Monday, June 9, 2014

Monasticism Today

During the last Orthodox Theological Research Forum (OTRF) conference, Christos Yannaras had discussed the notion that we do not need the geronta. He claimed: ‘Today we live a tragedy. If a heresy is revealed today, the believers will go to the elder and not to the bishop. Therefore, the Church is substituted by the charismatic people…if they are that.’[1] Reading his book Orthodoxy and the West I found a further criticism on modern monasticism, within the Greek paradigm, and more specifically within Mount Athos. In his book he explains the ecclesiastical history of modern Greece, showing the troubling course it has taken, being influenced by pietism, Protestantism, the Latin Church and general Westernization, returning (only recently) to its true Orthodox and Patristic Tradition. Nevertheless, the author criticises a number of ecclesiastical customs. Following is his critical approach to monasticism today: 

‘. . . Even the astonishing revival of monasticism on Mount Athos seems to be slipping into a zealous conservatism. On the pretext of anxiety to preserve Orthodoxy from heresy, monks are taking upon themselves the role of the Church’s policemen and prosecutors. The role takes over, and the monk is no longer a penitent crucified “on behalf of the body of Christ, which is the Church,” but is the bearer of an authority sustained by the secular power. He claims the right to fulminate at patriarchates, archbishops, bishops, or anybody else, accusing them of heresy, betrayal, and making concessions on matters of faith.
Thus the garment of mourning assumed through a consciousness of sin, a garment of freedom from the need for personal assertion and personal authority, is transformed into the clothing of conventional authority, and the peace of spiritual withdrawal is turned into a place for making ex cathedra pronouncements. Certainly, Orthodoxy has always recognized monasticism as the guardian of the Church’s faith. But it is a tragic sign of alienation when this guardianship is understood in terms of a papal Defensor Fidei, instead of as a lifelong ascetic effort to live out the authenticity of the faith as the Church teaches.’[2]

[2] Yannaras, Christos, Orthodoxy and the West, (Brookline, Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2006), pp.304-305.


  1. Is this Author truly knowledgable about such things?

  2. Why not.? He is a theologian.