John Binns

The study of Christian spirituality investigates the self-understanding, the identity and the mode of operation of the church. It is founded on the church's formation narratives, which identify its foundation with the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is clear from the fourth gospel, which tells how, on the day of the Resurrection, Christ breathed on his disciples with the words 'receive the Holy Spirit' (John 20:22), while St Luke recounts how, on the day of Pentecost, the mission of the church began with the coming of the Spirit on the disciples in the form of wind and fire (Acts 2:1-4). So we are shown that the work of the Spirit guides this newly formed community in a variety of ways, such as the proclaiming of the word, mighty works of healing and power, and the formation of a disciplined and ordered community. Spirituality is the discipline which describes and examines the process of how the church subsists, how it understands and defines itself, how it structures and shapes its life, how it engages with other religious communities and the society around, and from where it draws its vitality and resources. It is concerned with the church in its concrete and specific existence as opposed to its eternal and unchanging message. The study of spirituality is located at the intersection of theology, history and sociology, seeking to give a clear account of how the church functions in history but viewed from its own perspective of theology. Contributors to a recent history of Christian spirituality were asked to bear in mind that 'Christian spirituality is the lived experience ofChristian beliefin both its more general and specialised forms. It is possible to distinguish spirituality from doctrine in that it concentrates not on faith itself but on the reaction faith arouses in religious consciousness and practice.'1

The Orthodox Church, like any modern religious community, is varied and diverse. In historic Orthodox regions, traditional forms of religious expression

1 See Christian spirituality: origins to the twelfth century, ed. B. McGinn and J. Meyendorff (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986), xv.

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