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Some thoughts on the purpose and mission of the Joy of All Who Sorrow Monastery, Monteagle, Tennesse

Updated: Dec 7, 2018

By Fr. Mark

One of the greatest difficulties that Orthodox Christian immigrants to America have faced has been to hold on to their familiar way of life, in our pluralistic, non-Orthodox and secular society.  Believers from many countries, lands and cultures have carried with them their own unique cultural expressions of the Orthodox faith that more and more Americans are finding is their spiritual home.  

But our faith does not just consist of intellectual, dogmatic precepts that one needs to subscribe to, in order to be an Orthodox Christian.  It is a unique life and culture formed around the intimate loving, mystical relationship between God and each and every person He has called into being, to share in His eternal and boundless love and life.  So, Orthodox Christianity is not about just thinking and believing; it is about acting, doing and becoming transformed into a new creation, not only in the image of God but embodying the Divine likeness that Adam and Eve first had but lost when they chose to depart from their life of communion with God in the Paradise.

From the core of spiritual reality, life and relationship with God, the Holy Spirit forms not only our personalities but our relationships, familial and communal, shaping a culture that expresses the spiritual truths of the Faith in concrete ways.  Thus, the children of all Orthodox nations bring with them to this land not only right worship (orthodoxia) and right belief (orthopistis) but also right living (orthopraxis) as manifested in the various Orthodox cultures of their ancestral lands.

That is the great treasure that has been brought to these shores, where, while many who are coming to Orthodox Christianity have been raised in a Christian confession, they have not been the heirs of the fully Orthodox faith and culture that once flourished in the West but, as a result of many historical circumstances, were gradually eroded and secularised.  

Orthodox culture, from the level of the family to that of the community, both local and far and wide, is what helps us to grow more deeply Orthodox in our life and being.  Converts to the Orthodox Faith need also the acquisition of an Orthodox phronema (mindset) and an Orthodox way of life to bring them along on their journey to the Kingdom.  

Our unity of faith binds all Orthodox Christians together, regardless of ethnicity, ancestry or race, and I hope that the Joy of All Who Sorrow brotherhood will be able to bring together the faithful of all the Orthodox churches in the region, in a community in which we will all benefit from the treasures of faith, piety and culture that each tradition has to offer.    

We American Orthodox Christians have a unique opportunity to synthesise a rich and inclusive cultural and spiritual tradition for ourselves and for our not-yet-Orthodox neighbours and friends. Usually, the unique customs and traditions of the various Orthodox nations that have sent believers to our shores have remained confined to their separate parish communities. But all can share and enjoy the full variety of expressions of Orthodox culture and faith to be found today in our country, and I hope that this monastery will be a place where all pilgrims will feel at home, with traditions, customs and practices, both familiar and unfamiliar, all speaking to their Orthodox hearts. 

It is my prayer that this monastery will be able to be a centre of inter-Orthodox co-operation and outreach not only to all the Orthodox Christians of Tennessee, northern Georgia and northern Alabama and beyond, but also to the many non- (or, perhaps better, not-yet-) Orthodox Christians in the upper South.

Having been appointed, by His Grace, Bishop Longin, of the Diocese of New Gracanica and Mid-western America of the Serbian Orthodox Church, to shepherd this emerging monastic community, this is the broader, community vision to which I have dedicated myself, with the blessings and help of God, through the prayers of His Most Holy Mother, the Joy of All Who Sorrow.

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