Is my personal holiness enough for salvation?
We speak a lot about the spiritual struggle. We say that we need to be close to Christ; be one with Him. We need to pray, to participate in the Sacraments of the Church, to fast, to fight against the passions, to cultivate virtue. However, if we become too introspective with our spiritual life, we lose perspective and thus lose sight of the purpose of our spiritual life.
Unfortunately many people practice Christianity in a very personalised and self-centred way. They end up feeling very privileged and entitled in the eyes of God, but unfortunately they end up deluded about themselves and disconnected from the Body of Christ, the Ark of Salvation, which is the Church.
Thus, if we have a close look at the way this question is worded, we will find a problem. That is, there is no such thing as ‘personal holiness’. Instead, we are saved through each other. Holiness happens through the cleansing of ourselves and the giving of ourselves to God through communion and love with each other. Even the most isolated hermit will be in communion with the Church through his prayers, and especially his heartfelt prayers about the world.
St Paul puts it very beautifully when he describes the Church as the body of Christ. As members of this body, we are all interdependent; we depend on each other in order to progress spiritually, and ultimately, to be saved. He says:
I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment… For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them… Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honour (Romans 12:3-10, RSV).
In practical terms, our salvation depends on how much we can give of ourselves to each other in the Lord. God has given us different gifts so we can help the other. Most importantly, we are dependent on each other’s prayers. My prayer will help you and others, and your prayer will help me and others, and so forth.
God is Trinity, which means there is a communion of love between the three Persons of the Trinity (i.e. not a self-centred or even a two-way love). Also, if we look at the example of the Saints, not one of them achieved salvation just for themselves. Their prayer and holy life edified and sanctified those around them. Also, each of the Saints was, at some point, edified by someone else from within the Church.
The source of holiness is Christ, and those who attain holiness do so in the body of Christ, i.e. the Church. Attaining holiness then edifies the Church and its other members, so that those who are living members of the Body of Christ can be saved.
May the good Lord thus grant that we are living members of His Body.
† Fr G. L.
Source: December-January 2015 Lychnos Edition