The Limits of Human Reason and the Knowledge of God
The things that are of God are far beyond the capabilities of our finite mind to comprehend. The divine can only be known through the nous, that place in the heart that is our true center. It, unlike the brain, is capable of knowledge that is beyond human comprehension, coming as it does from noetic knowledge.
When we try to apply words to the noetic form, we fail. We can no more explain God than we can explain quantum physics, since both are unseen. God is outside the realm of human intellectual understanding. The Eastern Church approaches things of God as holy mysteries, since God can only be known in His divine energies, not in His essence. If a scientist can believe in quantum physics, the unseen, why can he not believe in God Whom he has not seen? If we can believe in the concept of infinity, something that goes on and on without end, why can we not believe in God?
The science of the soul is noetic and can be examined and experienced only through the activation of the nous. The nous in Orthodox Christian theology is the “eye of the heart or soul”, the mind of the heart. God created us with the nous because the human intellect is not capable of knowing Him without it. The intellect alone can not know God, for human reasoning is limited to the things that are of a material nature. God is unknowable without His divine revelation, and only the nous can perceive this knowledge. God’s essence remains inaccessible without noetic knowledge. Science has it’s place, but only the heart can know God.
Quantum physics, while mysterious, is still part of the created material realm, and is fairly explainable now. The real difference isn’t between seen and unseen, but at its root, created and uncreated. It was the uncreated energies of God that Moses saw in the burning bush, or that the Apostles experienced in the transfiguration. A scientist will understand the properties of light (photons), but will have no clue about the uncreated light, which heals, deifies and casts no shadow. Fr. George Calciu of blessed memory experienced this light in the midst of the worst Romanian prisons, and the result is another effect that science cannot explain: incorruption of body after death.
The Original Men in Black
The monastic vocation is a special calling from God that is all about relationships. It is a relationship that involves community (the monastic brotherhood), but primarily revolves around the monk’s relationship with God.
Monks are not holy men who are living lives set apart from the world, but men who are seeking holiness by entering into a relationship with the God Who, through that relationship, promises holiness. The monk attempts, with God’s help, to live a life that is in imitation of the angels, thus the monastic life is often referred to as the angelic life. Through his continued communion with God the monk attempts to give himself over to the transformation of his own life that comes with the action of the Holy Spirit.
Holiness is not something that is just about the saints, whose icons we venerate and whose lives we read about. Holiness is better understood as wholeness, made whole, or healed. We seek healing from the darkness and estrangement that we’ve inherited as a result of the fall. We seek out the God of righteousness Who alone can heal us of our infirmity. As Christ increases in us, our fallen nature decreases. In monastic obedience, the self is replaced by the will of God and the ego is trampled down.
The goal of the monk is to acquire the Holy Spirit from whom comes true repentance and a humble and contrite heart. This relationship that brings healing for the monk also brings healing for the world. Saint Seraphim of Sarov said that if you acquire inner peace, a thousand around you will be saved. The monk is thus not someone who leaves the world because he cares little for those in the world but because he cares for everyone and everything. Because he loves his neighbor and the whole of the cosmos, he gives himself over to be transformed by the Holy Spirit, becoming a living martyr to self.
The monk stands before God as an intercessor for the whole of mankind, not because he intentionally flees from others, but because he becomes closer to others by entering into an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, Whom he serves.
Love in Christ,
All-Merciful Saviour Monastery is a non-profit, 501 C3 organization, under IRS regulations. All donations are therefore tax deductible.
We support ourselves through the sales of Monastery Blend Coffee, our fine line of teas, and a little gift shop. We grow as many of our fruits and vegetables as we can, raise bees, and have nine Rhode Island Reds for our fresh, organic eggs.
The monastery is dependent on the generosity of our friends, supporters, and benefactors. Just as these have been difficult economic times for many American families, the monastery has also struggled to make ends meet, pay our monthly mortgage, heat the buildings, and place food on the table for ourselves, and our many visitors.
We thank you for your prayerful and financial support.
Donations can be made directly to the monastery through PayPal, or you may send donations to:
All-Merciful Saviour Monastery
PO Box 2420
Vashon Island, WA 98070-2420 USA
Our youth, just as seen in the denominations, are leaving the Church in droves, by the time they leave high school. Most are drawn away because their friends are not church goers, and sports activities and entertainment, along with their friends, become temptations for even the most serious young man or woman, who had been seemingly serious about their faith.
There are, in addition, a myriad of reasons our youth leave the Faith. Some simply don’t have the drive to keep their linguistic and cultural heritage alive, as did their parents and grandparents. They are culturally with their friends, and the long services in a language they don’t understand, leave them cold. Their faith has been allowed to be on the surface only, for although attending service all their lives, Christ never became personal with them, possibly because they never heard their priest, or parents, share their own personal relationship with Christ. Perhaps they never saw the life changing transformation that takes place when someone has this personal relationship with Christ, in their priest or parents.
If the Church is primarily a cultural preservation society, our youth will leave the Church at the same time they leave their parents home. If their priest appears as a wizard, performing the proper rituals and rites, in the correct language, and with the proper length, our young with be hemorrhaged from the faith of their forefathers, and will move on to find something that is relevant to them, personally.
Our youth must be engaged at a young age with their bishops and priests, and must be made to feel they really do care for them. They must know that their priest loves them. They must know that their bishop is a father to them, and not simply a monarch-like official who ritualistically enters their parish temple a few times a year, and otherwise remaining aloof from them. If our youth do not feel loved and respected by their bishop and priest, they will ultimately walk away. if they feel their world view is dismissed, their ideas discounted, and their doubts dismissed, and their youth culture frowned upon, whatever faith they have will grow cold, and they will be hemorrhaged from the Church.
Parents and clergy must not remain above these young people, overlords of tradition and rules, but must be engaging, loving, thinking, purveyors of the faith. Parents and clergy must live the transformational life that is the result of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, for how can the joy of a life in Christ, and the love that emanates forth from such a life, not be the draw needed, to keep our youth in Church?
With love in Christ,
Monastics are an integral part of the Church and should not be seen as independent of the Church Universal. Monks are bound by the same Gospel as other Christians and need to avail themselves to the missionary and pastoral needs of the Church, as needed. Although a primary role of monasticism is to be found in worship and contemplative prayer, monks also have a long history as missionaries.
Many of the great monasteries of Russia, as an example, where founded in remote places but became centers of pilgrimage, attracting countless people. Whole cities often formed around monasteries, precisely because the monks had reached out with the Gospel and worked among the people. Where there was a need, monks responded with charity and evangelical witness.
In these difficult times where people are suffering economic hardship, loss of jobs and foreclosure on homes, monks can bring a different perspective that can give hope to those who’ve lost all hope. Monasteries become centers of spiritual healing and empowerment. People who’ve been struggling to find meaning in their lives can walk away with a new vision, gained through the interior work of the monks who’ve availed themselves as therapists for those who are hurting.
The strength of Orthodox monasticism is not to be found in the sameness of every monastery, for each monastic community has its own expression, often quite different from other monasteries. In Greece and Russian, there are monastic communities that run printing presses, care for the elderly and infirm, run Orthodox bookstores in cities, live as hermits, run large retreat facilities, run schools, and even, on occasion, parishes.
Monasticism is not something that is mastered through academic pursuits, but is rather acquired over many years of struggle, through obedience, long nights of prayer, ascetical practice, and communal life. A monastic, who is true to his vocation, will often see himself as just a beginner, even though he’s been a monk for forty years, for he realized how far he is from the perfection that comes with total surrender to Christ.
Many would wish to see monasticism in a romantic way, with monks quietly and silently living out hidden lives, yet there are monks who work with people as spiritual fathers, preachers, teachers, participating in an active way in service to the world. Each monk, and each monastery is called apart for the service of God and His Church, as God wishes. Thus, it is dangerous ground when we judge a monastery or a monk from our own fanciful image of what we think they should be like, for even on the Holy Mountain of Athos, there are many varieties of monastic expression, none being better than the other, and all based on the prompting of the Holy Spirit, as the monk attempts to live out the evangelical life of the Gospels.
Although the Orthodox Church does not have religious orders as the Latin Church does, there are in Orthodoxy different styles of monastic life, both individually and in community. Generally speaking some monasteries may be more liturgically oriented, while others may be more ascetic, while still others may have a certain mystical tradition, and others be more inclined to spiritual guidance and openness to the world for the purpose of care and counseling. These various styles of monasticism, which take both a personal as well as a corporate form, are not formally predetermined or officially legislated. They are the result of organic development under the living grace of God.
Yet all monastics share the common vows of poverty, chastity, stability, and obedience, ever following the words of Jesus which are the cornerstone for this life, “be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
With love in Christ,