What Good Does The Ascetic Life Do?

A SLIGHTLY romanticised but very inspiring short feature (in French) celebrating Mount Athos can be seen in the video above.

Of course the truth is that being a monk here or anywhere else is a matter of labour, discipline, and self-denial, not of being a life-long exhibit in a richly endowed Byzantine museum.

But what the video says about “praying for the world” echoes the following remarks by Metropolitan Ephraim:

WHAT good does this ascetic way do for the world?

The monk purifies himself, but he also purifies his surroundings! Because when God’s grace ‘enters’ and ‘settles’ in a person, when it fills a man’s heart with the love of Christ, this love brims over and onto others. With this holy ascesis, an ascetic changes his surroundings and builds around himself a whole world with love, and with the sanctification which he acquires through this ascesis, he spreads out over the whole world!

That is something which we need in today’s world, and always, so that the whole world will not fall into sin and idolatry! That is, worship of their passions, and of material things generally, particularly of corruption and of an obsession with the flesh. There is an immediate spiritual need, that the world should worship the living God who brings the gospel to the world, just as he brought the gospel to the prophet Elijah and to John the Baptist. Which is to say, that is how a man can sanctify!

From a Homily on the Twelfth Anniversary of the Repose of Elder Isaac the Athonite, by Metropolitan Ephraim. Read it all at the Vatopaidi blog. This is my translation. There’s a complete English translation at Notes On Arab Orthodoxy.


IN the video above, Fr Sergius, Abbot of St Tikhon’s Monastery near Scranton, Pennsylvania in South Canaan, explains the life of Orthodox monks and the role they play within the wider Church.

This monastery in the United States has been working since 1905, tapping (as Fr Sergus says) into the mystery of the spiritual world, present among us, even when the effects are not always seen immediately.

As well as evocative music, you’ll also find some beautiful images of life in and around the monastery.


A documentary from 60 minutes on Mount Athos. The blog XX called it Από τις καλύτερες δουλειές που έχουμε δεί για το Περιβόλι της Παναγίας (“among the best efforts we’ve seen on the Garden of the Panagia”).


BELOW is a documentary about Mount Athos, in English, and with substantial contributions from Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia, an English monk (originally on the Island of Patmos) of deservedly high reputation.


Easter on Mount Athos

Click this link to see a documentary about Easter on Mount Athos.