The fruits of the earth are not brought to perfection immediately, but by time, rain and care; similarly, the fruits of men ripen through ascetic practice, study, time, perseverance, self-control and patience. -St. Anthony the Great
Monasticism dates back to the first century, when men and women seeking spiritual perfection instead of the pleasures of this world, fled into the deserts and wildernesses of Palestine and Egypt to lead lives of solitary prayer and repentance.
In Greek, the word for a monastic, i.e., a monk or nun, comes from the word monos which means single or alone, one who chooses to work out his salvation alone with God as opposed to with a family. The monastic strives for a life of prayer, fasting, self-denial, chastity and vigilance, without any worldly distractions. They lead a life of obedience to God through willful obedience to their Geronta or Gerontissa (“Abbot” or “Abbess”). In particular, monastics practice unceasing prayer, striving to unite their entire being, heart, soul, and mind in constant and undistracted prayer toward God.
Orthodox monastics vow to live their lives at the monastery. They do not work as social workers, teachers, etc. This is not to say that monastics do not recognize people in the world, but rather through a secluded, God-centered life they work and pray for the salvation of all of mankind. Isolated from the influences of the world and society, for centuries the monastics have maintained the purest form of Orthodoxy. They are a well-spring of spiritual guidance and renewal for all the faithful.