This unit introduces the study of the foundations and characteristics of the spiritual life from an Orthodox Christian perspective. The unit deals with such issues as the relationship between orthodox doctrine, the sacraments and spiritual life. The unit also covers themes such as the relation between divine grace and human struggle; prayer, sin, forgiveness and repentance; purity of heart, discipleship, fellowship and service, sanctification, saints and holiness, asceticism, virginity and monasticism. Every theme starts with a Biblical introduction and foundation and includes selected readings from the patristic and ascetic tradition.

Unit code: DS1809A (Approved)

Points: 18.0

Unit level: Undergraduate Level 1

Unit discipline: Spirituality

Proposing College: St Athanasius College

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Learning outcomes


Describe the key characteristics of spiritual life from an Orthodox perspective


Contrast and compare spiritual life within the Orthodox tradition from other Christian traditions


Explain the Biblical foundations of some of the key patristic and ascetic texts on spiritual life in the studied theme

Unit sequence


Articles and lecture notes, video lectures and online discussion forums

Indicative Bibliography

  • Ward, Benedicta, trans. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection. London: Mowbrays, 1975. (recommended for purchase)
  • Athanasius, Saint. The Life of Antony and the Letter to Marcellinus. Trans. RC Gregg. Classics of Western Spirituality. New York: Paulist Press, 1980. (recommended for purchase)
  • Cassian, John. The Conferences. Trans. Boniface Ramsey. Ancient Christian Writers, 57. New York: Paulist Press, 1997.
  • Climacus, Saint John. The Ladder of Divine Ascent. Trans. Archimandrite Lazarus Moore. London: Faber & Faber, 1959.
  • Hausherr, Irenee. Spiritual Direction in the Early Christian East. Trans. Anthony P Gythiel. Cistercian Studies Series, 116. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1990.
  • Isaac the Syrian, Saint. The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian. Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1984.
  • Russell, Norman. The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition. Oxford Early Christian Studies. Oxford University Press, 2004.
  • Veilleux, Armand, ed. Pachomian Koinonia. Cistercian Studies Series, 45-47. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1980-82.
  • The Poor, Father Matthew. Orthodox Prayer Life. Crestwood, New York: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2003.
  • Ware, Bishop Kallistos. The Inner Kingdom. The Collected Works, Vol. 1. Crestwood, New York: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2004.


Type Description Word count Weight (%)

Major Essay - 1500 words

1500 40.0
Oral Presentation

Presentation Equivalent to 1500 words

1500 40.0

250 word reflection paper

250 5.0

250 word reflection paper

250 5.0

250 word reflection paper

250 5.0

250 word reflection paper

250 5.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by John Capper on 1 Nov, 2017

Unit record last updated: 2019-05-06 11:07:56 +1000