(Slavic translation of Greek geron, "elder"), plural Startsy, in Eastern Orthodoxy, a monastic spiritual leader. Eastern Christian monasticism understood itself as a way of life that aimed at a real experience of the future kingdom of God; the starets, as one who had already achieved this experience, was the charismatic spiritual guide who could aid others in attaining spiritual progress and success. In eremitic, or Hesychastic, monasticism, which flourished from the 4th and 5th centuries throughout Egypt, Palestine, and Syria, monastic obedience consisted primarily in the personal relationship between the geron and the disciple. In Byzantine monasteries the personal charismatic leadership of elders was normally combined with the disciplinary authority of the abbot. Private confession to elders, who were not usually ordained to the priesthood, was a normal practice.
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