25 September, 2020

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A Male, Orthodox Monastic As The Chief Guest At The Anglican Church – A Plea For A Male Monastic Order

By Dushyanthi Hoole

Prof. Dushyanthi Hoole

The Colombo Diocese of the Anglican Church of Ceylon commenced its 133rd Diocesan Council sessions and celebrations on the 25th of October, 2018. Metropolitan Geevarghese Mor Coorilos, an Archbishop of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Kerala, India, and formerly of the diocese of Niranam –  one of the seven and a half churches founded between 52-72 AD by Apostle Thomas – is the Chief Guest. 

The church appears to have come a long way in honoring a male monastic so. Why do I say that? The Christian Church has a rich monastic tradition from the ancient desert fathers who grew out of the communities of hermit monks in Egypt from early in the Christian years. The Roman Catholics have their celebrated monks who make sacramental wine at Tholagatti and Nelli Crish.

The choice for Chief Guest is surprising only because the Anglican Church of Ceylon has no male monastic community, not even a lay brotherhood that bypasses perpetual vows. It however has a long standing yet hardly known female Anglican Society at Polwatte, called the Society of St. Margaret’s which follows a purely Anglican Rule. Many mistakenly take them to be Roman Catholic sisters, not realizing that the Anglicans are catholic but not Roman Catholic. I got to know of the St. Margaret’s Sisters only because my mother used to grow trails of aathavaraya greens all around our house to make the daily kolakandha for the school run by these nuns. Almost invisibly they run a Retreat House, the St John’s Home for Children in Moratuwa, a Hostel for young working women, a home for elderly ladies and many Church and community related activities. 

This situation in the Anglican Church of Ceylon of having no male monastic society but only a female one, smacks of the popular excuse in the Anglican (English) and Episcopal (American) Churches in the days of the Oxford revival and Tractarianism that “chastity is unnatural for men,” but  natural for women. This lack would even appear to be caused by a popular kink of the male mind or gender bias against men. Yet we in the Church of Ceylon are planning a third Bishopric for us amidst little support from the laity with no contemplative base to stand upon or cleanse our faith. Contemplation is thought to be too advanced a topic for our seminary. With all humility, and mindful that as a woman I cannot advice my Lord Bishop on religious matters, however non-officious he is, I would urge for modules in the seminary curriculum on Anglican contemplation which avoid the medieval errors, and a study of the Anglican Liturgies for all Anglicans at the appropriate levels. 

Anglicanism in England and America was strengthened because of monastic revivals including that caused by the Oxford Movement in England and Tractarianism (synchronous with the evangelical movement) in America.  They inspired in some men and women a flaming devotion exceeding that required of a priest, a self-surrender that chose celibacy towards service, mainly through a looking back to the Church Fathers’ teachings and the apostles’ way of life. This tendency caused many Anglican Bishops to erroneously fear for their authority within the Church and as a result they did not encourage the revival or the formation of male orders or the rising high church tendencies, even in Sri Lanka. The history of the Western Church in Sri Lanka shows a fear of all ritualism after Dutch Rule. Thus the later  local Anglicans and even the American Mission in Jaffna  saw the Pope behind the lights, the chants, the chasubles and the incense, so dear to the Orthodox heart and Edward VI Anglicans. Such things draw the Asian mind to devotion. The use of the Liturgy too came to be viewed as less important leading to the ultra-Protestant, low-church and evangelical dominance.  The pure and uncompromised Liturgy is witnessed at and derives from the beatific vision. Yet the contemplative is not catered to in the Church of Ceylon.  The mystical works including those of the ancient Fathers are feared as something associated with Saint worship or even inspired by the devil. Yet there may not have been Samuel had Eli not been a contemplative or mystic to explain to that small child the nature and significance of his audio encounter.

Therefore one’s hope for monastic vocations and a return to an uncompromised Liturgy rises at the invitation of Bishop Geevarghese Mor Coorilos, a celibate, monastic, Orthodox Bishop from one of the first Christian churches established in the world. His presence encourages spiritual vocations in a church steadily bleeding young members and our Lord Bishop’s invitation whispers a strong hope of soon singing an undiminished Anglican Liturgy which is the right of every Christian. We are fortunate that our Bishop understands. 

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Latest comments

  • 6
    1

    Mrs. Hoole,

    In this day and age, when we are on the cusp of AI taking over many aspects of life, when the Roman Catholic Church is struggling, with many Bishops and Cardinals have been exposed as pedophiles and molesters, your advocacy of a male monastic order seems so ‘out there.’

    As Henry Kissinger reminded people recently, with the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, reason supplanted liturgical practice. More than 5 centuries later, what have the faithful got to show for all their time and efforts?

    • 1
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      It should read: “…with many Bishops and Cardinals having been exposed….”

    • 2
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      Agnos,
      ¤
      “Henry Kissinger”
      ¤
      I did an on line search to verify that he is still alive. 95 years old and born in Weimar Republic.

    • 0
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      Agnos,

      The answer is in your question. “reason* supplanted liturgical practice”…hence your question. “what have the faithful got to show for all their time and efforts?.” Here by
      *reason Kissinger must have meant “rationalism” – for our faith was under attack by escalated propagation of rationalism arising from fast-paced discoveries in science and our response not thought out in a holistic way = immature. The result the so called “rationalists”, agnostics and the list.

      Entropy/chaos never overtakes even though an increase of it is in the order of things. It is “ordained” so.

      Kissinger’s statement is utterly wrong also in that, the Liturgy and its practice are logic at its highest, with elegance and economy in words with maximum content, even in act which is beyond the realm of the brain.

      No one who has the charity of Christ can act without love.

      People want to be monastics because for them the love of Christ compels as strong as death. So the light shines on in darkness, and darkness cannot overcome it.

      (Somehow your pen name makes me think that we can only speak at different wavelengths. Sorry).

      • 2
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        Mrs. Hoole,

        Do you agree at least that before the invention of the printing press, communication and dissemination of knowledge was often word of mouth, and there was a lot of rumor mongering? So when religions make claims about some things that purportedly happened thousands of years ago, any scientist worth his/her salt ought to remain skeptical.

        Instead of having A.D. and B.C., there should be B.P.P ( Before the Printing Press) and A.P.P
        Unverifiable claims based on anything in the B.P.P era should be taken as hearsay and rumor, and dismissed. You are welcome to beseech whatever God you believe in to perform the same alleged miracles in the here and now, and put matters to rest. An Omniscient, Omnipotent and Omnipresent God will have no problem at all in doing so.

        • 0
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          Before the printing press, monks, the same ones Mrs. Hoole is calling for, painstakingly wrote down the Bible in gold lettering and red and black ink from their monasteries. They are beautiful works and are to be found in many European libraries dating to the early years of Christianity.

          The printing press increased the number of copies of the Bible but the Bible continued to be produced by hand.

          Scholarship shows the various copies written here and there were faithful to each other.
          The Red Sea Scrolls prove the point

          Theree was no oral tradition in producing the Bible. As for the Old Testament, the Jews similarly had a careful written tradition.

          • 0
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            Bert,

            The printing press didn’t merely increase the number of copies of the Bible. It broke the monopoly on knowledge held by the priesthood and monks, and allowed reason to challenge dogma. It democratized knowledge and debate. Kings used to patronize the priests and dictated that the citizenry must follow the religion of the King. When the British King banned Catholicism in favor of Protestantism, there were beheadings of those who refused to let their Catholic faith go. People often think that it is in Islamic countries that one saw beheadings, but it happened in England, and the Anglican church was very much complicit in it. Every religion has plenty of skeletons to hide.

        • 0
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          Agnos
          You reduce “knowing” simply to what can be fathomed by the human brain. Surely man’s intelligence cannot run the world, leave alone the cosmos, and therefore you can see it is limited. As such, there must be knowledge exceeding what can be known by the brain alone.

          If you are sincerely open to it, you can be infused with knowledge beyond the brain from the realm invisible to the senses. This is in eternity forwards and backwards. BPP too will not work.

          As for “Unverifiable claims”. Enough is verified to believe. The best way to learn more in Christianity is to stop asking too many questions. Many things are hidden from the wise and learned, and revealed to little children, and such as these- said Jesus.

          • 0
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            Mrs. Hoole,

            How is it possible to have any intellectual discourse when there is no common frame of reference, based on what the human brain can perceive?

            While man’s intelligence cannot run the cosmos, it can do simple things like identifying contradictions in religious claims, which is all that is required.

            To argue that ‘enough is verified to believe,’ is to be oblivious of the glaring contradictions in the belief, and the incalculable harm it does to society. In the face of such contradictions, when adults drum religions into their heads, children grow up believing that, professing faith in a religion gives them license to have a dishonest life and argue every which way they want, and the result, in America right now, is the election of Trump by a large number of people who call themselves ‘Christians.’
            I will leave it at that.

  • 1
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    Dr Dushyanthi Hoole,
    ¤
    “one of the seven and a half churches founded between 52-72 AD by Apostle Thomas”
    ¤
    How was half a church founded? You explained that Anglicans are Catholic but not Roman Catholic confusing me even more with the various flavors of Christianity.

    • 0
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      Lone Wolf,

      -People there have told us that it is because it is the smallest church in the list of Thomas churches. King Imayavaramban Cheran is said/on record to have completed that church for enclosing a shrine protecting the cross placed there by St. Thomas.

      -Since “catholic” in its ordinary meaning stands for universal, and since with the Orthodox Christian Churches everywhere the Anglicans follow the Liturgy and practices of the apostles, Anglicans are Catholic.

      The differences in the Liturgies are only in their arrangement and insertion of some prayers of Saints beloved in the respective region.

      As you say it is “various flavors of Christianity” – Nothing that confuses the faith transmitted over 200 years or reduces the connection to Jesus of Nazareth.

  • 0
    1

    Lone Wolf,

    -People there have told us that it is because it is the smallest church in the list of Thomas churches. King Imayavaramban Cheran is said/on record to have completed that church for enclosing a shrine protecting the cross placed there by St. Thomas.

    -Since “catholic” in its ordinary meaning stands for universal, and since with the Orthodox Christian Churches everywhere the Anglicans follow the Liturgy and practices of the apostles, Anglicans are Catholic.

    The differences in the Liturgies are only in their arrangement and insertion of some prayers of Saints beloved in the respective region.

    As you say it is “various flavors of Christianity” – Nothing that confuses the faith transmitted over 200 years or reduces the connection to Jesus of Nazareth.

  • 1
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    Prof Hoole

    2000 years. Not 200.

  • 0
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    There is a very small Anglican Franciscan order in Sri Lanka, although it cannot be called a “monastic” order.

    • 2
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      I think that this obsession with viewing sex as sin has to go.

      • 1
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        Agreed.

        “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”

      • 0
        2

        Celibacy in a religious proper is not because of a feeling of sex being a sin or celibacy being coerced onto him/her by the Church but because it is known by him/her for what it is-as belonging to the carnal/animal side of things. To the spirit that is given to experience the bliss of union with God, the demands of the flesh are of the lowest category or conquered. The contemplative’s Joy being perfected in God and his/her love in Christ their thoughts are above the flesh.

        The yearnings/feelings of the spirit are far stronger than those of the flesh.

    • 0
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      If so that would is great. But the website for SSF does not include Sri Lanka (accessed today)

      ” The First Order consists of brothers (Society of St Francis – SSF) and sisters (Community of St Francis – CSF) who make vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, live together in community, pray together, and undertake active work of many kinds. There are SSF brothers in Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, South Korea, the UK, and the USA; and CSF sisters in the UK, the USA, and South Korea.”

      There is a monk I have seen in a brown habit but my former Priest says he is not a proper monk..

      Would be grateful for information of the Franciscan Order/society in Sri Lanka.

  • 1
    1

    I think the author merely alludes to sexism and not to sex in this article.

    If SJ is a sexist, I can understand why he would side-track the subtle arguments on sexism inherent to holy orders into an argument on sex.

    Alternatively SJ must be seeing sex in everything and is hallucinating about sex to read sex and sin in this article which probably is too subtle and high flown for him.

    • 3
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      I tend to think sex is not unrelated to sexism – at least in a negative sense. An inability to enjoy the pure joy of sex – irrespective of social constructions of gender identities and societal attitudes toward different sexual orientations – is often the latent, repressed factor underlying sexism.

      • 0
        0

        “We are fortunate that our Bishop understands.”?

        Bishop must assert himself. Why does he allow Bishop Kenneth to out shadow him? Bishop Kenneth of JVP fame was a disaster to the Anglican church. He was the beginning of the end of spirituality within the church. The laity are now treated like they have no part in the Church but to come and watch them perform. Many priests still believe that too! They are so autocratic forgetting God appointed places for both the laity and priests to make the mass valid. They act as if the Bishop is Infallible like the Pope! God save us!

        It is a shame to see the bullying by certain officials at these meetings. One wonders whether it is a meeting of Christians at all. They forget that Christ is the Head of the Church and act like they are the CEOs of the Anglican Church. The same bullying crowd is elected year after year, for its members elect themselves and shut up those who mean to carry the mandate of Christ to the poor churches with widows and orphans and the poor. They run the Anglican Church like they run their own companies.

        Their politics is making the members disillusioned and the church is steadily shrinking in size. They try to act ‘posh’ but are the least spiritual people among the Anglicans.

        Anglican Bishops behave as if their Colombo schools and parishes alone exist in their diocese.

        Bishop Canagasabey must wield his authority to cater to all the Christians under his ‘see’. He was elected to stand on the side of the saints and the poor. He used to before, but now he is part of the ‘posh’ crowd alienated from the rural base.

        God save the Church of Ceylon. May the next Bishop stand strong.

  • 1
    0

    “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1) said St. Paul. “Simply and gently”, said the Fathers.

    The Seminary at Pilimatalawa is treated by our priests as though it confers on them the licence to destroy the Church of Ceylon.

    Many Lecturers there calling themselves sholastics and liberals teach many heresies and to insert dreadful spiritual incongruities into the Holy Liturgy at the expense of “substance”. A few intelligent seminarians survive this but they are busy with parish administration. Priests and Archdeacons have personally introduced elements prohibited by God – the Father of Jesus and us, even into the eucharistic liturgy during the high Holy Mass such as advaitha vedanta, alien philosophies and ceremonies like Saraswathy and Sun poojas on Thai Pongal or deny our Christocentricity, which militate against the Gospel of Our Lord. Their spiritual blindness keeps their poor charges blind to identify this blasphemy. How can we learn the “Way” with such a seminary as Pilimatalawa and wayward priests and archdeacons and former Bishops?

    Do we fear these erring priests and senior Bishops more than the judgement of God? Why does the good Bishop not act with the same alacrity he showed in issuing a denouncing statement on the current political crisis, also on the politics and errors of his own wayward priests and archdeacons? “Our Kingdom is not of this world.”

    Thus the call for monastics with a first hand “absolute sensation” of the Truth of the Gospel to serve as our ‘Abba’s and “Amma”s / monastics to provide “spiritual direction” – to r.eturn to the Beauty of Holiness.

    How I wish that Anglicans too would/could gather in their numbers in front of the Cathedral demanding a return to purity of faith – for Christ’s sake, before our children are “lost”?

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