Saturday, February 09, 2013

On Praying to the Saints

First off, praying to the Saints is part of the "communion of saints" which most Christians profess in the ancient creeds of Christendom.  We're all part of that communion while we're in the state of grace.  Those who were alive in Christ on Earth still are even after physical death since nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ (Rom 8:38-39).  We see more evidence of this in Scripture in the Book of Revelation (aka The Apocalypse) of St. John 5:8:

And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. (NIV)
And in Hebrews 12:1-3 the "great cloud of witnesses" are those who are watching us and aware of what we are going through - they see us in our sins, so we are to "throw off everything which hinders us..." see verses:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame,and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (NIV)
The Saints are not "dead" - but "alive" in Heaven!  We see evidence of that at the Transfiguration of Jesus where He and the three Apostles (Sts. Peter, James and John) with Him were joined by Moses and Elijah.  Obviously Moses and Elijah are not "dead" when they are present here. Matthew 17:1-9:  
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyonewhat you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
One more scriptural passage for now too, Matthew 22:32:
‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” (NIV)
That pretty much sums up the fact that the Saints in Heaven are not "dead."

Martin Luther wrote in the prologue to his commentary on the Magnifcat on March 10, 1521 (after he split with the Catholic Church in 1517):
May the tender Mother of God herself procure for me the spirit of wisdom, profitably and thoroughly to expound this song of hers, so that your Grace as well as we all may draw therefrom wholesome knowledge and a praiseworthy life, and thus come to chant and sing this Magnificat eternally in heaven. To this may God help us. Amen. 
One can see here, clearly, that Luther is asking (praying) that the Mother of God procure (intercede, make a request to God) for him wisdom, profitably, etc.  Rejection of praying to Mary and the Saints is something which developed later.

St. Augustine wrote:
"A Christian people celebrates together in religious solemnity the memorials of the martyrs, both to encourage their being imitated and so that it can share in their merits and be aided by their prayers" (Against Faustus the Manichean [A.D. 400]).

"There is an ecclesiastical discipline, as the faithful know, when the names of the martyrs are read aloud in that place at the altar of God, where prayer is not offered for them. Prayer, however, is offered for the dead who are remembered. For it is wrong to pray for a martyr, to whose prayers we ought ourselves be commended" (Sermons 159:1 [A.D. 411]).

"At the Lord’s table we do not commemorate martyrs in the same way that we do others who rest in peace so as to pray for them, but rather that they may pray for us that we may follow in their footsteps" (Homilies on John 84 [A.D. 416]).

"Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ" (The City of God 20:9:2 [A.D. 419]).
How about the verses in the Old Testament which condemn prayers to the dead?  Well as we've already established above - the Saints in Heaven are not "dead," nor is God the God of the dead, but the living.  One common verse put out for discussion is Deuteronomy 18:10-12:
10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord; and because of these detestable things the Lord your God will drive them out before you. (NASB)
This passage speaks specifically toward not seeking a medium, as Saul did when he sought guidance from his, now passed on, spiritual director, the Prophet Samuel through the Medium (or Witch) of Endor (1 Samuel 28).  The point is that none among them (the People of God) should be a witch, sorcerer or medium.  We are not to "call up the dead" as in a seance or the like, but asking one who has gone before us to pray for us is not the same thing, and I reiterate - those who have gone before us to Heaven are not "dead" - but rather, "alive" in Christ!  

I hope this helps, and I look forward to comments or questions you might have.

In Christ,

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