Orthodox America

  Grace and Hope

    A reader asks if we would please explain the Orthodox meaning of 'grace'--"since Protestants often stress this concept"--and 'hope'.

    Fr. Michael Pomazansky, in his Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, says that the word 'grace' has three meanings. First, it is God' s "goodwill to men of worthy life." Without this goodwill or 'grace,' nothing would even exist. Secondly, by 'grace' is meant "the whole economy of our salvation, performed by the coming of the Son of God to earth, by His earthly lire, His death on the Cross, His Resurrection, and His Ascension into heaven."

    Thirdly, "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."

     Fr. Michael further explains that the Apostles often equate the Greek word charis, or 'grace', with the word dynamis, or 'power'.

    "The distinction between these… meanings of the word 'grace' and the predominant understanding of it in the Sacred 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 Saviour'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' (I Cor. 1:18), [1] and needs the support of grace-given powers.

We have access by faith into this grace  wherein we stand (Rom. 5:2)
We are saved by hope.
(Rom. 8:24)

What, therefore, is meant by 'hope'? The Orthodox Catechism, published early in this century with the blessing of the New Martyr Patriarch Tikhon, says that Christian Hope  is "the resting of the heart on God, with the full trust that He ever cares for our salvation, and will give us the happiness Be has promised."

    In order to attain a "saving hope," we must unite ardent prayer to what is called "the true doctrine of blessedness and its practical application." This is why the Lord Himself says: Why call ye Me 'Lord, Lord, ' and do not the things which I say? (Luke 6:e6). Not every one that saith unto Me 'Lord, Lord, ' shall enter into the Kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father, which is in heaven (Matt. 7:21).

    This "Doctrine of Blessedness," so necessary to an experience of Christian hope, is contained in the Beatitudes, "Blessed are the poor..." etc. Therefore a practical application of the Beatitudes in our own lives, joined to prayer, develop within us the wonderful and necessary virtue of hope.


[1] The King James version translation of this verse, "unto us which are saved," is imprecise; the Greek text has the present participle: “Who are being saved

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