The “Worship and prayer as major focal points of monastic fellowship” conference met at the Seraphim-Diveyevo monastery

With the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, the  “Worship and prayer as major focal points of monastic fellowship” conference is meeting on November 13-14 at the Seraphim-Diveyevo monastery. Bishops, hegumens, hegumenias, and the monastics from the Privolzhsky Federal District are taking part in the conference. The Synodal Department on monasteries and monastics of the Russian Orthodox Church and Nizhny Novgorod Metropolitanate are the conference organizers.

The first day of the monastic forum was held in a form of the round table discussions. In his opening address, Metropolitan Georgiy relayed a blessing from His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia to the participants, as well as greetings from I. A. Komarov, the Plenipotentiary of the President of the Russian Federation in the Privozhsky Federal District, and G.S. Nikitin, the Governor of the Nizhny Novgorod Region. His Eminence called the participants to hold open discussions because spiritual growth is stimulated by the conciliar spirit.

Hegumenia Juliania (Kaleda), the abbess of Moscow’s Zachatyevsky monastery and the Deputy Chairman of the Synodal Department on monasteries and monasticism, was the first to present a report. In her welcoming remarks, she thanked His Eminence Met. Georgiy for the organization of the conference in the Nizhny Novgorod Metropolitanate and conveyed a prayerful wish for its success from Archbishop Feognost of Kashira, the Chairman of the Synodal Department on monasteries and monasticism.

Hegumenia Juliania dedicated her report to the experience of prayer in the modern monasteries of Egypt. Matushka shared about life in the Egyptian monasteries she witnessed in 2018 as a member of the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church. The trip was organized with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill. “Life in an Egyptian monastery evolves around worship and prayer,” said Hegumenia Juliana. “In their monastic prayer rule, the Egyptian monks pay great attention to the quality of prayer focusing on the meaning of its words and being acutely aware of standing in the presence of God. Prayer is further advanced using specially selected spiritual reading. Particular attention is paid to the reading of the Scriptures.” Matushka noted that during the conversations they had while visiting the monasteries, humility and obedience were emphasized as the most important conditions to prayer. She also quoted Bishop Daniel, one of the Coptic abbots, who said that “you can acquire prayer and attention to God by preserving a humble opinion about yourself and keeping humble thoughts.”

In conclusion, Hegumenia Juliania expressed hope that with God’s help the modern monasteries of Holy Russia will still be brimming full with the ascetics lighting the world with the fire of Christ’s love. Our monasteries, having absorbed “the heritage of the ancient Egyptian desert fathers as well as the founders of the Byzantine and Athonite monasteries, gained rich spiritual treasure in the host of its saints: the hierarchs, venerable fathers and nuns, spiritual thinkers and theologians. Our monasteries would always bring their offerings of prayer and love of neighbor to the outside world serving as beacons of hope to the souls of those who strive to find salvation in the stormy seas of ​​life.”

Hegumenia Juliania’s report brought up a host of important questions and was followed by a question and answer session that generated a lively discussion. In particular, there were questions about the criteria of the admission of novices to the monastery as well as the daily scheduling and finding time for all the necessary duties, such as prayer, monastic obedience, and daily routine.

In his report on “Prayer and its Significance in the Spiritual Life”, Bishop Alexiy of Solnechnogorsk, abbot of the Moscow’s Danilov Monastery, reminded about four major standards of true prayer. According to the holy church fathers, they are deliberateness, mindfulness, reverence, and penitence where one standard forms another and so on. Bishop Alexiy suggested it was necessary to ponder whether the deed of prayer happens in today’s world. Undoubtedly, it exists in the lives of many monastics despite today’s challenging circumstances. It is worth keeping in mind though that the success of any spiritual endeavor lies not in dealing with it single-handedly but attempting to do it in obedience. Regularity, the speaker noted, is also an important condition of the acquisition of prayer.

Discussing this report, the conference participants touched on the roles of hegumens and hegumenias as stewards of a monastery. It was mentioned that they have to learn how to delegate some of their duties to other experienced brothers and sisters in such a way that their work schedules as heads of the monastery allocates time for communication with their brethren or sisters.

The reports by Archimandrite Alexander (Lukin), the abbot of the Nizhny Novgorod’s Annunciation Monastery and hegumen Vassian (Biragov), the spiritual father confessor of the Nizhny Novgorod’s Pechersky Monastery, sprouted two important thoughts. Firstly, we need to see new saints like Sergius of Radonezh and Seraphim of Sarov and having new saints is the chief monastic objective. Secondly, the cell and church prayer differs only in the location while, in essence, it stays the same, as the ascetic’s heart becomes the Lamb inside his cell.