We are a monastic community located on 15 acres in beautiful northern New Mexico high desert country, in the foothills of the Jemez Mountain Range. More specifically our monastery is situated in a remote canyon several miles from the old village of Cañones. The Monastery of the Holy Archangel Michael was originally founded in 1993 as a Skete and dependency of the Monastery of the Glorious Ascension in Resaca, Georgia. In time the Skete went directly under the Omophorion of His Eminence Archbishop Dmitri and retained the name, St. Michael's Skete. On October 7th we were officially elevated to the rank of Monastery by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah.
Prayer is the essence of our life. In touching our ‘deep heart’, we know that what the Gospel and the Fathers teach is true by experience. With this existential knowledge we seek a silence and solitude that breaks down the duality of inner and outer. God’s love pours into our every extremity, and seeing this love as the source of unity, we understand the statement of the great fourth century monastic author Evagrius: “The monk is one who is separated from all and united to all.”
This is separation from the world and the ego. In being ‘alone with God’, we realize that ‘monachos’ is not a solitary union with God, but a solidarity with the entire world. This vision leads someone like St. Silouan to weep for the entire world, knowing that God is not outside his brother, and his brother is not outside himself.
Solitude allows us to ‘take off our shoes’, as God commanded Moses to do. In imitation of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, who left the world of vanity to experience their own Exodus, we leave behind harmful distractions to have true life in Christ. In the desert we see God as “I AM” and come to the River Jordan, which supplanted the River Styx, and live beyond death. Yet we don’t lose sight that a desert must be crossed.
Since it takes a great deal of spiritual maturity to abide in constant stillness, we have manual work as another form of prayer. In being present to our obediences (tasks), we participate in the sanctification of time. Whether making candles, gardening, singing in church or paying bills, we strive to keep hesychia (inner calm) alive in our hearts. Fellowship with our brother is joyful, knowing we are all striving toward the same goal of the kingdom of the heart. There we begin to share eternity together.
The Gospel ideal of simplicity is what we embrace. Humble food, warm clothing and shelter are all the worldly things we need. What we are seeking cannot be stated in words. Therefore, a prudent and healthy silence is maintained in the monastery. Although we still do have to leave the monastery on occasion, we are reminded of St. Antony’s saying, “a monk outside his monastery is a fish out of water.”
Although monks tend to live on the fringe of the institutional church, we are aware of the necessity of ecclesial life. We receive spiritual guidance from the monks of the Holy Mountain of Athos, especially the Holy Monastery of Grigoriou and from the Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Essex, England.