“They openly declared that they were Christians, and that the Christian faith is necessary to salvation.”
This is from the third lesson of Matins for today’s feast of Sts Cosmas and Damian. This is what they told the Roman prefect when they were arrested on charges of being Christians. What stood out to me, was not that these holy martyrs boldly proclaimed their faith in our Lord, but took the opportunity to inform their capture of the necessity of their faith for salvation. Why is it so hard to get a clear statement from our shepherds today about this necessity?
Maybe His Holiness’ recent public letter to an atheist has made me more sensitive to this topic. But why is that whenever the question of who can be saved arises today, the only thing we hear is an over emphasis on the exceptional possibility that those who are not in visible communion with the Church *could* be saved anyway. And whenever this is broached there is never any clarification that even in these cases, God is spiritually including them in the Church, in spite of their failure to enter it visibly.
I know, I know. We want to be inviting and not scare people off. I get that. If you get people to talk to you about the faith, you can get into the details later, when they are more open to it. Fine. But at some point you have to disclose the whole truth, and let people know that, yes, the Christian faith is *necessary* for salvation. What I wouldn’t give for one statement, spoken with the simplicity of the faith of the ancient martyrs, from a modern bishop on this matter! He wouldn’t even get his head cut off for it (in most places anyway)!
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