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Duff Heitzman wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Did the saints "attain" their own salvation? (See CCC 1477)

    1477 "This treasury includes as well the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are truly immense, unfathomable, and even pristine in their value before God. In the treasury, too, are the prayers and good works of all the saints, all those who have followed in the footsteps of Christ the Lord and by his grace have made their lives holy and carried out the mission in the unity of the Mystical Body."

Duff

  { Did the saints "attain" their own salvation? (See CCC 1477) }

John replied:

Hi, Duff —

All salvation comes in and through Jesus Christ; that includes the Saints, Mary, and the rest of us. All salvation is a work of Grace from beginning to end, which required our free will cooperation
so depending on what you mean by "attain" the answer could be "yes" or "no".

Romans 8 tells us:

if by the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the flesh you will live
(meaning eternal life) (Romans 8:13)

So it is by the Spirit that all Christians actively cooperate with Christ's work in us.

In Philippians, Paul writes —

work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God at work in you to work His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12)

The statement seems like a paradox, and it is. It is a Mystery of faith. God saves us, but we must allow Him to; and it's not just a passive, emotional, interior cooperation. James tells us:

"faith without works is dead." (James 2:20)

No one can save themselves through their own works. Faith alone, without obedience, cooperation, and submission to the Lord, is not real faith; it's simply intellectual assent.

Hence, we do play a role in our own salvation and in the salvation of others because by virtue of being in the Body of Christ, the Spirit of God works in and through us, if we cooperate to save ourselves and others.

This is all, in and through, Jesus Christ — and that's the same for everyone.

John

Eric replied:

Duff —

Note that CCC 1477 says that this was done by the grace of Christ {by his grace}. They attained salvation, and by "own salvation" we are referring to their salvation as opposed to someone else's salvation (because this is in the context of a topic that pertains to their relationship to the lives of other people), not as if they, on their own, apart from grace, merited their salvation.

Let's look at the definition of "attain":

  1. : REACH, GAIN, ACHIEVE, ACCOMPLISH <difficult to attain a realistic effect>,
    <attain repose>, <attain his goal>
  2. : to come into possession of: OBTAIN <attain a kingdom>, <attain preferment>
  3. : to reach or come to by progression or motion: arrive at <attain the top of the hill>,
    <attain a ripe old age>

Thus it does not necessarily imply that the saints "earned" their salvation apart from Christ,
it simply means that they reached, possessed, obtained, or arrived at salvation.

This word is used to refer to our salvation in Philippians 3:11 and Romans 9:30 (YLT). St. Paul,
in 1 Corinthians 9:24, even compares salvation to a prize we work hard to achieve. In that context, it even makes sense to say we gain, achieve, and accomplish our salvation.

I recommend you read the Catechism section on merit, paragraphs 2006 — 2011, especially the heading which says, "for in crowning [the saints'] merits, you are crowning your own gifts."

Still, while salvation is pure give, a total gift from God, there is a cooperation involved in the process. Salvation is properly our own because, enabled by God's prior grace, we will to accept it, and cooperate with it, and ultimately are responsible for not rejecting it.

Hence, we can say that salvation is our own, as well as from God.

Eric

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