An Introduction to Orthodox Christian Spirituality (Part II)

Martyr Paula

Martyr Paula

My beloved spiritual children in Our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

By George C. Papademetriou

The Divine Energies

One of the most important aspects of Orthodox spirituality is participation in the Divine energies. Briefly stated, this is an Orthodox doctrine of fundamental importance and very often ignored. In Orthodox theology, a distinction is made between the "essence" and "energies" of God. Those who attain perfection do so by uniting with the Divine Uncreated energies, and not with the Divine essence. The Greek Orthodox Fathers, whenever they speak of God, emphasize the unknowability of God's essence and stress the vision of the Divine energies, especially the Divine Uncreated Light. Orthodox spiritual tradition emphasizes the Divine Logos/Word indwelling in the world and our ability to attain a spiritual life and mystical union with the Holy Spirit in this world.

Christian contemplation is not "ecstatic," that is, outside ourselves, but it take place within the Christian person who is the "temple of the Holy Spirit." The Divine energies are "within everything and outside everything." All creation is the manifestation of God's energies. Vladimir Lossky says in the Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church: "These divine rays penetrate the whole created universe and are the cause of its existence." The Uncreated Light and the knowledge of God in Orthodox Tradition "illuminates every man that cometh into this world." It is the same Light that the Apostles saw on Mount Tabor that penetrates all of creation and transforms it, creating it anew. A modern ascetic says in the Undistorted Light is divine energy. Contemplation of Uncreated Light begets, first and foremost, an all absorbing feeling of the Living God--an immaterial feeling, an intuitive, not a rational perception--which transports man with irresistible force into another world, but so warily that he neither realizes it when it happens nor knows whether he is in or out of the body." This is not a sentimental or emotional feeling or romantic fantasy. It is experience of the Divine Uncreated Light described by the neptic fathers. Again, in the words of the same ascetic: "This supramental sensation of the Living God (which is experienced in contemplation) is accompanied by a vision of light, of light essentially different from physical light. Man himself abides in light because, assimilated to the Light which he contemplates, and spiritualized by it, he then neither sees nor feels his own material being or the materiality of the world."


God's act is pure light and when the Lord appears to us, He always appears as Light. In the Holy Scripture we read: "In Your Light we shall see light." Only in the state of illumination does Divine grace makes possible the contemplation of the Divine Light. The hidden truths of Holy Scripture are not revealed to everyone, since illumination comes through the special divine gift of revelation. For this reason in the early Church, the Holy Bible was read only in the Church and only by a charismatic person. In the Orthodox Church, we have never experienced "bibliolatry" or "worship of the Book," as in some sects. The Church holds fast to the unadulterated spirit of the Holy Bible as it was delivered to the Saints, and through them, to us.

Spiritual Warfare

We are saved by Christ and in Christ. Yet we are still subject to temptation and to sin. Therefore, it is important to mention the fact that to acquire spirituality or moral perfection, we must wage war against the "enemy," that is, sin and the devil. Saint Makarios said: "I have not yet seen a perfect Christian man, one completely free (from the devil and sin)." And "although one is at rest in grace and enters into mysteries and revelations and into the sweetness of grace, still sin is yet present within." Consequently, as long as we live, we must be ready to fight against the dark powers of the devil. And "Satan is never quiet from warring. As long as eve a man lives in this world and wears the flesh, he has to war." The Holy Bible is the most necessary means of spiritual warfare against the devil; it is also the chief means of acquiring knowledge of the divine will.

The Role of Sacraments (Mysteria or Mysteries)

We must further emphasize the role and purpose of the Holy Sacraments in attaining spirituality. In the sacraments, we receive Divine Grace, and in the case of the Holy Eucharist, Christ Himself, who aids us in waging war successfully against the satanic powers. As Father Sergius Bulgakov says: "The heart of Orthodoxy lies in its rites." All the Orthodox rites and sacraments are means to combat the powers of evil. The Sacramental life of the Church is the chief means towards the attainment of spirituality and of ultimate salvation.

(To be continued)



With sincere agape in Our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George