxy) “fights against both translating the liturgical texts into the common language, as well as interpreting theological tradition in context.”

        Boy oh boy. I KNOW Orthodoxy is the true faith and thank God for all the non-Ephraimite monasteries, and the Orthodox Church worldwide. But if I had to see Orthodoxy from the perspective of what Elder Ephraim and his ilk teach, I would RUN away like Holy Prophet Joseph fleeing Potiphar’s wife.

        • Michael Bauman says

          Jane, you have made yourself abundantly clear. Let God do the rest. Convincing people against their will is impossible.

        • M. Stankovich says

          Nevins indicates he found “Nikos” on the Ex-Christian.net site (Whoa. Go back and read that again). Nikos’ profile by way of introduction says:

          My name is Nikos. I formally left the Eastern Orthodox Church 3 years ago and was losing faith in different parts of Xtianity over time, until about a month ago, when I had a REVELATION that God never did a damned thing for me, so why do I keep praying…I have spent the past month looking into subjects I never dared before (Because in my heart I knew it was BULLSH*T but needed my OPIATE), stories about other people leaving Xtianity, whispers of a conspiracy from Jooville (Israel), and now this website, I swear, it’s too good to be true……a forum of people who have come to the same conclusion after being under the most hypnotic of all spells ever created or known to man….the BIBLE. I remember being baptized at 20 by a far too smiley faced man, watching Franco Zeferelli’s “Jesus of Nazareth” for the 20th time…and by 23, jumping headlong into the abyss of which I am finally crawling out. On here I hope to read from others and also relate the insanity, the torture, the complete and utter bullsh*t that I was a part of that cost me…ALL MY FRIENDS….EVERYONE IN MY FAMILY…MY MENTAL HEALTH…MY CAREER….MY PURPOSE IN LIFE….EVERYTHING!!! I am 30 years old and have the skills of an 18 year old I think, still coming out of the heavy anesthesia of Xtianity.

          wow. Now, I don’t know about you, but I would have logically concluded that the “the insanity, the torture, the complete and utter bullsh*t that I was a part of that cost me…” was the St. Anthony Monastery, but curiously, he tells Nevins,”

          I was 6 months in residence at the monastery when I left, I decided not to become a novice despite the attempts of my Hieromonk and elder monks to convince me to leave the world, not because I didn’t believe their doctrine, I was about as convinced as anyone there of the beliefs, but because I wanted to marry, I wasn’t being healed of my depression or physical pain, and because I think some deep part of me knew to run.

          He continues with his thoughts about the memebrs of the monastic community:

          I don’t hate the people at the monastery, in fact I have more love in my heaRt for the monks than anything, I don’t believe they know what is happening to them at all, and the ones that do realize or see what is going on are the ones stepping forward… They are of the nicest, caring, loveable humans I have ever met, and there is definitely a “presence” of some sort there at the monastery, it’s a very peaceful feeling, a loving feeling, it’s quite tangible, I don’t know how to describe it other than to say when I got there, I believed that to be “God”, and now that I don’t believe the same things I am hard pressed to define it, but whatever it is it is beautiful and they are a part of it… [He speaks of a 78-year old “leader” in neutral terms, then] The abbot of the monastery [presumably Geronda Ephraim] is a different story, I felt he was very political rather than spiritual to be honest and he is one sharp tack so I wasn’t impressed by his evasive answers or his snobbery when I was in confession, but he did me no harm personally ever….that I know of. WAT! His direct critique concludes with, “As for the positive things I took from the Monastery, the Byzantine Chanting is friggin’ awesome… the head Cantor was handpicked by the Elder and he is a master of sound..”

          I must add here that Nikos’ explanation of some of the most fundamental principles and foundations of Orthodox dogmatic theology are so ridiculous and patently false that they would be quite amusing if they were not so heartbreakingly sad.

          Nikos does, in fact, get married, and he and his wife appear on the Ex-Christian.net site, he as “PiracyOfTheHead.” In following some of his dialog (the site has a number of “venues,” e.g. “one-on-one” contenders debating while others observe, only interrupting at designated times), you would never guess he had ever been an Orthodox Christian based upon his basic fund of information. Increasingly, his talk is filled with commentary is filled with talk of OBE (Out of Body Experiences brought about by methamphetamine, oxygen deprivation, and electrical stimulation) and he refers to his long history of drug use and mental illness. No, Jane, you and Nevins lie because he need psychiatric care long before he ever walked through the door of St. Anthony Monastery.

          This, dears, is Jane’s “Golden Boy” sworn witness, the guy who gives us an “irrefutable” behind the scenes look. If he wrote this in 2008, and says on Ex-Christian.net he left the monastery “3-years ago,” his eye-witness report is already thirteen (13) years ago. I ask any lawyers on this site, credible, reliable “witness?”

          • Jane Rachel says

            Now the readers are “dears”? Mr Stankovich, what is your deal? I could read Niko’s words to anyone I know and they would all agree with me and not you. To be honest, your spin doctoring reminds me of Mark Stokoe, the Master of Spin.

            https://www.culteducation.com/group/904-greek-orthodox-monasteries/5937-he-is-suffering-from-the-tragic-loss-of-his-son-to-a-monastery-where-he-became-ill.html

            • Gail Sheppard says

              Micahel’s calls us “dears” because we ARE dear to him, Jane! You’ve chosen to insinuate yourself into a community that has known one another for several years. There is no spin with respect to what Micahel is saying. He’s posting Nikos’ own words within the context of his own story. You can’t get much more straightforward than that!

              As for Mark Stokoe, I have to stick up for him, too. I wasn’t a fan of the way he targeted Metropolitan Jonah but in fairness to Mark, Metropolitan Jonah WAS unprepared to take on the role which is why he abdicated it. With respect to Mark’s blog, I think he was better than most at presenting what he wanted to say in a clear, factual way, allowing us a platform to respond. He is certainly not without journalistic skill. It is very like you to throw out terms like “Master of Spin” and ascribe it to someone without any support. I suspect you think because many of us aren’t fans of Mark’s lifestyle choices, that we all hate Mark (we don’t, BTW) and this is your attempt to “fit in.” You did the same thing when you threw out your sentiments regarding Robert Kondratick and Bishop Nicholai, knowing that several of us supported one or both.

              Your “And what about…?” statements come off sounding like “And what about those Knicks!” the phrase people use when they want to bond. But there is something disingenuous about using the same approach here. You claim to know a lot about the Ephraim monasteries but have never been to one. You cast dispersions on our own personal stories, suggesting they’re not true. You post dated information that, as far as we know, could be fed to you in an attempt to distract us from talking about the GOA. You have everything to teach and nothing to learn and you don’t use your real (or your full) name. In short, we don’t know WHO you are, Jane, or what your motives are which is why you’ll never be one of us. I think it’s safe to assume Michael won’t be calling you “dear” any time soon so relax.

            • Michael Bauman says

              Jane, Michael S is an honest and compassionate man. I do not always agree with him and we have gotten into some spats in the past. We each think the other has some strange ideas. Nevertheless when my wife was hospitalized a few years ago, he reached out to me letting me know he was praying for her. Ongoing, he shared some of his medical knowledge with me about her condition and was a good support to me when I needed it.

              We are dear to him. Even you I suspect even though you have presented yourself as a disagreeable, tenditious and contentious person.

              I talked to a visiting deacon yesterday who is quite familiar with St. Anthony’s monastary. The essence of what he told me was that they are tough but they love you-not a sweet, sappy set of emotions but love to prepare folks for the Kingdom.

  26. Matthew Panchisin says

    Dear George,

    For the sake of good discussions, perhaps you should consider moderating the posts.

    Dear Constantinos,

    Clearly, Protestantism is some kind of juvenile delinquent thinking movement that is difficult to release.

    In Christ,

    Matthew Panchisin

    • Constantinos says

      Dear Matthew,
      You’re right. I remember seeing a bumper sticker one day leaving church that said Orthodoxy- Preaching the Truth Since AD 33. Do you know how many cults claim to be the one true church? Hundreds? That doesn’t mean that Orthodoxy’s claims are false. It’s just that the realization that Orthodoxy is the one true Church took me a long time to absorb. I believe that the Orthodox Church is the one true Church, but many Orthodox practices are foreign to us Westerners. Do you know it was only a short time ago that I realized Monasticism is the bedrock of Orthodoxy?
      By the way, I’m surprised that George hasn’t visited the Holy Mountain. As much as I’ve tired of traveling, that is something I hope to do in the near future.

    • George Michalopulos says

      You’re right, Matthew. I think even Constantinos agrees.

  27. Constantinos says

    Johannes,
    Of course, you are correct, but I didn’t know all these Russian saints; they were complete strangers to me. I think iconography is beautiful, but not when I first encountered Orthodoxy.

  28. Michael Bauman says

    Jane Rachel: https://www.monomakhos.com/elder-ephraim-monasticism-america-an-apologia/#comment-123000

    How very rational and modern. My wife and I met on April 27th 2009 and were married on August 1, 2009. Great marriage. God arranged. Shocked the hell out of her children.

    My niece was introduced to her finance’ through my brother, her father, I believe in August, 2017 as someone she might consider marrying. They were engaged by October. They will be married soon.

    Then there is St. Cyprian of Antioch. He was a necromancer of high skill who was hired by a pagan man to induce Justina, a virgin Christian woman, to marry the pagan.

    Cyprian threw everything spell and incantation he had at Justina. They made her physically incapacitated and unable to speak. She resisted only be making the sign of the Cross. Cyprian’s power could not overcome that. Seeing that, Cyprian abandoned his attack and went home, burned all of his books on magic and evil, went to the nearest Orthodox Church, chained himself to the altar and demanded to be baptized. He was.

    Catechesis did not used to begin until after Baptism, i.e. after the marriage. Why? Because there are many things that we are not capable of appreciating in our heads without the grace of the Holy Spirit sealed in our souls. Marriage is not that different either.

    Again there is NOTHING inappropriate or out of bounds about Gail’s reception into the Church. She is one of the strongest, grounded Orthodox women I have ever known because, despite all of the sin in the Church, she loves the Church and our Lord. Her heart is founded on the rock. She is an example to me and many others here of courage and devotion.

    “There is more in heaven and earth, Jane, than is dreamt of in your philosophy”

    I pray that your heart and mind be opened.

    • Gail Sheppard says

      Thank you, Michael. Some things are just meant to be.

    • Fr. David Hovik says

      I would love to hear your impressions.

    • Constantinos says

      Mr. Bauman,
      I really have to agree with you. How did you get so lucky? You really married up. I think I might exchange my millions for someone like that. Well….I don’t know about that part. Let’s put it this way, if I met her before you, things may have been different. Gentlemen, always marry up. Make sure she has plenty of dough so she doesn’t dip into your stash. I’ve seen too many guys get killed on dateline because of bad women marrying a man for his money. Make sure you are worth much more alive than dead- and get an ironclad prenuptial agreement. You’ve worked too hard to have some gold digger take it all away from you. Also, stay away from women more than five years younger than you. Now, there is nothing wrong with a man marrying a much older women as long as she let’s you manage her financial affairs.

      • Michael Bauman says

        Constantinos, Sir, I do not understand your comment. A gentleman would not have made such a comment and it may explain why you have money but no one to love you apparently. I have neither money nor influence nor power, but I have a Godly woman who not only loves me but inexplicably likes me. The only part of your comment that is accurate is that I married up. The rest of your comment is insulting, demeaning and unbecoming. It is despicable. You can say anything you like about me, but my wife is off limits. I hope you do not approach the cup until you have made amends. It is the worst comment I have ever read on this blog. A simple and probably insincere mea culpa here is not sufficient.

        • Constantinos says

          Mr. Bauman,
          I didn’t say anything against your wife- nor would I. It’s apparent that many people on this site do not get my sense of humor. I’m sorry that you were offended by comments. It was not my intention to hurt you or harm you in any way. I don’t know you- I don’t know your wife. I don’t know anything about you. I don’t know if you married up, down, or sideways, and I couldn’t care less. I really don’t think I owe you an apology as it was not my intent to hurt you in any way. Worst comment ever? Give me a break!!

          • Michael Bauman says

            Constantinos: Your intent is immaterial, even if you did not mean it for me or my wife personally, it was unbecoming and demeaning to all women. It crossed a line that should not be have been crossed even if not meant personally.

            It is quite difficult to acknowledge one’s own sins in a failed relationship, even more difficult to accept the responsibility for the failure. So much easier to make it the other person’s fault. The worst thing one can do is to generalize the failure and externalize it. At best your comment reflects a deep need for self-reflection and repentance in regard to your past.

            Read carefully Matthew 5:23.

            Since you say that you did not mean it personally, I will accept your word. May God bless you. I pray also that you not hold resentment against me for confronting you on it because I expect better from you and know you can be better since you are my Orthodox brother. Unfortunately, I had no way to do it privately as I should have. Forgive me.

            • Constantinos says

              Yes, Mr. Bauman,
              I wish I had run in the opposition direction as far as my legs could carry me when I first met my ex-wife. It was seventeen years of unimaginable, unmitigated evil. I kick myself every day for ever having met her. The really sick and sad thing is everyone warned me about her. I was too stupid and immature to listen to anyone. After the nightmare I went through, I amazed I have any faith left at all.
              The things I wrote about money pertaining to women were meant as a joke.I have no interest in dating anyone now or ever, however I think single men should be extremely careful. The first thing I would do is get a complete background on the potential suitor, then I would interview her past boyfriends, interview all her cousins, girlfriends, check her car for neatness. Make certain she has never stolen anything. Check out her past sexual history, and pull her credit report with her permission of course. Naturally, she would have to be a committed, devoted Orthodox Christian. Like I said, I’m not in the market, and will never be again. Do I love women? Not at all. Not in the slightest, least degree. Do I respect women? No! This is all based on what I experienced in my seventeen year marriage, and personal observation. I would take a dog for companionship over a female every day of the week.

              • Michael Bauman says

                Mr. C, thank you for your honesty. Your state is sad though.

                To give some balance: if I had done the things you say, my lovely, Godly wife would not have qualified. I, too, was told by most people who knew me not to marry her (except my brother). Yet, she is an incredibly kind, intelligent and gifted woman. She became Orthodox after we were married (but she is one of those people who have always been Orthodox and did not know it.) She is not without sin nor struggles in her life, but her ability/willingness to seek God in the midst of those sins and struggles out weighs the rest. His mercy triumphs.

                But, unlike many men, I actually like women-not just lust after them. Plus I prayed to the Theotokos to send me a Godly woman after I found out that I could not endure the single life after my late wife died. Mary knew my Merry and put us together. God provides. Merry shows me what it is to be human and I protect her and am her guide into the Church which she desperately needed. We were dying without each other.

                Many men do not do well without some kind of healthy interrelationship with a woman. It does not have to be carnal. Exactly why Mt. Athos and male monasticism in general in the Orthodox Church is dedicated to Theotokos.

                For some reason women seem to do better without men than men do without women. That is counter-intuitive to me but the existential reality testifies to that. Maybe it is because we get unmoored without a woman to humanize us. Maybe because our tendency to die younger has forced them to adapt. Maybe because of the different orientations of the sexes. I don’t know.

                Still, men and women are created to be together. It is part of God’s providence and also the first thing Satan messed up. As my wife says, our marriage has allowed her to be a woman. I realize that our marriage requires me to be a man.

                If you don’t like and respect women, you don’t much like and respect yourself and it makes union with God much more difficult.

                Forgive your ex-wife if for no other reason than if you do not—she wins.
                Forgiveness frees us from the bondage to sin and the effects of sin. You do not have to like her, but you will be much more free.

                I have found that for me to really forgive, I must first repent….and that is the rub. Repentance requires that I take full responsibility for all of the sins in my life, especially the shared ones.

                May God grant you wisdom, mercy and strength and lead you into His Kingdom.

                • Constantinos says

                  Mr. Bauman,
                  Thank you for your kindness, compassion and warm advice. I have to agree with you that women seem to fare better alone than do men. Look at the late Frank Sinatra’s beautiful first wife. She’s 101 years old. Olivia De Havilland is going to be 102 on July 1st, and look at Senator McCain’s mother- 105 years old.

                  • Greatly Saddened says

                    MB,
                    What beautiful words of inspiration. Thank you and God bless you and you family.

                  • Michael Bauman says

                    My wife tells me they do better after the loss f a spouse because they do not remain alone as we men tend to do. They form small communities of widows. I have witnessed this in my own parish.

                    Being the Lone Ranger has it’s costs.

          • Gail Sheppard says

            Well, in an effort to be fair, let’s look at what you said, Constantinos:

            You said Michael got “lucky” and he “really married up.” He probably wouldn’t disagree with you, but what you’re suggesting is that Micahel is undeserving.

            You said, “I might exchange my millions for someone like that. Well….I don’t know about that part.” This suggests Michael’s wife would not be worth it.

            You said, “Let’s put it this way, if I met her before you, things may have been different.” This suggests she would have chosen you over Michael.”

            You said, “Make sure she has plenty of dough so she doesn’t dip into your stash.” This suggests that women in general and Michael’s wife, in particular, marry men for money.

            You said, “I’ve seen too many guys get killed on dateline because of bad women marrying a man for his money. Make sure you are worth much more alive than dead- and get an ironclad prenuptial agreement.” This suggests that women kill their husbands for money.

            You said, “You’ve worked too hard to have some gold digger take it all away from you. Also, stay away from women more than five years younger than you.” This suggests women are gold diggers.

            You said, “Now, there is nothing wrong with a man marrying a much older woman as long as she lets you manage her financial affairs.” This suggests that it is optimal to steal from older women.

            What part of this is not insulting?

            • Michael Bauman says

              Gail, you said it well. Thanks

            • Constantinos says

              Thank you Gail.

            • Constantinos says

              Gail,
              I was thinking about your post. I would have to say this: for every intelligent statement I make, I’m guilty of saying at least ten stupid things. So after all the stupid statements I’ve made, I’ll make an intelligent comment: I say stupid things.

          • Michael Bauman says

            Mr. C, on a separate note:. No one’s humor translates well on the internet. It is a two dimensional medium. Humor is multi-dimensional. It is often a matter of a combination of body language and timing plus context and the listeners experience. Laughter at vulgarity is still often because of embarrassment not real humor.

            Real humor is designed to reveal important understanding of people and events in a deflected way that allows people to process the uncomfortable more easily.

            Sarcasm is not humor, it is a destructive verbal device. Now somethings need to be destroyed but it is a blunt instrument especially when applied to specific people and can be quite debilitating.

  29. Michael Bauman says

    Jane Rachel and Saunca, Thank you for all you have done, it has peaked my curiosity. While I will have to get the blessing of my Bishop and my wife, I am now seriously considering making a pilgramage to Holy Archangels. Never had the desire to before you two writing what you have written.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Michael, if you are interested, call me and we can go together.

      • Michael Bauman says

        George, thank you for the kind offer. I will consider it for sure. Traveling to new places where I do not know anyone is not my strong point.

  30. John Sakelaris says

    Monasteries do have their place, the metropolitans/bishops do their place, but let us not forget one other thing that is so very important for the future of the faith in this country: Lots and lots of parishes that are actively providing the Christian message every Sunday.

    Most Americans interested in Orthodox Christianity do not live by monasteries or metropolitans. But they live near a parish or by a potential parish location.