Spirituality may be defined as the life in and with the Holy Spirit. It is an ascetic and pious struggle against sin through repentance, prayer, fasting and participation in the sacramental life of the Church. St. Paul Says: “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish…. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like…… But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. And those who have are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16-25). Orthodoxy has preferred always to use the terms ‘life in Christ’, ‘life in Spirit’, ‘the spiritual life’, and the ‘life in God’ to describe the life of the Christian in union with God, regardless of the level of this life. See Galatians 3:28; 3:20; 2 Corinthians 4: 11; 1 Corinthians 7: 8; Romans 8: 15; Ephesians 3: 16-17; Colossians 3:3; John 14: 23; 1 John 3:24 etc.
What is Orthodox Spirituality and what is it Goal?
Orthodox Spirituality presents the process of a Christian’s progress on the road to perfection in Christ, by the cleansing of passions and the winning of the virtues, a process which takes place in a certain order. Spirituality describes the manner in which the Christians can go forward from the cleansing of one passion, to the cleansing of another, and the same to the acquiring of the different virtues. Thus a certain level of perfection is reached and culminates in love. This is a state that represents the cleansing of all passions and the winning of all the virtues. As man/woman climbs toward this peak, he/she simultaneously moves toward union with Christ and the knowledge of Him by experience, which also means his/her deification.
The goal of Orthodox Spirituality is the perfection of the believer by his/her union with God in Christ. But as God is unending, the goal of our union with Him, or our perfection, has no point from which we can no longer progress. So all the Eastern Fathers say that perfection is unlimited. Thus our perfection is not only the goal but also an unending process. In this process two great steps can be distinguished: first, the moving ahead toward perfection through purification from the passions and the acquiring of the virtues and secondly a life progressively moving ahead in the union with God. At this point, man’s work is replaced by God’s. Man contributes by opening himself up receptively to an ever-greater filling with the life of God.
In short, we may narrate the following features of Orthodox Spirituality:
1. The culminating state of the spiritual life is a union of the soul with God, lived or experienced.
2. This union is realized by the working of the Holy Spirit, but until it is reached, man is involved in a prolonged effort of purification.
3. It takes place when man reaches the ‘likeness of God’. It is at the same time knowledge and love.
4. Among other things, the effect of this union consists of a considerable intensification of spiritual energies in man, accompanied by all kinds of charisma.
The Orthodox uses the word ‘deification’ or participation in the divinity to characterize the union with God. It, however, does not mean that here there is a pantheistic identification of man with God. But it asserts with courage the possibility of a ‘union’ of man with God, of a direct ‘vision’ of Him, of a ‘participation’ in Him, through grace.