Ephraimite Fallacies (Part One)

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Date Published: 02/16/2010

Published on Greek Orthodox Christians of Chicago for Truth and Reform
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Avoid Becomming an Accesory to Their Schismatic Offense

Most people will tell you that a fallacy is a false or mistaken idea. The reality is that a single or multiple fallacies can serve as the basis of an individual’s incorrect understanding of his or her own faith. As we have opened a door to a debate about the Ephraimite Monasteries one thing is clear, misinformation is being used as a tool to falsely educate their followers. We begin by looking at some of the constant claims made by the Ephraimites in support of their peripheral movement within our Church and follow with our responses to their false claim by pointing out the major differences between the Monasteries on Mount Athos and the Monasteries of Elder Ephraim.

Their Claim

Elder Ephraim has merely brought “Athonite Monasticism” to North America. Or, people are only upset with this form of Monasticism because they don’t understand it.

OUR RESPONSE

First, one has to understand that even a claim that there is a universal form of Athonite Monasticism is a fallacy. The various Monasteries of Mount Athos are not carbon copies of each other. There are 20 different Monasteries and 12 Sketes on Mount Athos. A Skete is a small Monastic community housed on the grounds or property of a larger Monastery. There are some similarities that do exist among the vast majority of these religious enclaves. The first similarity is the schedule of the Divine Liturgy. Let’s use this as a starting point to tell our readers why the claim that the Ephraimite Monasteries are bringing an “Athonite Monasticism” to North America is a fallacy.

SCHEDULE OF THE DIVINE LITURGY

Mount Athos Monasteries:

These monasteries conclude their liturgies by 6:00am. The reason is simple; this is done to accommodate the schedules of the Monks. The Monks generally wake up at 2:00am and begin a long process of worship geared to their own lives. They are required to turn their total focus to God.

Ephraimite Monasteries:

These monasteries generally begin their liturgies at 9:00am. The reason is simple; this is done to accommodate the general public. While the Monks of Mount Athos pray with few visitors in attendance, the Ephraimites welcome and accommodate guests and their own Parishioners. We are increasingly hearing people identify their home parish as one of the Ephraimite Monasteries. The visitors at the Ephraimite Monasteries outnumber the Monastics in attendance. Ask yourself, why is it so important to accommodate guests? Have the Ephraimite Monasteries been established to aid Monastics in their mission of coming into union with God, of spiritual development that theologians call “Theosis” or “Deification”? Why do Ephraimite Monasteries celebrate Liturgy at the same time as nearby Parishes?

VISITORS

Mount Athos Monasteries:

The Holy Mountain requires that a visa be issued in order to gain access onto the peninsula where the Monasteries of Mount Athos are located. There is a quota system that allows less than 100 Eastern Orthodox visitors a day and only 10 visitors a day of other religious affiliations are allowed entry on to the Holy Mountain. If you divide that by the number of Monasteries and Sketes, each has fewer than 4 new visitors each day. Only men are allowed to enter the Holy Mountain.

Ephraimite Monasteries:

No visa is required, both men and women are allowed entry. According to the Ephraimites’ own numbers, Saint Anthony’s alone receives 50,000 visitors a year. This demonstrates that Saint Anthony’s in Florence, Arizona out draws all of the 20 Monasteries and 12 Sketes on the Holy Mountain by over 14,000 visitors every year.

THEIR ROLE IN THE LIFE OF THE LAITY

Mount Athos Monasteries:

The Monks of the Holy Mountain pray for all of our souls. It is important to realize that they have left society and their role is important to the rich life of the Church. They do not compete with local parishes or with the Clergy. They do not encourage the Laity to have sacraments at their monasteries. They do not direct the Laity to certain friendly Ephraimite Priests. They do not create friction and division among the Laity based on heretical teachings.

Ephraimite Monasteries:

They claim to pray for all of us, but one wonders where do they find the time? They have not chosen to leave society, but become entrenched in it. They did not go into the dessert far away from society like the founder of Monasticism, Saint Anthony. Nor did they go on to a baron peninsula as did the Monks that found refuse on the Holy Mountain at Mt. Athos. The Ephraimites have placed themselves in the middle of major metropolitan areas in order to draw in society. By some accounts, they have placed 18 Monasteries within easy driving distance of 50% of all Greek Orthodox Christians in the United States. They regularly host baptisms as well as other sacraments. They now have a legion of followers that rely on the monks for “spiritual fathers” and their religious education and now many see these facilities as their New Parish homes.

INVOLVEMENT IN THE OPERATION OF BUSINESSES ON MONASTERY GROUNDS

Mount Athos Monasteries:

These monasteries do not operate internet businesses, mail order businesses, nor do they operate “gift shops” on the Holy Mountain. Real Athonite Monastics are not concerned with “business” nor should they be concerned with property ownership by the individual Monks or their respective Monasteries. Metropolitan Isaiah, while he was a Priest, wrote on the topic of Orthodox Monasticism (see article entitled Orthodox Monasticism: A Brief Study for the Layman). In this article he discusses “Poverty: The Third Rule” of Monasticism. He sets his sites on property ownership by Monastics. He states:

“The third rule of monasticism is non-acquisition or poverty, as western Christianity calls it. It is certainly obvious that if a monastic acquires material things, his mind and heart are still with the things of the world. For one to be able to practice pure prayer, his total attention must be upon God”.

There it is in a nutshell, on the Holy Mountain our Monks pray for us, they do not run concession stands at their Monasteries. They don’t worry about sale items, hiring accountants to fill out sales tax returns, shipping costs or any of the worldly concerns that affect those of us that have chosen a life in society. They are the real Monastics of our faith.

Ephraimite Monasteries:

One only needs to visit their local Ephraimite Monastery to see the Monks and Nuns at work creating trinkets for sale. Really, does Athonite Monasticism call for an environment of Monastics working to have to create inventory for their website based businesses? Perhaps you did not realize that such website businesses existed. So, for your edification here are some examples:

1. http://www.stchrysostomoscrafts.com/ The available items seem endless; St. John Chrysostomos Monastery, Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.

2. http://www.holytransfigurationmonastery.com/ Here you can order Beeswax Candles, Clerical Clothing, Handicrafts, Crosses, and Icons; The Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Harvard, Illinois.

3. http://www.stanthonysmonastery.org/ccp6/index.php -Products include , Books , Recorded Homilies , Music , Videos , Postcards, Prayer Ropes and Incense; The St. Anthony Monastery Florence, Arizona.

Thus, the analogy used by the supporters of the Ephraimite Monasteries that they have merely brought “Athonite Monasticism” to North America is clearly wrong. It is another attempt to define the mission of these places in a way that makes it difficult for the unsuspecting or underexposed to assess their true purpose. In other words, it is a sound bite used to mislead their followers.

List of Differences

There are many other reasons why these Monasteries can not be accurately portrayed as Athonite. We have compiled a sampling of the differences in the following list:

1. You do not send your Wedding Crowns to Mt. Athos for blessings;

2. You do not bring your spouse to Mt. Athos for marriage counseling;

3. You do not bring your future spouse to Mount Athos to receive a pre-nuptial approval from your Spiritual Father;

4. Mount Athos does not have followers host dinner dances, ask their vendors for free goods to support their efforts, nor do they send followers out into society soliciting funds;

5. They do not set up Kiosks at the local Church Picnics and events raising money;

6. Monastics on Mount Athos do not act as local Parishes or clergy to the detriment of neighboring Greek Orthodox;

7. They do not walk into local Greek owned businesses and convince the owners to sell their merchandise like candles and baked goods;

8. There is no public cemetery on Mt. Athos. Only the Monks are buried there. The Ephraimite Monasteries will take anyone and it has been reported to us that some families have been charged as much as $10,000 for a burial;

9. The Mt. Athos Monastics will not spend their time and energies classifying Priests as “spiritual” or “western” thereby destroying the peace of the Church by dividing the Laity;

10. The Monasteries of Mt. Athos were not all founded by the same “Elder” who acts as a “spiritual guide” or are under the “spiritual guidance” of one Elder.

11. The Monasteries of Mt. Athos do not host symposiums. They do not invite in the general public, have television Cameras there and have it all promoted by the local “Greek Television Show”. They do not string together a group of Fundamentalist theologians, including the local Ephraimite Priests to pick and choose laundry lists of topics in order to pollute those who are novices in their understanding of Orthodoxy. These symposiums create an army of Pharisees thereby encouraging schismatic confrontations among the Youth of our faith;

12. The Monasteries of Mt. Athos are not relentlessly promoted in the Metropolis of Chicago in the manner that the Ephraimite Monasteries are so promoted. For example, go to the website of Hellenic Heartbeat which appears to be owned by Hellenic Broadcasting Company. Here not only will you find the link to two monasteries under the spiritual guidance of Elder Ephraim, but an example of an internet business operated by the St. John Chrysostomos. That Monastery states on its home page:

“This site is brought to you by the friends of St, John Chrysostomos and we encourage you to contact us or the Monastery to support the important work they are doing”Copyright 2003