Friday, 8 December 2006

Orthodox Monasticism 15C — Our Reader’s Reply

Our young Romanian-American reader has replied to our remarks on his comment in the last posts. Since he signs his comments with his own name, we have not posted his comment so as to protect his identity and privacy: things posted on the Internet under your own name can haunt you for years. In this regard we note to our blog readers that they can send ‘Orthodox Monk’ an email either via the profile page or at an_orthodox_monk [at] yahoo [dot] com. We will eventually reply to this comment. Here is the text of our readers comment:

Thank you for your elaborate recommendations and advice. I expected the list to be long and it has proven so. Of course my assumption is only further solidified by the fact that my knowledge of the Church is rather basic in nature. Your presuppositions regarding my background are surprisingly accurate. Although I have lived in the U.S for the majority of my life, it has not deterred me from maintaining my Romanian. I have also studied French for 4 years and am semi-fluent. In addressing your statement regarding the language limitations that lie before me, I think that with English, Romanian, and French I can manage to make something of the various translations you have recommended. I should note that I’m attending a rather prestigious boarding school which has no religious affiliation; thus my education thus far can only be characterized as secularly liberal. Being so, I have become acquainted with a good portion of the literary canon (subjective as it is). Yet from a religious perspective, I recently discovered a rather alarming intellectual void. I was drawn to learn more of the monastic life from my reading of Herman Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game. Although the thematic elements of the novel don’t comprise of staunch religious connotations, the focus upon intellectual meditation impressed me. I was surprised to find that my faith possesses such a historically and spiritually significant history in the realm of religious meditation. I know my indirect venture is in itself derived from a secular attraction. It reminds me of an example that you cite in [one] of your posts, that often Westerners are drawn to Orthodox monasticism due to a desire to substitute Eastern meditative traditions. I would like to stress that this is not the case with me. My genuine concern is to learn and to gain a better understanding of Orthodoxy. The truth is that this religious void not only became apparent from an intellectual perspective; I felt that my scholarly concerns (ex. comparative literature, international relations, American politics, poetry, history, philosophy) were not leading me into a definitive path. Thus, I want to revaluate my options between senior year and my entrance into college. I will be sure to consult all of the recommended works you have mentioned, of course dependant upon availability. In addition I have to review my lecture notes on Aristotelian principles, since you have suggested that a good portion of theological studies demand a sound understanding of this. As far as Dostoevsky goes, I have only read Notes from the Underground (which is an existentialist piece from my understanding) and Crime and Punishment. Next on my list is The Brothers K. I already possess some brief essay reflections by Romanian monks who spent time in one of the Romanian monasteries in Mt. Athos. I will seek the ‘Post-Nicene Fathers’ collections and take careful heed regarding possible translation difficulties. St John Chrysostom’s will surely be high on my list as you have recommended it as so. As you can probably imagine I am not sure the monastic life is yet for me; it is something that has yet to be determined. Yet visiting Mt. Athos is something that I look forward to doing in the future. Judging from your diction, and superior knowledge of both religious and secular texts, I think I can safely deduce that you too have studied in the U.S. I was wondering if you could further share your opinion on the influence of great secular works on religion. What are your thoughts on Mircea Eliade, Romania’s great theologian, and his work in studying religions? Once again thank you for your wise recommendations, they will not be taken casually and they will surely occupy me for quite some time.

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