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 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. 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.
It's a long way to become a monk
After entering the monastery as a novice, he gets acquainted with the monastic life and does different kinds of obedience work for at least one year. If the novice gets used to the way of life in the monastery, he may get the blessing (permission) to wear undercassock, belt and skufia (hat), which are part of the monastic habit. One year after entering the monastery, it is also possibly to officially apply for membership in the brotherhood.
The entire brotherhood votes about accepting a new member to the brotherhood. After being accepted as a plenipotentiary member of the brotherhood, the novice also has right to vote at the meetings of the brotherhood
If it seems like the novice has firm intention to commit himself to monastic life for the rest of his life, he may be tonsured to rassophore monk, when he is vested in outer cassock (ryassa/exorason) and a veiled hat, klobuk. After some time, when the hegoumen considers him ready, he may be tonsured to monk (small scheme). When he gives his final monastic vows, he promises to live the rest of his life in celibacy, obedience and without personal ownership. When one is tonsured to monk one gets a new name and is given long cape called mantia.
Stages in monasticism
Novice is a man who is getting used to monastic life but has not yet given any vows to remain in a monastery. The hegoumen (abbot) gives the novice blessing (permission) to wear undercassock when he has been in the monastery for approximately one year.
Rassophore is a monastic who has not yet recited monastic vows, but who has been tonsured and blessed to wear, in addition to the undercassock worn also by novices, also the outer cassock and a veiled hat called klobuki.
Monk (small scheme)
Monk is a monastic who has given vows to live in humility, poverty and celibacy. As a sign of new life, the monk is given a new name. In addition to the monastic clothes given to novices and rassophore monks, he is also vested in a long cape worn in church, which is called mantia. A monk who has been ordained a priest is called hieromonk, and a monk who has been ordained a deacon is called hierodeacon.
Scheme monk (great scheme)
In the Slavic tradition, scheme monks are usually monks who are elderly and spiritually advanced are tonsured to the great scheme. A monk of the great scheme is liberated from all tasks in the community, like divine services, work and common meals, and they are allowed to make up their own daily schedule, dedicated only to prayer. The monks of the great scheme wear a hooded cloth, which is a worn on top of the other monastic clothes.
The title of an archimandrite can be given to the head of a monastery, hegoumen, or to some revered hieromonk.
Monks can also be tonsured readers and subdeacons or ordained hierodeacons and hieromonks. All bishops in the Orthodox church are monks
All the people you see in a cassock do not belong to the brotherhood. Also visiting parish clergy, including readers, deacons and priests, wear a cassock in the monastery. In the church it is possible to distinguish the monastics from the parish clergy by looking at the headdress - the parish clergy do not wear the veiled hat called klobuk.
The brotherhood today
In recent times the number of brothers has on average been about ten. 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.
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 Serge, hegoumen (abbot) of the monastery
Archimandrite Michael, vice-abbot, treasurer, chanter
Hieromonk Alexander, baker, sacristan
Archdeacon Victor, IT specialist
Hierodeacon James, chanter, archivarius
Monk Andrew, responsible for the winery
Novice Michael, altar server, reader, agriculture
Novice Gaios, altar server, reader, chanter, monastery store, assistant sacristan
Novice Oleg, outdoors work
Novice Savva, carpenting, candle factory