To continue my reflections of my numerous spiritual counsel with monks and Bishops during my last retreat in the Egyptian desert, a definition of monasticism was always formulated during the conversation. Each of these definition reflects each monk’s long experience in the monastic life. Here are these definitions.
Bishop Youstos: Monasticism came as a replacement for martyrdom. Those who could not be martyred because of Constantine’s edict of religious tolerance went to live as martyrs every day, as said in the life of St Anthony. Therefore a monk should live as one who is approaching martyrdom. He has no opinion, does not get angry, does not acquire possessions, but he is waiting the moment of his death so that he will be with Christ.
Bishop Mettaous: A monk is the person who lives by himself without seeing anyone, the more the monk interacts with the laity the more he suffer spiritually. A monk also should own nothing; his cell should have nothing apart from his daily needs.
Bishop Serabamoun: Monasticism is the life of perseverance. Every good work and virtue can only be attained by perseverance. Just like the Desert Fathers who reached spiritual heights through perseverance in prayer and fasting. A monk should take his spiritual life seriously, especially prayer.
Prayer is the primary work of a monk even if he does it unwillingly. This is the reason a monk leaves everything goes to the desert.
Fr Lazarus: A monk should spend a set time daily in prayer and reading. Praying in the Agpia, and reading and contemplating the Bible. Prayers should be done in the same place in the cell daily as it gives the monk a special longing to stand & pray in that place daily. A monk should also have a monastic spiritual book that he reads daily again and again.
Bishop Isaac: A monk should know the scripture very well in his heart so that any passing thought, discussion, action he is about to do, should have clear reference from the Bible. We learn this from the example of Christ Himself when He was being tempted on the mountain by the devil. Even though the devil was using scripture to convince Him, Jesus because of his purity of heart and knowledge of scripture was able to discern a wrong use of the Bible.
Fr Mina El-Makarie: Monasticism is very different from any other vocation, in that a monk is someone who throws himself at the feet of Christ asking Him to live as a servant among the monks. I am amazed sometimes when I hear people asking God for a sign whether to become a monk or not. This practice is only suitable for priesthood, but as for monks it is their great love for Christ that drives them out to the desert to live for Christ.