Saturday, April 02, 2005

Pope John Paul II on Salvation

Although these words are not from a leader in the Orthodox Church, they are none the less orthodox and very well worth reading.

From Crossing the Threshold of Hope by His Holiness John Paul II, WHAT DOES "TO SAVE" MEAN?
To save means to liberate from evil. This does not refer only to social evils, such as injustice, coercion, exploitation. Nor does it refer only to disease, catastrophes, natural cataclysms, and everything that has been considered disaster in the history of humanity.

To save means to liberate from radical, ultimate evil. Death itself is no longer that kind of evil, if followed by the Resurrection. And the Resurrection comes about through the work of Christ. Through the work of the Redeemer death ceases to be an ultimate evil; it becomes subject to the power of life.

The world does not have such power. The world, which is capable of perfecting therapeutic techniques in various fields, does not have the power to liberate man from death. And therefore the world cannot be a source of salvation for man. Only God saves, and He saves the whole of humanity in Christ. The very name Jesus, Jeshua ("God who saves"), bespeaks this salvation. In the course of history, many Israelites had this name, but it can be said that this name was waiting for this Son of Israel alone, who was meant to confirm its truth: "Was it not I, the Lord, besides whom there is no other God? There is no just and saving God but me" (cf. Is 45:21).

To save means to liberate from radical evil. This evil is not only man's progressive decline with the passage of time and his final engulfment in the abyss of death. An even more radical evil is God's rejection of man, that is, eternal damnation as the consequence of man's rejection of God.

Damnation is the opposite of salvation. Both are associated with the destiny of man to live eternally. Both presuppose the immortality of the human being. Temporal death cannot destroy man's destiny of eternal life.

And what is this eternal life? It is happiness that comes from union with God. Christ affirms: "Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ" (Jn 17:3). Union with God is realized in the vision of the Divine Being "face to face" (1 Cor 13:12), a vision called "beatific" because it carries with it the ultimate attainment of man's aspiration to truth. In place of the many partial truths which man arrives at through prescientific and scientific knowledge, the vision of God "face to face" allows enjoyment of the absolute fullness of truth. In this way man's aspiration to truth is ultimately satisfied.

Salvation, however, is not reducible to this. In knowing God "face to face," man encounters the absolute fullness of good. The platonic intuition of the idea of good found in Christianity its ultraphilosophical and ultimate confirmation. What we are speaking of here is not union with the idea of good, but rather union with Good itself. God is this Good. To the young man who asked, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Christ responded: "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone" (Mk 10:17-18).

No comments: