Sts. Paisius and Isaiah were brothers from Egypt who became monks; one of them withdrew to the desert to purify his mind and heart by devoting himself to fasting and prayer. As St. Seraphim of Sarov says, “Acquire the Spirit of Peace and a thousand souls around you will be saved.” The other brother built a monastic hospital near a town for needy people of all sorts. When both of them reposed in the Lord, their fellow monks disputed concerning which one fulfilled the law of Christ. They put the matter before St. Pambo, who replied, “Both are perfect before God; the hospitable one is similar to the hospitable Abraham and the ascetical one is similar to Elijah the Prophet, both of whom equally pleased God.” This did not settle the matter, and St. Pambo fervently prayed for an answer that would bring resolution to the matter. To discover how the matter was resolved, scroll down to read the Reflection from St. Nikolai Velimirovich‘s Prologue of Ohrid (July 18 ) here: Prolog: July 18
And if St. Seraphim of Sarov’s words seem puzzling to you, access Fr. Stephen Freeman’s explanation here: What St. Seraphim Meant « Glory to God for All Things
Prayer is the priority in the Orthodox Church, for as our Lord Jesus Christ said, “without Me you can do nothing.” (St. John 15:5)
As St. Nikolai writes in the Prologue of Ohrid in his August 21 homily on Isaiah 28:16 (on the wondrous stone in Zion),
If we observe the Lord Christ within us, He is the Cornerstone that binds and ties our various spiritual capabilities in unity and wholeness, so that all work toward one goal, toward God and the Kingdom of God.
So just as some are called to a singular focus on prayer- such as St. Siluoan of Mt. Athos, who prayed, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us and on Thy whole world“- others are called to other forms of service such as helping and enabling persons with disability. His Eminence Metropolitan Philip in 2005 spoke at Antiochian Village of plans for a monastery there. And he called for it to be the kind of active monasticism that would respond to the dire needs of people, such as those whose homes and livelihoods were swept away by the floods that accompanied Hurricane Katrina on the gulf coast.
St. Basil the Great also advocated for this kind of monastic life, which could respond to other kinds of need- havens of hospitality (see www.mattthew25.org ), homes for the persons with physical disability (St. Matthew House ), and community living arrangements for persons with developmental disability- alas, there are currently no Orthodox Christian prototypes for this in North America, to my knowledge. Lord have mercy! May Thy Good Spirit lead us in the land of uprightness!
As St. Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians chapter twelve,
4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.
. . . . 20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.