Orthodox Spirituality Part 1

When I talk with people about the Orthodox Church I often relate the discussion to the Orthodox sense of Spirituality.  One of the things that first attracted me to Orthodox was the Spirituality.  I had a chance to read the little book The Way of the Pilgrim.  This is a splendid little book about the deep spiritual roots of the Orthodox Church.  In one sense, we are all pilgrims but can any of us just chuck it all and go on pilgrimage?

There are two forms of spirituality in Orthodoxy, monastic and lay, and I sometimes think that we try and put the two together, but they are remarkably different from each other.  I hope over the next series of essays to point out the similarities and the differences in an effort to deepen our own spirituality.

I will start with the similarities since that will be the easiest place to start.  As Orthodox Christians, we are called to a similar course on our spiritual journey regardless of our vocation, married, single, or monastic.  We are called to fast and pray all during the year as well as the designated fast periods of the Church year.  However, there is a difference between monastic fasting and prayer and that of the lay person.

We are also called to celebrate the Divine Liturgy at a minimum on Sunday, but we should also attend during the feast days of the Church.  In my own parish, we celebrate the Vespers service on the eve of the feast so more of the parishioners could attend.  The Divine Liturgy is essential to our life as Christians.  That weekly time together is of the utmost importance, and we should strive to attend Liturgy each and every time it is offered.  Our lives have become tremendously busy with all sorts of activities, and it seems that Liturgy is the one thing that gets tossed to the side.  The two hours we spend in Liturgy each week is a small portion of our time.

Another often overlooked part of our spiritual life is confession.  Confession is one of the lost Sacraments in the Church.  Each year fewer and fewer people avail themselves of this magnificent healing Sacrament of our Holy Church.  I am pleased to say that the number of people and the frequency of their confessions has increased in my small parish over the last year.  I believe this to be in part of my renewed emphasis on the Sacrament in my preaching as well as the renewal of the Sacrament in my own spiritual life.  I will leave the frequency of confession for another essay, but if it has been some time since your last confession, why not go soon.

Spiritual fatherhood, or Spiritual Parenting is another essential part of our life in the Church and another almost entirely lost art here in the Church in America.  We have mentors for all sorts of things in our lives, work, sports and many more.  Why do we treat our spiritual life with less importance?  One would not consider starting a journey across the country without first consulting a map or now a GPS for guidance but so many of us stumble along the spiritual path with no guide at all.

My aim is to spend time in future essays on each of these areas to chart a course as we continue the journey along the path of transformation of our lives.  Becoming serious about our lives in the Church and the life that we are called to lead is an essential part of that transformation that we all need to be part of.


  1. In some ways I think I had an opposite experience to yours. I went from South Africa to an Anglican theological college in Durham, England, and it was there that the word “spirituality” first impinged on my consciousness. There was a group called the “Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius” which was supposed to promote Anglican-Orthodox relations, but in Durham consisted mainly of dilettante Anglican admirers of Orthodox “spirituality”. But they were horribly superior and consdescending (in the bad sense) about Orthodox materiality, which they wanted nothing to do with. One of their number described an Orthodox baptism he had witnessed, and they all shrieked with laughter at his description of how the priest speared olive oil over the baptism candidate and rinsed his hands in the font afterwards.

    That rather tended to prejudice me against people who were interested primarily in “spirituality”, and I still think that “spirituality” in English has very different connotations than, say, dushevnost.

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