ELDER, what should someone reply to young children when they ask whether the monastic life is superior to the married?
FIRST of all, he ought to give them to understand what the purpose of man is, and what is the meaning of life. And then, he should explain that both paths which our Church has marked out for us are blessed, because both can lead us to Paradise, if they live according to God.
Let us suppose that two men set out on a pilgrimage. One goes by bus on a public road, the other goes on foot on some lonely path. Each has his own plan. God rejoices in the one and admires the other. It is bad when the one going by the lonely path sits in judgment within himself on the other who goes by a public road, or vice versa.
It is good that young people thinking about monasticism recognise that the mission of the monk is very great: it is to become an angel. In the next life, in heaven, we shall live as the angels, Christ told the Sadducees (Mt 22:30). That is why some young men of with a keen sense of honour (φιλότιμο) become monks, and begin the angelic life in this very life.
BLESSED the one who stands in the assembly and prays like an Angel from heaven, keeping his thoughts pure day by day, and has given no entrance to the Evil One to make his soul a prisoner, far from God his Saviour.
Blessed the one who always keeps the memory of God in himself, he will be wholly like an Angel from heaven upon earth, ministering to the Lord with fear and love.
From the Fifty-five Beatitudes of St Ephrem. Translation from Anastasis. This comes from the large corpus of writings in Greek attributed to St Ephrem the Syrian, but probably of a later origin.
GOD, our God, who were present in Cana of Galilee, and blessed the marriage there, bless these servants of yours also, who by your providence have been joined in the communion of marriage. Bless their goings out and their comings in. Fill their life with good things. Take up their crowns [Here the Priest takes the crowns from the heads of the couple and places them on the table] in your Kingdom, unspotted and unblemished, and keep them without offence to the ages of ages.
From the Crowning (Marriage service). Translation at Anastasis.