Interiorized Spirituality (Monasticism) and the Domestic Church


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A presentation given by Fr. George Morelli at the Society of St. John Chrysostom-Western Region (SSJC-WR) General Meeting, held at Prince of Peace Benedictine Monastery, Oceanside, CA on March 15, 2014.

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  • The Three Temptations, the Lord’s Three Answers, & the Three Monastic Vows.The three monastic vows: “…a great charter of human liberty.”:“Poverty frees [us] from the ascendancy of the material...the baptismal transmutation of the creature.”“Chastity frees [us] from the ascendancy of the carnal … the nuptial mystery of the agape, the marriage covenant of [D]ivine [L]ove.”“Obedience frees [us] from the idolatry of the ego. It posits our relationship as children of the Father”[The Lords Prayer-tripartite structure]: obedience to the will of the Father, the poverty of one who is hungry only for the substantial and Eucharistic bread, and chastity, the purification from evil.”
  • Interiorized Spirituality (Monasticism) and the Domestic Church

    2. 2. Gospel Counsels-Precepts • The total demand of the Gospel is proclaimed to everyone-everywhere – Christ‘s injunction: ―Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I say to you, shall seek to enter, and shall not be able‖ (Lk 13: 24) is interpreted by St. John Chrysostom understands Christ‘s words as being ―addressed to all.‖ Against Those Who Oppose the Monastic Life
    3. 3. St. John Chrysostom
    4. 4. St. Tikhon of Zadonsk • ―Do not be in a hurry to multiply the monks. The black habit does not save. The one who wears a white habit and has the white habit and has the spirit of obedience, humility, and purity, he is a true monk of interiorized [untonsured] monasticism‖. (Quoted by Evdokimov, P. (1998). Ages of the Spiritual Life, Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir‘s Seminary Press)
    5. 5. St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
    6. 6. St. Seraphim of Sarov • ―The Lord listens equally to the monk and the simple Christian layman provided that both are Orthodox, and both love God from the depths of their souls and faith in Him, if only as a grain of mustard seed; and they both shall move mountains … I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me. (Phil 4: 13)‖[Little Russian Philokalia, V. I, pp. 117-118]
    7. 7. St. Seraphim of Sarov
    8. 8. The Domestic Church or ―Little Church‖ in the Home • Dates from Apostolic times. St. Paul says: ―Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus … greet also the church in their house.‖ (Rm 16:3:5) To the Corinthians (16:19) he says: ―The churches of Asia send greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord.‖ It is just such a similar domestic church, or little church in the home, that couples in blessed marriages are ‗ordained‘ to establish. The building of a home church can only take place if each spouse loves God, loves Him alone, and has no other gods before Him, making the aim of the blessed, Godly marriage to form a Christian way of life and teach that way of life diligently to children.
    9. 9. Fulfilling the Commission To Lead The Domestic Church • Teaching Christ is important for the leaders of the domestic church, the little church in the home, but extends to each individual, in fact to all of society, and to all mankind. God is Beauty, Goodness and Truth. Although, as Divinely manifested, these characteristics of God are incomprehensible, we can nevertheless, with His grace, appreciate, emulate and teach these same divine qualities as far as is humanly possible.
    11. 11. The Three Temptations of Christ: Stone to Bread; ―Cast thyself down-angels shall they bear thee up;‖ ―all the kingdoms of the world- if falling down thou wilt adore me.‖
    12. 12. St. Theophylact on Christ being tempted to comfort the body • “one loaf would suffice for a man who was hungry … Christ did not listen to him.” • Echoing God’s words to Moses: “He afflicted thee with want, and gave thee manna for thy food, which neither thou nor thy fathers knew: to shew that not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.” • “by the word of God *real bread+ the manna fulfilled every need of the Hebrews.”
    13. 13. St. Theophylact on Christ being tempted to cast Himself down • ―if Thou art the Son of God, show me.‖ • ―Christ being God, does not need such help [from the angels who would bear Him up] • To accede to the Evil One‘s command would give him ascendency. • Because Jesus ―calmly‖ resisted the Evil one He could authoritatively tell His Disciples: ―Behold, I have given you power to tread upon … all the power of the enemy.‖ (Lk 10: 19), ―teaching us to defeat the demons with meekness.‖
    14. 14. St. Theophylact on Christ being tempted to gain the world and its glory by worshiping Satan • ―In his pride, [Satan] considers the world to be his own. Even now the devil makes this offer to the greedy, with the result that those who worship him do possess these things.‖ • Jesus answer: ―Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.
    15. 15. St. Theophylact‘s Summary • ―The Lord conquered the three temptations of‖: – ―Gluttony‖ ---sensory pleasures, pleasures of the body are not ends in themselves – ―Vainglory‖ ---that the Godhead, not self is the true power – ―Avarice‖ ---we are not to glorify and worship materiality –-but God alone
    16. 16. The Temptations and the Monastic Counsels • Evdokimov (Evdokimov, P. (1998). Ages of the Spiritual Life, Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir‘s Seminary Press) considers them to be ―a great charter‖ for the liberation of mankind. – ―Poverty frees [us] from the ascendancy of the material...the baptismal transmutation of the creature.‖ – ―Chastity frees [us] from the ascendancy of the carnal … the nuptial mystery of the agape, the marriage covenant of [D]ivine [L]ove.‖ – ―Obedience frees [us] from the idolatry of the ego. It posits our relationship as children of the Father‖
    17. 17. The Lord’s Prayer-tripartite structure and the Monastic Counsels • ―Poverty of one who is hungry only for the substantial and Eucharistic bread‖ • ―Chastity, the purification from evil‖ • ―Obedience to the will of the Father‖
    18. 18. Vocation Of Those Of The Royal Priesthood • To heroically apply the counsels in daily life --- in the domestic church • ―Salute Prisca and Aquila, my helpers in Christ Jesus, And the church which is in their house.‖ (Rm 16: 3,5) • St. John Chrysostom preached the "small church" … ensures the health and stability of the family in raising children. (Homily XX on Ephesians 5: 22-33
    19. 19. Applying Interiorized Poverty • And He, lifting up His eyes on His disciples, said: Blessed are ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. (Lk 6: 20) • The spirit of the monastic ideal – Our only real need is God: ―The monastic ideal does not preach formal poverty but a wise frugality of needs.‖ [Evdokimov, 1978]
    20. 20. Applying Interiorized Chastity • ―[Satan] set Him on a pinnacle of the temple, and he said to Him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself from hence.‖ (Lk 4:9) A veiled attempt to dethrone Christ from greatness. ―The one who climbs in a dream onto a roof will climb to greatness; the one who comes down from a roof will come down from greatness.‖ [Beracot of Talmud of Babylon] • Mankind‘s concupiscence inclines him to seize power: profanes the sacredness of the cosmos, the creation of God—response: Chastity -an inward ascension to the burning presence of God …. Chastity …‖one of the names of the nuptial mystery of the Lamb. ‖[Evdokimov, 1978]
    21. 21. The Domestic Church-Desert in the City • St. John Chrysostom gives us a monastic ethos while living in the world – a desert in the city. It's a model we see practiced elsewhere. St. Paul, for example, was directed to venture into cities, "(R)ise and enter the city and you will be told what you are to do" (Acts 9:6). In early Christianity, the first Churches were home churches, and although not properly a "Eucharistic assembly" [Zizioulas, J.D. (2001). Eucharist, Bishop, Church: The Unity of the Church in the Divine Eucharist and the Bishop During the First Three Centuries. Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Press.], it certainly is the center of sanctification of a man and woman in blessed married and their children.
    22. 22. The Fruit of the Holy Spirit • ―But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, good ness, faithfulness, gentleness, self- control …‖ (Gal 5:22–23). If such fruit guides the values of the domestic church, allow me to suggest what a behavioral scientist might see and record in the Godly home:
    23. 23. The Grapes of the Domestic Church • Attending liturgy as a family on Sundays and feast days; dressing in clean, modest clothing; being reverent during the services and praying the Liturgy; avoiding chit-chatting in church. • Observing Saturday evenings and evenings before reception of the Holy Eucharist as a time of prayer and spiritual recollection, not for partying or entertaining. • Maintaining an icon corner in the family home, with icons of Our Lord, the Theotokos and the family patron saints; teaching the reverence of sacred icons by holding family prayer at the icon corner; reading the daily troparia and kontakia, epistle and Gospel readings; using candles and incense. • Praying with children before bedtime and after awakening in the morning; teaching children to make the sign of the cross and how to memorize basic prayers, such as the Trisagion, Our Father, Creed, and Psalm 50; praying before and after meals (inside the home and when eating out).
    24. 24. The Grapes con‘t • Referencing the ‗Presence of God‘ around us at all times • Following the church fasts – Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year – Christmas (Advent) Fast – Lenten Fast and Holy Week – Apostles‘ Fast – Dormition Fast • Teaching children that the purpose of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving as building spiritual strength and giving back to God love through love of one another in need. – Keeping a program of spiritual reading and learning – Sacred Scripture – Church Fathers – Lives of the saints – Catechism materials [e.g. Alfeyev, Bishop Hilarion (2004), The Mystery of Faith: An Introduction to the Teaching and Spirituality of the Orthodox Church. London: Darton Longman & Todd] – Church school lessons (reinforced by parents reviewing each week with children) – For families with young children, videos of Scripture stories and other wholesome topics
    25. 25. The Grapes con‘t Teaching the reverence of the sacred icons Teaching the structure & layout of the church temple Refusing to participate in activities that conflict with worship or are scheduled during the Divine Liturgy on Sundays and feast-days; protesting to the proper community authorities and teaching children that God comes first. Acknowledging everyday blessings by asking Our Lord‘s blessing before each activity; rather than saying ‗Good luck,‘ saying ‗Thank you Lord‘ or ‗What a blessing‘; asking the priest to bless home, cars, and other special objects. Participating in special church blessings: Water [Jan 6 — Theophany] Candles [Feb 2 — Presentation] Flowers [Holy Cross Sunday & Great Friday] Oil [Wednesday of Holy Week] Palms [Palm Sunday] Eggs [Pascha] Basil [Sept 14 — Holy Cross]
    26. 26. The Grapes con‘t • Bringing children into the spiritual family of the Church Talking with the priest before the birth of the child and reflecting on the mystery of co-creation Having the priest bless the newborn in the hospital Saying the prayers of naming a child on the eighth day after birth Offering or “churching” (presenting) the baby to God on or about the 40th day after birth Conferring with the priest on the meaning of baptism and preparing for it Choosing sponsors who are committed to Christ and His teaching and who will educate the child in the faith and fear of God
    27. 27. The Grapes con‘t • Parents and older children practicing confessing sins privately on a daily basis and sacramentally on a frequent basis; thanking God for His grace and gift of life; each person examining his or her conscience as to how he or she acted toward God and others and attributing to God any good done and any evil to himself or herself; quickly resolving any conflicts with others, forgiving all who have offended and asking pardon of those have been offended. • Availing of Holy Unction during illness or when it is offered at the parish (on Wednesday of Holy Week and special unction services). • Ministering at the local parish church and in the community by participating in the parish council, ladies‘ society, youth organization, church school, choir, adult ministry, and other special ministries; parents encouraging and accompanying their children in parish activities such as church school, teen events, altar boys‘ camp, and choir.
    28. 28. The Grapes con‘t • Dealing with non-Christian values in news and media: • Allowing only appropriate TV programs and music. • Keeping the children‘s computers in an open space with a ‗net nanny‘ or parental controls installed; engaging in what children are doing. • When a program or ad appears in media or music which contradicts Our Lord‘s teaching, immediately addressing it in a Godly manner (see the Smart Parenting series of articles: • Engaging children in discussing television programs and movies in terms of understanding God‘s love for us and the love we must have for each other.
    29. 29. The Grapes con‘t • When a newscast is viewed, parents engaging the family in a discussion about the content in terms of Our Lord‘s teachings regarding issues such as: • Abortion • Capital punishment • Casual sex • Criminal activity • Drugs and alcohol • Environment • Euthanasia • Homelessness • Immodesty in dress, song, and speech • Natural disasters • Pre-emptive war • Same-Sex Marriage
    30. 30. Living The Spirit of Interiorized Spirituality • The aim of following the monastic counsels should always be increasing our spiritual perception. This is to understand the true spirit of the counsels and live our lives by this spirit. For priests, monks, catechists or parents (the leaders of their domestic Church) to be satisfied with the lowest common denominator of spirituality is abhorrent.
    31. 31. The domestic church builds up the kingdom of God within. In the words of St. Isaac of Syria: ―The sun which shines within [the family] is the light of the Holy Trinity. The air which the inhabitants of that realm breathe is the strengthening and all Holy Spirit…Christ, the light of the Father‘s light, is their life, joy and happiness.‖ (Brock, S. (1989), Daily Readings With St. Isaac of Syria. Springfield, IL: Templegate Publishers.). This fulfills the commission given by God to every male and female joined in one flesh to produce flesh of their flesh by the mystery of Holy Marriage. Come Follow Me (Mt 19: 21)