Spiritual fatherhood is popular, controversial, and misunderstood. For Evagrius Ponticus (AD 343–99) and the early fathers, nothing can be spiritual without the Holy Spirit, and true spiritual fathers can say, with St Paul: “in Christ Jesus I begot you through the gospel” (1 Cor 4.15). This begets freedom, not dependence. In this relationship we see an image of the freedom given to all who receive “the Spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Rom 8.15).
True spiritual fatherhood is a charism and a ministry of healing and teaching. It is a timeless part of the Church’s tradition, which has been maintained in the East. Fr Gabriel Bunge leads readers into the ancient understanding of spiritual fatherhood in the teaching of Evagrius, without losing sight of our contemporary condition.