Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Future Monk? 4

This is a very difficult post. We haven’t been very happy with writing it. But here it is. It begins with a more theological discussion of the issues raised by Simon in his first email, based on quotations from that email. These are indented. Then we discuss the more general issue of Simon’s personal condition and his suitability for the monastic state.
The way the Orthodox Church has been administering tonsure the last few centuries bothers me.

This is a rather presumptuous beginning. So you’re bothered by the practice of the Church for the last few centuries. Well, why start small? There are many, many very holy saints even today who didn’t tamper with the practice of the Church. There have been monastic reformers in the history of the Church, including the Church of Russia. However, a true monastic reformer is called to that task by God; it is not something he arrogates to himself. Moreover, he must be illuminated by God to be able to proceed with his reform (see below where we talk about Tradition in the Church). One of the mysteries of the will of God is why he calls some people to tasks such as the reform of the Church and not others. This is not something we call ourselves to.

For one thing, tonsure is seen as a second baptism. But if you allow rasophores to leave—that is, to become unbaptized—isn't that sacrilege?

The notion of the monastic tonsure as a second baptism has a long history. It appears even in ancient Egyptian monasticism (i.e. Christian monasticism of the first centuries). It is found even in the medieval Roman Catholic Church, where two post-baptism events were considered to provide the complete forgiveness of sins: the monastic tonsure and a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Indeed, one of the reasons for the medieval military monastic orders in the Roman Catholic Church was the need to protect Roman Catholic pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem, and it seems they were going for precisely this reason.

There is only one tonsure which provides the full forgiveness of sins; this is the tonsure to the Great Schema. An analogy can be drawn with the priesthood. There are a number of minor orders; there are three major orders: the deacon, the priest and the bishop. Only the bishop has the fullness of the priesthood; only he can do all the functions of the priest, such as ordination. Despite that, the deacon and the priest participate in the priesthood that the bishop has in fullness and are allowed by the Church to perform certain priestly functions.

It is similar with regard to the various degrees of monastic tonsure. The fullness of the monastic tonsure is the Great Schema and only that provides the complete forgiveness of sins and the complete ontological transformation of monasticism. However, despite that, the prayers of the rasophore (and even the various prayers sometimes used in the novitiate) and the prayers of the stavrophore (Small Schema) provide grace.

In any event, there is no such thing as becoming unbaptized. What is implied in the notion that the tonsure is a second baptism is the forgiveness of sins. This is not the same forgiveness of sins as in real baptism: if someone has committed a sin which is an impediment to the priesthood before baptism, after baptism he can still be ordained to the priesthood; but if he has committed such a sin after baptism but before tonsure then even after his tonsure to the Great Schema he cannot be ordained to the priesthood.

Moreover, in the case of baptism, people never become unbaptized: people can renounce Christ and convert to another religion, or even just follow no religion, but they remain baptized. Such people would never be received back into the Church by a second baptism; the Church provides for a different handling of the matter. So what happened to their sins? Their pre-baptismal sins were forgiven in baptism; what they have to deal with is the new sins of denial of Christ and so on.

Similarly if people were to leave the monastic state it is not as if the old sins come back so that they become unbaptized from their ‘second baptism’; rather they have to deal with the new sin of breaking their vows.

There's the argument that technically they haven't made any vows, but that implies that stavrophore tonsure is only a legal contract with God.

The logic of this escapes us.

As we have written elsewhere, there is a difference of opinion in the Church about the status of the rasophore—whether the rasophore is in fact a novice or in fact a monk. If the rasophore is a novice, he is not a monk and does not participate in any fundamental way in the Great Schema as indicated just above. If he is a monk, then he participates in some way in the Great Schema and cannot be laicized; in this view the vows are treated as implicit since the postulant understands that he is committing himself to a life of celibacy.

The Church of Greece takes the view that the rasophore is a novice whereas the considered opinion of Abbots on Mt Athos and, we believe, the Church of Serbia is that the rasophore is a monk and bound. The Church of Russia (Moscow Patriarchate) distinguishes between the rasophore who is a habit-wearing novice and who can return to the world, and the rasophore who is a monk and who cannot return to the world. In this case it would be clear before the candidate put on the habit (rasa) just what was being done, and the liturgical prayers, if any, would be different.

We don’t understand the notion used here of a legal contract with God. The vows are vows: they are promises to God and have to be kept. As we pointed out, the Roman Catholic Church gets around the notion of the unbreakability of monastic vows to God by treating, in at least some circumstances, the vows as given to the community and not to God (if the vow was given to the community then the community can dispense the vow).

The vow is not in its nature a legal contract; it is a promise to the Divinity. However, it should be pointed out that in the Rule of Benedict the monastic tonsure is treated as a legal contract and the contract is duly signed by the postulant and placed on the altar.

By the same logic, you could encourage married couples to divorce because they don't take vows.

This is arrant nonsense. Married couples cannot divorce not because of vows, even implicit, but because divorce is forbidden by Jesus Christ himself.

Yet like the rasophore, the spouse has taken implicit and silent vows

This is nonsense. There is a rule that the Church believes what it prays. If there were vows involved in marriage in the Orthodox Church they would be explicitly pronounced in the marriage service. They are not. Admittedly this would argue against the rasophore being a monk and not a novice but this is something we don’t want to take a position on; we are merely trying to lay out the status of the rasophore in current thinking in the Church.

(I recognize that the Church allows divorce, but that is only in the case of some kinds of unfaithfulness. God is never unfaithful to us, so a monk should not divorce his God.)

This is also nonsense. In divorce, the Church treats the marriage as not having occurred in reality. Church divorce is more in the nature of an annulment if we understand correctly. However, we are not experts in canon law, and certainly not experts in the theology and canon law of marriage, to be able to discuss this with certainty.

The issue with the monk is the absolute nature of a vow given to God. If I vow to give a sheep to God, even as a layperson and not expecting anything in return from God, I have to fulfil my vow under penalty of serious sin. It is not because God is small-minded but because we shouldn’t vow anything to God that we don’t intend to carry out. God is not mocked.

Another problem is that there are multiple tonsure ceremonies. If the rasophore was second baptism, then why have stavrophore tonsure?

The stavrophore or Small Schema came into existence in the 8th to 9th Centuries in the Iconoclast controversy when monks were on the run from the authorities because they supported the veneration of icons. The vows of the Great Schema (especially the vow of renunciation of the world) were considered too onerous for monks in that condition so a somewhat milder form of the tonsure to the Great Schema was invented which we now know as the stavrophore or Small Schema. However, the Great Schema is the fullness of the monastic tonsure and the criterion by which it is measured.

The nature of the argument posed by Simon here can be seen from considering the argument that there shouldn’t be multiple ordinations, since a deacon is a priest and a priest is a priest and a bishop is a priest, so how can there be multiple priesthoods?

If stavrophore tonsure is second baptism, then was the rasophore tonsure meaningless?

Neither the rasophore nor the stavrophore (Small Schema) participate in the monastic tonsure in fullness. By analogy, the deacon and the priest participate to a degree in the priesthood of the bishop but they are both lacking various aspects of the fullness of the priesthood that the bishop has.

Often one takes a new name at each ceremony. Sometimes one will take a new name upon becoming a novice, and sometimes one will not take a name upon becoming a rasophore. Doesn't this make the act of taking a new name into a formality or obligatory convention?

Taking a new name indicates a change in state and implies a commitment on both sides that the person will continue in the monastic state. The change of name can create problems if a novice with a new name later returns to the world. If he gets married, under what name? For this reason it is best if the name is changed only at the time that a monastic tonsure is done beyond the novitiate. This means that if you consider the rasophore to be a novice you shouldn’t change the name but if on both sides you consider the rasophore to be a monk then you can change the name. It is not obligatory to change the name at the monastic tonsure but it is understood that if someone is tonsured to the monastic state with the same name as before then they have made their old name their new name. This happens.

Then there's how people view the schema. It seems as if it's a medal or an award.

This is unfortunately the case in the Russian jurisdictions. It was the case also in the Greek jurisdictions until the reform introduced by Nikodemos the Hagiorite around 1800.

However, Russian liturgical practice often reflects more ancient Greek practice. The Russians are liturgically very conservative and much more loathe to change their liturgical typikon than the Greeks. But the Russians took their liturgical typikon from the Greeks when Russia was Christianized (ignoring here the reforms of Patriarch Nikon in the 16th Century).

We do not know the origin of the Russian practice of having a Bishop tonsure the monk to the Great Schema, whether this is a Russian innovation or something that they took from the Greeks which the Greeks subsequently changed. The Greeks of course have a priest who is also a monk of the Great Schema tonsure to the Great Schema. In Greece it would be considered unseemly for a priest who was not a monk of the Great Schema to tonsure to the Great Schema. Of course, a bishop has the fullness of the priesthood and can tonsure to the Great Schema whether or not he is a monk of the Great Schema.

We also do not know whether the actual service of the Russian Great Schema differs in any significant way from the Greek Great Schema service.

It is also noteworthy that a Russian Great Schema monk is barred from ordination to bishop—since he has renounced the world—whereas current Greek practice is to allow and even to encourage this. It is historically very rare for a Great Schema monk to be ordained to bishop in Russia.

The Russian attitude is that the Great Schema monk is the perfect monk and should be living a life of prayer in retirement preparing for death whereas the Small Schema monk is the more active monk.

Silouan the Athonite was a monk of the Great Schema but Seraphim of Sarov was only a monk of the Small Schema because, he thought, he was not worthy of the Great Schema.

The Greek attitude since the reforms of Nikodemos around 1800 is that the Great Schema is the normal monastic state; there is no provision for the Russian ‘super-monk of the Great Schema’. But as we said we do not know the history of the Russian practice. However current Greek practice on Mt Athos is to avoid tonsure directly to the Great Schema (see below for a discussion why). Instead there is an intermediate stage for a period of years.

There is a book which provides a historical discussion of the evolution of the monastic tonsure in the Orthodox Church and a Great Schema tonsure service from about 1000 AD in the original Greek. The service is very interesting and significantly different in many respects from the service found in the Greek Euchologion today. Unfortunately apart from the texts of the Greek services the book is in Latin since it is an older Roman PhD dissertation.

The book is:

Wawryk, Initiatio Monastica in Liturgia Byzantina, Orientalia Christiana Analecta 180, 1968, Pontifical Institute of Oriental Studies, Rome.

To continue:

Are not all clergy dead to the world?

Well, let’s hope they’re dead to sin but some of them are married.

Are not all rasophores committed to virginity?

Depends on how you understand the rasophore and virginity. If you mean life-long virginity, then the Church of Greece would disagree since it will allow rasophores who have left their monastery to be married in Church. The Abbots of Mt Athos disagree with the Church of Greece on this.

It should also be pointed out that virginity is not a requirement of the tonsure to the monastic state in the Orthodox Church. Indeed, previous sins of the flesh are not an impediment to the monastic tonsure. However, all monastics commit themselves to a life of chastity and celibacy and in the fullness of the monastic tonsure this chastity and celibacy is vowed with explicit vows.

Doesn't the word ‘monachos’ mean ‘solitary’?


In the early days, the schema was given upon first tonsure—there were no multiple tonsure ceremonies.

The very early history of monasticism is not that clear on this point. It’s not even clear if in the beginning there was a formal tonsure service and if so just what it contained.

Wawryk’s book mentioned above is a history of the tonsure in the Orthodox Church but it is written in Latin which makes consulting it difficult.

One of the problems of doing research into such a field is that you need primary documents to give you data about the target period. These documents are not always available. One work which attempts to remedy this is a collection of all the Byzantine monastic typika in English translation. Simon could well study this very large multi-volume work to learn more about the historical development of Orthodox monasticism—although the book concerns itself with Byzantine monasticism and not with Russian monasticism. The book is:

Thomas & Hero eds, Byzantine Monastic Foundation Documents, 1998, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington DC.

This book can, we believe, be found on the Internet.

We even see this more recently in St. Bogolep the child schemamonk.

The exception is not the norm.

In On Holy Virginity, St. Augustine defines two categories: the married man or woman, and the committed virgin.

This is the basic division of the Gospel. However, Augustine is not normative for Orthodox monasticism. He is not even normative for Orthodox theology in general. In the matter of monasticism, Augustine had no experience of monasticism before becoming Bishop of Hippo and his monastic rule is intensely personal, having no connection to Egyptian practice or to the rules that were written by monks who had been in Egypt before they arrived in France. John Cassian comes to mind, but there are also a number of rules written about the same time in Southern France that reflect a more Egyptian orientation (see Les règles des saints pères, Sources chrétiennes 297 & 298; see also La règle du maître, Sources chrétiennes 105, 106 & 107 and La règle de saint Benoît, Sources chrétiennes 182 & 183).

He does not talk about those considering committed virginity.

Just because Augustine doesn’t discuss the novitiate as a state of life doesn’t mean that he didn’t recognize that such trial periods in the monastery existed. But frankly this is not something we have studied.

However, while we do not recall the exact history of the novitiate in the Orthodox Church, we are sure it came to be institutionalized very early. The novitiate is prescribed in the Long Rules of Basil the Great (died 379) and Basil is far more normative for Orthodox monasticism than Augustine. Moreover, the Emperor Justinian legislated in 535 that the novitiate should last 3 years. While one might object that this was secular legislation which should not be binding on the Orthodox Church, we are sure that the Emperor was merely codifying existing good practice. We are certain he did not invent the novitiate.

In part, the monastic novitiate is a scripturally grounded test of the postulant’s ability to make a life-long commitment to chastity and celibacy (‘Let him receive this who can...’). While grace certainly plays a role in the monastic’s ability to lead a life of chastity, the particular psychological and physical character of the postulant whether male or female is also very important, and this—together with the free will of the postulant—is what is being tested. That is, because the postulant is a man or woman with free will and who has a certain psychological character and physical constitution, one cannot simply look inside them to judge what will happen over the course of their life; it would require a prophetic revelation. But even prophetic revelation is subject to the free will of the person being prophesied about, as we learn from Scripture. Hence, the person is tested before being tonsured because we want to see what they will do in practice over a period of time.

Moreover, it should be understood that there are other aspects of the monastic vocation besides life-long celibacy, notably obedience, stability and the ability to get along with the other members of the monastic community, that are being tested in the novitiate. In regard to interpersonal relations, it should be noted that the vow of obedience is not just to the Superior but to the Superior and all the members of the brotherhood.

For him, it was almost an instant decision before baptism.

We doubt this; it’s not even a particularly Gospel teaching. The Gospel teaches us to count the cost. Consider the parable of the king going out to battle against the king with more troops and the parable of the man who will build a tower who sits down to calculate what it will cost.

And in his Rule, he [Augustine] does not mention the novitiate. All this was less than 100 years after St. Anthony the Great and over 100 years before St. Benedict of Nursia.

One Father, even Augustine, is not normative for the theology of the Orthodox Church. For Orthodox monasticism, Anthony and Benedict of Nursia would carry far more weight than Augustine. Benedict does discuss how to receive postulants.

Basil the Great died about 20 years before Augustine wrote his rule. Basil founded his monastery for which he wrote his rule about 45 years before Augustine wrote his rule. And as we have said, Basil prescribes a novitiate.

It would be impossible to maintain a practice of tonsure without the novitiate in the Church today.

Moreover tonsure directly to the Great Schema is extremely rare even after the novitiate. Exceptions have been known, notably at Optina in the 19th Century and even on Mt Athos today, but these are indeed exceptions and rather dangerous because of free will.

There is something similar in ordinations to the priesthood. The Church forbids ordination directly to bishop although there have been occasional exceptions. The Church wants a gradual series of ordinations. The reason is that the grace of the various priestly ordinations is heavy and the person has to get used to the grace in a lower order and learn to live with it and handle it before moving on to the next heavy dose of grace in the higher order. There are also issues of pride and ego inflation in receiving too much grace too soon.

It is similar with the various tonsures to the Great Schema. It is the rare person who can be tonsured to the Great Schema cold without spiritual damage. Sometimes such a tonsure is done on the death bed (in part for the complete forgiveness of sins) but it is well known that if you do this the person might not die and you have to live with them afterwards as monks of the Great Schema.

Orthodoxy is not a system; it is a teaching.

This is nonsense. The Orthodox Church, dogmatically defined, is the Church founded by Jesus Christ. The norm of the Orthodox Church is defined as Tradition. The most relevant remark is that of Lossky, who defined Tradition as the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Hence what Orthodoxy is, is Tradition, defined as the presence of the Holy Spirit. This distinguishes Orthodoxy from the western rationalism of the Catholic Church. (Protestants oscillate between rationalism and emotionalism.) What Orthodoxy is, the Holy Spirit teaches us after Baptism, spiritually in our soul. However, the formal teaching of the Church is defined by the consensus of the Fathers of the Church, who have been especially illuminated by the Holy Spirit. (We ignore here the matter of dogmatic decisions of Ecumenical Synods.)

The system of Orthodoxy is a reflection of that teaching, but many people seem to think the system at this current time is the only correct and perfect way to do it.

Well that’s preferable to people who think that they are ready to change the last few centuries of Orthodox practice right after entering the Orthodox Church.

This is a soft manifestation of Roman development of doctrine


Rather, perhaps sometimes the system of Orthodoxy becomes skewed (although not too much), and it is our job to preserve its integrity.

Fix yourself first. Elder Sophrony (Sakharov) in his book on Silouan the Athonite discusses the development of a dogmatic consciousness as one stage of the spiritual growth of the person. What this means is that as the person grows spiritually, at some point the Holy Spirit illuminates them so that they have an inner sense or criterion of theology. Of course this is a prerequisite for a Father of the Church but in the case of a Father there is much more involved, sometimes including very deep training in secular philosophy and philology (Gregory the Theologian, Basil the Great, Gregory Palamas).

My point is not that the schema or novitiate are wrong. Rather, my point is that it seems that the Orthodox Church has turned monastic tonsure from an ontological change into a legal contract in the same way that the West has done to marriage and pretty much everything else.

This seems nonsense. While it is possible that you have landed in a rather formalist jurisdiction, there is much much more to the monastic tonsure in the Orthodox Church, even today, than a legal contract. There is the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Am I alone in this opinion? I'm fairly new in Orthodoxy, but I can't imagine that I'm the only one who's noticed this. Could you point me to some further resources?

Simon Jaguar, future monk

The second issue that strikes us is Mr Jaguar’s attitude. Anyone reading over the correspondence will, we think, be struck by Simon’s inordinate anger. Now it doesn’t bother us that Mr Jaguar is angry at Orthodox Monk; we are an anonymous blogger and if worst comes to worst we can block Simon’s email address in our spam blocker and be done with him. If that doesn’t work we can turn off our computer.
However, we think that Simon’s anger isn’t a one-off directed at Orthodox Monk. In fact we think it is quite the opposite: we think that this is how Simon is in general with the people around him. His behaviour strikes us as consistent with his being a disturbed high-school student; if Simon is much older than high-school student age, then so much the worse: something is definitely wrong.
One issue we wonder about is how with this sort of anger Simon can go to communion. Not only is such anger monastically depraved but it isn’t even acceptable in the Gospel for a lay person. Now we are not saying this to bash Simon but to lay things out in clarity for Simon and for our other readers. Simon should bear in mind that we wanted to avoid dealing with his email, giving him only a summary opinion and asking him to leave us alone. He insisted, however, and we have given our opinion worthless as it is.
To our mind one of the major issues with this anger is its origin. Simon mentions that he was a member of a fundamentalist Protestant church and we, Orthodox Monk, have seen such anger among fundamentalist Protestants: the street preacher who hates the people to whom he is preaching is an example. This is a Protestantism that is powered by a spirit of anger.
It is possible in our view that Simon was immersed in such a Protestantism and then converted to Orthodoxy. We wonder, however, if this is indeed the case, why Simon retained this spirit. How was he received into the Orthodox Church? As we learn from Diadochos of Photiki in the Gnostic Chapters, Orthodox baptism drives all the demons out of the inner spirit (nous) of man and replaces them with the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of meekness and love. Was Simon received into Orthodoxy by baptism? If not, he should consult either with the monks on Mt Athos or with a jurisdiction that receives by baptism.
If Simon was received by baptism, did he make a sincere and humble confession of all his sins at the time of his baptism? Baptism only works if such a full confession is made; if sins are hidden then the baptism doesn’t work, presumably until the hidden sins are confessed.
But if Simon has made such a clear confession and that isn’t the problem, is it sin after baptism that has led to this condition? That is possible since we can certainly sin after baptism. In this case there is a need for repentance and confession—and reconciliation to the people around him by Simon (he can leave us out as having forgiven him).
Is it something biochemical? This is always possible but we are not psychiatrists to give such a diagnosis, and certainly not over the Internet.
Is it something psychological, having to do with the circumstances of Simon’s early childhood? We only know what’s in Simon’s emails and we have no idea.
However, what is clear is that Simon is going to have to do something about this anger. Not only is such anger a serious impediment to a monastic vocation until it is overcome both spiritually, morally and psychologically, but it is also against the Gospel. In such cases, the priest, we think, would want to see evidence of a serious—and we mean serious—effort to overcome this habitual anger before allowing communion. But we are not Simon’s priest; he should be discussing this blog post with his confessor in a very serious way.
There is another aspect of Simon’s emails that we wish to address. Although Simon is a recent convert to Orthodoxy he wishes to purify the last few centuries of Orthodox practice. He signs his email ‘future monk’. He seems to be implying that he has found a precedent in Augustine that he can become a monk directly without going through a novitiate. Moreover, he insists that we give reasoned replies to his arguments.
These positions speak of great pride. First of all, as John of Sinai remarks somewhere in the Ladder of Divine Ascent, anyone who insists on their opinion is sick with the Devil’s disease. That of course is pride. Indeed, apart from any issues of Simon’s anger, any Abbot with any sense who encountered Simon in his present condition would, judging from Simon’s email correspondence to us, get rid of Simon in a very short time. The Abbot would be unleashing a terror on the Orthodox Church if he kept Simon and tonsured him—to whatever rank of the monastic state. Indeed, in our opinion any Abbot who didn’t immediately get rid of Simon would be of very questionable judgement, an Abbot that we would recommend against, even for Simon: Simon, we go to the monastery to learn, not to teach the Abbot what the proper practice of the Church should be. In your present condition it’s impossible for you to become a monk—you have to fix your basic Gospel orientation—but even after you rectify your basic Gospel orientation and still want to become a monk, you are going to need a sound Abbot who isn’t going to put up with your anger and pride. Again, there is material on this in the Ladder. If we recall correctly, a novice with great pride was sent permanently to the gate of the monastery to make prostrations to all persons entering and leaving the monastery, asking them to pray for him since he was an epileptic (demoniac). This went on for something like 17 years. The man died a novice.
We strongly recommend that Simon read the Ladder. We recommend the translation by Lazarus Moore published by Holy Transfiguration Monastery. We have the impression that it is out of print so he will have to search for it. We do not recommend the other translation, although that translation has a good introduction by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware). The introduction to the Moore translation isn’t by Moore and is not up to the level of Moore’s translation.
Is Simon a hopeless case for monasticism? In his present condition, yes. Can he change? Yes. But he has to realize that he’s on the wrong road and repent. He will have to do serious work with his priest.
Another aspect of Simon’s emails that struck us was his inability or unwillingness to read exactly what we wrote. We are a careful writer although somewhat recondite and normally we speak with precision.
Simon misquoted us on our statement, ‘Your attitude suggests that you are far from a monastic in spirit and that you will have serious difficulties.’
Simon played this back to us as: ‘You cannot know whether I am ‘far from a monastic spirit’ and that I have an ‘attitude’ just because I see an inconsistency in sacramental theology.’ This is not exactly what we said.
Moreover, Simon obviously didn’t read our posts carefully because he completely misses our intention to reply in detail in due course (despite our disinclination to do so).
We are emphasizing these things because we fear that Simon will not take the time to read this post carefully and to make a serious effort to understand what exactly it is we are saying. This creates two problems. The first problem is that we don’t want to engage in a slanging match with Simon, especially about things that Simon has misinterpreted. (Leave us alone, Simon. No one knows who you are.)
The second problem that we fear is that Simon will have interior pre-existing psychological states and feelings triggered by what he thinks he is reading in our post, things with no foundation in what we’ve written in our post. In other words, just as Simon’s habitual anger was triggered by our response even though our response did not warrant such anger, we fear that Simon will have other psychological reactions triggered by this post that are not warranted by the content of the post.
To be clear what our message is, then, we are saying, Simon, that in your present condition you are not suitable for the monastic state. We are also holding out the hope that in the future you might be suitable for the monastic state if you do a lot a work on your anger, pride and inability to hear what the other person is saying. This is something you should discuss in detail with your priest. Don’t listen to your thoughts; they are confusing you. Print this post out and take it to your priest. Have him read it. Discuss it with him. If he tells you that we, Orthodox Monk, ‘don't know crap about what … [we] believe and aren't interested in rhetoric,’ well we agree and that’s a good reason for you to leave us alone and go your way.

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