Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

Theology and Economy


TheologyTheology is who God is in and of himself apart from any created thing. Economy, in contrast, is God’s activity toward all that is not God – that is, toward all creation (and what is not God is created). Economy is God’s salvation from everlasting. The Energies (the Grace) of God, by which we speak of His activity, are likewise uncreate, are God, and in fact are the means of creation and redemption. The Orthodox alone hold this Faith from the Apostles. By contrast, the Roman Catholic Church considers grace (the energies) to be created: created grace – which is a different and incompatible theology (doctrine of God), leading to a different an incompatible mysteriology, eschatology, and other doctrines.

Economy: The Economy (another word for it is Condescension) is really the Incarnation of Christ. When we speak of the Economy or the use of economia, we speak specifically of the Incarnation, for in that reality all God’s activity is recapitulated, from creation to redemption. God became man, and all history looks either forward to or back from that prime event. In this is our teleology (belief concerning the meaning of history) and likewise the mystery of our eschatology (doctrine of the future).

The God who created man, became created man, to save him, and to make possible the union of God and man, theosis (deification). God condescended to man, because man could not reach God. God overcame the barriers between us and salvation, closing the uncloseable distance of union. God is unknowable and so unobtainable, but God became what we are, that he might remain God, unknowable in essence, but that we might obtain union, through his uncreated Energies.

All activity of God toward man is of the Incarnation, is Economy, and has its character and attitude. All God’s activity toward man is for man’s salvation – for theosis. Nothing else. Even theology is merely a means to an end – this union with God. Theology is nothing in itself – and union is all. And so our genuine theology is the far reaches of the path of union, rather than any academic study, which is more a discussion of a path rather than a pursuit of it. As the fathers say, theology is prayer, and the true theologian is the one on the path of true prayer.

Synaxis of Saints (Melkite not Orthodox icon)Soteriology: Each human being is so unique that there is no equivalent in all of eternity. In the thinking of the fathers, each person is a macrocosm (super-universe) or microcosm (type of the universe – and summation of all creation). Is this so amazing? Christ quoted our prophet St. David, “I said ye are gods.” This is the meaning of each person’s life – theosis – becoming God – and each person, in whatever circumstances, somehow seeks this meaning. Each person is irreplaceable, which is one reason the Christian can never advocate killing anyone – to kill is genocide against a universe. It is to stop the meaning of existence. It is to repudiate all creation and redemption in one act.

Another result of that is that salvation is always unique to each individual. What saves one, obliterates another. So each person is in continual need of economia. Except by the Lord’s condescension, who of us could survive? The use of economia is not somehow apart from the Economy of Christ’s Incarnation, but is in fact the very expression of it. Christ healed on the Sabbath. He touched the unclean, which to this day bars us from communion as it barred us once from the temple. He overcame the good barrier for the salvation of a universe. Indeed, the Economy is that in which we move, breathe, and have our existence, and we live in economia and by it and through it and with it every day. It is never, certainly, a matter of whim, want, or preference, but must be worked out with our Confessor or Director, as in all things, since we do not trust in our own wisdom. All things indeed are for our salvation, are unique to each of us – but neither as being alone, but in union with one God and thereby one another.

TheologyThe Medicine of Salvation: Recently someone asked about medical conditions, and complained that they weren’t granted an exception. Economia is never an exception: medicine is always prescribed by the same rule by which foods are prohibited in the Fast: salvation. When food becomes medicine, as in the case of severe anemics or diabetics, it is prescribed by the same rule of salvation for which we fast in the first place. We save the whole man, the body and the soul. That said, we do not make these decisions alone, any more than we go to confession or communion alone – but in conjunction with our Confessor or Director. If there’s a physical illness, we discuss it with him, bringing along real and specific information on what we need to eat and how often, what we can and can’t do (a doctor’s note, if we are truly sick, may assist him in considering this), and we ask for an exercise of economia – an expression of the very Incarnation of Christ – The Economy, and we trust in our Confessor’s knowledge and wisdom as we do when he prescribes penance. If we have not sought this, and given our father the tools needed to consider the matter in our specific situation, we cannot speak of the Church being too strict or too lax, but only of our own failing to understand the Church’s doctrine of salvation.

Discernment: Lastly, this concept of economy can be ill-applied. It can. It is hard to judge specific situations, which is what economy is all about. It is much easier to treat policies of “economy”. Economia removes the barriers to salvation for an individual, but it does not presume to remove the Rock of Offense, the scandalon, the stumbling stone Himself. When the truth itself becomes the barrier, it may be far more Christian to let that barrier stand. Christ turned people away, he rebuked the ones who sought resurrection without the cross and, as Patriarch St. Photius has said, “Truth is the highest form of love.”

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February 23, 2008 - Posted by | -- Theology, Western Rite Issues | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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