The following article was written by Father Emmanuel in his early years as a Deacon.
THE LIFE OF GRACE
I recently asked myself the question. Is it possible to have faith without grace? I did not search for any answer at the time. A few days later I was reading holy Scripture where St Paul wrote to the Ephesians: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God…" (Eph. 2:8)
It is therefore impossible to practice the faith out of one’s own disposition, out of one’s own intent. Faith may be practiced because of the gift of God, because of the gift of grace. "Life is the strength to act" says Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894: Extract from The Art of Prayer – An Orthodox Anthology pp.137), "Spiritual life is the strength to act spiritually, according to the will of God. Man has lost this strength; therefore until it is restored in him, he cannot live spiritually, no matter how much he intends to. That is why the flow of grace into the soul of a believer is essential for a true Christian life. True Christian life is the life of grace. A man makes some religious resolution: but in order to be able to act according to it, it is necessary that grace be united with his spirit. The re-establishment of the moral strength of the spirit is effected by the regenerating action of baptism, through which man is granted justification and the strength to act ‘after God in righteousness and true holiness.’ (Eph. 4:24)
So two basic questions remain: What is grace? And how does one attain and retain grace if it is by grace that we are saved?
Firstly, it is important to know that all good things come from above. The active ingredient of faith is grace. Grace is the energy of God working through His servants who are those who learn to hear Him and follow Him. I say learn to hear and follow Him because the very act of turning to God is also a gift from above. When St Paul was on his way to Damascus to persecute and cause havoc to the Christians, Christ appeared to him as a brilliant light that blinded him and stopped him in his path. Paul learned to listen and to follow Christ. God chose Paul. It was not Paul who chose God. Moreover, it was not Paul who worked his way to a state of grace, but the gift of "grace was given" so that Paul "should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." (Eph. 3:8) Paul referred to himself as "a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power." (Eph. 3:7)
But though the gift is freely given, it cannot be freely retained if the gift is not actively worked with humility. For grace is charged with the love of God which is the active calling of our Creator, to become holy once again. Grace is the calling of God to restore His creation through the love of Christ we "may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Eph. 3: 19)
To receive grace and to do nothing with it is like a state of unconsciousness. Under these circumstances it cannot but be withdrawn from us. The gift of grace is not given for us alone and it is not given as the same gift for all. "But to each of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift." "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers…" (Eph. 4:7,11)