Dr. Nos’hi Abdel-Shaheed
This book, “Orthodox Spirituality”, deals with the Christian spiritual life in the Orthodox Tradition, starting with the holy fathers the Apostles, and continuing with the experience of the holy fathers the martyrs, the saints, the teachers of faith, and the servants of Christ, including bishops, priests and deacons. Also, it includes the monks and all the faithful throughout the Christian generations, from the time of the apostles and until now.
The present author found a great help in preparing this book, especially in using the English version that was published 1945 (and reprinted 1980) in London, titled “Orthodox Spirituality”, and written by “a monk from the Eastern Church”. The author has also followed the same organization that the “Eastern Church monk” used in classifying the stages of the Orthodox spiritual life in its relation to the Church Mysteries (sacraments). Also, the Coptic author took from the English book the information on the characters and the references used in this book that are related to the Greek and Russian Orthodox and other Byzantine Churches.
The author had started publishing a series in his “Monthly Book to the Youth and Servants” about Orthodox spirituality more than ten years ago. Now, after completion of this series of articles, he found it quite appropriate, especially after being encouraged by the requests of many readers, to publish them together in one book. This is the book that you, the readers, now have.
We ask our Holy God, Lover of mankind, Father, Son and Holy Spirit to bless the words of this book that they may build the souls of all believers, promoting their spiritual growth, so that God may be glorified in His Holy Church that He purchased with His own blood, through the intercessions of the Holy Virgin St. Mary and the Archangels, and the prayers of all the Fathers, Prophets, Apostles and Martyrs, and the prayers of Anba Rowais and all the Saints, and the prayers of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III and of all the Bishops. To God, the Lover of all mankind is glory, praise and worship now and forever more. Amen.
The House of Dedication to Preaching Service
In its essence, Orthodox Christian spirituality revolves around the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who is also its foundation and its target. And as it is known, the Christian spirituality in general is the work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, through the incarnation of the Logos, the Son of God from the Virgin St. Mary by the Holy Spirit, and through the salvation that Christ accomplished by His crucifixion, resurrection from the dead, and ascension. It is also by sending the Holy Spirit to His church on the day of Pentecost that the Divine foundation, upon which this spirituality stands, has been accomplished.
And when we talk about Orthodox Christian Spirituality, clearly it is built on the same foundation of Christian spirituality in general, as outlined in the above paragraph. But, in addition to having the same foundation, Orthodox spirituality is characterized by following the teachings of the Faith, as accepted by the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and as has been expressed in the Ecumenical Councils.
Spirituality and Tradition:
Orthodox spirituality is based on the “Tradition” delivered to us from the start of Christianity and up to the present time. This tradition that has been delivered is the one deciding the correctness and the truth of the spiritual belief or teaching of any individual without intruding on the spiritual freedom of any believer in Christ, as long as his spiritual thoughts and teachings are in accordance with the basics of the Apostolic tradition.
We might ask: and how can we find the original expression or the formal expression for this tradition? And we answer saying that there are four main sources of this Tradition.
Sources of the Orthodox Spiritual Tradition:
1st is the Holy Bible,
2nd is the definitions of the Ecumenical Councils,
3rd is the Liturgical texts, and
4th is the writings of the holy Fathers.
The Fathers and Spiritual Tradition:
The tradition of the Orthodox Churches assigns certain Church Fathers to the foreground of all Fathers as the reference and one of the sources of Orthodox spirituality. These are Saints Athanasius the Apostolic, Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, Gregory the Theologian, and Cyril of Alexandria (the Pillar of Faith). They are also called the “Doctors of the Faith” by all Orthodox Churches, and especially by the Coptic Orthodox Church, and are considered the reference in teaching the Orthodox dogma, its definition and explanation. In addition to these fathers who were church pastoral leaders, there are the Ascetic Fathers who were Teachers of the spiritual life, such as St. Anthony, St. Makarius the Great, St. Pakhomius the Father of Communal (Cenobitic) Life, and other spiritual fathers that came after this period and who lived within the Eastern Orthodox spiritual tradition. From those fathers and teachers in Christ we can learn - in a genuine way based on the Apostolic spiritual authority – yes we can learn the way to the Orthodox holiness, and hold onto it.
Those fathers, the teachers of spirituality are the same in the East and West, although they had more influence on the Eastern Christianity. Actually, the main principles of Christian spirituality are the same in the East and the West. And the ways of spiritual life are similar in most cases. The differences between Eastern and Western traditions are not in the basic principles. In general, we can say that there is One Christian Spirituality with some variation in few non-fundamental matters, differences in the points on which they concentrate and affirm, but the main essence and foundation, as we mentioned in the beginning, is the relationship with the founder of Christianity the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God.
(To be contd.)
 - The writer believes that this is Archimandrite Lev Gillet who reposed in the Lord 1980. (This book was introduced by SMOF to its members in June, July, and September 2004).