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An abbot (from the Aramaic abba, a familiar form of father) is the head and spiritual father of a male monastic community. Depending on the community, he may be either appointed by a bishop or elected by the members of the community. He may or may not be a presbyter. He has wide jurisdiction and authority over the community he leads.
St. Seraphim of Sarov offered this advice to abbots:
- Let every abbot become and remain always in his relation to those subject to him as a wise mother. A mother who loves her children lives not to satisfy herself, but to satisfy her children. The infirmities of her children she bears with love; those who have fallen into filth she cleans, washes them calmly, clothes them in new white garments, puts their shoes on, warms them, looks after them, comforts them and from all sides strives to pacify their spirits so that she never hears the slightest cry from them; and such children are well disposed to their mother. Thus should every abbot live not to satisfy himself, but to satisfy those subject to him—he should be condescending to their weaknesses; bear with love the infirmities of the infirm; heal their sinful diseases with the plaster of mercifulness; raise with kindness those who have fallen into transgressions; quietly cleanse those who have become sullied with the filth of some vice and wash them by placing upon them fasting and prayer above the ordinary amount which is set forth for all; clothe them, by instruction and by one's own exemplary life, in garments of virtues; keep constant watch over them, by every means comfort them, and from all sides defend their peace and repose to such an extent that the slightest cry or murmuring will never be heard from them; and then they will zealously strive to procure for the abbot peace and repose.
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