I believed, so I spake: The Educated Monk, Part II

by Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky

Trans. Seth Davidenko

This trans­la­tion was made pos­si­ble with the gen­er­ous sup­port of an anony­mous stu­dent of the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Anthony’s lega­cy as hieromonk, patrol­o­gist and ROCOR’s first pri­mate. The orig­i­nal work was first pub­lished in the Церковный вестник (1889), № 29 & 30. It was lat­er repub­lished in Митрополит Антоний. Учение о пастыре, пастырстве и об исповеди.(Жизнеописание блаженнейшего Антония, митрополита Киевского и Галицкого. Томъ XIII). Нью-Йорк 1966. С. 229–239.

This pub­li­ca­tion and its pre­ced­ing intro­duc­tion are ded­i­cat­ed to the blessed mem­o­ry of Arch­bish­op Alypy of Chica­go & Mid-Amer­i­ca (+2019).

It was explained in the first chap­ter that although the pre­cise ful­fill­ment of all out­ward pre­scrip­tions of cenoebitic typ­i­ca is incom­pat­i­ble with the pas­toral-ped­a­gog­i­cal work of learned monas­ti­cism, one can­not from this con­clude that such work is incom­pat­i­ble with the call­ing or order of monas­ti­cism, which finds its key above all in a prin­ci­ple, name­ly resolv­ing to order one’s life so as to live only for the cre­ation in one­self of the new man.1 The his­to­ry of the Holy Fathers shows that this resolve remains achiev­able in deed, if a fit­ting seek­er of sal­va­tion takes on pas­toral work. 

Pastorship is not a work foreign to our soul, or a work that tears a man away from spiritual nepsis.

We now must offer a con­vinc­ing reli­gious-psy­cho­log­i­cal expli­ca­tion of such a path of moral self-per­fec­tion, from which con­tem­po­rary real­i­ty some­times diverges so far, that in the minds of many, even of sin­cere Chris­tians, the pas­toral call­ing is exclud­ed from being pos­si­ble in the monas­tic struggle. 

In the 14th issue of our pub­li­ca­tion, [i.e., the Церковный вестник in which this work was orig­i­nal­ly published[/footnote] we brought forth those expres­sions from the Holy Scrip­tures on the essence of pas­toral ser­vice and pas­toral duty, which all the Holy Fathers of the Church used, from St. Ire­naeus to St. Tikhon of Zadon­sk in their writ­ings on the respon­si­bil­i­ties of Chris­t­ian cler­gy. From all these writ­ings it is clear that pas­tor­ship is not a work for­eign to our soul, or a work that tears a man away from spir­i­tu­al nep­sis (watch­ful­ness) over his inter­nal life; but rather it is a work of asceti­cism, not in the sense of mor­ti­fy­ing the flesh, but in a dif­fer­ent sense: of the spir­i­tu­al mor­ti­fi­ca­tion of the old man. 

There is no such thing as pas­toral work (that is, as estranged from the inner life); what exists is a pas­toral con­science. As a desert dweller has for­got­ten the whole world and looks only upon God and upon the con­struc­tion of his inner man, so does one life goal exist for a pas­tor: the cre­ation of the inner man, except not only in him­self but also in his flock. He holds his whole flock in his con­science and spir­i­tu­al­ly iden­ti­fies with all the souls that have been placed by God into his care. A good Chris­t­ian moth­er expe­ri­ences some­thing sim­i­lar: in every moment, she feels the state of each of her chil­dren. She trem­bles and her spir­it is pained over each one of them, that they not fall into sin or for­get God. Thus did the Right­eous Job also pray for his chil­dren. A pas­tor does not live for him­self, he giveth his life for the sheep2 and he cleans­es the souls of his spir­i­tu­al chil­dren with the same zeal as he would have for his own soul.

True,  he ful­fills this goal using out­ward meth­ods, e.g. preach­ing, con­gre­ga­tion­al ser­vices, pri­vate dis­cus­sions. But all these meth­ods will become pas­toral action, and not sim­ply Jesuit­i­cal hand-wav­ing, only under the con­di­tion that they serve as the unmedi­at­ed rev­e­la­tion of the process of con­science. If I preach a homi­ly against drunk­en­ness, then it is only com­plete when I, in my homilet­ic dis­cours­es, feel myself a sin­ner, con­demn­ing myself for my own sins, as a lov­ing moth­er beg­ging her son to leave some vice which is more tor­tu­ous for her than her own shortcomings. 

A pastor is required to speak much, to go and do, but even more so to pray, to weep, to kill egoism and pride in the sanctum of his heart.

From such a def­i­n­i­tion of pas­toral duty it becomes clear that the activ­i­ty or mode of life of a pas­tor should also be ascetic and inter­nal. A pas­tor is required to speak much, to go and do, but even more so to pray, to weep, to kill ego­ism and pride in the sanc­tum of his heart. He must remem­ber and force­ful­ly bring to bear not only the Ser­mon on the Mount but also the prayer and the strug­gle in the gar­den of Geth­se­mane. This is the pos­i­tive and sac­ri­fi­cial side of pas­toral con­science; the neg­a­tive is deduced from here with com­plete precision.

The bad pas­tor is not he who does not know Greek, or have a musi­cal ear, or a pleas­ing appear­ance, but he who has not killed with­in him­self the love of self as the goal of his life, he who does not know how to pray, how to love, to co-suf­fer and forgive.

The old man, and not the out­er imper­fec­tions — this is the great­est obsta­cle to pas­toral work. If this is so, then answer with a sin­cere con­science, whether it is ben­e­fi­cial for the flock or not, if such a Chris­t­ian takes their spir­i­tu­al care upon him­self, who has set even this mor­ti­fi­ca­tion of the old man in him­self as his only goal in life, who for this rea­son for­sook all earth­ly bonds, from fam­i­ly, rel­a­tives, wealth, asso­ci­a­tions, and final­ly from his own will? 

What serves for us as an obstacle—let us turn to real life—to the suc­cess of every good begin­ning in any social sphere—Ecclesial, gov­ern­men­tal, earth­ly, or lit­er­ary? The meet­ing of human egos, the unwill­ing­ness of peo­ple to offer their per­son­al priv­i­leges and self-inter­est, the work­ings of the old man in us. Would the bloody dra­mas of his­to­ry have been pos­si­ble if the Alcib­i­ade­ses and the Napoleons had heard some­thing of the monas­tic vows and accept­ed them with­in their souls?  It seems that enough has been said for one  to clear­ly under­stand that monas­ti­cism, as a for­mal life and reli­gious prin­ci­ple (and not mere­ly as the out­ward dai­ly forms sep­a­rate from it) not only does not detract from pas­toral work, but whol­ly serves it to the good, even near­ly entire­ly neces­si­tates it. If real­i­ty some­times gives con­trary exam­ples in those cas­es when men do not find in their pas­toral duties any­thing oth­er than an office-cler­i­cal job, they will for such a view receive rec­om­pense, if not on this earth then at the judge­ment of God. 

But to what extent is it pos­si­ble for human strength to keep such spir­i­tu­al watch­ful­ness over one­self in the midst of the dis­trac­tions one comes across in pas­toral work? With what will a pas­tor replace long peri­ods of soli­tary con­tem­pla­tion, vig­ils, the Jesus prayer, fast­ing, phys­i­cal labor, and oth­er monas­tic strug­gles which are incom­pat­i­ble with the priest’s posi­tion? First of all, it is not fit­ting to over-exag­ger­ate the degree of this incom­pat­i­bil­i­ty and to under­stand the pas­toral posi­tion in its cur­rent sta­tus. The most fre­quent expres­sions of this idea are super­flu­ous, for it is evi­dent to each indi­vid­ual con­science. We refer those who are unfa­mil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion to the arti­cles of the V. Rev. Pro­to­priest Ivantsov-Platonov, in Aksakov’s Rus from 1881 or the fol­low­ing year.

If the thought of abus­ing his priv­i­leges with regard to out­ward asceti­cism remains for­eign to the monk-pas­tor, then how will he adorn the time and ener­gy spent on pas­toral work — on exhor­ta­tions, on preach­ing, on writ­ing or pub­lish­ing, on dis­cus­sions, on lec­tures and so forth? Sure, this is all nec­es­sary for the sal­va­tion of oth­ers, maybe the monk can even do all this bet­ter than a world­ly pas­tor; but what will this high-ener­gy activ­i­ty bring for his own spir­i­tu­al growth? We will answer with the words of the ascetic and preach­er St. John Chrysos­tom: “He who gives his neigh­bor mon­ey reduces his own wealth. But here (in the mat­ter of preach­ing) it is the oppo­site; in such a case we increase this spir­i­tu­al wealth when we gen­er­ous­ly pour out teach­ing for those who wish to drink of it.”3 The Holy Father staunch­ly repeats this thought up to ten times in these 67 homilies. 

A typical recluse fights the passions for the salvation of his own soul, but a monk-pastor—for the salvation of many souls.

The Lord also explains it to St Tikhon4 in a vision. When this man of God—almost per­fect to us—living already in retire­ment in the desert, who did not cease to teach, do good deeds, and ail in his heart for all, once saw in his sleep that he was ascend­ing a great lad­der to heav­en with dif­fi­cul­ty, and was in dan­ger of falling. But from every side, var­i­ous peo­ple approach him, old and young, men and women, and they begin to raise him and place him high­er and high­er, so that with­out any trou­ble and even as if with no con­nec­tion to his own efforts he comes clos­er to heav­en. Just so, pas­toral work, as an ascetic labor, if one under­stands it not in an bureau­crat­ic-cler­i­cal but rather a father­ly way, can nev­er harm the spir­i­tu­al growth of a monk. Do it as an obe­di­ence, but under the term obe­di­ence do not under­stand only a list of for­mal pre­scrip­tions, but that incli­na­tion of soul and life, which, accord­ing to the teach­ing of the Fathers, is con­nect­ed to the very voca­tion of the priest and spir­i­tu­al father. A typ­i­cal recluse fights the pas­sions for the sal­va­tion of his own soul, but a monk-pastor—for the sal­va­tion of many souls. The for­mer oppos­es sin­ful plea­sures with the sweet­ness of divine love, but the lat­ter under­stands this love with dou­bled strength, see­ing the spir­i­tu­al growth of many Chris­t­ian souls. The for­mer sees Christ in prayer and in the grace-filled enlight­en­ment of his con­science, the lat­ter can see Christ in the life of people—he can see the grad­ual reen­act­ment in their lives of Gol­go­tha, Pascha, and Pen­te­cost. The for­mer is giv­en few­er temp­ta­tions to evil, but the lat­ter receives even greater inspi­ra­tion to good deeds. The for­mer mor­ti­fies him­self for Christ, but the lat­ter — for Christ and his neigh­bors, for Christ in his neighbors. 

But —they say— man is weak, so even the most per­func­to­ry con­tact with world­ly life may sub­ject him to sec­u­lar­iza­tion, to emo­tion­al­ism, to love of hon­or, to idle-talk­ing. We answer—yes, a monk-pas­tor must guard against all of this. Yet, a man will not be free from temp­ta­tion even in a desert monastery; emo­tion­al­ism pulls his sym­pa­thies toward the dec­o­ra­tion of his cell, pet­ty diver­sions, and so forth. Mean­while, love of hon­or finds nour­ish­ment in day­dreams of the monastery hier­ar­chy. It is easy [for the desert-dweller] to avoid idle-talk­ing, which is hard for an edu­cat­ed per­son. But then the for­mer has dif­fi­cul­ty keep­ing him­self from dry­ness, apa­thy, and (let no one  be upset with us) spir­i­tu­al pride. On the con­trary, love of the flock cleans­es the lat­ter from many sins.5cf. James 5:20

Who among the desert fathers is most blessed? ...spiritual teachers, who teach not only the virtues of monks, but also of lay people.

Anyway, why com­pare sins? It is bet­ter for us to boast of great strug­glers. The desert dwellers have great fasters, men of prayer famous to the whole Ortho­dox world. Among the edu­cat­ed monas­tics, such evan­gel­i­cal souls as the Holy Hier­ar­chs Dim­itri [of Ros­tov], Inno­cent [of Moscow], and Tikhon [of Zadon­sk] have been trained not in the deserts, but with­in the walls of sem­i­nar­ies. Final­ly, who from among the desert fathers is most blessed? Once again [I say] elders, i.e. spir­i­tu­al teach­ers, who teach not only the virtues of monks, but also of lay peo­ple. And so, even anchorite monas­ti­cism is allowed in pas­tor­ship by the word of the prophet: I believed, so I spake.6  It is not pas­tor­ship that is incom­pat­i­ble with monas­ti­cism, but equal­ly destruc­tive for the Church are the rigid­ly juridi­cal under­stand­ing of one or the oth­er struggle.

Did you find this arti­cle edifying?

Sup­port Ortho­dox Life at Patre­on.  

Image result for patreon