I’ve quoted this text many times in several different contexts, but not so far in a blog. It’s from the introduction to Lev Gillet’s (“A Monk of the Eastern Church”) little 1968 book, Orthodox Spirituality (pp. viii-ix). It’s prophetic. To my knowledge there is no comparable statement by any other Orthodox theologian.

Gillet says:

It cannot be too often repeated:  there is no chasm between Eastern and Western Christianity. The fundamental principles of Christian spirituality are the same in the East and in the West; the methods are very often alike; the differences do not bear on the chief points. On the whole, there is one Christian spirituality with, here and there, some variations of stress and emphasis.

The whole teaching of the Latin Fathers may be found in the East, just as the whole teaching of the Greek Fathers may be found in the West. Rome has given St. Jerome to Palestine. The East has given Cassian to the West and holds in special veneration that Roman of the Romans, Pope St. Gregory the Great (our Gregory Dialogos). St. Basil would have acknowledged St. Benedict of Nursia as his  brother and heir. St. Macrina would have found her sister in St. Scholastica. St. Alexis, “the man of God,” the “poor man under the stairs,” has been succeeded by the wandering beggar St. Benedict Labre. St. Nicholas would have felt as very near to him the burning charity of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Vincent de Paul. St. Seraphim of Sarov would have seen the desert blossoming under Father Charles de Foucauld’s feet, and would have called St. Therese of Lisieux “my joy”.

In the same way the Eastern Church can value the achievements of “evangelical” Christians. She can acknowledge and honour  all that is so deeply Christian – and therefore “Orthodox” – in such men as (to name only a few) George Fox, Nicholas Zinzendorf, John Wesley, William Booth, the Sadhu Sundar Singh . . . .  A genuine and intense spiritual life is the shortest and safest way to re-union.

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