The following information is provided to introduce you to the Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Boston, Massachusetts. If it does not answer all your questions, we invite you to inquire further.
There are many misconceptions about what monasticism is. It may be worthwhile to begin by saying that Orthodox monasticism is not divided into differing orders, each having its own mission or orientation. Every Orthodox monk and nun has the same vocation: to become like Mary seated at our Saviour’s feet, attending to His words and the one thing needful. Neither is monasticism a preparation for the priesthood, or a step to anything else; it is simply an end in itself, the following of Christ through a life of prayer free of worldly distraction.
There are three basic modes of monastic life followed to achieve this: that of the solitary; that of the
skete—two or three monks living under the direction of a spiritual guide—and that of the cenobium, or community, living in obedience to an abbot.
Our community follows the cenobitic, communal rule, with elements of a hesychast (solitary) typicon. It was founded in 1961 here in the Boston area by Fr. Panteleimon, a monk of Greek descent, who became a monk on the Holy Mountain of Athos in Greece in the Russian Monastery of Saint Panteleimon.
On the Holy Mountain, he also learned much about monasticism under the hesychast fathers of New Skete. Fr. Panteleimon was the last and youngest disciple of the Blessed Elder Joseph the Cave Dweller and it was with Fr. Joseph’s blessings that Fr. Panteleimon undertook the establishment of a monastic community in the United States. After the blessed repose of Fr. Joseph on the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God in 1959, his co-struggler Fr. Arsenius became the Elder of the community at New Skete, and hence, also of our fledgling community here. In 1965, Fr. Panteleimon, by the express wishes of Fr. Arsenius, was ordained a priest by a bishop of the Jerusalem Patriarchate, and from that time the small community began an independent existence from the fathers at New Skete, as a metochion of the Athonite Monastery of Saint Paul’s.
The Holy Transfiguraturation Monastery began in Haverhill, Massachusetts, in the winter of 1960. In 1961 the community acquired a modest three-storey house in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts that was then quite adequate for the few founding fathers. As the number of monks grew, however, it became necessary to look for new quarters, and in 1970 the community found and acquired our present house, a three-storey mansion built in 1881, after a plan inspired by a 17th Century Scottish manor. Adjoining the main house is a coach house, which is now used for living quarters. The entire property comprises 19 acres, most of it wooded. The community presently keeps goats, bees, several cats, and a dog.
Our monastery is under the jurisdiction of the Holy Orthodox Church in North America (HOCNA), which is affiliated with the True Orthodox Church of Greece, following the traditional ecclesiastical calendar of the Orthodox Church (commonly known as the
Julian calendar). Our bishop is His Eminence, Metropolitan Ephraim of Boston. There are expressions of both Greek and Russian Orthodox piety and rule in our community. Our services use more English than Greek, with a little Church Slavonic; the brotherhood itself is composed of approximately one third members of Greek Orthodox descent, the other two thirds being of various backgrounds. The community numbers 36 and includes two bishops and two archimandrites. Several priestmonks and hierodeacons from among the brethren help to maintain the daily services.
There are several convents under the spiritual direction of the monastery:
- The Holy Nativity Convent in Boston
- The Convent of the Meeting of the Lord in Stanwood, Washington
- The Holy Theotokos Convent in the Community of Cedar Valley, Stouffville, Ontario
- The Hermitage of St Mary Magdalene in Virginia
A typical weekday begins with breakfast, if one so desires, around 7:00 a.m., and work from 7:45 till noon. Every father works at his appointed task — called an obedience in monastic parlance — whatever this may be: cooking, translating, sewing, working at a handicraft, such as making icons and incense, filling mail orders, maintaining the house and grounds, and so forth. At noon all meet for the common meal in the refectory, at which the lives of the saints or the writings of the Church fathers are read in English. There is a quiet period until 3:30 p.m., for prayer, reading, and rest, after which all gather for the Ninth Hour and Vespers at 3:30 in the chapel. The common evening meal in the refectory follows Vespers. After the meal, each works at his obedience until 7:00 p.m. A light snack is permitted until 7:30, after which neither food nor drink is taken. At 7:30 Small Compline is read and then after receiving a blessing from the Bishop or Abbot each retires to his cell until Midnight to say his evening prayer rule, to read, and to take a short rest before Divine Liturgy at Midnight. The evening prayer rule consists mainly of the Jesus Prayer, prostrations, and of the reading of the Akathist Hymn to the Most Holy Theotokos. The Midnight Liturgy, which may be called the heart of our monastic day, lasts until 2:30 or 3:00 a.m. Each then rests in his cell until around 7:00 a.m., when a new day begins.
On Saturdays, Sundays, and Great Feasts, the Divine Liturgy is celebrated at 7:00 a.m., preceded the night before by a Vigil which begins at 6:00 p.m. and ends at 11:00 p.m. or later. On other feast days, Great Vespers with the Blessing of Loaves at 6:00 p.m. may be served instead of the entire vigil, with the Hymns from Matins chanted before the Divine Liturgy the next day.
Meat and poultry are never eaten at the monastery at any time, and in the Fast periods we also abstain from fish and dairy products. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are observed as fast days throughout the year; and in addition to the universally obligatory fast periods for Great Lent, Christmas, the Apostles, and the Dormition of the Mother of God, we observe the first two weeks of September also as a fast in honor of the Precious Cross of the Lord.
Great Lent is the most rigorous time of the year at the monastery, and also the period of greatest spiritual renewal. The first three days of Clean Week are observed as a total fast from everything, including bread and water. The fathers remain in their cells from Sunday evening until Tuesday, coming out on Monday and Tuesday for the Ninth Hour and Vespers from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. and Great Compline with the Canon of St Andrew of Crete from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. On Wednesday, the Ninth Hour and Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is celebrated from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., after which we have our first Lenten meal. The schedule for weekdays for the rest of Lent is as follows: Work begins at 7:30 a.m. From 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. we have the Ninth Hour and Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. After the Liturgy, we have the only meal of the day, in the refectory. After 6:30 p.m., there is no eating or drinking until the following day. Great Compline is held in Church from 6:30 p.m. till about 7:45. Sunday through Thursday, we come down to Church at Midnight for the reading of the Psalms, the daily hymns of Matins, and a Supplicatory Canon to the Most Holy Mother of God or to one of the Saints. On Friday, Great Compline is replaced by the magnificent Service of the Akathist to the Most Holy Mother of God from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.
We have received the tradition not to solicit donations, and are not supported by Church institutions. To the best of our ability, we support ourselves by our own work, producing icons, incense, and so forth, which are sold either at the monastery or by mail order to churches and individuals throughout the world.
Hospitality and monasticism have always been inseparable. Visitors may attend the church services and have a tour of the monastery, including the workshops and the grounds. With the abbot’s blessing, it is possible for men who desire an overnight visit at the monastery to make use of one of our two large guest rooms. Women who wish to make a monastic retreat are directed to our nearby sister community, Holy Nativity Convent, which also has guest rooms for receiving pilgrims.
We appreciate your interest. There are many excellent books available in English that deal with monasticism. A catalog of books on monasticism and many other spiritual subjects is available fromSt Nectarios Press
10300 Ashworth Ave N
Seattle, WA 98133
May God bless you and guide you on the path of eternal salvation.
—Holy Transfiguration Monastery