Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis


Religious Studies

First Advisor

James S Cutsinger


The Christian Orthodox fathers maintain that not only is salvation a process, but when broken down, may be divided into three distinct stages: purification, illumination, and union. Additionally, each stage corresponds to one of the three levels of being: body, soul, and spirit.

During purification, which is the responsibility of man, the body is targeted through ascesis, primarily fasting and vigil. The purpose of ascesis is that man may grow detached from his physical surroundings and thus achieve what is referred to as dispassion. Purification is typically

linked with the redemptive acts of Jesus Christ. During illumination, which is God administered, the soul is said to gain self-knowledge through deep humility and contrition, and thus develops a greater love for God and creation. The practice of contemplative prayer is championed during this stage. Illumination is typically linked with the sanctifying acts of the Holy Spirit. Finally, during union, which is again brought to man solely by the beneficence of God, the spirit--which is considered to be the highest dimension of the microcosm and the "container" of both the body and soul--achieves hesychia, or inward silence, and as a result becomes formally united to God. Union is typically linked with the deifying acts of the Father. The goal of this thesis is to survey and demonstrate how each stage affects each dimension of the human microcosm, and moreover, why each stage is necessary if man is to "work out his salvation" (cf. Philippians 2:12).