EXPLORATIONS IN ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY
By: The Reverend Mother Myrella LeClair
What is Orthodox Christian Spirituality? What are the essential foundations of Orthodox Christian Spirituality? How do I live a life attuned to God? These are just a few of the questions that will be addressed on this page as we travel the spiritual pathway toward living life in communion with God.
"Essential Foundations of Orthodox Christian Spirituality"
Fr. Lev Gillet, also known as "A Monk of the Eastern Church", provides a framework for living a spiritual life. He lists seven essential foundations. The last three essentials are described below:
5. The Holy Mysteries
The Holy Mysteries refer to that which the Roman Catholic Church refers to as Sacraments. The Orthodox Church views the view holy mysteries as the only means of grace. Fr. Lev Gillet refers to the holy mysteries as "divine gifts" and states that "in each of the divine gifts there is a mystical as well as ascetical aspect." The mystical aspect is the grace God bestows while the ascetical aspect is the "effort by each soul to bring forth the fruit". Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church does not "define the mystery or regulate the approach to the holy mysteries by precise disciplinary canons." Also, the Orthodox Church believes is that "God is not bound to the sacraments". No externals are necessary to God, and no institution which God cannot dispense with.
6. The Communion of the Saints
The Communion of the Saints is defined as a "sharing of the prayers and good works of the heavenly and earthly Christians". It is communion between those in the earthly realm and those in the heavenly realm. We pray for the Saints, and they pray for us. Among the Saints, there is a hierarchy. The Apostles and Martyrs hold an eminent place. Above them are the Angels, particularly the Guardian Angels. At the top of the hierarch is the Theotokos, whom the Orthodox Church "has surrounded with a veneration exceeding those of the other saints".
7. Stages of Spiritual Life
Saints Basil and Cassian describe three stages of spiritual life: the beginner, proficient, and the perfect stages. The various states are not linear but "penetrate each other". The Orthodox teaching is that the "soul rises and falls back from one stage to the other". The Holy Mysteries of Baptism, Chrismation, and Eucharist are the three essential stages in the Way that leads to God. In fact, all aspects of the Orthodox Church (feasts, calendar, and hymns) are focused on Baptism, Chrismation, and Eucharist. The Divine Liturgy is the summation of the three stages: Liturgy of the Catechumens = Beginner Stage, Anaphora culminating in Epiklesis = Proficient Stage, and Paschal Feast = Perfect Stage.