"You greatly delude yourself and err, if you think that one thing is demanded from the layman and another from the monk; since the difference between them is in that whether one is married or not, while in everything else they have the same responsibilities... Because all must rise to the same height; and what has turned the world upside down is that we think only the monk must live rigorously, while the rest are allowed to live a life of indolence" + St. John Chrysostom

What is St. John Chrysostom trying to say here about the lifestyle of the laity? It's apparent that not everyone is called to the life of St. Anthony the Great to live in a cave in the desert (even among monastics). So what is the commonality, here? How does one find their path in adopting the correct lifestyle for themselves that leads to salvation?

Most people, even Orthodox I know, would say that wearing sackcloth under your clothes and keeping a rigorous fast is extreme and meant for the monastics, but then I often read in the lives of the Saints of laity that were commended (though not mentioned by name) for doing just that.

So, what is it that is expected in lifestyle that St. John Chrysostom is saying is the same for laity and monastics? I ask because my intuition tells me, this must be the thing that helps you discern, with the help of a spiritual father, the measure of asceticism that is appropriate for each person, individually.

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    See the section, "Monastic Life for Us?", at acrod.org/readingroom/saints/elder-porphyrios It is not about asceticism, but the struggle against sin and its passion. THAT was their struggle, not fasting and wearing sackcloth and ashes, that all, clergy and laity, are called to. This is my opinion, so I can't make it an "answer."
    – Steve
    Oct 23, 2015 at 5:40
  • Elder Porphyrios is an Orthodox Saint and would therefore be a credible source when speaking of Orthodox attitude and doctrine. I feel like this probably could be an answer since what you linked to is an Orthodox source which speaks directly to the quote in question and is written by an Orthodox priest who backs his opinion through the example of elder Porphyrios's life.
    – Josiah
    Oct 23, 2015 at 11:59

1 Answer 1


My understanding of this statement (and it has simply developed organically through practice in the Church - I cannot quote a definitive answer from anyone) ... is that laymen, just as monastics, are responsible for entering spiritual battles with the passions, developing virtues, resisting temptations, praying regularly, doing good to others, and all the rest that goes into forming us into the likeness of Christ (by the grace of God).

I don't think it is intended to say that a layman should keep the exact same prayer rule or fasting rule, attend as many services, etc. as a monk any more than it is saying that a monk should have children and sacrifice himself for the spiritual development and good of his family. It is not in the particular details that we are exactly the same, but in the overall goal and, where applicable, to the general responsibilities, though perhaps not the exact method or quantity of practice.

There can be an idea that "only monks struggle with the flesh/demons" and the rest of us are somehow "off the hook" for these efforts, and I believe that is what we must realize is really the same for both of us. Whatever life a person finds themselves in, they are to seek God and be formed in His image through that life.

I hope that makes sense. :) Lord forgive me if I've made any error there.

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    Welcome Anastasia! Thanks for your answer. I suspect that you are right, but your answer would be much stronger if it cited some interpreters of Chrysostom, or Chrysostom himself, to back up your argument and make it less reliant on your opinion. I hope you'll take a minute to learn how this site is different from others, and review how your answer can be supported. Oct 27, 2015 at 14:01
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    Thank you, Nathaniel, and please accept my apologies. I took the suggestion of a friend to check this site. I do invest a great deal of time in personal spiritual development, and in another life I was heavily reliant on research, but I find more benefit for most questions in other sources. While there are certainly EO scholars, I am not one. Most of us find our growth in less academic ways. Forgive me, my approach may not be suited to this site. Though I fear your readers may not receive much input from Orthodox Christians in this case. God be with you, and thank you again for the guidance.
    – Anastasia
    Oct 28, 2015 at 2:41
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    (Oh dear - "in another life" meaning the life I lived before I came to faith - it seems I was another person then. I don't want anyone to misunderstand and think I refer to reincarnation or any such thing!)
    – Anastasia
    Oct 28, 2015 at 2:45
  • @Nathaniel Anastasia is right about the Orthodox mentality. There are a few Orthodox scholars out there (more than a few, in fact), but the truth is that the Faith is considered firstly 'organic' and 'communal', meaning wisdom is most often passed down by word of mouth and often reworded according to the specific experiences of the teacher and the specific needs of the inquirer. It may make sense to relax the academic references rule for the Orthodox Christian related answers, a bit. All though, I do think it valuable to prove a point is grounded in the Church Fathers.
    – Josiah
    Sep 6, 2017 at 18:31

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