Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 5-10-2019


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name





McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Darlene Fozard Weaver

Committee Member

Elizabeth Agnew Cochran

Committee Member

Bogdan Gabriel Bucur


Orthodox Christianity, Virtue Ethics, Spiritual Struggle, Perpetual Ascent, Epektasis, Gregory of Nyssa, Spirituality, Asceticism, Sacred Reading, Patristics


This project utilizes virtue ethics as an especially suitable lens by which to develop an Orthodox Christian ethical model generally. At the same time, virtue ethics carries with it some complexities that are in turn mitigated by the particulars of this Orthodox model—spiritual struggle and perpetual progress, or epektasis. Spiritual struggle in this project, which ultimately shifts the emphasis from virtue’s acquisition to its pursuit, is defined as the exertion of effort in all conceivable dimensions—physical, emotional, psychological, intellectual, and spiritual—with intent to attain a semblance of, knowledge of, and intimacy with Jesus Christ in community, for God and for others. Gregory of Nyssa’s theory of epektasis assumes a basic three-tiered conception of perpetual ascent, beginning with purification and detachment from from fleshly passions, strengthening the soul by increasing in similitude to God, and ending with unity with God, that is, with inexpressible and transformative experience of God. God—the infinite, the Good, and the Paragon of virtue—functions as the orienting principle of this perpetual ascent, mitigating the issues of the unity of the virtues and the self-centeredness and self-effacement of virtue. This project goes on to provide two of many potential concrete examples of this Orthodox ethical model as applied to the body in the practice of asceticism and as applied to Scripture in the practice of sacred reading. In the end, a model of love of God and neighbor emerges that is characteristic of Orthodox Christianity’s inherent integrative nature, that locates God as telos, and that construes virtue as an enabler, marker, and result of the struggle-laden, epektatic journey to God.