|Our tree-hugging abba, Fr Tryphon|
I AM A GRATEFUL MAN
Thirty-one Years a Monk
After thirty-one years as a monk, and nineteen years in the priesthood, I am hard pressed to think there could be any other life for me. I am content. Living in community with my brothers, and celebrating the divine services in the monastery's temple, has given me the spiritual sustenance needed for all the other ministries God has call me to do. Hearing confessions, reaching out with the Gospel through my internet ministry and podcasts on Ancient Faith Radio, and serving as a police and fire chaplain, are all made possible by the many hours I am afforded each day in contemplative prayer.
As the co-founder, along with Hieromonk Paul, of a monastery in a region of the country where Orthodoxy was virtually unknown by most people, I found myself becoming a missionary monk. Like the monks who came from Russia to evangelize Alaska in the eighteenth century, Father Paul and I had to introduce the local people not only to monasticism, but to Orthodoxy. We did so by following the example of the Valaam monks, befriending the local people, networking with community leaders on projects that were important to the sustainability, quality of life, and well being of the population, and getting to know the local religious leaders.
During the early years we supported ourselves by selling icons, prayer ropes, incense, and Orthodox books and CD's, at the local farmers market. We had a small chapel in a house we rented, and struggled to make ends meet, as we shared our faith with all who came in contact with us. We did not push Orthodoxy on people, but shared the truth of Orthodoxy by acts of kindness, charity, and openness. We made it a policy never to go into the village unless we were willing to be accessible to the people, willing to answer questions, and warmly interact with others, always trying to be a witness to the Christ Whom we serve. This is the Orthodox way, and, for me, there is no other way.
The poverty I have embraced in the common life of monastic community, has made me a rich man. I am a servant of the people, because I am first a servant to my Lord Jesus Christ. Although I gave up family life, and children, I have been blessed to have many children, spiritual children, all of whom I love as does a grandfather.
With love in Christ,