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Mother Maria Skobtsova
Types of Religious Lives

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The five types

If, while observing Orthodox believers, you enter into conversation with them and read the various Orthodox books and journals devoted to religious issues, you are at once struck by the incredible multifacetedness of their understanding of the spiritual life. If, however, one makes an attempt to classify this variety into more or less closely defined categories, then I would say that at this given moment within Orthodoxy there are five types of piety: (1) synodal; (2) ritualist; (3) esthetical; (4) ascetical; (5) evangelical.

To be sure, such a classification is to some extent arbitrary. Life is much more complex than this, and it is very likely that there are other categories which I was unable to discern. But even this arbitrary classification is of great help in understanding many events in our lives. To a certain degree, it also permits one to understand one's own personal sympathies and antipathies, one's own spiritual path. Each spiritual type has its own, at times very complicated history, its own coming into being; each is determined by the diverse circumstances of its origin. A person finds himself in one or another group not only as the result of some internal inclination, but also because he is, to some extent, predetermined for it by the milieu from which he comes, by his upbringing, education and other influences. I will attempt to characterize each category from the point of its historical origins, its moral attributes, its way of life (and even its special skills), the extent of its spread, the creative potential contained within it, and its relationship to the current problems of Church life.

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