23 March 2008

We are damned by ourselves; we are saved in community

Today's gospel lesson was the healing of the paralytic in Mark 2.

(A brief digression here: a western Christian coming to our Matins service would have thought it was our Easter, too--each Sunday morning at Matins we read one of the 11 resurrection pericopes, and the liturgical verses comment on the text. Just another precious feature of the Church--Christ's death and rising are the focus of every service.)

In Mark 2, we read, "And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." I used to wonder whether the "their" included the paralytic or didn't--and, in either case, I saw this as the great exception to the rule of personal faith.

I now see that what I called "personal" faith was really "individual" faith--e.g. the faith of the paralytic himself, as an individual, over against anyone else's faith. But in fact the rule is rather that we are saved through each others' prayers, each others' faith, and not by our own alone. No one is a person all alone. We are only persons in community. So personal faith is inherently communal.

Hence St. Paul tells the Philippians, "Now this will turn out for my salvation through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ." St. Augustine was saved through the prayers of his mother. Was it St. Anthony who said that our salvation or damnation is found in our brothers and sisters?

Even when we fall asleep in Christ, the Church still prays for us. For prayer is an expression of faith, hope and love--especially of love--and death is no barrier to love.


THORmonger said...

Hi Father! I just discovered your blog. I added it to my blog's links so I can read it. (My blog is friends-only, so unfortunately you won't be able to read mine without a LiveJournal account of your own, although I can certainly update you via e-mail or in person - we haven't had coffee in a while.)

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Good to see you here! Perhaps you can catch one of the Lenten services--this Friday the Akathist is at Holy Cross...