On the Proper Disposition [of Monastics] Towards Relatives According to the Flesh (St. Basil the Great)

NOTE: The following is taken from The Long Rules, Question 32. It should be noted that in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, the superiors and second-in-commands maintain relations with their parents ‘according to the flesh.’ Geronda Ephraim visited his mother in Volos shortly after Elder Joseph died. They maintained a relationship in the ensuing years; he tonsured her a nun at his monastery on Thassos dedicated to the Archangel Michael. Geronda Paisios’ mother would frequently visit him from Vancouver. Geronda Joseph Voutsas (NY) had his parents visit once from Greece. It is said that when his father, Pappa Stavros, died he wanted to go to the funeral in Greece but didn’t. Even though Geronda Ephraim told him his father went to Paradise, Geronda Joseph still had his monks do an extra stavrota for 40 days “just in case, because he was a priest.” Geronda Joseph also communicates with his mother and sister frequently.. Gerondissa Olympiada’s parents visit frequently from Greece. Hieromonk Pavlos will stay at his parents place in Flushing instead of St. Nektarios Monastery when he visits for the Feast Day. Geronda Dositheos Maroulis (TX) communicates with his parents frequently. Geronda Joseph Mammis (MI) frequently communicates with his parents, Vera and Alexandros. Geronda Nektarios Tsirigotis (NC) frequently communicates with his parents and sister, Joanna. The list goes on and on. The only monastics who aren’t really allowed this kind of familial connection are the novices and newer rassaphores. As one goes up either in ranks or years, more economia is allowed, unless of course, the parents are problematic.

St. Basil the Great

Q. 32: On the proper dispositions toward relatives according to the flesh.

Excerpt from St. John's Monastic Alphabet (Ladder Step 26:17)
Excerpt from St. John’s Monastic Alphabet (Ladder Step 26:17)

R. Superiors should not allow those who have been permanently admitted to the community to be distracted in any way by allowing them either to leave the company of their brethren and live in private on the pretext of visiting their relatives or to be burdened with the responsibility of caring for their relatives according to the flesh. The Scripture absolutely forbids the words ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ to be uttered among the brethren, saying: ‘And the multitude of believers had but one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that aught of the things which he possessed was his own.’1 The parents or brothers of a member of the community, therefore, if they live piously, should be treated by all the brethren as fathers or other relative possessed in common: For whosoever shall do the will of my Father that is in Heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother,’ says the Lord. 2 In our opinion, moreover, the care of these persons would devolve upon the superior of the community. If our relatives have become entangled in the usual concerns of the worldly life, we who are intent upon that which is decent and which may give us power to attend upon the Lord without impediment3 have no common cause with them. In addition to being of no assistance to them, we would fill our own lives with confusion and anxiety and we would invite occasions of sin. Furthermore, it is not even proper to receive those among our former relatives who come for a visit if they hold the commandments in light esteem and are contemptuous of the works of piety, because they do not love the Lord, who said: ‘He that loveth me not, keepeth not my words.’ 4 ‘But what participation hath justice with injustice? Or what fellowship hath light with darkness?’ 5

"It is better to grieve our parents than the Lord. For He has created and saved us, but they have often ruined their loved ones and delivered them up to their doom." (Ladder 2:12)
“It is better to grieve our parents than the Lord. For He has created and saved us, but they have often ruined their loved ones and delivered them up to their doom.” (Ladder 2:12)

Besides, the utmost effort must be made entirely to remove occasions of sin from those still in the training school of virtuesthe chief of those occasions being the remembrance of their former life in the world so that it may never be said of them that in their hearts they have returned to Egypt.6 This very often happens in prolonged conversations with their relatives according to the flesh. In general, therefore, neither these relatives nor any other extern should be allowed to talk with the brethren unless we are certain that their conversation will bring about the edification and perfection of the soul. If, however, it be necessary to hold discourse with those who have been once admitted, it should be done by those who have the gift of speaking, for the reason that they have the power to speak with understanding and to listen in such a way that their faith may be strengthened. The Apostle clearly teaches, indeed, that ability in speaking is not possessed by all but that this charism is accorded to few, saying: ‘To one, indeed, by the Spirit is given the word of wisdom, and to another, the word of knowledge’;7 and in another place, he says: ‘that he may be able to exhort in sound doctrine and to convince the gainsayers.’8

"Love of God extinguishes our love for our parents. And so he who says that he has both deceives himself." (Ladder 2:16)
“Love of God extinguishes our love for our parents. And so he who says that he has both deceives himself.” (Ladder 2:16)

NOTES 1) Acts 4.32. 2) Matt. 12.50. 3) I Cor. 7.35. 4) John 14.24. 5) 2 Cor. 6.14. 6) Num. 14.4. 7) 1 Cor. 12.8. 8) Titus 1.9

"Do not be moved by the tears of parents or friends; otherwise you will be weeping eternally." (Ladder 2:17)
“Do not be moved by the tears of parents or friends; otherwise you will be weeping eternally.” (Ladder 2:17)
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