Response to The Ephraim Question
I was recently e-mailed a copy of Mr. Paul Cromidas’ article, entitled, “The Ephraim Question”, and apart from overwhelming sadness I was filled with a strong resolve, as one who has been visiting Elder Ephraim’s monasteries for the past ten years, to respond to the article and address some of its misinformation. Mr. Cromidas’ article was another example of an attack on traditional Orthodoxy. Many Orthodox Christians visit monasteries, and people like Mr. Cromidas constantly criticize those of us who choose to visit monasteries, particularly monasteries of Elder Ephraim. We should have the opportunity to defend our actions against those who continue to call us “cult-followers”.
I was blessed to visit, as Mr. Cromidas would say, an “Ephraimite” monastery for the first time over a decade ago. I was just 17 at the time, and at that point in my life, I was a typical teenager who thought I knew everything. I had major attitude and a chip on my shoulder. I was overly concerned with my appearance, and materialism in general. After all, it was the nineties; I was just doing what was commonplace “in the world.” I wasn’t at all interested in the church, and felt services were long and boring. To me, Orthodoxy was something I might think of getting around to, much later in my life. Thank God that by His providence I met Abbess Taxiarhia (who reposed in 1994). She was an embodiment of humility, purity, and true Christ-like love. Before meeting her, I didn’t think there was such a thing as Christ-like love. Yes, I had read the Bible, and heard of “love your enemies,” but I didn’t believe it; after all, the world had become much more “an eye for an eye”, than “bless those who curse you”. I felt it unrealistic that love like Christ had could really exist, especially in this day and age. But as I said, by God’s providence, I saw it, and continue to see it abundantly in many monastic communities that I have visited here and in Greece. Monasteries that are filled with young men and women who were so overcome by their love for Christ, they abandoned the material world to seek the spiritual. They have chosen to live their faith entirely. They have chosen to dedicate their lives to Christ, who gave His life for them and for us.
Abandon the world for Christ? They must be crazy. Yes, in this world, so overcome by materialism that most teenagers carry cell phones and spend hundreds of dollars for a pair of shoes, such an idea is considered crazy. After all, who WOULDN’T want to make a lot of money, enjoy the “finer things” in life, and travel to exciting and exotic places? Who DOESN’T want to “live life to the fullest?” Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die, RIGHT? Yes, this is what the world tells us. But in truth, the Holy Orthodox Church has been telling us for the past 2000 + years that such hedonistic thinking is incorrect. Since the time of Christ, hedonism has been viewed as a horribly sinful way of life that leads to eternal damnation. From the teachings of the Apostles, to such modern day saints as St. Nektarios of Aegina and St. John Maximovitch, our faith has taught us to live a life of temperance, moderation, obedience to Christ’s teachings, and purity