Monday, 16 April 2012
Orthodoxy and Salvation
On this Glorious day we remember our Salvation by Christ's life giving Cross, but is it really that easy to explain?
In the New Testament St. James states that "Faith without works is dead.”(James 2:20) and even that we are “justified by works, and not by faith alone." (James 2:24). With the Church in support, this stuck in the East and Oriental Orthodox Churches because they did not experience the reformation like in the west.
There was a famous Greek Saint John Climacus, he wrote a treatise in the 7th Century called "The Ladder of Divine Ascent" comparing salvation to a ladder. He spoke of all the different steps we must go up, each of them conquering a lust for something in the world. He listed 30 steps including such worldly concepts as'lying' and 'the love of money.' In his view, the last few steps are the most difficult and cover understanding the nature of the Trinity and of Heaven. This was easy enough for St John to say, as a hermit in the wilderness but he accepts that for many of us, especially those not living a monastic life, it would be extremely difficult. The bottom line being that a spiritual father (God) should be there as a guiding hand with this work.
In Orthodox Christianity, Savation comes through many things rather than it just being a yes/no answer.
Firstly there is the cross. We would not deny Christ on the Cross, and the salvation it brought.
But faith in this alone is not enough for an Orthodox Christian, as through the Sacraments such as Baptism and communion we are being saved. So the first thing we would look to is our Baptism. We have been saved by partaking in this and recieving the Holy Spirit.
From here, the sacramental life is an ongoing process,as we do not see communion as Bread and water, but as transformed into the Body and Blood, we are actively recieving a portion of God. Along with this we have confession. To recieve this and actively take part in your soul's battle with the temptations that the world brings is to be closer to God. There is no magic button to make you perfect, since the world is imperfect, so this is ongoing.
It is through this that we become closer to God, a goal of all Orthodox Christians. This is also a sign of the new Covenant which God made through Christ, as it was with the Jews of the Old Testament. So we would see ourselves as being continuously saved through partaking in the sacramental life of the Church. I suppose you could say that Through the Crucifixion we see ourselves as saved. Through the sacramental life we are being saved and by God in the end we will be saved.