My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
GOD’S GRACE IS UNCREATED AND INFINITE
"For by Grace are you saved through faith, and that not of
yourselves: IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD, NOT OF WORKS, lest
any man should boast" [Ephesians 2:8-9].
In Orthodox Christian Theology "Grace" ("Χάρις") most commonly refers to the Uncreated Energy, Power, or Operation of God, which is distinct yet INSEPARABLE FROM God’s Essence. Thus, Saint Gregory Palamas affirms that "This resplendence and deifying (theosis) Energy of God, that deifies those who participate in it, constitutes Divine Grace, but IT IS NOT the Essence of God" (Philokalia, vol. 4, p. 390).
Only God is Uncreated; therefore, to say that Grace is Uncreated is to say that it is God Himself–or, as Vladimir Lossky puts it, it is "a mode of existence of the Trinity which is outside of Its inaccessible Essence" (Mystical Theology, p. 73). Saint Basil the Great writes: "The Energies of God come down to us, but the Essence remains INACCESSIBLE" (Letter 234). Quoting these words of Saint Basil the Great, Saint Gregory Palamas observes: "Thus it IS IMPOSSIBLE to participate in God’s Essence, even for those who are deified by Divine Grace. It is, however, POSSIBLE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE Divine Energy" (Philokalia, vol. 4, p. 397).
The word "Grace" ("Χάρις") is used in Holy Scripture with various meanings. Sometimes it signifies in general THE MERCY OF GOD: GOD IS "the God of all Grace" (1 Peter 5:10). In this, its broadest meaning, Grace IS GOD’S GOODWILL TO MEN OF WORTHY LIFE IN ALL AGES OF HUMANITY AND PARTICULARLY TO THE RIGHTEOUS ONES OF THE Old Testament like Able, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, the Prophet Moses, and the later Prophets.
In the most precise meaning, the concept of Grace refers to the New Testament. Here in the New Testament, we distinguish two fundamental meanings of this concept. First, BY THE GRACE OF GOD, THE GRACE OF CHRIST, IS TO BE UNDERSTOOD THE WHOLE ECONOMY OF OUR SALVATION, PERFORMED BY THE COMING OF THE Son of God to earth, by His earthly life, His death on the Cross, His Resurrection, and His Ascension into heaven: "For by Grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD, NOT OF WORKS, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). Secondly, Grace IS THE NAME APPLIED TO THE GIFTS OF THE Holy Spirit WHICH HAVE BEEN SENT DOWN AND ARE BEING SENT DOWN TO THE Church of Christ FOR THE SANCTIFICATION OF ITS MEMBERS, FOR THEIR SPIRITUAL GROWTH, AND FOR THE ATTAINMENT BY THEM OF THE Kingdom of Heaven.
In this second New Testament meaning of the word, Grace is a power sent down from on high, the power of God which is in the Church of Christ, WHICH GIVES BIRTH, GIVES LIFE, PERFECTS, AND BRINGS THE BELIEVING AND VIRTUOUS CHRISTIAN TO THE APPROPRIATION OF THE SALVATION WHICH HAS BEEN BROUGHT BY THE Lord Jesus Christ.
The holy Apostles, therefore, in their writings often used the Greek word CHARIS (‘Χάρις"), "Grace," as identical in meaning with the word DYNAMIS ("Δύναμις"), "POWER."). The term "Grace" in the sense of "Power" given from above FOR HOLY LIFE IS FOUND IN MANY PLACES of the Apostolic Epistles: (2 Peter 1;3; Romans 5:2; Romans 16:20; 1 Peter 5:12; 2 Peter 3:18; 2 Timothy 2:1; 1 Corinthians 16:23; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Galatians 6:18; Ephesians 6:24), and other places. The holy Apostle Paul writes: "The Lord said unto me, My Grace IS SUFFICIENT FOR THEE; for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).
The distinction between those two meanings of the word "Grace," and the predominant understanding of it in the Holy Scripture of the New Testament as a Divine power, are important to keep in mind because in PROTESTANTISM a teaching has become established about Grace only in its general significance of the great work of our redemption from sin through the Savior’s exploit on the Cross, after which–as the Protestants think– a man who has come to believe and has received the remission of sins IS ALREADY AMONG THE SAVED. However, the Apostles teach us THAT A CHRISTIAN, HAVING JUSTIFICATION AS A GIFT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE GENERAL Grace of redemption, IS IN THIS LIFE AS AN INDIVIDUAL ONLY "BEING SAVED" (1 Corinthians 1:18). AND NEEDS THE SUPPORT OF GRACE-GIVEN POWERS, "WE HAVE ACCESS BY FAITH INTO THIS GRACE WHEREIN WE STAND (Romans 5:2); WE ARE SAVED BY HOPE" (Romans 8:24).
How, then, does the saving Grace of God act?
Both the spiritual birth and the further spiritual growth of a man occur through THE MUTUAL ACTION OF TWO PRINCIPLES. One of these is THE GRACE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT; the other, MAN’S OPENING OF HIS HEART FOR THE RECEPTION OF IT, A THIRST FOR IT, THE DESIRE TO RECEIVE IT, AS THE THIRSTY, DRY EARTH RECEIVES THE MOISTURE OF RAIN–IN OTHER WORDS, PERSONAL EFFORT FOR THE RECEPTION, PRESERVATION, AND ACTIVITY IN THE SOUL OF THE Divine gifts.
The experience of Orthodox Christian ascetics inspires them to call Christians with all power to the humble acknowledgment of one’s own infirmity, so that the saving Grace of God might act. Very expressive in this case are the expressions of Saint Symeon the New Theologian [10th Century):
"If the thought comes to you, instilled by the devil, that your salvation is accomplished not by the power of God, but by your own wisdom and your own power; and if your soul agrees with such a thought, Grace DEPARTS FROM IT. The struggle against such a powerful and most difficult battle which arises in the soul must be undertaken by the soul until our last breath. The soul must, together with the blessed Apostle Paul, call out in a loud voice, in the hearing of Angels and men: "NOT I, BUT THE GRACE OF GOD WHICH IS WITH ME." The Apostles and Prophets, Martyrs, and Hierarchs, holy monastics, and righteous ones–ALL HAVE CONFESSED THIS GRACE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND FOR THE SAKE OF SUCH A CONFESSION AND WITH ITS HELP THEY STRUGGLED WITH A GOOD STRUGGLE AND FINISHED THEIR COURSE" (Homilies of Saint Symeon the New Theologian, Homily 4).
He who bears the name of CHRISTIAN, we read in the same Holy Father, "If he does not bear in his heart the conviction that the Grace of God, given for faith, is the mercy of God… if he does not labor with the aim of receiving the Grace of God, first of all THROUGH BAPTISM, or if he had it and it departed by reason of his sin, TO CAUSE IT TO RETURN AGAIN THROUGH REPENTANCE, CONFESSION, VIGILS, PRAYERS, AND THE REST, HE THINKS THAT HE IS PERFORMING GLORIOUS VIRTUES AND GOOD DEEDS VALUABLE IN THEMSELVES—THEN HE LABORS AND EXHAUSTS HIMSELF IN VAIN" (Homily 2).
What, then, is the significance of ASCETIC STRUGGLE? It is a weapon against "THE LUST OF THE FLESH, AND THE LUST OF THE EYES, AND THE PRIDE OF LIFE" (1 John 2:16). It is the CLEANING OF THE FIELD OF THE SOUL FROM STONES, OVERGROWTH, WEEDS, AND SWAMPY PLACES, IN PREPARATION FOR A SACRED SOWING WHICH WILL BE MOISTENED FROM ABOVE BY THE GRACE OF GOD. (Source: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Protopresbyter Michael Pomazanski).
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George