Moscow, January 25, 2017
The massive flow of pilgrims has become a serious problem for the inhabitants of Mt. Athos, says Archimandrite Elisha, abbot of the mountain’s Simonopetra Monastery.
“Another way in which the world today encroaches upon the life of the monasteries is the massive influx of pilgrims, who greatly affect the life of the monks… Today the flow of pilgrims is the greatest problem for the monasteries of the Holy Mountain,” the abbot writes in a report for the 25th annual Nativity Educational Readings, reports RIA-Novosti.
The abbot of course recognizes that hospitality is a virtue traditionally characteristic of Orthodox monasticism, and that the monks are always ready and glad to accept pilgrims, “performing, thus, the commandment of love of neighbor,” however, “they tried not to change the basic principle of monasticism, not to forget, that they renounced the world… In our time the situation has changed,” he states. The abbot and his brotherhood were earlier forced to leave their home in Meteora and move to Mt. Athos due to the flood of Orthodox tourists.
He goes on to note that the danger is that hospitality, being understood in a distorted sense, threatens to turn monasteries into regular parishes, forcing the priests there to devote their full energy only to pastoral work. While “it is comforting to see so many people from various walks of life,” the main purpose of monastic life is “to proclaim the Kingdom of God, abiding in podvigs and silence.” To combine the two is difficult and rarely successful notes Fr. Elisha.
“The best offering of monks to people is the renunciation of the world, expressed in silent prayer and the heart’s yearning for God. We must understand that the laity desire to see in a monastery not those monks that everyone knows, who keep up with the latest events and are ready to offer solutions to various political and social problems… They come to the monastery to detach themselves from daily life and touch eternity, but they find there the same mundane reality as in the world,” the abbot concluded.