Schmemann quote

Being a little monastery (of four monks), St Michael’s Skete had books sitting in a prominent place, just begging to be read. I ended up skimming the Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann; mostly the parts that were previously highlighted in yellow. One non-highlighted passage, however, caught my eye, and I thought to post it for your perusal. He started out talking about how a monastic revival was either unlikely or undesirable so long as people were primarily interested in mystique, cowls, icons, escape from the world, etc, then he continued:

I would tell a candidate for monasticism roughly the following:

-Get a job, if possible the simplest one, without creativity;

-while working, pray and seek inner peace; do not get angry; do not think of yourself; accept everyone as someone sent to you, pray for them.

– After paying for a modest apartment and groceries, give your money to the poor; to individuals rather than foundations;

– always go to the same church and there try to be a real helper, not by lecturing about spiritual life or icons, not by teaching, but with a “dust rag.” Keep in mind that kind of service and be – in church matters – totally obedient to your parish priest;

– do not thrust yourself and your service on anyone, do not be sad that your talents are not being used; be helpful; serve where needed and not where you think you are needed;

– read and learn as much as you can; not only monastic literature, but broadly;

– if friends and acquaintences invite you because they are close to you – go; but not too often and within reason. Never stay more than one and a half or two hours. After that the friendliest atmosphere becomes harmful;

– dress like everybody else, but modestly, and without visible signs of a special spiritual life;

– be always simple, light, joyous. Do not teach. Avoid like the plague and “spiritual” conversations, and any religious or churchly idle talk;

– do not seek a spiritual elder or guide. If he is needed God will send him, and will send him when needed;

– having worked and served this way for 10 years – and no less – ask God whether you should continue to live this way, of whether change is needed. Wait for an alswer: it will come, the signs will be “joy and peace in the Holy Spirit.”

More on why I thought this advice interesting in a bit.


2 thoughts on “Schmemann quote

  1. I would also apply these rules (in a variation) to missionary work. It seems like a very thorough way of teaching yourself to follow God for the right reasons. I’ve been thinking about #2 lately; I can relate to why he says don’t get angry. I feel it is because you can get angry when you are denied something you feel you are obligated. Each time you get angry, you learn to be less selfish, until you are not angry anymore. Its basically learning true humility.

    1. Yeah, that makes sense. I thought that was a god reminder – work and pray, but don’t spend time on “religious or spiritual idle talk” – I am rather tempted to that.

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