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Grace and Freedom: Two Words, One Mystery

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  • Christopher Orr
    Grace and Freedom: Two Words, One Mystery From Kyrie
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 27, 2009
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      Grace and Freedom: Two Words, One
      Mystery<http://anastasias-corner.blogspot.com/2009/01/grace-and-freedom-two-words-one-mystery.html>
      From
      Kyrie Eleison<http://www.google.com/reader/view/feed/http%3A%2F%2Fanastasias-corner.blogspot.com%2Ffeeds%2Fposts%2Fdefault>by
      Anastasia
      Theodoridis

      This is from Vladimir Lossky's book, *The Mystical Theology of the Eastern
      Church* (St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood, New York, 1976). This
      excerpt appears near the beginning of Chapter Ten; in my edition, it begins
      on page 197.

      The notion of merit is foreign to the Eastern tradtion. The word is seldom
      encountered in the spiritual writings of the Eastern Church, and has not the
      same meaning as in the West. The explanation is to be sought in the general
      attitude of Eastern theology towards grace and free will. In the East, this
      question has never had the urgency which it assumed in the West from the
      time of St. Augustine onwards. The Eastern tradition never separates these
      two elements: grace and human freedom are manifested simultaneously and
      cannot be conceived apart from each other. St. Gregory of Nyssa describes
      very clearly the reciprocal bond that makes of grace and free will two poles
      of one and the same reality: 'As the grace of God cannot descend upon souls
      which flee from their salvation, so the power of human virtue is not of
      itself sufficient to raise to perfection souls which have no share in grace
      ... the righteousness of works and the grace of the Spirit, coming together
      to the same place, fill the soul in which they are united with the life of
      the blessed.' ('De Instituto Christiano', P.G., XLVI, 289 C.)


      Note (my own): St. Gregory does not mean God deprives anybody of His grace,
      but that some people do not want it and God will not force Himself upon
      them. But in the blessed, grace and works unite and together fill the soul.
      Lossky continues:

      Thus, grace is not a reward for the merit of the human will, as Pelagianism
      would have it; but no more is it the cause of the 'meritorious acts' of our
      free will., For it is not a question of merits but of a co-operation, of a
      synergy of the two wills, divine and human, a harmony in which grace bears
      ever more and more fruit, and is appropriated - 'acquired' - by the human
      person. Grace is a presence of God within us which demands constant effort
      on our part; these efforts, however, in no way determine grace, nor does
      grace act upon our liberty as if it were external or foreign to it.


      If you are not a theology buff, you'll probably be glad to stop reading
      right here. But if you like this sort of stuff, here's a bit more. The above
      paragraph continues:

      This doctrine, faithful to the apophatic spirit of Eastern tradition,
      expresses the mystery of the coincidence of grace and human freedom in good
      workis, without recourse to positive and rational terms. The fundamental
      error of Pelagius was that of transposing the mystery of grace on to a
      rational plane, by which process grace and liberty, realities of the
      spiritual order, are transformed into two mutually exclusive concepts which
      then have to be reconciled, as if they were two objects exterior to one
      another. St. Augustine, in his attack on Pelagianism, followed the example
      of his adversary intaking his stand on the same rational ground, where there
      was no possibility of the question ever being resolved.


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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