Category: Monastics

This world is not my home

by Andrea Elizabeth

“I’m just a passin’ through”, as the song goes.

I’ve been thinking (“a dangerous past time, ‘I know'”, as another song goes, [from Beauty and the Beast.]) about the relationship between matter and consciousness. Since I don’t really know the relationship, I’ll just list some observations in the order I remember or think of them.

Imagination and dreams are very compelling. Who can live without literature and now movies?

Stories draw from knowledge of material things.

Death separates us from material things. Resurrection will some day reunite us with an altered form of them.

Meanwhile, we are to strive for a healthy detachment from passions associated with material things. The attachment itself is at first immaterial, but it usually seeks a material consummation.

The Church consecrates material and immaterial things that we can properly attach to. Monastics commit to these being their only attachments. People in the world may attach to a broader number of things, which St. Paul says leads to inevitably being burdened by worldly cares.

Even monastics are encouraged to read stories, like those of Charles Dickens, which are mostly about people in the world. But since they are fiction, Dickens can achieve an immaterial relationship with them. Our relationships with immaterial concepts so depicted undoubtedly influence our relationships with material beings and things in our physical circle. If there is conflict between our conceptualized desires and our immediate circumstance, we seek escape from the latter. Perhaps this is not bad in itself. Perhaps our unfulfilled (meaning not yet materialized) desires are valid, and worthy of being dwelt upon in a desire for harmonic perfection of our inner and outer states. But we should stay open to the process required to bring about such harmony. Our circumstances, and our selves, are rough hewn rocks that require much chiseling. Actual escape is usually a premature burial of what could have been. But I will say that some stones are too unwieldy, and should be scrapped.

What happens if our culture, by becoming less human, makes it more difficult to achieve inner and outer harmony? Isolation occurs, but perhaps it always has. One is never alone who doesn’t seek to be, however.


by Andrea Elizabeth

The term, persona non grata, is in my head this morning. I thought it meant someone who doesn’t have a sense of identity. Instead it means someone who is banished, I suppose, for having an unacceptable identity. Hermit monks banish themselves, both for believing their sins are unacceptable, and that the world system is unacceptable.

Some Russians believe that bell ringing drives out evil spirits. Lord have mercy when the microwave rings – even when pushing the buttons, when the clock chimes – especially at 12, when the alarm goes off, and when sirens sound. If I were St Herman, I’d wear heavy bells instead of chains. But I’m not. I used to like wearing a jingle bell at Christmas. I want to get a little jingle bracelet.


by Andrea Elizabeth

Overall I thought the PBS series, Monastery, was pretty good. The five men who went to spend 40 days at an English Bendedictine Monastery all seemed to make progress in their relationships with God and man. A couple remarkably so. One seemed to undergo a pretty dramatic conversion complete with a couple of spiritual experiences and a conviction to leave his salacious career. Their experiences were convincing so I’ll not say that God can’t touch a person in a Catholic monastery, but I don’t think they’ll go as far getting spiritual advice that has a fair dose of New Agey content mixed in. With that included, I don’t see how they could have prevented one of the visiting men from ending up in a Buddhist Monastery.

Dreaming 2

by Andrea Elizabeth

Without traffic, it is an hour and 10 minutes to St. Maximus the Confessor Orthodox Church in America. Each time I’ve attended, I’ve felt it very much worth the drive to Denton County. However, there are other things to consider when one would thinks they would like to attend two services a day. One of these considerations is that Parker County, where I live, which is the county to the west of Tarrant, which is the one west of Dallas County, doesn’t have an Orthodox Church. Last fall I shared this dream of a semi-monastic community in my neighborhood. Problem is, the residents would have to have a job, and the jobs are in Tarrant County. The property I described that is in my neighborhood just came up for sale last weekend. The newish, niceish house is 2,600 sq ft, there’s a “bunkhouse” with kitchen and bathroom where the owners lived while they were building, and has 13 acres of mostly cleared dry land, and a little cow pond. The other problem is, it’s listed at $495,000. Seems to me only 4 to 6 single, co-ed adults could segregatedly live in the existing buildings, so at most, that could be over $100,000 a piece to live in pretty shared environs, which is hard to do when one is used to independence. I don’t know how families could work yet. Here’s a wider shot taken last fall, for perspective. I think you can zoom in and see the bunkhouse just to the left of the main house, and to the right of the pump house or whatever that is.

But here’s another idea. On the Parker County/Hood County border to our south, 15 minutes away, is this cute little structure. It’s oldish sign says Temple Hall United Methodist Church, and their internet listing says they meet on Sundays at 11am. I wonder if they’d rent it out during other times. Methodists are open-minded, right? Probly not twice a day, but one has to start somewhere. I wonder if Methodists like icons.

Mt Athos and guilt

by Andrea Elizabeth

The 60 Minutes videos on Mt. Athos may be the closest I ever get to the Orthodox Holy Mountain. For the most part it was respectful and wonderfully illuminating, but there was one part where the interviewer shook his head when the Abbot spoke of not going to visit his dying father. This is a sharp picture of the controversy over leaving the world with the idea that this will help it, or staying to fix it seemingly more directly. I wonder if his father ever tried to visit him there. It seems that sometimes when a child makes a different value choice than the parents, that lines can be drawn that neither are willing to cross. I personally think the Abbot made the better choice. Here’s how Kierkegaard explains it:

If the genius remains thus immediately determined  and turned outward, he will indeed become great and his accomplishment astounding, but he will never come to himself and never become great to himself. All his activity is turned outward, and if I may so speak, the planetarean core that radiates everything never comes into existence.

[…] Every deeper dialectical determination of sin is excluded. The ultimate would be that of being regarded as guilty in such a way that anxiety is not directed toward guilt but toward the appearance of guilt, which is the category of honor. Such a state of the soul would be very appropriate for poetic treatment. What has been described can happen to every man, but the genius would at once lay hold of it so profoundly that he would not be striving with men, but with the profoundest mysteries of existence.

That such a genius-existence is sin, despite its splendor, glory and significance, is something that requires courage to understand, and it can hardly be understood before one has learned to satisfy the hunger of the wishing soul. It is true, nonetheless. That such an existence may nevertheless be happy to a certain degree proves nothing. Talent may be conceived of as a means of diversion, and in so doing one realizes that at no moment is it possible to raise oneself above the categories in which the temporal lies. Only through a religious reflection can genius and talent in the deepest sense be justified. (The Concept of Anxiety, p. 101, 102)

I’m not sure what he means about the “appearance of guilt”, but my first unbothered reading lumped both of them together to mean that the properly inwardly focused genius deals with his own guilt. Not to say that everything is his fault, but that he examines himself first. I believe that there is also guilt in passively dealing with anothers’ guilt, so one can’t just shut their eyes to what goes on around them either. Withdrawing to pray, however, is not necessarily passive.

I have a dream

by Andrea Elizabeth

For the past week I’ve been obsessed by an idea. The possibility of neighboring acreage with a newly built house coming up for sale and what I would do with it has lit me up. Before this, I’ve had my eye on the highest hill around, 6 miles from my house, as being the perfect spot for a traditional Orthodox Church out here, a light shining in the wilderness of ranch-land to the south and Victorian houses to the north. I’ve lived among both, but have been too poor to own either. Now I live among the ranches, one of which through the grapevine I’ve heard is coming up for sale. My current idea is not as traditional as my other one.

It’s actually not my idea. A few years ago a family who used to go to my Church moved back to east Texas where they came from. They would like to purchase some acreage out there, and have a few families live on it and jointly grow their own food. My idea is similar, but a little different. I would like to start a semi-monastic community where people of various backgrounds, but who have monastic leanings, live together either in a multi-dwelling structure to conserve the land for farming, or possibly individual cells. They keep their own finances, cars, and jobs however. Everyone shares the mortgage payment and helps with the garden and the cow. I like the idea of growing towards self-sustainment and being off the grid, but that would not be the main goal. The main purpose is to hopefully have twice daily readers services together in a cool little chapel, possibly like the one above. If everyone lived together, I think they would be more likely to walk together every day to the beautiful little wooden structure and participate. We would still go to our main parish for the less often offered services however. Maybe someday when that Church is more equipped, they could afford to have us get our own priest out here, and then maybe build that traditional Church I mentioned above. Meanwhile I would like for a monastic type person to be able to find a compatible lifestyle, but that strictness would not be required of everyone. There would be some rules however mainly regarding purity and sharing of duties. I’m not sure if married couples or families would live on the property or be encouraged to live in a house close-by like we do. I love the idea of being able to walk to the chapel to pray everyday and help with the grounds, animals, chapel, finances, etc. Other more distant people could commute to the services if they wanted to. There are many people who live in isolating circumstances whom I think would be greatly helped in this type of situation if it were done right.

A fresh start

by Andrea Elizabeth

It is with mixed feelings that I read at Steve’s that there is a turnover taking place at St. Michael’s Skete, now Monastery of the Archangel Michael in Cañones, NM. Most of my family and I stayed in its very nice guest house for a couple of days a few years ago. I didn’t realize the monks’ accommodations were so spare however. And I hadn’t realized that the very young Fr. John isn’t there anymore, though I knew he’d had some health problems. I pray he is recovering well and that things are improving for him in general. I’m very glad that Metropolitan Jonah and his former monks at St. John of San Francisco have stepped in to bring order to what was apparently a rough situation. If you haven’t already, please read Steve’s post and follow his links to help them out if possible.


by Andrea Elizabeth

The kids and I have enjoyed the PC game, Syberia I and now Syberia II. It is a “casual game” that lets you take your time finding clues and solving the mysteries. The art is very nice, if somewhat gray, and the story is intelligent. Kate Walker, dressed in too tight pants, is trying to help the artful and mechanical genius savant, Hans Voralberg, get to the island of Syberia where mammoths have supposedly survived.

In the sequel, Kate finds herself in a Russian monastery. I was very curious how they would characterize it and initially was looking forward to how the Patriarch, who had a reputation of healing illness, would treat Hans who had taken sick. Once you get to the thankfully beautiful Church with some pretty nice icons, the monks are uncommunicative and not interested in helping others. They just silently and slowly do menial tasks while Kate makes comments like, “whiling away his celibate hours”. The Patriarch is even worse and appalls Kate with his characterization of Hans as a heretical sinner who will die for his sins before he can leave the monastery. Kate defends him and seeks to escape. In my experience monastics are much more gracious and uncondemning. I am sad to once again see the entertainment industry portray clergy as the bad guys. However, with some of today’s news, it is frustrating that some hierarchs have provided ammunition.

The Akathist of Thanksgiving

by Andrea Elizabeth

Tuesday morning this was prayed at the Monastery.

The Akathist of Thanksgiving

By Metropolitan Tryphon of Turkestan

Found in effects of Hieromartyr Grigori Petroff (+1942)

Kontakion 1

O King of ages, Who, by the power of Thy salvific providence, holdeth in Thy right hand all the ways of man’s life: I thank Thee for all Thy visible and secret goods, for earthly life and for the heavenly joy of Thy future Kingdom. Pour forth richly Thy grace, in the future as well, on us who sing to Thee: Glory to Thee, O God, in ages!

Ikos 1

I was born on earth as a feeble and helpless child, but Thy angel, spreading his shiny wings, has sheltered my cradle. From that moment Thy love shines in all my ways and miraculously guides me into the light of eternity. For that my soul lauds Thee and hails Thee with all who know Thee:

Glory to Thee Who hast called me into life.

Glory to Thee Who art revealing to us the beauty of the universe.

Glory to Thee Who art opening to us heaven and earth as an eternal book of wisdom.

Glory to Thy eternity in the passing world.

Glory to Thee for Thy covert and overt mercies.

Glory to Thee for every sigh of my heart.

Glory to Thee for every step of life, / every moment of joy.

Glory to Thee, O God, in ages!

Kontakion 2

O Lord, how good it is for us to be Thy guests! How fine it is for us in Thy world. The fields are fragrant, the mountains rise high up into the sky, and the golden rays of sun and the light clouds are reflected in the water. All nature mysteriously speaks about Thee, all is filled with Thy mercy and all carries the seal of Thy love. Blessed be the earth which, with her short-lasting beauty, awakens the yearning for the eternal homeland in Thy kingdom, where in everlasting beauty resounds the song: Alleluia!

Ikos 2

Thou broughtest me into this life as if into a wonderful garden. I see the sky deep and blue, the birds as they chirp in flight; I listen to the soothing rustle of trees and the sonorous sound of waters; my mouth is enjoying fragrant and succulent fruits. How wonderful it is in Thy world and how joyous it is to be Thy guest!

Glory to Thee for the feast of life!

Glory to Thee for the scents of lilies of the valley and roses.

Glory to Thee for the abundance and multiplicity of earthly fruits.

Glory to Thee for the glistening of morning dew.

Glory to Thee for the joyous smile of dawn / with which Thou dost waken me.

Glory to Thee for eternal life / and the kingdom of heaven.

Glory to Thee, O God, in ages!

(the rest is here)

instead of a thousand words

by Andrea Elizabeth

Saturday was a beautiful sunny day at the monastery, so I went for a walk around the meadow.

The picture I was taking while Deb took a picture of Mary Kay and me.