• The Influence of the Wilderness by Living in the Wilderness
  • On Hesychasm
  • Monasticism and the Local Church
  • The Jesus Prayer in Platina
  • The Role of Monasteries in the World

The Influence of the Wilderness by Living in the Wilderness

“Our attention,” Fr. Herman writes, “gradually began to take in the life that directly surrounded us. We began to see reality as it is and not depend on human opinion. The sound of the wind, the changes of the weather, its influence on one's mood, the life of the forest animals and birds – it was as if even the breathing of the plants and trees now had significance. Peaceful ideas were sown. The eyes began to accustom themselves to seeing not just what was external and jumped out at them, but the essence of the matter. Although friends came with love and tried to help, they were actually more of a burden and right from the beginning made errors of simple judgment, worrying about the external aspect that passes and not seeing the essence. And with what joy was the heart filled when silence reigned again and much-speaking stillness.” (p. 444)


On Hesychasm

Observing Fr. Seraphim's silent contemplation, Fr. Herman would tell him half-joking, “You're a hesychast!” - meaning a “silent one” engaged in direct contemplation of Divinity. Fr. Seraphim, however, did not like this term applied to himself. He even became indignant, saying, “I don't know what that means.” Of course he knew intellectually, but he did not want to pretend to understand it from experience. He detested posing and fakery of any kind. For him, spiritual life had to be first of all down to earth, filled with humility and sober awareness of one's low spiritual state. In his younger days he had written: “He who thinks himself self-sufficient is in the snare of the devil; such a man who thinks further that he is 'spiritual,' has become almost an active accomplice of the devil, whether he realizes it or not.” (p. 449)


Monasticism and the Local Church

As Fr. Seraphim wrote... “It is precisely the monastic services which are taken as the standard of the Church's life of worship, because monasticism itself most clearly expresses the ideal towards which the whole believing Church strives. The condition of monasticism at any given time is ordinarily one of the best indicators of the spiritual condition of the whole Church, or of any Local church; and similarly, the degree to which the local parishes in the world strive toward the ideal of monastic services is the best indicator of the condition of the Divine worship which is conducted in them.” (p. 473)


The Jesus Prayer in Platina

Outside the Church services, Fr. Seraphim would strive to remember God by saying the Jesus Prayer throughout the day, whether while working, resting, or taking a walk. The brothers were reminded to do likewise. From the very beginning of the skete's existence, Fathers Serphim and Herman had instituted the traditional monastic practice of saying the Jesus Prayer aloud whenever entering a room. This practice had been followed by the monks on ancient times in order to foil the tricks of the demons, who were know to enter the cells of desert-dwellers without warning. (p. 574)


The Role of Monasteries in the World

In traditional Orthodox societies, monasteries have always been an integral part of the spiritual life of people in the world. As Fr. Herman recalled Archimandrite Constantine telling the seminarians at Jordanville, parishes in the world were meant to provide the minimum spiritual requirements, but they never pretended to provide people with the maximum spiritual life. This latter function had always been carried out by monasteries, to which lay people made periodic pilgrimages. Monasteries were where they got spiritually recharged; from them they brought the leaven of otherworldliness to their daily lives in the world. (p. 578)



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