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Author Topic: Merit and Reward: an Orthodox Understanding  (Read 1494 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: December 28, 2011, 04:42:02 PM »

Grace and Peace,

As one from the Catholic Tradition, I continue to struggle with Merit and Reward and I want to understand the Orthodox Understanding of this...

The Old Testament declares the meritoriousness of good works before God. "But the just shall live for evermore: and their reward is with the Lord" (Wisdom 5:16). "Be not afraid to be justified even to death: for the reward of God continueth for ever" (Ecclus., xviii, 22). Christ Himself adds a special reward to each of the Eight Beatitudes and he ends with this fundamental thought: "Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven" (Matthew 5:12) In His description of the Last Judgment, He makes the possession of eternal bliss depend on the practice of the corporal works of mercy (Matthew 25:34 sqq.). Although St. Paul insists on nothing more strongly than the absolute gratuitousness of Christian grace, still he acknowledges merits founded on grace and also the reward due to them on the part of God, which he variously calls "prize" (Philippians 3:14; 1 Corinthians 9:24) "reward" (Colossians 3:24; 1 Corinthians 3:Cool, "crown of justice" (2 Timothy 4:7 sq.; cf. James 1:12). It is worthy of note that, in these and many others good works are not represented as mere adjuncts of justifying faith, but as real fruits of justification and part causes of our eternal happiness. And the greater the merit, the greater will be the reward in heaven (cf. Matthew 16:27; 1 Corinthians 3:8; 2 Corinthians 9:6). Thus the Bible itself refutes the assertion that "the idea of merit is originally foreign to the Gospel" (" Realencyklopädie für protest. Theologie," XX, 3rd ed. Leipzig, 1908, p. 501). That Christian grace can be merited either by the observance of the Jewish law or by mere natural works this alone is foreign to the Bible. On the other hand, eternal reward is promised in the Bible to those supernatural works which are performed in the state of grace, and that because they are meritorious (cf. Matthew 25:34 sqq.; Romans 2:6 sqq.; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

I don't hear Orthodox speak of merit and reward... what is the Orthodox Understanding of these passages?
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« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2011, 04:48:32 PM »

I don't hear Orthodox speak of merit and reward... what is the Orthodox Understanding of these passages?
If "merit"= "good works" then Orthodox speak about it quite often. The word "merit" is derived from a Latin word, thus it is more commonly used in the West, perhaps.
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if Christ does and says x. And someone else does and says not x and you are ever in doubt, follow Christ.

"You are philosophical innovators. As for me, I follow the Fathers." -Every heresiarch ever
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« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2011, 05:11:57 PM »

I don't hear Orthodox speak of merit and reward... what is the Orthodox Understanding of these passages?
If "merit"= "good works" then Orthodox speak about it quite often. The word "merit" is derived from a Latin word, thus it is more commonly used in the West, perhaps.

Thanks for your response. How do Orthodox explain the Merit/Reward Model and Salvation as a Free Gift as St. Paul articulates "We are saved by Grace through Faith, and not a work...".

Thank you.
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« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2011, 05:18:22 PM »

I don't hear Orthodox speak of merit and reward... what is the Orthodox Understanding of these passages?
If "merit"= "good works" then Orthodox speak about it quite often. The word "merit" is derived from a Latin word, thus it is more commonly used in the West, perhaps.

Thanks for your response. How do Orthodox explain the Merit/Reward Model and Salvation as a Free Gift as St. Paul articulates "We are saved by Grace through Faith, and not a work...".

Thank you.
Well I don't know if I can speak for the "Orthodox" answer, but NT Wright does a good job of explaining that Paul's main point to the Hebrews was that you are shown to be the people of God through faithfulness to him, not through markings or outward signifiers. A huge debate raged around that time in Judaism about what makes one a pure one of God.

A good way to think about it would be that in the OT, the Hebrews placed a cross of blood over their doors to identify them as God's people and save them from the wrath of the destroyer. Pharisees and others sought their "identifier" in a similar manner; through a marking of ritual ablutions (Judaizers "baptised" themseves daily), of legal adherence, of right zealotry. Christians, however, seek the cross of blood upon the heart, and to live that cross, to be identified as the people of God.

At the heart of "how do good works relate with faith in Paul?" is the question "how did 1st century Jews and Christians understand what it meant to be "clean" and holy, set apart for God?"
« Last Edit: December 28, 2011, 05:20:22 PM by NicholasMyra » Logged

Quote from: Orthonorm
if Christ does and says x. And someone else does and says not x and you are ever in doubt, follow Christ.

"You are philosophical innovators. As for me, I follow the Fathers." -Every heresiarch ever
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« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2011, 05:23:12 PM »

Elder Paisios had a cute way of understanding faith and works. He said that throughout life, a Christian can accumulate a few zeros, or a lot of zeros. Or even just one zero, like St. Delmas.

0, 00, 00000, etc.

God's grace puts a 1 in front of however many zeros you have.  Cheesy

I don't know if that's too accurate, but it would be a sweet way of explaining such things to children.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2011, 05:23:58 PM by NicholasMyra » Logged

Quote from: Orthonorm
if Christ does and says x. And someone else does and says not x and you are ever in doubt, follow Christ.

"You are philosophical innovators. As for me, I follow the Fathers." -Every heresiarch ever
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« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2011, 08:16:27 PM »

I just posted this in another thread.  I believe it has application here:

The phrase "satisfactory works" in the Catholic Church is a reference to prayer, sacrifice and alms giving...to drive away the demon passions and thereby open the soul more and more hopefully to the cleansing powers of divine grace.

Indulgences come out of those actions of prayer, alms giving and sacrifice...in so far as...They come from a real desire to take on Christ.  Merits only come from the merits of Christ but in so far as we have a share in the divine life [theosis/divinization], we then have a share in the merits of Christ for which we can petition in the service of all souls, or souls known to us.

The reference is to the ascetic work of the papal Church and the merits of Jesus Christ....
« Last Edit: December 28, 2011, 08:18:04 PM by elijahmaria » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: December 28, 2011, 08:23:41 PM »

I just posted this in another thread.  I believe it has application here:

The phrase "satisfactory works" in the Catholic Church is a reference to prayer, sacrifice and alms giving
...


Would you explain the all important point.  For what is satisfaction being made?  What makes it necessary?


Quote
to drive away the demon passions and thereby open the soul more and more hopefully to the cleansing powers of divine grace.

Indulgences come out of those actions of prayer, alms giving and sacrifice...in so far as...They come from a real desire to take on Christ.  Merits only come from the merits of Christ but in so far as we have a share in the divine life [theosis/divinization], we then have a share in the merits of Christ for which we can petition in the service of all souls, or souls known to us.

The reference is to the ascetic work of the papal Church and the merits of Jesus Christ....
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« Reply #7 on: December 28, 2011, 08:33:27 PM »

You cut the quote from me right before the answer to your question.  I find that to be predictable.  At least you let it there for others to see.

One does satisfactory works or works [either one will do] in order to still the passions and open the soul to grace.

I just posted this in another thread.  I believe it has application here:

The phrase "satisfactory works" in the Catholic Church is a reference to prayer, sacrifice and alms giving
...


Would you explain the all important point.  For what is satisfaction being made?  What makes it necessary?


Quote
to drive away the demon passions and thereby open the soul more and more hopefully to the cleansing powers of divine grace.

Indulgences come out of those actions of prayer, alms giving and sacrifice...in so far as...They come from a real desire to take on Christ.  Merits only come from the merits of Christ but in so far as we have a share in the divine life [theosis/divinization], we then have a share in the merits of Christ for which we can petition in the service of all souls, or souls known to us.

The reference is to the ascetic work of the papal Church and the merits of Jesus Christ....
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« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2011, 08:44:37 PM »

I continue with the following:

All good works ultimately are for the purpose of sharing in the divine life.

Now you may speak of compunction and satisfaction in the sense that we do, in this life, do things where the consequences of our sins or thoughtlessness are out of our control.  The ONLY recourse we have at that point is to beg God's grace to set things aright.

It is in that sense that we speak of satisfactory works.  They are works devoted...by our own intentions...toward the mediation of God's good grace into our own evil acts and their consequences.  Only by the merits of Jesus Christ can we be free from the intended or unintended consequences of our own evil ways.

It is only AFTER one comes to understand that we attempt all good acts in this life in order to share in the divine life that it becomes possible to understand the ideas of merit and satisfaction.

If you deny the former, then the latter makes no sense.
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« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2011, 09:21:34 PM »

You cut the quote from me right before the answer to your question.  I find that to be predictable.  At least you let it there for others to see.

One does satisfactory works or works [either one will do] in order to still the passions and open the soul to grace.'

What on earth is the theological meaning of "satisfasctory" in this context?

I just posted this in another thread.  I believe it has application here:

The phrase "satisfactory works" in the Catholic Church is a reference to prayer, sacrifice and alms giving
...


Would you explain the all important point.  For what is satisfaction being made?  What makes it necessary?


Quote
to drive away the demon passions and thereby open the soul more and more hopefully to the cleansing powers of divine grace.

Indulgences come out of those actions of prayer, alms giving and sacrifice...in so far as...They come from a real desire to take on Christ.  Merits only come from the merits of Christ but in so far as we have a share in the divine life [theosis/divinization], we then have a share in the merits of Christ for which we can petition in the service of all souls, or souls known to us.

The reference is to the ascetic work of the papal Church and the merits of Jesus Christ....
[/quote]
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« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2011, 09:26:21 PM »

See reply #8

You cut the quote from me right before the answer to your question.  I find that to be predictable.  At least you let it there for others to see.

One does satisfactory works or works [either one will do] in order to still the passions and open the soul to grace.'

What on earth is the theological meaning of "satisfasctory" in this context?

I just posted this in another thread.  I believe it has application here:

The phrase "satisfactory works" in the Catholic Church is a reference to prayer, sacrifice and alms giving
...


Would you explain the all important point.  For what is satisfaction being made?  What makes it necessary?


Quote
to drive away the demon passions and thereby open the soul more and more hopefully to the cleansing powers of divine grace.

Indulgences come out of those actions of prayer, alms giving and sacrifice...in so far as...They come from a real desire to take on Christ.  Merits only come from the merits of Christ but in so far as we have a share in the divine life [theosis/divinization], we then have a share in the merits of Christ for which we can petition in the service of all souls, or souls known to us.

The reference is to the ascetic work of the papal Church and the merits of Jesus Christ....
[/quote]
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« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2011, 09:34:42 PM »

We may be derailing this thread which is not about Catholic understandings.  The OP is asking for Orthodox information.
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NicholasMyra
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« Reply #12 on: December 28, 2011, 09:36:13 PM »

We may be derailing this thread which is not about Catholic understandings.  The OP is asking for Orthodox information.
But it's in the Catholic section. Perhaps it should be moved to Faith issues.
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Quote from: Orthonorm
if Christ does and says x. And someone else does and says not x and you are ever in doubt, follow Christ.

"You are philosophical innovators. As for me, I follow the Fathers." -Every heresiarch ever
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« Reply #13 on: December 28, 2011, 09:37:02 PM »

We may be derailing this thread which is not about Catholic understandings.  The OP is asking for Orthodox information.

That seems to be more in line with the Faith section on the Forum.

Otherwise there is no fault in pointing out the Catholic point of view which is, essentially, orthodox...though the language is foreign.
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« Reply #14 on: December 28, 2011, 10:32:37 PM »

Grace and Peace be with you all,

Although I am grateful for a Catholic explanation, I am more interested in hearing an Orthodox Understanding of these terms which are found in the Sacred Text. I am a student of the East now.
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« Reply #15 on: December 28, 2011, 10:58:53 PM »

Grace and Peace be with you all,

Although I am grateful for a Catholic explanation, I am more interested in hearing an Orthodox Understanding of these terms which are found in the Sacred Text. I am a student of the East now.

I started a thread on this homily from St. Gregory Palamas on the Faith section but you might want to read this for starters.  The whole homily is well worth the effort.

http://www.ocf.org/OrthodoxPage/reading/dormition.html

Quote
Hence, as it was through the Theotokos alone that the Lord came to us, appeared upon earth and lived among men, being invisible to all before this time, so likewise in the endless age to come, without her mediation, every emanation of illuminating divine light, every revelation of the mysteries of the Godhead, every form of spiritual gift, will exceed the capacity of every created being.

She alone has received the all-pervading fulness of Him that filleth all things, and through her all may now contain it, for she dispenses it according to the power of each, in proportion and to the degree of the purity of each. Hence she is the treasury and overseer of the riches of the Godhead.
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