The Benedict Option and the Byzantine Hothouse vs. Real Community (Part 1)

Fr. Adrian Rymarenko (Archbishop Andrew) created real community everywhere he went, in less than ideal circumstances. To study his life and model is an antidote for merely theoretical ideas of community life.

“This teaching, while solidly Patristic, is not a teaching from books, but from life. The four excerpts from his writings that are presented below tell the main events of his life, which is one of great trials and sufferings, taking place in conditions of revolution, anarchy, arrests, catacomb services, exile, bombings, evacuations. But in these sufferings alone—as helpful as they are to spiritual life—is not to be found the key to his teaching; others have suffered similar trials fruitlessly. In every place where historical circumstances have driven him—Kiev, Berlin, Wendlingen, New York State—a close-knit Orthodox community has formed around him; and this is closer to a key to understanding his teaching. Such communities, rare today among Orthodox Christians, do not arise spontaneously, but only in especially favorable circumstances, if there is present a conscious Orthodox philosophy of life. This conscious Patristic philosophy is what, most of all, we can learn from Archbishop Andrew. Let us try to set down here the main points of this philosophy—which, of course, is not a “systematic” philosophy based on abstractions, but a living philosophy derived from Orthodox spiritual experience.”…..

“Fourth, without a constant and conscious spiritual struggle even the best Orthodox life or community can become a “hothouse,” an artificial Orthodox atmosphere in which the outward manifestations of Orthodox life are merely “enjoyed” or taken for granted, while the soul remains unchanged, being relaxed and comfortable instead of tense in the struggle for salvation. How often a community, when it becomes prosperous and renowned, loses the precious fervor and oneness of soul of its early days of hard struggles! There is no “formula” for the truly God-pleasing Orthodox life; anything outward can become a counterfeit; everything depends on the state of the soul, which must be trembling before God, having the law of God before it in every area of life, every moment keeping what is God’s in honor, in the first place in life.”

Read his own words and a wonderful introduction by Fr. Seraphim Rose:


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