Ask Fr. John: Having a conversation with God

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Is there monasticism in the Orthodox Church? -  J.A.

Part 2
This week we continue our discussion on monasticism. There are several foundations for the monastic life, which occur in the unwritten conventions of Judaism and Christianity, as well as in the holy scriptures. History shows that there were several monastic-like Jewish sects, such as the Essenes, the Nazarenes and Ebionites. In most of them, persons distanced themselves from the world, or left it for the desert, in order to contemplate and worship God without worldly distraction.
Actually, it has been suggested that John the Baptist was an Essene. It has also been said that Jesus was raised in one of these sects, probably a Nazarene. He certainly lived a monastic life, in that he was celibate, lived in poverty and in obedience to his father, and did not cut his hair. The Apostles, once they followed him, had total life shift. They left family, careers — everything, and followed Christ. Imitation of Christ’s life is the basis for all Orthodox Christians, whether married or monastic, for both are blessed.
Jesus said that to achieve perfection sell all one’s possessions, give the money to the poor and follow him. Matt 19:21. This was the scripture that caused Anthony, the first monk, to leave for the desert.
Paul spoke of his own celibate state in 1 Corinthians chapter 7. “For I would that all men were even as I myself ... and, “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I.”
He cites the reason for this married chaste state to be that the “unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.” One observes a call to be as undistracted as one is able to attain.
We will continue on the topic of monasticism next time with part three.