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Archive for February, 2014

A video about the relevance of Orthodox Christianity to the African diaspora.

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Lay Monasticism

The last couple of posts covered some of the contemporary hot button issues in the Orthodox Church, so I am going to take a break from more controversial subjects and focus on something completely different. In recent years, in many Western Christian communities, there has been a new movement which labelled either “Lay Monasticism” or “the New monasticism”. This movement is distinguished from traditional monasticism by several features. The movement consists largely of lay people, both single and married, who live in the world according to simple vows and/or a rule of life. There does not currently seem to be a comparable movement in canonical Orthodoxy. I think this may be in part because the average observant Orthodox parishioner already lives a fairly disciplined life if he or she abides by the canonical practices of the Church. These practices include a rhythm of feasting and fasting and a discipline of private prayer and participation in the life and worship of the Church.

I have recently read two books on the subject of lay monasticism. One is entitled The Inner Room: A Journey into Lay Monasticism by Mark Plaiss. The other is A Monk in the World by Wayne Teasdale. Both authors are Roman Catholic laymen who are each associates of monasteries which follow the Benedictine tradition. In my reading, I was reminded of my connection with the Monastic Communities of New Skete, which are currently in the process of developing an associates program. I try to instill a certain amount of spiritual discipline in my life by a rhythm of daily prayer (which is easier on some days than others) and by living out the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience in my daily life. My poverty is more akin to simplicity of life and detachment from material goods. I am currently single. I believe that the virtue of chastity should not necessarily be conflated with celibacy, so that it may apply equally to those who are married or in a romantic relationship. I understand obedience as being primarily to the gospel. The virtue of obedience is manifested in living a life of spiritual discipline.

I am still in the process of working out what this might look like in an Orthodox context. Certainly, there are many precedents for a disciplined lay spirituality within Orthodoxy. However, I am still trying to figure out if there is a place for a type of Orthodox lay monasticism, and if so, what form it might take. I still need to take a further look at the “New Monasticism” and write further on the topic as I gather more information.

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