The Greater Angelic Image

“Great Schema (Greek: μεγαλόσχημος, megaloschemos; Church Slavonic: Схима, Schima)—Monks whose abbots feel they have reached a high level of spiritual excellence reach the final stage, called the Great Schema.
scheme monk
The tonsure of a Schemamonk or Schemanun follows the same format as the Stavrophore, and he makes the same vows and is tonsured in the same manner. But in addition to all the garments worn by the Stavrophore, he is given the analavos (Church Slavonic: analav) which is the article of monastic vesture emblematic of the Great Schema. For this reason, the analavos itself is sometimes itself called the “Great Schema”. It drapes over the shoulders and hangs down in front and in back, with the front portion somewhat longer, and is embroidered with the instruments of the Passion and the Trisagion. The Greek form does not have a hood, the Slavic form has a hood and lappets on the shoulders, so that the garment forms a large cross covering the monk’s shoulders, chest, and back. Another piece added is the Polystavrion (Πολυσταύριον, “Many Crosses”), which consists of a cord with a number of small crosses plaited into it. The polystavrion forms a yoke around the monk and serves to hold the analavos in place, and reminds the monastic that he is bound to Christ and that his arms are no longer fit for worldly activities, but that he must labor only for the Kingdom of Heaven.
analavos 4
Among the Greeks, the mantle is added at this stage. The paramandyas of the Megaloschemos is larger than that of the Stavrophore, and if he wears the klobuk, it is of a distinctive thimble shape, called a koukoulion, the veil of which is usually embroidered with crosses.
The Schemamonk also shall remain some days in vigil in the church. On the eighth day after Tonsure, there is a special service for the “Removal of the Koukoulion”.
scheme monk 2
In some monastic traditions the Great Schema is never given or is only given to monks and nuns on their death bed, while in others, e.g., the cenobitic monasteries on Mount Athos, it is common to tonsure a monastic into the Great Schema only 3 years after commencing the monastic life.
Schema Nuns
In Russian and some other traditions, when a bearer of some monastic title acquires the Great Schema, his title incorporates the word “schema”. For example, a hieromonk of Great Schema is called hieroschemamonk, archimandrite becomes schema-archimandrite, hegumen – schema-hegumen, etc. In the Russian Orthodox tradition, in such cases the part “schema” is commonly truncated to “схи” (sche), and correspondingly the titles are spelt as схимонах (schemonach), иеросхимонах (ieroschemonach), схиархимандрит (schearchimandrit), and схиигумен (scheigumen).”
schema monk 2
“Orthodox monasticism is inconceivable without its loftiest step – the Great Schema. The Holy Fathers of the Church regarded it as the culmination of monastic life. Monks find in the Great Schema the complete expression of their vocation – the attainment of the Gospel ideal of holy perfection. A man ascends to this level only gradually – according to his strength through life-long effort.
schema monk 3
Monastic life elevates a monk to spiritual perfection in the spirit of Christ’s love and, by living in this love, bears light and spiritual warmth to the world.
By withdrawing from the world, a monk does not express contempt for it, but, on the contrary, acquires a perfect love for the world, a pure love in Christ which is alien to worldly passions. By turning away from vanity the monk strives to perceive himself and his impotence, and to fortify himself spiritually through prayer to God.
schema monk 4
The Great Schema in the Orthodox Church requires the same traditional vows, plus special spiritual feats. “In the understanding of the Church, the Great Schema is nothing less than the supreme vow of the Cross and death; it is the image of complete isolation from the earth, the image of transformation and transfiguration of life, the image of death and the beginning of another, higher, existence.”
As a monastic dignity, the Great Schema has been known since the 4th century. According to an ancient legend, this dignity was inaugurated by St. Pachomius the Great. However, as a form of monastic life, the Great Schema goes back to the origin of Christianity.
Those who followed Christ’s teachings on supreme spiritual perfection by voluntarily taking the vows of chastity, obedience and poverty were called ascetics to distinguish them from other Christians. They led a harsh and secluded hermit’s life like St. John the Baptist, or like our Lord Jesus Christ Himself during his forty days in the desert.
By the 4th century, Christian asceticism had taken two forms-the anchoritic or hermitic, and the communal or cenobitic.
From ancient times the Holy Church has sanctified both forms of monasticism as equally valid in terms of their purpose-spiritual perfection. The difference between them lies not in their essence but in the nature of their activities; it is determined by the intentions and abilities of the monk, and, to a certain extent, by external circumstances.
anthony of desert
Thus, the name of St. Antony the Great is linked with the isolated hermitic life, the so-called contemplative monasticism. On the other hand, the name of St. Pachomius, an ascetic of the same era (4th century), is associated with the appearance of communal monastic life-so-called cenobitism. It is evident from their lives how miraculously and providentially the two forms of monasticism were organized. The main vow, one that is common to both forms of monasticism, is that of obedience either to a starets (if the monk is leading a hermitic life) or to a hegumen (if he is living in a cenobitic monastery).”
schema tonsure
For the Rubrics and Service of the Great and Angelic Monastic Schema, see
analavos 1
The analavos of the Great Schema monks are the signs of perfect monasticism, symbols not only of humble wisdom and gentleness, but also of the Cross, of suffering, of Christ’s wounds, of constant dying with Christ. The άνάλαβος (analavos) is the distinctive garment of a monk or a nun tonsured into the highest grade of Orthodox monasticism, the Great Schema, and is adorned with the instruments of the Passion of Christ. It takes its name from the Greek αναλαμβάνω (“to take up”), serving as a constant reminder to the one who wears it that he or she must “take up his cross daily” (Luke 9:23). The ornately-plaited Crosses that cover the analavos, the polystavrion (πολυσταύριον, from πολύς, “many,” and σταυρός, “Cross”) — a name often, though less accurately, also applied to the analavos — reminds the monastic that he or she is “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20).
anavalos 2
For an explanation of the symbolism of the Analavos of the Great Schema, see and
analavos 3
For the Great Schema, see further:

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