"We are not retreating - we are advancing in another direction."
So, in my continuing thoughts on monasticism, askesis, and the ascetic struggle in the life of ordinary lay Christians (like myself), I ran across this quote. Now, I know it is supposed to be a pithy, ego-aggrandizement from one of the most ego-centric figures of the 20th century. But, I think this is, very likely, a motto for monastics.
Monks and nuns are often accused of retreating from the world. As a matter of fact, they are not retreating at all; they are advancing in another [opposite] direction. They are advancing toward union with God; is it any wonder, then, to those of us still living in the world (and, most often, those of us still of the world) look at them and see their efforts as them trying to get away from the rest of us? We forget, so easily, that their eyes are no longer on us, but have been refocused on the experience of the living God. They are advancing, in every sense. It is, rather, we who are in a negative condition--especially those of us still of the world, those of us still stuck in the mire of unredeemed passions, those of us still desperately churning in the throes of logismoi that we both love and abhor (and are, somehow, not quite willing to deny).
The monastics are there for the rest of us; their purpose is to show us an example of how to love God fully, how to unite fully to him, in the flesh.
Pray for us, holy saints, that He will save our souls! Amen.