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M. C. Steenberg

Subject Religion

Key-Topics asceticism, spirituality

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405185394.2011.x


Asceticism is understood in Orthodoxy as that way of life which prepares one for the Kingdom of God through the training and conditioning of the whole human person -body and soul – towards a Godly life, and its exercise in virtue. The Greek word askesis from which it derives means “exercise” or “training” and comes from an ancient sporting vocabulary used to indicate the various labors in which an athlete would engage in order to prepare himself for effective competition. In the spiritual life, it retains the notions of preparation that the term's sporting heritage provides, as well as the associated concepts of self-sacrifice, struggle, and battle against the will, habits, and passions that such exercise and training require. Plate 7 An Ethiopian hermit cave-dweller and his two deacon assistants. Photo Sulaiman Ellison. The injunction towards asceticism comes from the gospel, with Christ's statement that “the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force’ (Mt. 11.12) chief among its scriptural imperatives. The “violence” mentioned is of course not that of aggressive relationships (passionate violence), but the intentional and unrelenting work of the person against the impulses and desires of the fallen will, together with the corrupt body. Asceticism is this working against what is fallen in the human person, towards its correction, reformation, and purification, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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