Monasticism dates back to the first century, when men and women seeking spiritual perfection instead of the pleasures of this world, fled into the deserts and wildernesses of Palestine and Egypt to lead lives of solitary prayer and repentance.
In Greek, the word for a monastic, i.e., a monk or nun, comes from the word monos which means single or alone, one who chooses to work out his salvation alone with God.
The monastic strives for a life of prayer, fasting, self-denial, chastity and vigilance, without any worldly distractions. They lead a life of obedience to God through willful obedience to their Abbot” or “Abbess”.
In particular, monastic practice unceasing prayer, striving to unite their entire being, heart, soul, and mind in constant and undistracted prayer toward God.
Orthodox monastics vow to live their lives at the monastery. They do not work as social workers, teachers, etc. This is not to say that monastic do not recognize people in the world, but rather through a secluded, God-centered life they work and pray for the salvation of all of mankind.
Isolated from the influences of the world and society, for centuries the monastics have maintained the purest form of Orthodoxy.
They are a well-spring of spiritual guidance and renewal for all the faithful.
The Latin Orthodox Benedictine used to follow similar rules as other monasteries, concerning the period of training. Our community has since agreed to adhere to the Primitive Rule of Saint Benedict, reducing training time and to approximately one year.
Initially we will ask candidates, to write a preliminary correspondence telling us about yourself, your education, work experience, and especially your spiritual development. We would then encourage you to come for a visit to discuss your vocation.
From the Rule of Saint Benedict – CHAPTER 58 | THE ORDER FOR THE RECEPTION OF BRETHREN.
When anyone newly cometh to be a monk, let him not be granted an easy admittance; but, as the apostle saith: Test the spirits, to see whether they come from God (1 John 4:1). If such a one, therefore, persevere in his knocking, and if it be seen after four or five days that he bears patiently his harsh treatment and the difficulty of admission and persists in his petition, then let admittance be granted to him, and let him stay in the guest-house for a few days. After that let him dwell in the novitiate, where the novices work, eat, and sleep. And let a senior be assigned to them who is skilled in winning souls, that he may watch over them with the utmost care. Let him examine whether the novice truly seeks God, and whether he is zealous for the Work of God, for obedience, and for humiliations. Let him be told all the hardships and trials through which we travel to God. If he promises to persevere in his purpose, then at the end of two months let this Rule be read through to him, and let him be addressed thus: “Behold the law under which you wish to serve; if you can observe it, enter; if you cannot, freely depart.” If he still abide, then let him be led back into the aforesaid novitiate and again tested in all patience. (Note: at this point the Novice will be considered a Ryassophore and be issued a partial habit to wear during prayer and other assigned times. Here the Novice will be addressed as “Brother”) After the lapse of six months let the Rule be read to him, so that he may know on what he is entering. And, if he still abide, after four months let the Rule be read to him again. And if, upon mature deliberation, he promises to observe all things and to obey all the commands that are given him, then let him be received into the community. But let him understand that according to the law of the Rule he is no longer free to leave the monastery, or to withdraw his neck from under the yoke of the Rule, which it was open to him, during that prolonged deliberation, either to refuse or to accept.
Now this shall be the manner of his reception. In the oratory, in the presence of all, he shall promise stability, conversion of his life, and obedience; and this before God and his Saints, so that he may know that should he ever do otherwise he will be condemned by him whom he mocks. He shall embody this promise of his in a petition, drawn up in the names of the Saints whose relics are there and of the abbot who is present. Let him write this document with his own hand; or, if he cannot write, let another do it at his request, and let the novice put his mark to it and place it on the altar with his own hand. When he has placed it there, let the novice himself at once intone this verse: Suscipe me, Domine, secundum eloquium tuum, et vivam: et ne confundas me ab exspectatione mea (Ps. 118:116) Let the whole community repeat this after him three times, adding at the end of all the Gloria Patri. Then let the novice prostrate himself before the feet of each monk, asking them to pray for him; and from that day let him be counted as one of the community. If he possesses any property, let him either give it beforehand to the poor, or make a formal donation bestowing it on the monastery. Let him keep back nothing at all for himself, as knowing that thenceforward he will not have the disposition even of his own body. So let him, there and then in the oratory, be stripped of his own clothes which he is wearing and dressed in the habit of the monastery. But let those clothes, which have been taken off him, be put aside in the clothes-room and kept there. Then, should he ever listen to the persuasions of the devil and decide to leave the monastery (which God forbid), let them take off him the clothes of the monastery and so dismiss him. But his petition, which the abbot took from off the altar, shall not be returned to him, but shall be preserved in the monastery. (Note: at this time the newly professed monk (Stavrophore-monk also known as the little schema), will receive a new Name-in-Christ, be issued a plain silver ring and will henceforth be addressed as “Father”.
It takes about a year to become Solemnly Professed.
Special Notation: For those not prepared to expedite though the ranks we do have a slower formation process. There is no mandatory rule that a Ryassophore (Novice) must advance to the Stavrophore Rank within any time limit. A Ryassophore may remain so for as long as he desires.
The Angelic Schema: There are cases when a Stavrophore-monk has reached such a high level of spiritual achievement, that he desires to take the final stage of monastic life known as the Great Angelic Schema (Schemamonk). This is a rare step and will only be executed with the approval of the Abbot.
No one becomes a Schemamonk with less than a minimum of 5 years as a monk who has lived in community and been tested as gold in a furnace. Most monks wait until they are on their deathbed before taking the Angelic Schema, but there are a rare few who are in their humility are worthy of taking the Great Angelic Schema.
Knowing the impossibility of combining the double podvigiii (double spiritual struggle) of a bishop’s own salvation (in the Great Schema) and the obligations of governing the Church, the holy fathers made a statute that a bishop cannot be a schema-monk. While there are indeed some Schema-Bishops, the balance is a difficult one but can best be handled by putting ones monastic life ahead of his obligations as Bishop. The life of a schema-monk and the life of a bishop are completely different. And if a bishop wishes to take the Schema and if he cannot put his monastic life ahead of everything else – in-other-words, unless he can balance both, it means that he must resign as Bishop – become emeritus.
The Schemamonk is a monk who has aspired to such a high spiritual level, that his life transcends all worldly desires and will spend his life in constant prayer – praying for the world and all those within.
The Schemamonk in essence, is virtually a walking icon of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The schemamonk will again receive a new Name-in-Christ to show he has totally surrendered his life to God and given up all worldly desires. He will also receive the Angelic Schema
(which goes over his habit), and he will receive a new ring with the Crown of Thornes.