Order of Saint Benedict (Orthodox)

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The Order of Saint Benedict is a loose affiliation of monastics of the Orthodox Church who strive to live according to the Rule of St Benedict. The "Order of Saint Benedict" is not an incorporated body. Orthodox Benedictines enjoy good relations with each other, which frequently cross jurisdictional boundaries. "Monastic Orders" are not found in Orthodoxy, so Orthodox Benedictines are often known as "Orthodox Community of Saint Benedict" OCSB-Ro where the "Ro" refers to their lineage from Saint Romould. Their Roman Catholic equivalents are OSB-Cam where the "Cam" refers to their Camaldolese lineage.


The Benedictine monastic tradition began with St Benedict of Nursia himself, who was a Christian monk in the 6th century. Influenced by the writings of Saints Basil the Great and John Cassian, he composed a monastic rule for the ordering of the life of monastic communities in Europe, rather than adopting one of the many rules that had been composed for monks in a different climate, with different foods available, and so forth. The liturgical traditions he enumerated conformed to the Roman Rite of the local church; which was then neither as elaborate nor as legislated as it later became.

Most Benedictine communities existed in the West under what was geographically the jurisdiction of the Pope of Rome.

After some centuries of increasing distance between Rome and the Eastern ancient Patriarchates (due to doctrinal, linguistic, and cultural differences, and the development of different schools of theology), the Western and Eastern branches of the Church separated, with the Western branch taking most of the Benedictine monastic communities.

However, some Benedictines outside of the jurisdiction of Rome remained Orthodox,[dubious ] including monks of the Amalfion Monastery, which was a community of Benedictine monks from Italy who had come to reside on Mount Athos in the late 10th century, where they remained until the late 13th century.

20th century revival[edit]

The Benedictine tradition was largely lost to the Orthodox Church until the 20th century, when a revival was seen, encouraged by the efforts to restore the Western Rite to Orthodoxy that began in the 19th century.

In 1962, under the leadership of its abbot, Dom Augustine (Whitfield), the Monastery of Our Lady of Mount Royal, which had been an Old Catholic monastic community since its founding in 1910, was received into the Moscow Patriarchal Russian Orthodox Church by Bishop Dositheus (Ivanchenko) of New York. It was later received into the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, in 1975, by Archbishop Nikon (Rkitzsky).

In 1993, Bishop Hilarion (Kapral) of Manhattan (now Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia) blessed the founding of a new Benedictine monastery under its abbot, Dom James (Deschene), the former Prior of Mount Royal. Christ the Saviour Monastery (Christminster) runs an oblate programme that seeks the formation of clergy within the Western Rite of the Orthodox Church, a provision lacking in most Orthodox seminaries. It also publishes music and liturgical books to enhance the offering of the Western Rite Orthodox liturgy.

In 1997, Hilarion (Kapral), then Archbishop of Sydney, received into the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia the monastery of Saint Petroc in Tasmania, Australia. This monastic community had been formed as a Continuing Anglican monastery in 1992 under its superior, Hieromonk Michael (Mansbridge-Wood). While it is not a Benedictine foundation it did have a Benedictine presence in the form of the Holyrood hermitage in Florida, which became an independent monastic hermitage under Abbot David (Pierce).

One female Benedictine monastic house exists in the Orthodox Church, as attached to the Monasteries of Our Lady and St Laurence (Antiochian).

Several Benedictine monastic houses, sketes and hermitages fit within the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, all stavropegial directly under the Metropolitan. An oblate programme exists for Orthodox laity Saint Benedict Russian Orthodox Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.[1]

The Abbey of the Holy Name with its daughter house of St John the Theologian is under the Autonomous Orthodox Metropolia of North and South America and the British Isles.

Within the United States, the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America has at least one Benedictine monastery,[2] as well as parishes that run an oblate programme.


The word oblate derives from the Latin oblatus, which means "one offered". Oblates of Saint Benedict offer themselves to God in much the same way that monks and nuns do, except that they do not take monastic vows or necessarily live within the monastic enclosure. Rather, they make a commitment to God, in the presence of the monastic community (or the parish community, depending on circumstances) to strive to live according to the Rule of St Benedict as adapted to their own life situations. Usually, the rule is adapted according to the individual spiritual and practical needs of each oblate by the abbot or oblate master of the monastery.

Oblates may be male or female, celibate or married. They are not tonsured as monastics, and, unlike monastic vows, their oblation may be revoked at any time. They may be attached to a monastery, or the oblature operates on the parish level.


The Rule of St. Benedict does not stipulate a particular colour for the monastic habit, and the habit of unbleached, undyed, wool is not unknown among Benedictines. However, the colour most associated with the Benedictine tradition is black, (hence the name "black monk" used to refer to a Benedictine monk).

The first layer of the habit is the tunic, which is secured by a belt. This is the form of habit worn by oblates during their novitiate. The next layer is the monastic scapular, which is a tabard-like garment worn over the tunic. The tunic, belt, and scapular, (with a head-veil for women), form the complete habit worn by oblates within the monastic enclosure and by monastics during the novitiate. Outside of the monastery, the oblates wear a reduced scapular and the Saint Benedict Medal under civilian clothing. When the monastic makes his solemn profession, he is tonsured and invested with the cowl.

Monastics and oblates alike, upon their repose, are buried in the habit proper to their order.


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