“I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world” (John 17:15-16).
Since the early years of the Christian era, believers have been called by Christ Himself to life in the world without being of the world. On 24 October (6 November) 2013, our community was established for the glory of Jesus Christ and dedicated to Mary the Mother of God under the title of Our Lady Joy of All Who Sorrow.* We are a Byzantine-Slavonic Rite Orthodox Catholic religious institution, located on Ploss Lake in the Village of Oxford, about 50 miles north of Detroit, Michigan.
Although the official title of our community is “monastery,” we better fit the definition as a skete or pousitnia (Russian: пустынь). A poustinia is a place where anyone — in any walk of life — can go for silence, solitude, and prayer. A poustinnik (Russian: пустынникъ) is one who has been called by God in the service of humanity through contemplative prayer, listening to and seeking union (Greek: θέωσις) with God.
We are an idiorrhythmic (Greek: ἰδιορυθμία) and semi-eremitic (Greek: ἐρημία) community, meaning an individualized form of monastic life, where monastics may spend most of their time in individual effort but come together for common worship. We strive to integrate in relevant and timely ways the wisdom of ancient Christian monasticism within the realities of contemporary North American society.
As a community “without walls,” we are spiritually unified by a common faith and mission. Our community consists of two primary strata: vowed religious (monastics) and lay associates (seraphs). All members are considered an integral part of the community, and all are encouraged to contribute to its life and work. Our community is a spiritual family, and its members are called to love and support one another through all the changing seasons of life.
As a geographically dispersed community, our way of life is necessarily flexible and adaptive. It does not prescribe uniformity, but rather embraces creative diversity. It is descriptive rather than prescriptive. We welcome a creative variety of apostolates. While we all bear God’s image, the ways in which God’s Spirit is expressed in each of us is unique.
As our beloved Saint Seraphim of Sarov instructed:
“Acquire a peaceful spirit, and thousands around you will be saved.”
Wherever we find ourselves, each of us is called to seek theosis (union with God). Our Lord Jesus referred to this as the “one thing necessary” in His discourse with Martha and Mary (Luke 10:42) and the “pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:45-46).
We seek to lovingly address the social, spiritual, and psychological issues of our own time and place by integrating ancient contemplative Christian practice and the boundless wisdom of our Christian monastic heritage. We participate in God’s care and concern for our world by praying and interceding for all persons. Prayer is the heart and fabric of our life. We affirm that only through prayer can a person find union with God and be truly transformed.
Through our life of prayer, we strive to serve the Lord and propagate our faith and its teachings for ourselves and our posterity, uniting together exclusively for the worship of God in the Holy Trinity; for the receiving of the Holy Mysteries; for the observance of the faith, morals and discipline of the Orthodox Catholic Faith.
*The Feast of the Icon of Our Lady Joy of All Who Sorrow commemorates the healing from sickness of a woman named Euphymia (sister of Patriarch Joachim) received after obeying a voice telling her to find this icon and have the priest celebrate a Molieben with blessing of water. This miracle occurred on 24 October 1688.