How Are We Saved? The Understanding of Salvation in the Orthodox Christian Tradition

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My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

HOW ARE WE SAVED?
The Understanding of Salvation in the Orthodox Christian Tradition

By His Eminence Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

"It is Christ Who gives us the power to walk, and He is Himself the way; He is the lodging where we stay for the night, as well as our final destination" (Saint Nicolas Cabasilas).

Twice in my life, once in a bus and once in a railway carriage, I have been asked by a stranger: "Are you saved?"

*       How should we reply to this question?

*       For my own part, I hesitate to respond categorically, "Yes, I am saved."

*       Such an answer suggests that my salvation is already here and now an accomplished fact, a fully realized and completed actuality.

*       But how can I know for certain what my behavior will be during the remaining course of my life?

*       Despite God's guiding hand upon me, I still retain the power to say No to Him as well as Yes.

*       Long after his conversion on the road to Damascus Saint Paul feared that after preaching to others he might himself end up "rejected" or disqualified" by God (I Corinthians 9:27).

*       Must we not show a similar caution?

*       The warning issued by the pagan Solon applies equally in a Christian  context: "Call no one blessed until he has died."

*       It is the one who endures to the end who will be saved (St. Matthew 10:22; 24:13).

I AM BEING SAVED BY GOD'S MERCY AND GRACE

*       Instead, then, of answering 'I am saved', I prefer to make use of the continuous present: "I trust that by God's mercy and grace I am being saved."

*       Jesus Christ's act of salvation, His victory over death and sin through His Cross and Resurrection, is indeed complete and definitive:

*       "Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again, death no longer has dominion over Him" (Romans 6:9).

*       But, while the Lord's victory is certainly an accomplished fact, my personal participation in that victory is as yet far from complete.

*       As Saint Paul states, "Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own..." (Philippians 3:12).

*       My personal incorporation in Christ is incomplete, not because of any defect or lack of strength on His side, but because for my part I retain continuing freedom of choice, the ability to refuse as well as to obey.

*       In the words of Saint Anthony the Great (d. 356): "Expect temptation until your last breath", and with temptation there always goes the possibility of failing.

*       My trust is therefore in Christ, not in myself, and I am confident that Christ is faithful and stands firm.

*       But can I feel the same confidence in my own faithfulness and stability?

*       Conscious as I am of my human frailty, I remain between hope and fear right up to the very gates of death.

SALVATION IS AN ONGOING PROCESS

*       According, then, to the soteriological perspective of the Orthodox Church, salvation - when viewed from the standpoint of the human subject that receives it - is not a single event in that person's past but an ongoing process.

*       To quote Martin Luther (not that the Lutherans consider salvation to be a process): "This life is not godliness but the process of becoming godly, not health but getting well, not being but becoming".

*       I am on a journey, and that journey has not yet reached its conclusion.

*       This does not mean that Christ my Savior is remote from me and inaccessible.

*       On the contrary, as Saint Nicolas Cabasilas (14the century) expresses it: 'He is not only my final destination but the inn at which I rest each evening.'

*       He is the one who awaits me at my journey's end, but equally He is the inseparable companion who walks by my side at every step in my pilgrimage.

*       Nevertheless, because the journey still continues, I cannot speak as if its successful termination were already certain and secure.

*       And for that reason as an Orthodox Christian I prefer to answer, not "I am saved", but "I am being saved."

*       Concerning this ongoing process of salvation, this uncompleted journey, there are three central questions to be asked:

o   First, the starting-point: from what am I saved?

o   Second, the means or pathway: through what - or rather through whom - am I saved? How does my salvation come about?

o   Third, the aim or journey's end: for what am I saved?

(To be continued)

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"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George