Presvytera Vassi Makris Haros is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Art, Architecture & Planning and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. She is the owner, designer and photographer of V’s Cardbox, In Service and Love. a greeting card company featuring cards with an Orthodox voice. She strongly feels that experiencing the Orthodox Faith through the church’s cyclical calendar of feasts and fasts is a gift that is too often overlooked.
There are many amazing things to see in the United States: national parks, art and history museums, scenic vacations spots and Orthodox monasteries. Yes! I wrote monasteries. Did you know that there are almost 80 Orthodox monasteries in America?
In a recent publication already in its second print, author and researcher, Alexei Krindatch, shares statistics and examples of the monastic life in his book, Atlas of American Orthodox Christian Monasteries. His atlas provides a historical overview and present day information on all US monastic communities affiliated with various Orthodox Christian Churches that constitute the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America. Now, the idea of visiting an Orthodox monastery on American soil can be a reality for every Orthodox Christian.
Definitions You Should Know
Before you visit a monastery, there are some terminologies you should know. Thankfully, the Atlas has a glossary in the beginning chapters to help you, beginning with four terms that are frequently used in the Atlas:
“Monastic community” is a synonym for “Monastery.” “Monastery”/”Monastic Community” includes both “monastery for men” and “monastery for women.” That is, we do not use the separate term “convent” that is frequently used in Western Christianity to describe monastic communities for women.
“Monastic(s)” is a collective term to describe monks, nuns, and novices.
“Orthodox jurisdiction” (or “Orthodox Church jurisdiction”) is the term most commonly used by the American Orthodox Crristians to describe a national Orthodox Church body. While there are twelve Orthodox Church bodies that constitute the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops, theologically, these Orthodox Church bodies are uniform and they see themselves as belonging to the one Orthodox Church. Therefore, the term “jurisdiction” reflects only the administrative/organizational separation between American Orthodox Churches, but not theological disagreement—as the term “denomination” typically suggests when used among Protestants. Accordingly, the expression “under the jurisdiction of” or “in the jurisdiction of” should be understood as “being part” of a particular national Orthodox Church body.
“Church Calendar” used by Orthodox Church or Orthodox monastery. In their sacramental lives and annual cycle of worship services (i.e. how feast and fast days are reckoned), the Orthodox Churches and monasteries in America use two different Church calendars. One is known as “Old” (also called “Julian”) calendar, while another is the “New” (also called “revised Julian” or “Gregorian”) calendar. Essentially, the “New” calendar fully corresponds with the “normal” civic calendar in use globally. Differently, the “Old” (“Julian”) calendar is thirteen days behind the New calendar. For instance, a monastery that uses the “New” calendar celebrates Christmas on December 25, while a monastery that follows “Old” calendar celebrates Christmas on January 7, because according to “Old” calendar reckoning it is December 25.
There is also a “Short Glossary” with necessary definitions including Abbot/Abbess, Hesychasm, Igumen, Riassaphore, Schemamonk, and Trapeza.
How to Purchase
Atlas of American Orthodox Christian Monasteries by Alexei Krindatch is available from the Holy Cross Book Store.
COVER PHOTO: Orthodox Cross on the Top of Mount St. Herman on Spruce Island, Alaska. St. Herman of Alaska, the member of the original missionary team of Russian monks and America’s first canonized Orthodox saint, lived on Spruce island for more than twenty years until his death in 1836.
About the Atlas of American Orthodox Christian Monasteries
Drawing on extensive research, as well as stories and anecdotes, the Atlas of American Orthodox Christian Monasteries reveals the surprising spiritual appeal of monastic life in and for 21st century America. Simultaneously, this book is a scholarly introduction into traditions of Eastern Christian monasticism, a comprehensive directory of American Orthodox Christian monasteries and an enticing travel guide for those seeking to visit monasteries and to “sample” or just better understand monastic life.
In addition, twenty-three selected monastic communities share their “insider stories” with the readers and offer a glimpse into realities of everyday life in an American Orthodox monastery. The Atlas includes a wealth of graphic materials: geographic maps and photographs.
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