Monasticism. I am fond of saying that our beloved monastics are the heart of the Church because they have separated themselves from the world to focus on praying for those of us stuck here in the world. That said, there is a lot of confusion about what monastics are, what they do, and how we ought to best understand their role within the Church and in our spiritual lives. To that end, I’m going to focus over the next several weeks on various aspects of monasticism, to include their ranks and the process of becoming a monk or a nun of the Orthodox Church. This is in no way comprehensive or exhaustive, but it should provide a well-rounded picture of the overall idea; NB: if you do want an exhaustive treatment of the subject, we have a few copies of The Angelic Life available in the bookstore (and cheaper than Amazon). This week we’ll be discussing the next step in the monastic life - when the novice becomes a monk.
The outer cassock/ robe that we wear in the fall/winter, for Vespers, and as the official outerwear for formal occasions, e.g., greeting the hierarch, is called the riassa (exorasson - “outer cassock” in Greek). Bishops, priests, deacons, and monks wear this item, and they’re almost always black (some of us have a blessing to wear them with purple sleeve linings). The first degree of monasticism, when the novice is tonsured, is called the “rassophore” (robe-bearer) because they are clothed with the riassa by their abbot. This is likewise when the newly-minted monk affirms their desire for the monastic life, though they don’t take vows yet, but are expected to live in chastity, poverty, and obedience. The klobuk, the brimless hat and veil, and belt, if he hasn’t received it yet, are given at this time. His overall habit is black to signify that he has died to his worldly life, and he is given a new name. Like the novice level, one may remain a rassophore forever if they so choose, not moving on to next week’s topic - stavrophores!