An influential current of Orthodox thought has subtly undermined the teaching that nature is good. In so doing, it has also called into question the naturalness of ascetic striving. The patristic witness calls us to reclaim and embrace both nature and ascesis.
Ascesis stands at the heart of spiritual life, a praxis both internal and external. Internal praxis is the struggle against the passions and the cultivation of virtues through prayer, study, and meditation. External praxis is the same struggle through bodily work, including vigil, fasting, abstinence, moderation, and works of love. Such training involves the human person in the cultivation of human nature, toward the goal of spiritual life. But what is the connection between person, nature (physis), and ascesis, and how are they related to the goal of spiritual life?