Philokalic Friday: The monastery and ‘the world’

Today I read John of Karpathos’ second text in The Philokalia, the ‘ascetic discourse’, also addressed to encourage the despondent monks of India (Ethiopia). Frankly, this work is an example of what is wrong with much in the monastic movement. John’s way of encouraging them to stay in the monastery is to argue that life in the world, with marriage and children, is lesser, that has less merit before God, that people ‘in the world’ live according to the passions, whereas the monastery is where asceticism happens and where true blessedness is found.

As a husband and father, I can assure this ascetic that there is an asceticism of marriage and an asceticism of parenthood.

Is not the heart of ascetic labour, ‘Take up your cross daily, deny yourself, and come, follow me’?

How is the married estate excluded?

Now, if you are a newcomer, fear not: I don’t hate monasticism, and I know that not all monks think that they’re holier than us. I have no doubt many of them are, but not because of their monastic profession. Rather, it is their faithfulness in discipleship in their vocation, just as it would be for a holy married person.

But it still rankles when I read it.


4 thoughts on “Philokalic Friday: The monastery and ‘the world’

  1. Blessings from Down Under! Enjoy your blogs, especially your struggle with the old understanding of the ascetic life style of monasticism (life within a monastery) and new monasticism within the community (living out these principles in everyday life within communities). I hope you can be encouraged that there are many like-minded Christians as yourself that seek to work out asceticism outside monasteries.
    Having finished St Mark’s Carpet Page last year and now working on Saint Matthew’s carpet page (and a love of the Desert Fathers and Mothers) I belong to the international Community of Aidan and Hilda.
    May you continue to be a blessing to those who read your posts. Pax Bruce

    • Thanks for the kind words, Bruce! It is good to know that I am not alone. Are you making art based on the LIndisfarne Gospels?

  2. I have copied the original Lindisfarne Gospels artwork stroke for stroke including their deliberate mistakes (only God is perfect!). I visited the London Library where the original resides, on my way for a four day retreat at Lindisfarne staying at the Community of Aidan and Hilda Open House in 2015. All as part of trying to get under the skin of the monk who took 10 years to complete the gospels. It took me 4 years part time to complete one page! Pax Bruce

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