GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE SISTERS AND GUESTS OF the Iveron Monastery in Orsk
“How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!”
For the sake of spiritual use, which may be obtained by everyone who dwells within the walls of our monastery, the Home of the Holy Theotokos, the infirmary of our souls, and the place of meeting of those who desire to acquire the Holy Spirit, let us kindly remind you of the spiritual orientations and rules of our community.
The essence of Christianity and monasticism is in seeking the Living God, communication with Him, and imitation of Him. A monastic is the one who can talk to God. A monastic is the one who loves Christ and is ready to follow Him self-forgetfully until death. The purpose and essence of the monastic is Christ as a Person. And Jesus Christ takes the primary presence at our monastery.
Monastic life is similar to the life of Angels, who devotedly glorify, express appreciation, and magnify the Creator, “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!…” (Ps.150:6) and “Sing praises to God, sing praises…” (Ps. 46:7). The monastic is called to execute the things which laypeople living in mundane vanity are not able to do, who have no time or desire. To pray for others means to offer this “sacrifice of thanksgiving” (Ps. 115:8) on behalf of others, to render “filial duty” to our Father God for the people who do not pray or pray selfishly. That is why the main task (obedience, work) of the monastic is incessant prayer. Prayer not as the pronouncement of prayers, but as a state. It should be a state of standing before God, staying with God, and dwelling in God. This state is acquired through a pure heart free from passions. In order to have it, determination and stability of feat are necessary.
All the sisters of our monastery are entrusted to acquire the skill of attentive prayer as a personal conversation with God, which makes the mind and heart pure from passions and speaks for this purity. The means for it is an incessant spoken prayer. That is why all obediences should be done with the Jesus prayer. We are blessed to pronounce it all the time, in a low voice during the obediences (not to distract the others from their prayer and attract attention to yourself), and during the services – silently, in your mind.
All day at our monastery is a preparation for everyone’s personal cell Rule, the culmination and the end of which is the common thanksgiving prayer offered in unanimity at the Divine Liturgy. And the grace of the Son, the love of the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit are given to all and everything.
In order to learn attentive prayer, we try to accurately observe the instructions of our spiritual guide, the Charter, and keep the peaceful spirit of our community throughout the day, refraining from reproaches and remarks.
If there are any misunderstandings, it is better to communicate them to the Sister Superior or the Abbess.
All obediences are distributed in accordance with the blessing of our spiritual guide and Abbess. When you are given an obedience, please ask the Sister Superior for details.
These instructions reflect only the basics of our monastery’s Charter, daily routine, and general rules of conduct and give answers to frequently asked questions.
A church is a symbol of our faith. Moreover, it is a visible and tangible symbol. We get together at a church in order to unanimously, “with one mind and one mouth,” (Rom. 15:6) glorify our Lord. Here, standing before God and being in God with our mind and heart and among ourselves, we represent a single body – a single spiritual church – and God of peace and love dwells with us!
A common meal is a continuation of the Divine Liturgy and it should be taken with devotion and thanksgiving for everything. Ascetic monks realize they do not have meals for pleasure, but for strengthening their bodies to serve God. The monastic knows from their experience what graceful gifts (sober feelings and prayer) Fast gives. For the love for Christ and remembering the feats of saints or poor conditions of some people who starve, we can learn how to voluntarily forbear from food.
- CHARTER. DAILY ROUTINE
God is Love. And all of us want to live in love and be kind and joyful. But our self-will leaves no space for the graceful will of God and does not allow us to accept and give Love. Those who desire to communicate with God should learn self-forgetfulness.
The rules are not binding obligations and restrictions, as we suppose, but the path leading us to the way of freedom. Accurate observation of the Charter and the daily routine helps us to keep peace in relationship with our neighbors and to have a cheerful spirit and joyful predisposition in obediences. Thus, we also acquire the skill of attentive prayer and approach closer to God.
- CENOBITIC ORDER
To live in a community is an opportunity for learning how to narrow down your own will, overcome your egoism, obtain conciliation and unanimity with neighbors through Jesus Christ, and become unified like the Holy Trinity, and here on earth, anticipate the life with God in the Kingdom of Heaven. That is why EVERYONE at our monastery is expected to do EVERYTHING with a blessing. Blessing is not only a permission for doing something, but attainment of the grace of God (energy and force) through a kind word. God through our Spiritual Father or Abbess gives Grace to us. It is very important to ACCEPT this GOOD WORD. In order to do that, it is necessary to answer at once to the first words of the senior (Spiritual Father, Abbess or Sister Superior), “Let it be blessed.” Thus, we accept the word and the POWER to accomplish it. Only at such a moment does a mystery take place and the impossible becomes possible. A senior may tell us something we do not expect him or her to say. According to our reaction, we can detect our true desire: whether we want things to work in our own human way, or we want God’s will to work for us, for our deeds. If we want to live a monastic, self-denying life, every situation, problem, circumstance, or encounter during the day should become for us an exercise in denying our own will, but not a reason for getting upset, grumbling, and despairing due to being refused or misunderstood. EVERYTHING which happens to us is for our own good. We must seek and find God’s will everywhere and take all people for friends, who help us in this holy process.
We should always remember Jesus Christ Himself called us to the monastic service, and we strive at the monastery for His sake.
With His help, we will mortify ourselves, overcoming our egoism with patience and humility and seek for the encounter with the Living God Christ, the Bridegroom of our souls, and prepare ourselves for eternal life in His Kingdom of Heaven.
Let all our deeds, words, and thoughts speak to our desire to achieve this high purpose.
Lord, help us!