In this clearly written, carefully nuanced, and substantial study, the author traces the development of the conception and practice of spiritual direction over two centuries from Athanasius to Gregory the Great. Demacopoulos posits that a distinction between monastic (ascetical) and lay (sacramental and moral) models of spiritual direction dominated this period and uses a series of patristic case studies to illustrate a range of acceptance, rejection, and synthesis. Though Athanasius exalts the ascetical model of Antony, he emphases the necessity of episcopal oversight of the rapidly growing monastic movement. With the increasing predominance of monk-bishops, especially in the East, Gregory of Nazianzus represents a concern that priests and bishops combine the ascetical and pastoral aspects of their offices. Augustine focuses on the priority of the doctrinal and homiletical skills of the spiritual father as pastor, while his contemporary (and in many ways polar opposite) John Cassian speaks almost exclusively of spiritual direction in a monastic context. Gregory the Great is the epitome of the priest who could master ascetic practice while prudently shepherding a flock 'in the world,' and the enthusiastic reception of his Pastoral Care
in West and East confirmed the dominance of that model. That Demacopoulos' study defines spiritual direction in terms of the changing nature of episcopacy and pastorate implies much about our contemporary, individualistic conception of the nature of that task. 274 pp.
An Eighth Day View:
In late antiquity the rising number of ascetics who joined the priesthood faced a pastoral dilemma. Should they follow a traditional, demonstrably administrative, approach to pastoral care, emphasizing doctrinal instruction, the care of the poor, and the celebration of the sacraments? Or should they bring to the parish the ascetic models of spiritual direction, characterized by a more personal spiritual father/spiritual disciple relationship? Five Models of Spiritual Direction in the Early Church explores the struggles of five clerics (Athanasius, Gregory Naziansen, Augustine of Hippo, John Cassian, and Pope Gregory I) to reconcile their ascetic idealism with the reality of pastoral responsibility. Through a close reading of Greek and Latin texts, George E. Demacopoulos explores each pastor's criteria for ordination, his supervision of subordinate clergy, and his methods of spiritual direction. He argues that the evolution in spiritual direction that occurred during this period reflected and informed broader developments in religious practices. Demacopoulos describes the way in which these authors shaped the medieval pastoral traditions of the East and the West. Each of the five struggled to balance the tension between his ascetic idealism and the realities of the lay church. Each offered distinct (and at times very different) solutions to that tension. Scholars and students of late antiquity, the history of Christianity, and historical theology will find a great deal of interest in Five Models of Spiritual Direction in the Early Church. The book will also appeal to those who are actively engaged in Christian ministry.