Friday, 1 April 2011

Patriarchs or monks


Eastern Orthodox Christianity is wise - I recognise - to insist that priests be married (implicitly fathers: patriarchs) or else monks; and to choose its Bishops (who are the teachers) from among the monks.

These are, I think, the proper aspirational forms of life for men.

(Recognizing that, of course, that many - most - cannot achieve that to which they aspire.)

(The state of worldly, non-monastic celibacy (e.g. the 'secular priests' of the Roman Catholic church, most of the priests) is wholesomely possible for a few men, but is not - it seems to me - a basic form of man's life.)

A worldy, engaged, practical Christian man - most men - should hope to be a father; or else he should live celibately and spiritually among other men as a monk (a very few of whom are gifted with the vocation for solitude).

And it is among monks that the higher learning is mostly pursued; monasteries being the proper centre and leaders of learning (instead of universities).

That, then, is the ideal: in this world now, many men can become neither patriarchs (the main path) nor monks (for those few with a specific vocation) - since the one depends on a real wife and the other on real monasteries.

Nonetheless, whatever is practically possible in any particular situation - which may indeed be very little, a poor and shabby compromise - patriarch or monk should remain the ideals of manhood.