Life in the monastery

Life in the monastery

The main task of a monk is to pray. The most visible part of this is the daily services in the church. All members of the brotherhood participate in the divine services either as prayers, altar servers, readers, chanters, deacons or priests.

Also work is an important part of monastic life. The hegoumen (abbot) of the monastery assigns each brother certain work tasks, which are called obedience work. All work in a monastery is equal and working in obedience is considered equal to prayer. It is even appropriate to be absent from the divine services because of obedience work that needs to be done.

The brotherhood works six days per week. But the divine services are attended every day of the week. From Monday to Saturday the day starts with midnight service and matins at 6.00 am. On Sundays, it is possible to rest a bit longer because the 3rd hour and liturgy begin only at 9.00 am. The obedience work begins after breakfast, and after lunch, which is eaten at 11 am, the obedience work continues until late afternoon. From 4 pm until the evening service which begins at 6 pm, the brotherhood has the possibility to eat dinner. The last service in the service ends by 7.30 pm on weekdays, on Saturdas one hour later. After this the monks usually have free time, which may be used for example for reading, outdoors recreation or resting. Silence begins in the monastery area at 10 pm. The members of the brotherhood go to sleep according to their individual schedule.

Major church feasts may cause sometimes even significant changes in the weekly and daily routine. Also short trips - for example pilgrimages and visits to relatives or friends - are possible by the hegoumen's blessing i.e. permission.

Entering a monastery

Orthodox male adults who do not have any binding commitments in the world - for example minor children to take care of - may ask to become members of the brotherhood of Valamo monastery. It is also necessary to have normal physical, and especially mental, health because every new member of the brotherhood is expected to contribute with their work and also to adapt to the requirements of a tight-knit, regulated and regular community life.

There are many reasons why one might want to enter a monastery and the reasons are personal. The most important prerequisite for choosing monastic life is an earnest call to monastic lfe - a desire to live Christian life in a community striving to follow the will of God.

Persons who are interested in monastic life may write to the hegoumen (abbot) of the monastery, archimandrite Michael. Anyone who wants to enter a monastery need to remember that in addition to monastic life, members of the Orthodox church also have another way to live according to Christian ideals: marriage, which is equally demanding and valuable as monastic life.

After entering the monastery, the usual practice is to live as a novice for at least one year. If the novice adapts to the monastic way of life, he is blessed to wear the monastic habit, the cassock, belt and headgear, skufia. Some time after this, the novice will be able to apply for the official membership in the bortherhood. 

The entire brotherhood votes about the membership in the brotherhood. After being accepted as an official member of the brotherhood, the novice will have the right to vote at the meetings of the brotherhood. 

When it has become evident that the novice has an ardent desire to commit to the monastic life for the rest of his life, he may be tonsured to rassophore monk, when he is vested in outer cassock and a headgear with veil, called klobuk. In due time after this, when the abbot of the monastery deems right, the candidate can be tonsured a monk. When the monk gives the final vows, he commits to live the rest of his life in celibacy, obedience and without personal ownership. When tonsured a monk, he receives a new name, and he is given a prayer rope and a mantle, a long piece of clothing worn at the divine services. 


It's a long way to become a monk

A novice is a man who is getting acquainted with the monastic life but has not yet committed himself to stay in the monastic life permanently. After being a novice for about one year, he may be blessed by the abbot of the monastery to wear the veryday monastic habit, consisting of inner cassock, belt and the monastic headgear called skufia.

Rassophore monk
A rassophore monk is a monastic who has been tonsured to the first stage of monasticism. When one is tonsured a rassophore monk, the monastic vows are not said, but by accepting the tonsure, the candidate commits oneself to live accordingly. In addition to the inner cassock, belt and skufia, worn by a novice, the rassophore monk wears also an outer cassock and a veiled headgear, called klobuk.

A monk is a monastic who has given the vows of obedience, poverty and celibacy. A monk is give a new name, and he is vested in a long cape called mantle. A monk that has been ordained a priest is called hieromonk, and a monk that has been ordained a deacon is called hierodeacon.

The brotherhood today

In recent times the number of brothers was on average about ten for a long time but during the last few years the number has increased and is now closer to twenty. The average age at the moment is around 45.

The brotherhood lives in houses built by lake Juojärvi in 1979. The houses have 16 one-person monastic cells. The living quarters of the brotherhood and their surroundings are not open to the public. During the last few years, as a result of the increased number of brothers some have been living also in the same buolding where the voluntary workers live.

Monastic life is sometimes also called angelic life. The ultimate goal of monastic life is the salvation of the soul. In practice, monastic life consists of work, prayer and rest.

Members of the brotherhood

Archimandrite Michael, hegoumen (abbot) of the monastery

Archimandrite Herman

Hieromonk Alexander, baker, sacristan

Hieromonk John

Hieromonk Victor, IT specialist

Hierodeacon James, chanter, responsible for the order of the divine services

Hierodeacon Raphael, secretary of the monastery, head of book publishing and agriculture

Scheme monk Anthony

Monk Nazary, chanter, responsible for winery and distillery

Monk Jonah, guide, foreman of the brotherhood's obedience work

Monk Siluan, reader, altar server, library work, assistant sacristan

Rassophore monk Laurentios, reader, altar server, producer of printed icons, responsible for the candle factory

Rassophore monk Stephen, reader, altar server, responsible for the voluntary workers and main guide

Novice Gaios, altar server, reader, chanter, archivist, work in the monastery store

Novice Arkady, chanter, church orderly, car driver, 

Novice Tobias, car and machine driver

Novice Herman, chanter

Novice Zechariah, church caretaker