The word “obedience” has a number of meanings. One of them refers to a way of living in ancient monasteries, where novices voluntarily renounced any manifestation of their own will and acted in complete obedience to elders. Elders were not only experienced in spiritual life, but also received from God the gift to lead others. This part is especially important, because, as the church fathers point out, spiritual progress without the “gift of discernment” is not enough to guide others in the work of salvation.
St Ignatius (Brianchaninov) writes, “Monastic obedience, in the form and spirit in which it was practiced by ancient monastics, is a high spiritual sacrament. Embracing and fully imitating it has become impossible for us. We can only reverently and prudently study it and assimilate its spirit.” (St Ignatius (Brianchaninov). Volume 5, p. 75)
When a person accepts monasticism, he must clearly understand what it is. Since a monk does not have his own will, he should not be afraid of changing the place of service. Monasticism is essentially imitating the way of life of Christ. In the Gospel, Christ is revealed to us as the ideal of the perfect monk. He is unmarried, free from family ties, has no roof over his head, travels, lives in voluntary poverty, fasts and spends nights in prayer. Monasticism is striving to get as close as possible to this ideal; it is striving for holiness and for God Himself, rejecting everything that keeps you on earth and prevents you from ascending to heaven.
“Loneliness is incompleteness and inferiority. In marriage, it is overcome by finding another person. In monasticism this “other person” is God Himself.” (Bishop Hilarion (Alfeyev)). Ancient ascetics left the world not because they feared not being saved, but because of its unattractiveness. They went to the desert not as to a dark grave, but a flourishing and joyful land of the spirit. Diadochos of Photiki (5th century) formulated the general rule for leaving the world as follows, “We voluntarily give up the sweetness of this life only when we taste the sweetness of God in a holistic sense of fullness.”
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds