COVID-19 helped revive elements of monasticism in our life, says Mar Seraphim

#Calls upon the clergy to adapt to changes to make the church ministry more effective

BENGALURU:  “The long period of lock-down due to increased spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has helped revive the principles of monasticism or monk hood in our daily lives.”
Says His Grace Dr Abraham Mar Seraphim, Bengaluru Diocese Metropolitan, who after staying indoor for two months at the Diocese HQ admits that lockdown has helped revive monasticism and relate to family lives in the present context.
“With staying home and virtually no room for travel, Orthodox Christian families are devoting more time and longer hours for prayers, Bible reading and teaching,” His Grace says adding that family and monk-hood (sanyasin) are two parts but with a single purpose or destiny of seeking kingdom of God.
Other than the ascetic like and cloistered lives, adapting to farming has also brought about a change in lifestyles – an aspect which some of the devoted families introduced during the lock-down period.
Comparing family and monk as a community with norms and disciplines, His Grace adds these require staying together for effective results.
“Family aspects during lock-down period showed elements of monasticism like renouncing some worldly pursuits to devote oneself fully to spiritual work,” he says.
Mar Seraphim, the youngest Bishop of Indian (Malankara) Orthodox Church, and a protégé of Metropolitan LL Philipose Mar Eusebius (1931-2009) of Thumpamon Diocese, was very much influenced by life at St Basil Dayara, Pathanamthitta, Kerala.
Mar Seraphim quotes Gregory of Nyssa, an erudite theologian venerated as a saint in Oriental Orthodoxy, who said that “one who entered into marriage life is really entering the monastic life.”
The Metropolitan who paid a 5-day visit in 2019 to Mount Athos, ‘the Holy Mountain’ in northeastern Greece and an important centre of Eastern Orthodox monasticism, also shared his experiences with fellow monastics.
His Grace was awestruck at the tough daily chores of professionals turned monastics and how they renounced worldly pleasures to devote oneself fully to spiritual work.
This struck a chord with the visiting Bishop whose short stay left a lasting impression and how youngsters were attracted to rigid life at the monastery.
Mount Athos is home to 20 monasteries under the direct jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
During the interview, the Metropolitan also called upon the clergy to adapt to changes in order to make the church ministry more effective and relevant. “This has to be done on a constant basis and not just during times like the present pandemic,” he mentions.
Mar Seraphim who completed 25 years of faithful ministry in Christ mentions about a ‘compassionate heart’ both for clergymen and bishops as a basic element for the ministry to develop further.
He calls upon clergymen to bring about a one-to-one in the ministry and only with a ‘compassionate heart’ can we bring about a change just like Jesus Christ.
This calls for personal attention with the members of the church or congregation and will help drive away stress, insecurity fears or anxiety among them during the present pandemic.
One has to give proper attention to listening aspects among the members and the present situation is the right occasion for it, he adds.
As the pandemic forced churches were close doors, Bengaluru Diocese which is celebrating its Decennial Jubilee this year under Mar Seraphim, live streamed the holy Passion Week services and the weekend liturgical services for the first time.
Mar Seraphim also touched upon aspects like the present and future challenges of the Church, his perspective on ministry, vision and how children can lead a spiritual life.
Dn Job Sam Mathew conducted the interviews which were recorded at the Bengaluru Diocese HQ during the lockdown period.
The full length interviews in Malayalam can be viewed on YouTube at MOSC Bangalore Diocese.