Revista Studii Teologice


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"„Şcoala din Gaza”: o renaştere a îndrumării spirituale în tradiţia bizantină timpurie"

„Gaza School”: A Revival of Spiritual Guidance in Early Byzantine Tradition

Autor(i): Daniel LEMENI

The present study, based on the Correspondence of two great Elders, respectively the personality of Abba Dorotheus, their most outstanding disciple, aims to ascertain how spiritual guidance was appropriated by early Byzantine tradition. Since the role of spiritual directors assumed by Saints Barsanuphios and John – the two remarkable figures of Gaza monasticism – was exerted both within the monastery and outside it, a first conclusion is, naturally, that the network of spiritual directors settled at Tawatha was the local expression of an extremely flexible, elastic system of spiritual guidance, unmatched in Eastern Mediterranean Christianity. Thus, the participation of laymen in the vast correspondence exchanged by the two Elders in their capacity as spiritual fathers, throughout their lives, has challenged the traditional view on spiritual guidance understood ipso facto as an exclusive relationsip between monks.
Indeed, the Correspondence reveals that both monks and laymen stressed that the personal relationship between an Elder (géron) and his spiritual children was the core around which the practice of spiritual guidance developed in early Byzantine tradition. Just as it happened with the Desert Fathers, the Correspondence of Saints Barsanuphios and John illustrates the charismata as the fundamental criterion by which a monk assumes the role of spiritual director.
The character of these two great Elders’ ascetical practices has led us to the conclusion that a true spiritual father takes not only the stance of a spiritual director offering advice, but especially that of an anadochos, that is, a guarantor of his disciples’ spiritual life. Thus, the notion of „burden-bearer” – based on Galatians 6, 2 („Bear each other’s burdens [emphasis mine] and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ”) – was one of the most remarkable and innovative ascetic practices in early Byzantine world. This fundamental text of Gaza ascetic tradition expresses an essential truth: namely, there must be genuine solidarity between a spiritual director and his disciples, they must be „one soul” (homopyuhos).
In other words, if a géron’s role is not confined to spiritual guidance, the authority of a patèr pneumatikós is not only due to his doctrinal superiority but is a higher authority pertaining to a kinship, like the one between a father and his son. Thus by placing the practice of spiritual guidance in the sphere of spiritual experience, our tenet is that the Elder is not only a director, but mainly a father (patér). Moreover, this „Gaza school” (L. Perrone) proves that the spiritual father is an intercessor par excellence, since he is a vehicle of grace, that is the germination medium through which the Holy Spirit operates this eclosion of spiritual life within the disciple.
In other words, the spiritual father assumes the role of a mediator, since the renewal of the Christian now seen as a son of God is based on the agency of the Holy Spirit. Thus the considerations above argue in favor of understanding spiritual guidance as spiritual obstetrics, as in Eastern Christian spirituality the essential role of an Elder is always to „gestate” and „give spiritual birth” to his disciples. Ultimately, this longue durée process reveals the aim and the essential calling of any true spiritual father.

Pagini: 147-166