In his edifying little patericon, ‘Athonite Fathers and Athonite Matters’, Elder Paisios (who was officially entered into the calendar of saints a year ago, on January 13, 2015) presents “the lives of Athonite fathers who were vessels of divine grace and lived approximately in the period from 1840-1980. As a conclusion to the book, the author offers a distillation of his own experience and God’s wisdom, with the title: ‘Return to God from Earth to Heaven’.”
In his conclusion, the Elder provides some very simple spiritual counsel for those seeking to discern God’s will for their life:
“The years go by, and people grow old. So, don’t sit at the crossroads. Choose a cross relative to your philotimo, proceed to one of the two paths of our Church and follow Christ to the Crucifixion, if you want to rejoice in the Resurrection.” (p. 181)
One path is married life, the other is monasticism. (Of course, there are some who may find themselves living as a solitary in the world, but this is rare.)
We may have an idea of what the married life in the world may entail from parents, friends, relatives. But we cannot gain an appreciation of the monastic way without making some pilgrimages and testing the life.
If you feel you may be drawn to the monastic life, do not delay! Plan a pilgrimage, call the monasteries you are thinking of, take those steps to visit, and make return visits for longer periods. The Monastery of the Archangel Michael in Canones, New Mexico describes the process very well:
“The first step is of course to visit the monastery several times and get to know the community and to allow the community to get to know the inquirer. A certain testing will take place to measure an inquirer’s stability and maturity in the faith and in his life. A dialogue will continue between the Superior and the inquirer so that he knows the seriousness of the path of monasticism and learns the rule of the Monastery.”
If you are reading this now, you may be in the process of discerning your path. Make up your mind to choose, with God’s help. Remember Elder Paisios’ words:
Don’t sit at the crossroads. Choose a cross… and follow Christ to the Crucifixion, if you want to rejoice in the Resurrection.
May the Lord bless and illumine your way!