Thursday, August 14, 2008

Merits of the Saints: St. Peter Chrysologus

Over on Conversi ad Dominum, Fr. John W. Fenton quotes St. Peter Chrysologus' sermon of the feast of St. Lawrence (celebrated Sunday), which ends thus:
Therefore let us honor and esteem the merits of the martyrs as being the gifts of God. Let us beg for them, and add the inclination of our own will.
Fr. Fenton notes the the term "merits" is familiar to most of us only through the medieval dispute over works of supererogation, etc., but intimates it may not be inexplicably bound up with such notions. He writes:
St Peter Chrysologus, however, is certainly not medieval, and does not, to my mind, evidence "pre-medieval" tendencies (whatever these may be). Hence, his use of the term "merits" suggests that, perhaps, there is a proper use of the term that neither reactively requires its deletion nor unthinkingly compels it to be understood in a scholastic context.
Of St. Chrysologus, "the Western Chrysostom," Fr. Fenton is certainly correct.

Subdn. Benjamin Andersen has a few comments on Fr. Fenton's post, which are, as always, enlightening.

We had a discussion of merits on this blog in March, 2006. I was humbled that discussion spurred Subdn. Benjamin Andersen to write an outstanding blog entry on the topic, which I link for those able to access his blog. For those who can't, I quoted and commented upon his entry here.

Though this discussion is in a most embryonic stage, Fr. Fenton's post alludes to a fascinating question: to what degree would the term "merits" be applicable within Orthodox theology, and should such use then be made of it? Everyone agrees further study is needed; I would love to see such be undertaken. Surely somewhere there must be an Orthodox philanthropist or medievalist willing to underwrite such research? Or someone with the appropriate grounding in patristics and Western history willing to read? Is Bp. HILARION (Alfeyev) out there somewhere? :)

As I wrote before, this merits discussion.

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