Clerical Articles

Monasticism and heresy (I)

  • September 10, 2017

Monk Moses the Athonite

After thanking warmly to the holy monastery that invited me and congratulating it for its progressive journey of 20 years I’ll begin my expose with the known and meaningful story about abba Agaton:

„Some people hearing that he had a great discernment wanted to put him to a test to see if he was going to get angry. And they said:

`You’re Agaton? We heard that you are a corrupted and haughty man.`

And he answered:

`That’s true.`

Then they said to him:

`You are Agaton the slanderer?`

`Yes, that’s me`, he said.

Then they said:

You’re Agaton the heretic?`

And he answered:

`No, I’m not an heretic.`

And they asked him saying:

`Tell us, why you accepted everything we said about you, but you didn’t do the same about this word?`

And he told them:

I assume the previous words because they are for the benefit of my soul. But this word `heretic` means a separation of God and I don’t want to separate myself of God.

And those men hearing him marveled at his righteous judgment and left  advantaged.

We shan’t talk about the evangelic beginning of monasticism in history nor about the ordinances and oblations brought by it. We won’t combat the maintained dispute of a lot of people against him, the misinterpretation and the ignorance of his purpose even of some men of the Church who want to  turn the monks into some simple social workers, use them and exploit them. And here lies the irnony: while some people accuse the monks that they ran away from the world and try to avoid painstaking and they don’t contribute at the manifold work of the Church, for instance against the heresies others or even the same people `

With the same acuity and spirit critic they condemn the appearances of the monks in the arena of theological fights or generally or of those defending the holy traditions, as a long work of their mission, as an expression of an arrogant disposition and of a behavior fond of commotion.`

But we’ll see immediately that these critics reveal a crass ignorance of the Gospel, of the patristic teaching, of the church history and of the lives of the saints.

Aren’t they valid for the monks the words of Saint Apostle Paul: Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle  (2 Tes. 2, 15) and:  But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. ( 2 Timotheus 2, 16)?

Of course we’ll have to point out for those who criticize us that one thing is theology, which is not allowed to any monk by the ascetics and another thing is the absolutely necessary preservation of the dogmas, namely of the Orthodox faith. The good sensitivity of the monks doesn’t make them be experts in the dogma, but humble fighters for the preservation of the things which were dogmatized by the Holy Fathers, by long struggles and Saint Simeon the New Theologian says in this meaning: Repentance is not appropriate for the one who theologizes nor is it suitable theology for the one who repents. Since repentance is higher than theology as far as are the sunrises from the sunsets. And Saint John Climacusss says the same: `O, my friends, we won’t be blamed at the exit of our soul that we didn’t make any miracles or that we didn’t  theologize, or that we weren’t clairvoyant, but we shall give account to God that we didn’t cry. [1]

An usual and rather hypocritical argument is represented by the words stating that the monks should be fully dedicated to their duties especially to praying. Nobody shall ever contest this. But the great, wonderful and powerful work of prayer doesn’t annul the confession by deed in the good fight against the wrong teaching. These artful  seemingly serious objections prove the lack of the light of discernment and an obvious violation of orthopraxy. The Gospel and the Holy Fathers compel us to confess knowingly, without worrying, our faith when faith is in danger. The lives of the saints are full of pious confessors and the praise of the mother Church for the patient, striving, and courageous, brave sons of the desert is abundant.

[1] The Ladder Cuv. VII