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Posted on 11/29/2006 8:21:57 PM PST by annalex
| Communion of Saints
(Intercession of Saints)
Stephen D. Quinn
The bible is clear that praying to the dead is wrong! Deuteronomy state, "Let there not be found among you anyone who immolates his son or daughter in the fire, nor a fortune-teller, soothsayer, charmer, diviner, or caster of spells, nor one who consults ghosts and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead."(Deuteronomy. 18.11) Other bible passages are equally condemning about condemning this sinful act (see 1 Samuel 28:3-20; 2 Chronicles 10:13, 14; Isaiah 8:19-22). So why do Catholics pray to the dead?
The confusion over the exact meaning of the word "death" was the foundation for the original sin in the Garden of Eden. It should come as no surprise that the devil is at work again confusing this issue with half-truths as a decisive weapon to weaken the Mystical Body of Christ in the spiritual economy of salvation.
Everyone knows the story of the Woman and the fruit in the Garden. The man must have already relayed to the woman the third order from God, "Do not eat from the tree", because in answering the serpent, Eve replies, "You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die." The man had obviously conferred the message forcefully to her, because God only instructed the man that, "the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die." Yet the woman says, "You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die."
The serpent tells the woman: "You certainly will not die!" At this point, we must ask, what is meant by 'death'? The man and woman did not die a physical death, because in Genesis Chapter 4, they give birth to Cain and Abe and Chapter 5 discusses the genealogy of Adam to Noah. God was not talking about a physical death if man ate from the tree of knowledge; He spoke of a far worse kind of death, which is spiritual death.
Anything less than full communion with God constitutes a spiritual separation from God. We know that only those in Heaven enjoy the full communion with God, therefore all others experience some type of spiritual separation (or spiritual death). Complete spiritual separation from God is Hell; this is the devils lot and those who constituted the dead of whom we should not contact/pray to. Catholics do not pray to those dead in spirit (completely spiritually separated from God), however we do ask for those who are physically dead in body (soul separated from body) but spiritually alive in Christ to pray for us. If we ask our friends, who are physically alive in body and spiritually connected (in some way) to Christ to pray for us, we must trust in Saint Pauls words of spiritual unity for those who died in Christs Grace, Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans. 8.38-39 NAB.) Those who have experienced physical death (separation of soul from body) who died in Christs Grace enjoy full communion with God and are more spiritually alive than either ourselves or our friends. (More on this point later in this article).
Man Interceding for Man Before God
St. Augustine said (referring to the bible), "The New Testament is hidden in the Old (Testament) and Old (Testament) is made manifest in the New (Testament)." (CCC 2.36) It is with this insight that we look to scripture to understand the practice of praying for each other to God.
In the first book of the Bible (Genesis) Abraham was visited by the three heavenly visitors, two of which were angels (Genesis. 19.1) and the third being God Himself (Gen 18.20), God reflects to himself, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, now that he is to become a great and populous nation, and all the nations of the earth are to find blessing in him? Indeed, I have singled him out that he may direct his sons and his posterity to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord may carry into effect for Abraham the promises he made about him." (Gen. 18.17-19)
God works with Abraham to bring blessing to the nations because through Abraham, God will gather His scattered flock. God is not without the power to simply bless the other nations. In fact, He has already blessed them with life, love, and the natural law. God chooses to bring them blessing through Abraham as he promised. Abraham already interceded for Abimelech and his household, now God includes Abraham in his justice for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. (Gen 20.7).
God was going to destroy the aforementioned cities because of their wickedness. Israelite tradition was unanimous in ascribing the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah to the wickedness of these cities, but tradition varied in regard to the nature of this wickedness. According to Genesis 19:4, the sin of Sodom was homosexuality, which is therefore also know as sodomy; but according to Isaiah 1:9, it was a lack of social justice; Ezekiel 16:46-51 describes it as a disregard for the poor, whereas Jeremiah 23:14 saw it as general immorality. It is assumed that Gomorrah suffered the same fate as Sodom for the same reasons.
Regardless of the reasons, God revealed to Abraham His plan to purge the evil of Sodom and Gomorrah, much as He had revealed to Noah His plan to purge the evil from the earth by flood. The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah was so great and their sin so grave, that God's justice was invoked. (Gen 18:20).
Out of love for fellow man, Abraham pleaded for God's mercy, "Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty?" Abraham humbly pleads for God not to destroy the city if there can be found at least 10 innocent people. The prayers of righteous Abraham are heard, and although fewer than 10 innocent people can be found, God saves Abraham's innocent nephew Lot, and Lot's family. Except Lot's wife, who was told not to look back at the burning city as she fled.
Abraham's intercession for Sodom and Gomorrah is the first example in Scripture of the necessity of praying to God on behalf of each other. Another example occurs in the book of Job when God said (to one of Job's counselors), "I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoke of me what is right as my servant Job has. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly."( Job 42.7-8 )
Why would Abraham intercede for these sinful towns? Just as God loved man too much to abandon him, Abraham reflects this love for fellow man. From the Old Testament, Cain and Lemech were murderers by heart who contributed to the destruction of mankind through flood. (Gen. 4.19, 9.6) Abraham is a lover of mankind and contributes to the salvation of mankind by "loving" God's people back into relationship with God.
Intercession for One Another
Anyone who loves his neighbor into obedience of God serves as an intercessor or mediator between that man and God (the words intercede and mediate are synonyms in the Greek language the New Testament was written). This does not detract from the sovereignty of God, who so loved the world that he sent His only Son. (Jn. 3:16) Nor does it contradict the Scripture that states, "For there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ." (1 Tim. 2:5) Because just before this statement, Paul writes, "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, and intercessions and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth." (1 Tim 2.1-4)
According to Paul, we are all called to be intercessors and mediators. But if Jesus Christ is the one mediator between God and man, how can we also be intercessors?
Paul teaches, "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were baptized by one Spirit into one body" (1 Cor. 12.12-13) "God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it."( 1 Cor. 12.24-26)
As we participate in the body of Christ as baptized members, we too are mediators between God and man insomuch as we participate in the mediatorship of Jesus Christ. We do not detract from Jesus as mediator and intercessor; we establish His unique mediation and intercession on earth through His body, with Christ as the head of the body. (Tim Staples, All Generations Will Call Me Blessed ) We are told that the church (the visible church established by Jesus in Matthew 16.18 comprised of baptized members) is the body of Christ, of which we are baptized members, with Jesus as the head of the church/body. (Col. 1.18)
Praying for one another is very biblical. Job prayed for his friends to God, likewise Peter the apostle is asked by Simon the sorcerer to pray for him "so that nothing you have said may happen to me." (Acts 8.24) Simon obviously believed he had committed wrong by trying to purchase the gift of the Holy Spirit. Why did not Simon pray to God himself, instead of asking Peter for his intercession?
The Mystical Body Comprises a Spiritual Economy
Many examples can be found of Paul praying for people and asking for prayers saying, "And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message." (Col 4.3) Paul also encourages intercession saying, "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." (Eph 6:18)
Why not just pray directly to Jesus? The short answer is you most defiantly should! All prayer is directed to God the Father through Jesus Christ the Savior by way of the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit who encourages us to pray. However, Saint James says in his letter, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." (Jas 5.16) Who in the body of Christ would be considered righteous?
Paul tells us "God has given greater honor to parts (of the body) that lacked it" (1 Cor. 12.24) and that "the elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor". Since Jesus is the head of the body of Christ (i.e. the church), we pay him infinite honor. His prayer is very powerful before God because He is without sin and therefore perfect in righteousness.
By asking Jesus to intercede for us before God, we honor the entire church (i.e. the entire body). Likewise, when we obey the command to love by praying for one another, our intercession honors the body of Christ who uses His body to redeem mankind. Are we still members of the body of Christ when we suffer a physical death? Absolutely! "Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8.38-39)
We, who are baptized into Christ, are all members of the same body. Neither life nor death separates us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. We are told to pray for each other. Then why could we not ask those who are alive in Christ, though separated from us physically on earth, to pray for us? Do we believe that death separates us as members as the body of Christ? Paul already told us it does not. Furthermore, Jesus says, "His is not the God of the dead but of the living." (Matt. 22.32) We are still alive in Christ even though we pass through death of our physical body.
God and Others Hear Us In Heaven
Perhaps we are concerned that those in Heaven, other than God, cannot hear us. The venerable Patriarch Jacob, when on his deathbed, prayed thus for his two grandchildren: 'May the angel that delivered me from all evils bless these boys!' (Gen. 48:16) Here we see the holy Patriarch - one singularly favored by Almighty God, and enlightened by many supernatural visions, the father of Jehovah's chosen people - asking the angel in heaven to obtain a blessing for his grandchildren. And surely we cannot suppose that he would be so ignorant as to pray to one that could not hear him." (Faith of our Fathers, James Cardinal Gibbons. Page 126.) Thus the text indicates that communication occurs between man and angel, asking the angel to intercede and obtain a blessing from God.
Saints in Heaven
Perhaps we are concerned that only angels are present with God in Heaven and those men and women are not in Heaven. But we need only look at the book of revelation to see that the angels are fellow servants of ours and of our brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. (Rev. 22:9) We can also see our brethren alongside the angels in Heaven as we read further in the book of Revelation:
"When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying 'How long, O Lord, holy and true, will you refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth'? And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also."(Rev 6:9-11)
Another example of saints being raised with Jesus occurs after He yielded His spirit after His crucifixion: "The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many." (Matt 27:52-53) This is clear evidence of that those who rose with Christ interacted with people on earth.
Also, Jesus discusses communication between the righteous and the damned in the story of the rich man and Lazarus (the poor man). Speaking from Hades and in a state of torment, the man who was rich on earth pleaded with Abraham to allow Lazarus to dip his fingertip in water to cool off his tongue and alleviate his agony. Abraham replied, 'remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. Between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.'(Luke 16:19-31)
And lastly, Jesus Himself communicates with those who have died in the body, but whose souls continue to live after this world. In Matthew 17, Peter, James and John see Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah. Some may argue the Elijah never died because he was taken bodily up into heaven. However, Moses definitely died in the body and was buried in Moab (according to Deuteronomy 34:5 and Jude 1:9)), yet he is seen here conversing with Jesus. Is Jesus speaking with the dead in violation of Deuteronomy 18:10-12 which states, "Le no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or cast spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord." Although Moses' body is dead, his soul lives in Heaven with God. Therefore, communicating with those who are alive in Christ, though their body has ceased to live, does not constitute consorting with those who are dead in spirit!
Saints in Heaven See the Unseen
The Biblical evidence shows clearly that communication exists between those in Heaven and on earth. Some might continue to argue that perhaps the saints in Heaven cannot hear all prayers and requests directed at them.
Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians notes that, "For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away."(1 Cor. 13.9-10) He likens our understanding of the spiritual world to that of an adult from childhood: "When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things."(1 Cor 13:11) Bringing the analogy back to his topic, he concludes, "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known." (1 Cor. 13.12)
Just a few chapters earlier in the same letter to the Corinthians, Paul says, "we (the apostles) have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men."(1 Cor 4:9) Can he really be talking about men knowing our thoughts, hearts, and minds as the angels do? Surely we are not greater than the angels? Actually, Paul says, "Do you not know that we will judge angels?"(1 Cor. 6:3)
Logic dictates that someone who judges should be greater than those being judged, or at the very least, a peer selected from one's own societal group, as is case in the United States court system. Therefore, if we are to judge angels, are we not also to 'know fully as we are fully known' in our resurrected state? And what of those who have gone before us, rising with Christ? Surely, they fully know as we will fully know.
Jesus gives us an example of a saint knowing fully all that is unseen and outside the temporal realm to which we, as mortals on this earth, are temporarily confined. In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, Abraham (who died before the time of Moses and the Prophets) speaks authoritatively about their role in the salvation of men. Additionally, Abraham predicts the resurrection when he says, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead."(Luke 16:19-31)
Honoring Saints, Honors God
Saints in Heaven, having been raised by Christ, are more righteous than those of us on earth. They (in Heaven) are without sin in their perfected state of justice and holiness, while we (on earth) struggle in our pursuit of justification, sanctification, and ultimately salvation. By asking our brothers and sisters in Christ here on earth to pray for us, we give honor to the body of Christ. Likewise, we honor the body of Christ when we ask those in heaven to pray for us.
The prayer of the saints in Heaven is powerful because they are righteous. "Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church (the body of Christ) more firmly in holiness. They do not cease to intercede with God for us, as they proffer the merits, which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus. So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped."( CCC p. 249 section 956. Quoting Lumen Gentium and 1 Timothy. 2.5)
The "Kingdom Analogy" used by apologist Patrick Madrid is helpful in understanding how by utilizing the body of Christ, we honor Christ, and that prayer, whether intercessory or in thanksgiving, does not detract from the Glory of the King. Madrid is worth quoting at length. He explains:
"Imagine you are visiting a king. As you are being shown into his royal throne room you notice immediately the beautiful music lilting through the air. As you step into the chamber you are dazzled by the beauty of the palace: gorgeous tapestries hung from the walls, stunning works of art adorning the room, sumptuous carpet covering the floor. You see men and women dressed in splendid apparel, their faces shining with happiness, their countenances beautiful to behold.
As you progress further into the room, towards the king, you realize that the grandeur in the room grows accordingly. Finally, you reach the foot of the throne, and you gaze upon the king himself. He is magnificent, far more glorious than anything or anyone in the room.
You are overwhelmed by the regal beauty of his clothing, his crown, his scepter, his throne. But the king himself is the center, the focal point of all the glory that surrounds him. You can see that this king lavishes his wealth and love for beauty on everything that surrounds him.
Now imagine you're entering the throne room of a different king.
The first thing you notice is the absence of sound. There is no music. There are no exquisite tapestries to catch your eye, no works of art, no jewel-studded carpet. There are no people here. In fact, there is literally nothing in the room that could conceivably distract your attention from the king, who sits in magnificent glory on his throne, at the far end of the room.
Why is this room bare of all ornaments and empty of any courtiers? Because this king is jealous of his glory. He doesn't want you to become distracted by anything else - he wants you to see only himself. This king will allow nothing else to attract your attention, even if just for a moment. True, he is a glorious king, but doesn't his throne room seem drab and empty? Which king is more glorious? Obviously the first.
The first king, because he himself is glorious, lavishes glory on everyone and everything that surrounds him. He is not worried that you will focus for a moment on the beauty of a tapestry or the splendid garb of one of his courtier friends. That you marvel at these glorious peripheral items in itself gives greater honor and glory to him. The glory that suffuses everything around this king is evidence of his own glory. It highlights the fact and pulls our attention always and inexorably to the focus of all: him." (Where is That in the Bible, Patrick Madrid, P. 58-59.)
Saints Praying for Us on Earth
If we need Biblical proof of saints in Heaven praying for us on earth, we need only look to the book of Revelation, which was written by John, the beloved disciple of Jesus. The martyred called out to the Lord for justice on earth (Rev. 6.9-11). Were they seeking revenge? Obviously not! If these souls were in Heaven, as recorded by the inspired writer, then an evil motive is not within their capacity. These martyrs were praying for God to end the evil on the earth and bring justice to the righteous.
More men and women are shown in Heaven: "A great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands."(Rev. 7:9) "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple." (Rev. 7:14-17)
Next we see the saints in Heaven offer their prayers to God in the form of incense.(Rev 5:8) As the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel's hand, the censer is filled with fire from the altar, and thrown at the earth.(Rev 8:3-5) Immediately, events on the earth are affected by the prayers of the saints by the angels with the seven trumpets.(Rev. 8:1)
The saints are praying for the members of the body of Christ who are still on earth and not in Heaven. Although they are not physically present to each other, the saints and the faithful on earth remained united by the Love of Christ.
The inspired writer of the letter to the Hebrews shows this clearly when he states, "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith." (Heb. 12:1-2) Who are the witnesses surrounding us to whom the writer refers?
If we look at the context from the previous chapter of Hebrews, the witnesses referred to are the faithful! (Note: The bible was not originally written in chapter and verse. It was later divide into such an arrangement for easier study.) Hebrews names these people of faith in chronological order of appearance in the Old Testament: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David and Samuel and the prophets, and others who experienced mocking and scourging, chains and imprisonments. They were stoned, sawn in two, tempted, put to death by the sword. They were destitute, afflicted, and ill-treated. (Heb 11.1-37) "And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect."(Heb 11.39-40)
These people comprise the cloud of witnesses that surrounds us. These are the martyrs that cry out for justice before the throne.(Rev. 6.9-11) These comprise the great multitude in Heaven that no one can count.(Rev. 7.9) And these saints, along with all those who pass from this earthly life to the fullness of life in Heaven in Christ, intercede for us constantly until the day when Jesus returns and His angels gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. (Matt. 24.31)
The story of Lazarus and the rich man in Hell yields another instance of those in Heaven being able to intercede for others. Jesus tells that the rich man asked Abraham's intercession on two accounts. The rich man's requests indicate that he knows that Abraham has the power to accomplish this task. (The rich man requested that a person return to his earthly brothers and warn them that hell exists and that they are headed in that direction if they do not become righteous. (Luke 16.19-31)). And we know that Abraham does not do so by his own power, but only through the power of God. Although Abraham denies the rich man's request, we see that the rich man recognizes Abraham's intercessory power to assist people on earth.
In fact, there are only two reasons from scripture for honoring saints (those who have died and are in Heaven):
The basic scriptural argument for the Communion of Saints stems from the following logic:
Some have argued that praying to the dead is condemned by scripture in Deuteronomy 18:11, 1 Samuel 28:3-20; 2 Chronicles 10:13, 14; Isaiah 8:19-22, etc. Catholics agree, communication with the dead, know as "necromancy" is a great sin and opens the door to greater demonic pursuits. However, there is a distinction between those who have died and those who are alive in Christ. St. Luke says: "He is not the God of the dead but of the living."(Luke 20.38) Surely that must include those of us in his love on earth and those of us who are alive in his love more perfectly in heaven.
Simply stated, those who have died and are in heaven (Saints) are more alive than those of us who reside on earth according to St. Paul, "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known."(1 Cor. 13.12)
If you doubt the power of the prayer of a righteous saint, ask God for His pardon (if you feel necessary to do so) as you invoke the intercession of a saint. You will honor God's established economy of salvation when you ask a saint to pray for a specific intention. There are many saints to choose from, and they have many unique gifts. St. Luke was a physician, St. Matthew was good with numbers, St. Paul was a good evangelist, St. Stephen died the first martyr, St. Mary Magdalene honored Jesus, St. Mary the Mother of God cooperated with the will of God, etc. Ask any or all of these holy, Christian men and women who have gone before us in the faith for their prayers as you would a Christian friend here on earth. For our brothers and sisters who died in Christ also rose with Christ; bodily death cannot separate us from the love of Christ nor from each other as members of His mystical Body. These holy men and women enjoy the glorified fellowship of God right now and will gladly intercede with God for your needs.
Why the Emphasis on Saint Mary the Mother Jesus?
One of the greatest tragedies of the Catholic ecumenical movement is to neglect the role of Mary, the virgin Mother of God among those we honor who are alive in heaven. Sure it may be a topic of misunderstanding between the Catholics and the Protestants (due to the misunderstanding of the Communion of Saints), however Mary plays a very important role in the Muslim religion. Before we discuss that, perhaps it would be educational to hear from the "Reformers" about Mary:
Mary as sinless and Immaculately Conceived:
Martin Luther: ". . . she is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin. . . . God's grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil. . . . God is with her, meaning that all she did or left undone is divine and the action of God in her. Moreover, God guarded and protected her from all that might be hurtful to her." (Luther's Works, American edition, vol. 43, p. 40 , ed. H. Lehmann, Fortress, 1968).
Mary as the Mother of God:
Martin Luther: ". . . she is rightly called not only the mother of the man, but also the Mother of God. . . . it is certain that Mary is the Mother of the real and true God." (Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther's Works, English translation edited by J. Pelikan [Concordia: St. Louis], volume 24, 107.)
John Calvin: "Elizabeth called Mary Mother of the Lord, because the unity of the person in the two natures of Christ was such that she could have said that the mortal man engendered in the womb of Mary was at the same time the eternal God." ( John Calvin, Calvini Opera [Braunshweig-Berlin, 1863-1900], Volume 45, 35)
Mary's Perpetual Virginity:
Martin Luther: Christ our Savior was the real and natural fruit of Mary's virginal womb. . . . This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that." ( Ref: Sermon on John 14. 16. Luther's Works (St. Louis, ed. Jaroslav, Pelican, Concordia. vol. 24. p. 107)
John Calvin: "There have been certain folk who have wished to suggest from this passage [Matt 1:25] that the Virgin Mary hand other children than the Son of God, and that Joseph had then dwelt with her later; but what folly is this! For the gospel writer did not wish to record what happended afterwards; he simply sished to make clear Joseph's obedience and to show also that Joseph had been well and truly assured that it was God who had sent His angle to Mary. He had therefore never dwelt with her nor had he shared her company . And besides this Our Lord Jesus Christ is called the first-born. This is not because there was asecond or a third, but because the godpel write is paying regard to the precedence. Scripture speaks thus of naming the first-born whether or no there was any question of the second." (John Calvin, Sermon on Matthew. 1.22-25, 1562)
Ulrich Zwingli: "I firmly believe that Mary, according to the words of the gospel as a pure Virgin brought forth for us the Son of God and in childbirth and after childbirth forever remained a pure, intact Virgin." (Ulrich Zwingli, Zwingli Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Volume 1, 424)
Martin Luther: "Men have crowded all her glory into a single phrase: The Mother of God. No one can say anything greater of her, though he had as many tongues as there are leaves on the trees." (On the Gospel of St. John: Luther's Works, vol. 22. p. 23, ed. Jaroslav Pelican, Concordia, 1957)
John Calvin: "It cannot be denied that God in choosing and destining Mary to be the Mother of his Son, granted her the highest honor." ( John Calvin, Calvini Opera [Braunshweig-Berlin, 1863-1900], Volume 45, 348).
Ulrich Zwingli: "The more the honor and love of Christ increases among men, so much the esteem and honor given to Mary should grow." (Ulrich Zwingli, Zwingli Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Volume 1, 427-428)
Luther Asking For Mary's Intercession:
David F. Wright, Chosen by God: Mary in Evangelical Perspective (London: Marshall Pickering, 1989, p. 178: "In Luther's Explanation of the Magnificat in 1521, he begins and ends with an invocation to Mary, which Wright feels compelled to call 'surprising'". (Cited from Faith & Reason, Spring 1994, p. 6.) (Luther On Our Lady. Fr. William Most. http://www.ewtn.com/library/SCRIPTUR/LUTHMRY.TXT)
Clearly, the Reformers were familiar with the Mary's statement, "All generations will call me blessed."(Lk. 1.47-48) Though this does not exhaust the scriptural references to Mary and her role as a powerful intercessor before God on our behalf, one can begin to understand why the Reformers held Mary such high esteem, and why many Christians still call her "blessed today.
Even if Mary was great and God did great things through and with her, why such an emphasis on her today? It seems unfounded until you read Revelation 12: "And a great sign appeared in the heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery." Who do you suppose the "woman" from Revelation 12 is referring to? Some have argued that the woman is the Church. Perhaps in a secondary sense, however that argument deteriorates in the context of the passage. It was Jesus who gave birth to the Church, not the Church who gave birth to Jesus. Therefore, the woman who gave birth to the "male child, destine to rule the nations" was Mary. (Rev 12:4)
Reading further we see the great red dragon (Satan) appear and "stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth."(Rev. 12:4) The dragon pursued her, but God protected her. "Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring," Who are those offspring? St. John does not leave us to wonder. He tells us her offspring are, "those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus."(Rev. 12:17)
Why does Revelation emphasize Mary? Because Christ emphasizes her. He inspired John to write about her in Revelation as the Mother of all those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus; He gave his mother to mankind (symbolized by John) at the foot of the cross; He followed the commandment of "honor thy mother and father" and we are called to act in like manor, not just with our earthly mothers and fathers, but with our heavenly mother and father.
Much more could be developed with respect to Marian typology (or Mariology), however that is not within the scope of this article. I will conclude this discussion on the intercessory power of those alive with God in heaven (the saints) and specifically Mary with the following paragraph.
But does not all of this emphasis on Mary detract from the glory of God and Jesus? We already addressed the fact (earlier in the article) that her intercession establishes God's glory rather than detract from it. Furthermore, Mary is like the moon and Jesus like the sun. The moon has no light of its own that it does not receive from the sun. However, the moon reflects and radiates the light of the sun and is seen as glorious, not to the exclusion of the sun, but because of it. And so it is with Mary. She reflects and radiates the glory of Jesus to the benefit of her offspring. This in no way makes her equal with Jesus; however, one can safely say that she holds a special place in heaven.
Most comprehensive treatment of the subject I've seen.
"Copyright 2002" refers to the website, apparently. The article is in the 2004 folder.
What is this icon properly called? Is it Russian? Looks like Moscow school.
Definitely. Excellent post, Alex.
I don't think I've ever seen this specific icon before. It looks like a variation of an icon called "The Intercession of the Virgin" which is a Novgorod School icon, 14th/15th century. It is certain that it is Russian.
All of the examples the author uses are people praying for other people. There is only one example in scripture of someone asking a dead saint to intercede in behave of him before God. Saul tried this with Samuel and it didn't go well for him. The author only eludes to this event and this is what he has to say:
The author makes the claim,
You can pray without a certain knowledge. You pray on the assumption that the intercessor is in Heaven, and if he is not, the prayer goes unanswered. In the case of a saint of the Church, we know because of the canonization that examined signs of sainthood.
A saint is not a sinless person (you bring up St. Peter whose sinful nature is amply described in the Gospel). The fact that you have a grievance against St. Thomas More but not against St. Peter does not invalidate St. Thomas More's status as a martyr.
God was pretty mad at Saul about the whole affair
The Church teaches that the fathers of the Hebrews were not a part of the Communion of Saints till Christ rescued them from the Limbo, so the entire Old Testament line of argument is moot.
What the Reformers believed about Our Lord's Blessed Mother would never lead to veneration though, would it? Since you're quoting Luther and Calvin. Luther said that he didn't think saying the Hail Mary would be much of a problem for someone whose understanding of the Faith was solid, but that it wasn't something that should be encouraged.
Departing from that point, back in April of this year, National Review carried a review of some book by Fr. Nehaus. He stated that one of his parishoners told him that she didn't bother going to Christ because she had His Mother instead. He wrote it off as unimportant and just a case of 'bad theology.' But I think it's much more than that.
Back on the L&E thread you noted that it was considered sinful to pray to Christ for the little things, that that's what the saints were for. I even think you said that your assertion was to be found in Scripture. I saved the post but don't have it at the ready right now. Can post it later, if you'd like. Not trying to play gotcha here, just want to point out something you said that I thought was wrong, and allow you to elaborate if I misunderstood or misinterpreted.
I was once driving somewhere and praying a Rosary. I got lost. The mystery I was meditating on happened to be Mary finding Jesus in the temple. The concern about finding my way in the streets combined with the picture of Mary looking for her Child in the pilgrims' traffic. The beads became a hand guiding mine. After the decade got said, I realized the state of my mind and was amused by the blend of the everyday and the eternal that my prayer contained. It was not an intercessory prayer, -- I was not praying to find my way, and I was not particularly distressed by being lost. My greater concern was not to lose concentration on the Mystery while making turns and traffic stops. I believe this episode shows the power of a meditative prayer that matches the everyday worry: it made my meditation on the Gospel extremely vivid.
Name one. And if you can't find one that says not to "pray to the dead", I hope you will immediately retract your false assertion.
Definitely. However, show me the scripture that bothers you if it has not been covered already.
Any scripture, therefore, that has been interpreted to mean otherwise is ipso facto wrong.
The foundation is destroyed, so that built on the foundation likewise falls.
We've discussed this great detail on other threads, by your own insistence, and over my objections that it is a waste of time, you being invested in the Catholic dogma and can't hear or see any thing that opposes it.
So, why ping me to this thread, which simply builds on a destroyed foundation?
The Luke 24:5 passage is completely irrelevant to the issue of asking departed saints to pray for us.
Where's your retraction?
Harley, that's flat wrong and you know it.
First off, conjuring up a dead person using a medium is always wrong, so that was Saul's first error. And Saul doesn't ask Samuel to "intercede in behave [sic] of him before God." 1 Sam 28:16 tells you, and Samuel, exactly why Saul conjured him up: "I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do.".
That's the sin of necromancy, it was necromancy for Saul and it would be the sin of necromancy if a Catholic did it.
I pinged you because our conversation started with your questons about the communion of saints, and this article provides a clear and comprehensive answer.
The foundation is "faith once delivered to rhe saints", not the scrupture. However, this is a chance to discuss the scripture as pertains to the issue. I do not see a substantive scriptural rebuttal, only handwringing over how the Catholic Church is, well, catholic.
Harley, Forgive me if I am wrong, but didn't the Jews have a different idea of the dead than we Christians do? Didn't they believe in a "Sheol", a place of shades where people did NOT co-exist with God? The idea of resurrection and eternal life was a relatively new concept during the time of our Lord. Thus, I believe here is another place we find development of doctrine - specifically WITHIN Scriptures themselves as the community came to grip with the revelation that God had given them (incomplete and gradual, culminating in the Gospel preached by the Apostles).
Thus, I don't think it is worthwhile to point to the Old Testament restrictions about "praying with the dead" - unless you also want to condemn Jesus Christ Himself and His discussions with two "dead" prophets...
We now live in a new paradigm, not one guided by the Old Covenant ideas. For example, death on a tree is no longer seen as a condemnation by God...
14 ...Behold, the Lord cometh with thousands of his saints, 15 To execute judgment upon all, and to reprove all the ungodly for all the works of their ungodliness
The icon originally in the article is gone, unfortunately.