Angelic Life

For the Orthodox Christian, there is only one set of standards for practicing the Faith as the Way of Christ. This is as it should be, for there is no other Way than by the Cross of Christ, under the weight of which each must labor, for none can go to the Father, unless they deny themselves by taking up their own cross and follow the teaching of Christ (John 14:6; Luke 14:26-27).

The Orthodox Church is constituted as an historical reality by the expressions of Seven Ecumenical Councils and local synods, which include both the Creed and the canons of the Church, the sanctification of time through the cycles of Divine Services, the Church's calendar and rules for feasts and fasts, and moral and behavioral expectations rooted in Holy Tradition, which includes the scriptural traditions of the Bible and the teachings of the Church Fathers.

The living reality of Orthodoxy is evidenced in the veneration of the martyryic witness of the Saints, the offering up prayer as pure theology, and the Incarnational economy represented to the faithful through the complex language worship, with its rich tapestry of symbols, metaphors, and rituals. All the riches of Orthodoxy are available to all of the faithful, such that for one taking up either clerical or monastic life there is there is no notion of joining or "going into" beyond that of receiving grace through Baptism and Chrismation into the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior.

Indeed, seeking unity with God through participation in a living relationship to Christ is the "ordinary" way of being Orthodox- it is the complementary, hidden work of those Baptized into Christ to enter into the holy mystery of Holy Communion, and thus the centrality of the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. In the economy of seeking unity in the Church, the necessity of creatures of God worshipping in both Spirit and Truth (Jn 4:24), there are different "ordinary" melodic styles within the rhythms of life for singing praises to our God that shed radiant light on the human meaning found in it through elevating the individual relationship with Christ. To achieve the promised blessings of life there are distinct forms, specific "orders," that function within the Christian community. As a matter of administration, the well-ordering of the life of the Community is provided for in the ministerial offices (apostle-bishops along with those working with them – priests, deacons, and various sacerdotal offices). Regarding gifts of the Spirit, there are many charismas, as in any economy where there is much work to be done, and a talented, varied labor force (1 Cor. 12:9), or as in the beautiful complexity of the human body. 

The most common normative mode of Orthodox living a holy life in the eyes of God, that is a life that produces human experiences that are set apart from the tyranny of this World, is the domestic living, that is making humanity abundant through the cultivation of the virtues and of children.

However, as the lives of the Holy Prophets found in the Old Testament attest, the call of God to a life apart can be radical, and is a well-founded commandment:

I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. Thou shalt have none other gods before me. Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments. (Deut. 6:1-10)

Historically, a single-minded dedication to life with Christ as the living of Christian philosophy, the love of Holy wisdom that can be learned only from the God-Man, the person of Christ in the Trinity of the One God, demands intensive training combined with a carefree attitude toward worldly affairs and mastery over the sources that give rise to both passions and idolatry.

Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant. Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men. Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God (1 Cor 7:21-23).

It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. (1Cor. 7: 1b-9)

Training in life of the Way of the Cross, Christian asceticism, is normative for those domestic and single, and in both cases can, in most respects, appear much alike, and room for many varieties of expression. As made clear by the Canon of the Council of Grangra, one way of life should in no way disparage the other, yet a life of Christian philosophy that incorporates the carefreeness of renunciation of the world, with the objective becoming a living corpse, hence seeking a life of salvation most akin to that of the angels, is the beginning of Christian monasticism.

Few are called to seek the angelic life embodied in monasticism, and it cannot be chosen for one's self. As with the prophetic call to Ezekiel, the peace offered is not the peace of this world, for the Kingdom sought is not of this world (Jn 18:36), nor is the wisdom offered a matter of intellectual speculation for the wisdom of God is foolishness to men (1 Cor.1:20), rather, it is the blessing of the mystery of peace given by Love, by Christ, the Prince of Peace:

The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe. Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me. But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence. (Jn 14:26-30)