Wednesday, March 22, 2006

This Merits Discussion

I am humbled this poor blog has touched off a worthwhile discussion: the pre-Schism meaning of the word "merits."

The comments section of this blog began discussing the fact that "merits" occurs in collects predating the doctrine of the works of supererogation; hence, it is not inextricably tied to that doctrine as was so long assumed (by those inside the Western Rite and out). What then does it mean? Subdn. Benjamin Andersen offers a laudatory introductory thought:
[W]ithout having made a thorough study of it, but judging from Brown's hints, it seems to me that "merit" is very roughly equivalent to "holiness," "sanctity," "righteousness" but it is still almost impossible to translate into English...My hunch is that, when in a Collect we pray that we may be aided by a Saint's "merits" we mean that his advocacy for us is connected to his own personal holiness, his righteousness, and more specifically (if Brown's translation is correct) his standing in the heavenly court before God ... much like we would ask a friend, who has a personal relationship with a very powerful ruler, to intercede with him on our behalf and vouch for us.
He then compares this with similar practice in the troparia and kontakia of the Byzantine Rite. A commentor also mentions the Byzantine prayer, "Most Holy Theotokos [Mother of God], save us." Certainly, even the discussion at this stage should dispel the idea that the WRV accepts an heretical, post-Schism Roman doctrine if one of its priests dares utter an ancient collect unchanged.

Perhaps it is time for this term to be re-examined, even re-appropriated, within the light of the Western Orthodox tradition. As Subdn. Benjamin's insight demonstrates, at a minimum such an examination will leave us with a deeper appreciation of our faith.


Blogger Death Bredon said...

Sounds like the Orthodox doctrine of "merits" is synonymous with what we now call the doctrines of prayers of "comprection" or "intercessions."

But, like "transbustaniation," Latin Scholasticism seems to have spoiled invocation of the "merits" of the saints. Probably better to use the word "prayers" instead due to circumstances of history and to avoid confusion.

8:20 PM  
Blogger cheryl said...

I think a thorough discussion regarding the proper understanding of "merit" is necessary.

It would be nice to come to a consensus on this. In my study, Rome, Orthodoxy, and Lutheranism all teach it, but Lutheranism for her part accuses Rome of distorting it's true meaning. I'd be curious to see if this allegation is true, and if the Orthodox could shed any light on this current debate, especially since it is so fundamental to much of what Rome teaches.

Keep up the good work.

11:40 AM  

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