Life Lived Simply

Life Lived Simply


When it comes to life simply lived, no one does it better than the monks and nuns of the Orthodox Church. Committing themselves to a life of prayer, askesis (strict self discipline) and obedience, they live with few possessions and luxuries. The monastic folk song, God’s Love Abides, brings to mind the passage in Matthew 6: 25-34, that speaks of how the birds of the air and the flowers of the field have no worries. They take this to heart for comfort and assurance. It’s relevant in the lyrics that sweetly describe a person’s longing for the monastic life.

God’s love abides
In forests green,
Where sparrows sing and flutter,
Praising their maker so it seems.
Doxologies they offer.
Doxologies they offer.

Their altar shines
Away up there.
Christ himself has adorned it.
Nightingales soaring in the air,
And thanking Him who formed it.
And thanking Him who formed it.

To sing with them
My heart longs so,
Hymns of praise and thanksgiving.
Grant this, O Master, for I go.
From sins my soul is aching.
From sins my soul is aching.

Life simply lived
Has great rewards.
Ask any bird; he’ll tell you.
Nothing is mine but is the Lord’s.
Open your heart; he’ll fill you.
Open your heart; he’ll fill you.

Life simply lived…

The monasteries offer the world a haven of peace and reality. They are the constant reminder that only one thing is needful… communion with God.

Have you ever been to visit a monastery? Because a monastery isn’t a public building or a business you will have to call first to see what their visiting hours are. The monks or nuns live on the property and follow a strict schedule of work and prayer. If you are interested in visiting a monastery, call first. Let them know you are coming so they can be prepared to greet you and offer you hospitality. Let them know how many people are coming and if you have any special needs. They follow a vegetarian diet and will offer you a lovely meal or snack according to the fasting practices called for that day.

You will need to be aware of a few more things before you go…

When you are introduced to the Abbot or Abbess, you can ask for their blessing and kiss their hand. The Abbot and Abbess is the “bishop” of the monastery. They are the one in charge.

There will be a dress code. MODESTY is what they are asking for. Women are expected to wear long skirts and ¾ or long sleeves. Scarves are also usually expected. Scarves and long skirts might be available to you if you forget yours. Men are expected to wear long pants and long sleeves as well.

For a monastery to function properly, there needs to be order. Men and women are coming from different families and traditions and having structure helps get things done with ease. It is important for us to remember this as well when visiting. During chapel, while they venerate the icons, you will notice the monks and/or nuns are lined in order of when they entered the monastery. There are no favorites or opportunities to advance in the ranks. Like the monks and nuns, the visitors have structure too. Traditionally, during services, men sit on the right side and women on the left. When receiving communion or the antidoron (blessed bread), the order is monks, nuns, men, and then women. During meals, the monks and/or nuns will eat in their dining room and the guests will eat in the guest dining room.

There will be rooms for guests, and there will be places you are not permitted to enter. There might be cupboards you aren’t to open. It can be easy to confuse the space with a parish and treat it like it’s public property. It is best to remember that monasteries function on obedience and order and that asking first is the way to go.

There will probably be a gift shop in or near the room for guests. This is one way they make a living. Small gifts, candles, soaps, prayer ropes, and books are available for you to purchase to support the men and women. Some monasteries make beautiful baptismal gowns and vestments. Others write original icons or sell mounted prints on geodes or wood.

Devoted to prayer, they will gladly pray for everyone who asks. In order for the monks and nuns to devote themselves to prayer, it is customary to offer a donation when submitting a list of names to be prayed for. Your financial contribution allows them to spend more time in church and in prayer than in the workshop. A donation is not necessary; it’s just good manners.

Go, visit your local monastery. They are waiting for you to see for yourself the benefits of a life simply lived.

Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network.  You can find the Orthodox Christian Network on Google+.

About author

Presvytera Vassi Haros

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.