The question of whether monasticism is an invitation or a duty is a question that is frequently asked by the spiritual youth and zealous servants, who want to please their Creator but do not know how to choose their way. They want to hear God's voice in their life, chanting with the Psalmist -"Cause me to hear Your loving kindness in the morning, For in You do I trust; Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You. Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; In You I take shelter. Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness." (Psalm 143:8-10), and with Moses the Prophet: "Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people." (Exodus 33:13), for the salvation of their souls: is it through monasticism for a life of prayer and worship, or priesthood for pastoral care in the world, or celibacy, concentrating one's life for service in the world, or getting married and having a blessed Christian family, and an exemplary house as that of Priscilla and Aquila. Here, we will try to highlight the monastic invitation, which may answer some of the questions the youth have asked and relieve those who are confused.
The Invitation and Choice
If we want to know the Holy Bible's point of view concerning the invitation and choice for monasticism, we need to first examine St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, where he states: "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified." (Romans 8:29-30). Although in this passage the Apostle is referring to salvation, we can also apply this verse to monasticism. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined ... Moreover, whom He predestined, these He also called. We notice here that knowing them precedes predestining them, which is followed by calling and inviting them. This indicates that choosing and calling depends on foreknowing, which means that those whom God knew - according to His Divine and unlimited knowledge - that they will accept Hisinvitation, saw in them the potential for a life of prayer and worship, and consequently, He called them to monasticism. Those whom He saw were ready for priesthood are called for this blessing and so forth. This is because God knows everything before it occurs, everyone before birth, "O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold O Lord, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it." (Psalm 139:1-6), "For you have formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from you, When I was made in secret, And skilfully wrought in the lowest parts on the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them." (Psalm 139:13- 16). David also says in another Psalm: "The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions the hearts individually; He considers all their works." (Psalm 33:13-15). God therefore knows the future in exactly the same way as He knows the past and knows the abilities and circumstances of each person by his or her name: "Then Moses said to the Lord, 'See, You say to me, 'Bring up this people.' But You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, 'I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.'" (Exodus 33:12).