This presentation is a consideration of the ascetical dimension of Christian spiritual formation.
As used here, asceticism (from the Greek ??skesis ???exercise? or ???training?) is training for
holiness. While liable to distortions, properly understood and undertaken with appropriate
pastoral guidance, asceticism is always our response to the God?۪s grace and takes seriously the
Apostle Paul?۪s command that, whatever we do, we do ???to the glory of God? (1 Corinthians
10:31). In addition, far from being a denigration of the body or reflecting a disdain for the
material world, asceticism is rooted in an affirmation of the body and the fundamental
goodness of creation. Building on the experience of the desert fathers, the Eastern Orthodox
Church has a rich heritage of ascetical practice. Central to this practice is the classical spiritual
disciples of prayer, fasting, almsgiving and manual labor. Both individually and together, these
disciples have one aim: to foster what the 19th century Russian Orthodox saint Seraphim of
Sarvov describes as the goal of the whole Christian life: ???the acquisition of the Holy Spirit.?
Psychologically, the classical spiritual disciples foster our self-knowledge in light of the
Scriptures as men and women loved by God. These disciples also foster the integration of the
different elements of our personality for a life of wholeness and holiness. Finally, the monastic
vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and stability point us to the virtues (or habits) of an
integrated personality and a life of Christian holiness. The vow of poverty points us toward a life
of simplicity; chastity to charity for self and others; obedience to a life of discretion,
discernment and prudence; and stability to fidelity to the commitments that make up our
personal and professional lives.
Presented by: Gregory Jensen, Ph.D.
- Study the foundational principles and practices of Christian spiritual formation as a cognitive and behavioral process of self-discovery and self-expression
- Articulate the role of the classical spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and manual labor to identity formation and self-expression
- Describe the relationship between the monastic vows (poverty, chastity, obedience, and stability) and a life of human flourishing and Christian holiness