Saturday, August 13, 2011

Orthodox Monastic " Ranks & Types"

In our tradition as Orthodox, monastic has four ranks which related to both men and women.
The first step is the beginner or so called novice, which is an obedience rank, where at this stage the candidate lives in the monastery under the direction of a spiritual father or mother.

The second rank is called the rias-bearer, which  the person in this level is start to get  formally accepted into the monastic society, and  given the right to wear the monastic robe, ; But in this stage the candidate is not yet fully committed to the monastic life.

The third rank is that of the small schema where the person is declared as monk. and to receives a new name and wears the monastic schema (a cloth with the sign of the cross), here in this stage the person declare his obligation to remain in the monastic life and obedience to the spiritual father and to the abbot of the monastery.
The service here, includes a long series of formal questioning about the authenticity of the calling, the tonsuring (i.e., the cutting of the hair), and the vesting in the full monastic clothing.

The final rank of the monastic order is the great schema. here the monk will expressing the most strict observance of the monastic ideals, demanding normally a state of life in total seclusion in perpetual prayer and contemplation. With this final profession a new name is again received, and a new monastic insignia -- the great schema -- is worn.

it is good to note that In the Orthodox monastic there is no prescribed length of time that a person must remain in one or another of the monastic ranks.
Thus, some persons may progress rapidly to profession, while others may take years, and still others may never be formally professed while still remaining within the monastic community. The decision in these matters is made individually in each case by the spiritual director and the head of the community. 

Types of Monasticism

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 counselling. 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.

In addition to the various spiritual styles of monastic life, three formal types of organization may be mentioned. The first is that of coenobitic monasticism. In this type all members of the community do all things in common. The second form is called idiorhythmic in which the monks or nuns pray together liturgically, but work and eat individually or in small groups. In this type of monasticism the persons may even psalmodize and do the offices separately, coming together only for the eucharistic liturgy, and even then, perhaps, only on certain occasions. Finally, there is the eremitic type of monasticism where the individual monks or nuns are actually hermits, also called anchorites or recluses. They live in total individual seclusion and never join in the liturgical prayer of the community, except again perhaps on the most solemn occasions. In the rarest of cases it may even happen that the holy eucharist is brought to the monk or nun who remains perpetually alone.

In the Orthodox Church today in the Western world there are only a few communities with a genuinely monastic life. In the traditional Orthodox countries monasticism still thrives, although with greatly reduced numbers due to the political and spiritual conditions. In recent years, in some places, there has been a renewed interest in monasticism, particularly among the more educated members of the Church.

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Editor: Rev.Spyridon Tanous
Orthodox Patristic Church- Sweden