The New Monasticism: The 12 Marks: Mark #4

Posted in: history,Spirituality by bill-o on June 24, 2009

“Lament for racial divisions within the church and our communities combined with the active pursuit of a just reconciliation.”

It started out so well. The apostle Philip, one of the original followers of Jesus, was traveling down a desert road when he came across an Ethiopian of the royal court. The man was reading the passage from the Hebrew Bible that spoke about a lamb being led to the slaughter. Puzzled over the meaning of this passage, he asked Philip to explain it to him. Philip then began to explain to the Ethiopian the good news about Jesus. Eagerly embracing the water of baptism, the Ethiopian came into the body of Christ that very day. This is story in the New Testament book of Acts is one where a white man, one of Jesus’s personal friends, invited a black man into the worldwide communion of Christ-followers at the specific direction of the Spirit of God.

Jesus is for all peoples, and he clearly told his original followers to go to all of the ethnos (people-groups) of the world. But something happened through the centuries since then: The racial and ethnic divisions of the world around crept into the community of Christ-followers.

Yet even with this, as if by some miracle, Jesus was embraced by some of the ones who oppressed by those who claimed the Name of Jesus. Perhaps one of the greatest witnesses for Christ is that he was embraced so eagerly by the slaves of the colonial period in the United States, in spite of the fact that he was also the savior of their masters. Then, they held faithfully to him during their many years of slavery and about 100 years of segregation and discrimination. Surely the goodness of Jesus is seen in his relationship with this often-oppressed minority group.

Yet racial divisions are not just those that are in the written law but, more importantly, in our hearts. When the world looks at the body of Christ, what does it see? For example, in the United States, the most racially segregated hour of the week is when churches meet on Sunday mornings. Yes, this is beginning to change, but we have a long way to go.

What words that stand out for me here:

1. Lament. This is where mark #4 starts, and it means a period of mournful reflection and careful consideration. Then, a period of tearful consideration gives way to the next stand-out word …

2. Active. Something that is active is not something that is on proverbial “back burner”. It something to be pursued now and continuously until the goal is fully achieved.

Can the body of Christ express true racial reconciliation? If the answer is no, then we are truly without hope on the earth. Yet in our hearts we know that the answer must be yes. With that, we must each take the courage to step towards this just end.

The essay entitled “Bridges for Evangelicals: Journeying into Contemplative Spirituality and Spiritual Direction” by Elsa McInnes discusses five “great divides” that evangelical followers of Christ must cross over in order to enter into a more contemplative spirituality. I offer these here for your review and comments …

1.  Sacred or Secular. The ancient Greek philosophical idea that divides sacred things from secular things is not part of the life of Jesus Christ. With this divide removed, God is then free to express himself to us through his creation, through the arts, music, etc.

2.  Knowing or Feeling, the Head or the Heart, law or love. Evangelicalism stresses knowing God through the mind. Yet knowing about someone is not the same knowing someone personally. As with our close personal relationships with other people, we must not only approach God intellectually but also through our emotions and senses.

3.  Doing or Being, Inner Journey or Outer Service. Evangelicalism stresses visible ministry activities and generally looks down upon any inner spiritual reflection. Yet we are and must be human beings before we can become “human doings”. Who we truly are, spiritually, our true spiritual identity, is just as important (if not more so) than the spiritual or religious ministries we perform.

4.  Individualism or Faith Community. Evangelicalism emphasizes salvation of the individual. Yet evangelicals often find themselves isolated from the rich traditions of other parts of Christianity. It’s only in the whole of the experience of the greater Christian community that someone can find his or her true identity and calling in Christ.

5.  Mastery or Mystery. Evangelicalism tends to want to define the exact meaning of the Bible and the nature of God. Yet those same sacred scriptures say that God’s ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Yet even with our close human relationships, there is always an element of discovery and mystery. How much more so with God?

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Posted in: Spirituality by bill-o on June 07, 2009

The great monastery complex at Mount Athos of Greece is really a series of self-governing monasteries, as well as sketes and hermitages. Called simply the Holy Mountain in English, Mount Athos is accessible only by sea even though it is a peninsula and not an island. Mount Athos is the second holiest site in Orthodox Christianity. Only men 18 years or older may enter Mount Athos and preference is always given to Orthodox Christians. (Only about 10 non-Orthodox visitors are allowed to visit each day.)

To get to Mount Athos, visitors must obtain a special pass called a diamoneterion. Stamped with the date according to the Julian Calendar, the diamoneterion allows for the enforcement of the strict entrance requirements to Mount Athos. You can see the diamoneterion at:

The Greek word diamoneterion has three parts:

1.  The prefix dia, which means across or through;
2.  mone, which means dwelling place or place to stay; and
3.  The suffix terion, which means “place where”.

Putting the three together, diamoneterion means “across to the place where there are dwelling places”.


The Greek word mone is used only twice in the New Testament, both times in the Gospel of John. The first is where Jesus, on the night before his execution, told his disciples that there were many mone (dwelling places) in his father’s house and that he was going to prepare a place for each of them there. This statement by Jesus is well-known to his followers today. It is a statement of anticipation of the heavenly journey at the end of this life (although it should be noted that heaven is not specifically mentioned in this part of the Gospel of John).

The second use of the word mone comes from Jesus on that same night but is less recognized by today’s Christ-followers. Here, Jesus told his followers that if someone loves him and obeys his teaching, his father and him would come and make their mone (dwelling place) inside of him or her. This second and only other use of mone in the NT complements the earlier statement by Jesus. It describes how God wants to work through his followers on earth: By dwelling inside of them and living through them on a daily basis in their day-to-day lives. Rather than allowing the world around us to be blinded by the very brightness of the unveiled light of God, the father lets the world see the “enfleshed shadow” of God living in those who follow after him in his love and in the love of his son. It’s in this way that the world might gently comprehend his goodness.


Also, please see the recent Reuters article about Mount Athos:

Denver Post article: