Thursday, February 7, 2013


The Communion of Saints - 

After catching a piece of a show on Catholic radio the other night, my brother asked me a few things about the communion of saints.   He is a Lutheran, and I am a Catholic.  We get along wonderfully, and while we enjoy healthy argument, he surprises me periodically with some things I take for granted in all Christian doctrine.  It hadn't occurred to me that the Lutherans, who were founded by a Catholic priest, (granted, a somewhat heretical Catholic priest in some of his views), and since we share the apostolic creed with the Lutherans, it didn't occur to me that there was any difference regarding the saints.  Then of course, being a writer by nature, I just trip over my lips in verbal interplay, and make a disaster out of the easiest of conversations with others.  I sure wish sometimes that I had taken debate in high school instead of maybe ROTC or biology.  (though biology made me pro-life, way ahead of my time, and I've always been grateful for that.  That I never fell for that particular piece of modern hogwash (abortion), when the rest of my peers did.  And I wasn't even Christian.  I was pro-life a good 30 years before I was a Christian.  Even while enmeshed in some of the most far out, liberal, "new age", relativist, fiddlety foop you can imagine during that interval of time.

Anyway, back to the point of this blog post.  Two points actually.  Is there a communion of saints, and the broader question is on intercessory prayer, which I also assumed the Lutherans engaged in.  

So first - what exactly is the communion of saints?:  According to the Catholic Encylopedia, it is:  "the spiritual solidarity which binds together the faithful on earth, the souls in purgatory, and the saints in heaven in the organic unity of the same mystical body under Christ its head, and in a constant interchange of supernatural offices. The participants in that solidarity are called saints by reason of their destination and of their partaking of the fruits of the Redemption (1 Corinthians 1:2 — Greek Text). The damned are thus excluded from the communion of saints. "  

So essentially everyone is included in this communion, both living, dead, and angels, except anyone who is destined for hell by the individual or general judgement.

Luther himself believed the communion of saints, and it is written of in his theological writings.  He believed not only that the saints form a living communion and a mystical body.  He extended the notion of sainthood even further to include the possibility of saints being recognized during mortal life.  While the Lutherans themselves don't canonize, they do acknowledge sainthood and saints.  And yes, there are Lutheran churches named for saints.  Even one in Las Vegas (St. Andrew Lutheran Church).

The communion of saints is a part of the Apostles Creed, which we both proclaim.

So saints exist, and are in communion with the living and with the angels who are in communion with God.  Jesus is the head of the communion of saints.  Extra-scriptural sources will be a problem since the Lutherans subscribe to the mystifying, and decidedly non-scriptural idea of "sola scriptura", or scripture alone.  (which itself isn't taught in scripture).  But that's a whole other blog post.  ;-).

So here are the de fide dogmas concerning the communion of saints (de fide is that they are integral to the belief of the Christian Church without doubt) - For my information sources, I am using the Douay Rheims Bible with Haydock commentary and the text book "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma" by Dr. Ludwig Ott.  Fr. Ott uses St. Jerom's Sacra Vulgata (Latin), which was derived from the Greek Septuagint and was the document used for the Douay Rheims English translation, as well as the original King James.  In modern printings of the King James, the books from the Greek Septuagint which did not appear in some of the Hebrew manuscripts in existence, have been either omitted or classified as "Apocrypha", and placed as a supplement to the King James in the back of the Bible or after the OT.  I recommend that protestants intent on serious Bible study, and who have an aversion to St. Jerome's Vulgate, or the Revised Standard Version (Cath. Edition), and wish to use the King James only to find a copy of the King James, such as the Oxford Press edition, which contains the "Apocrypha" and "Dueterocanonical" Books.  I believe the only passage used here which is not in modern printings of the KJV is the passage from 2 Maccabees.

1.  It is permissible and profitable to venerate the Saints in Heaven, and to invoke their intercession. (De fide.)

Scriptural references:

Our right to venerate the Saints can be deduced from the veneration of angels in scripture.  This veneration (which is not worship) is based on their supernatural dignity due to their immediate union with God.  
JOSHUA 5:13 And when Josue was in the field of the city of Jericho, he lifted up his eyes, and saw a man standing over against him: holding a drawn sword, and he went to him, and said: Art thou one of ours, or of our adversaries? [14] And he answered: No: but I am prince of the host of the Lord, and now I am come. [15]Josue fell on his face to the ground. And worshipping, add: What saith my lord to his servant?
[14] Prince of the host of the Lord: St. Michael, who is called prince of the people of Israel, Dan. 10. 21.
[15] Worshipping: Not with divine honour, but with a religious veneration of an inferior kind, suitable to the dignity of his person.
DANIEL 8:16 And I heard the voice of a man between Ulai: and he called, and said: Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision. [17] And he came and stood near where I stood: and when he was come, I fell on my face trembling, and he said to me: Understand, O son of man, for in the time of the end the vision shall be fulfilled. 
TOBIT 12:14 And now the Lord hath sent me to heal thee, and to deliver Sara thy son's wife from the devil. [15] For I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord. [16] And when they had heard these things, they were troubled, and being seized with fear they fell upon the ground on their face. [17] And the angel said to them: Peace be to you, fear not. [18] For when I was with you, I was there by the will of God: bless ye him, and sing praises to him.
Since the Saints are also in immediate union with God (see scripture below), it is reasonable that they are also due the same veneration due to the supernatural dignity of their immediate union.
MATTHEW 18:10 See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.

1 CORINTHIANS 13:12 We see now through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then I shall know even as I am known. 

1 JOHN 3: [2] Dearly beloved, we are now the sons of God; and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. We know, that, when he shall appear, we shall be like to him: because we shall see him as he is. 

We find the faith the Jewish people in intercessory prayer in 2 MACABEES where in a credible vision, the deceased high priest Onias, and the deceased prophet Jeremiah pray for the Jewish people, and for the Holy City:

2 MACABEES 15:[11] So he armed every one of them, not with defence of shield and spear, but with very good speeches and exhortations, and told them a dream worthy to be believed, whereby he rejoiced them all. [12] Now the vision was in this manner: Onias who had been high priest, a good and virtuous man, modest in his looks, gentle in his manners, and graceful in his speech, and who from a child was exercised in virtues, holding up his hands, prayed for all the people of the Jews: [13] After this there appeared also another man, admirable for age, and glory, and environed with great beauty and majesty: [14] Then Onias answering, said: This is a lover of his brethren, and of the people of Israel: this is he that prayeth much for the people, and for all the holy city, Jeremias the prophet of God. [15] Whereupon Jeremias stretched forth his right hand, and gave to Judas a sword of gold, saying:

[16] Take this holy sword a gift from God, wherewith thou shalt overthrow the adversaries of my people Israel.  
According to the Tobit, Jeramiah and Revelation, the Saints and the angels take the prayers of the holy on earth and lay them at the feet of God, that is, they support them with their intercession.  It also fits with the definition of charity (love) from St. Paul, that charity is eternal.  Invoking the Saints logically follows from the fact of their intercession:
JEREMIAH 15:1 And the Lord said to me: If Moses and Samuel shall stand before me, my soul is not towards this people: cast them out from my sight, and let them go forth.
TOBIT 12:12 When thou didst pray with tears, and didst bury the dead, and didst leave thy dinner, and hide the dead by day in thy house, and bury them by night, I offered thy prayer to the Lord. 
REVELATION 5:8 And when he had opened the book, the four living creatures, and the four and twenty ancients fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints
[8] The prayers of saints: Here we see that the saints in heaven offer up to Christ the prayers of the faithful upon earth.
REVELATION 8:3 And another angel came, and stood before the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer of the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar, which is before the throne of God.
Prayer is only necessary for the living who are on earth, or those in purgation and destined for heaven.  Those in heaven do not need prayer as they are receiving their reward and have the beatific vision.  Therefore the prayers they offer before the throne of God are prayers of the living. (us)
1 CORINTHIANS 13:[8] Charity never falleth away: whether prophecies shall be made void, or tongues shall cease, or knowledge shall be destroyed.
If charity never falleth away, then those who love us, and are in heaven, still feel charity and love for us, and would therefore pray for us to God.
We venerate the Saints not because they are equal with Christ.  They are not.  We started with veneration of the martyrs.  We adore Christ because He is the Son of the Living God.  We offer the Saints the love due to disciples and imitators of Christ.  Because of their unsurpassable devotion to our Lord and Savior.  
The Church fathers have much more to say on this topic.  I am keeping it confined to scripture, because protestants only accept scripture as authoritative, and don't recognize Apostolic teaching authority beyond what the few apostles themselves noted in scripture.  This is a shame.  Jesus taught the Apostles.  The Apostles taught the Church Fathers.  The Church Fathers taught the next generation of Bishops.  Those Bishops taught the next generation etc. right on down to current times.  The Church is both a repository of the faith, and a living body of Christ as well, until he comes again.

2.  It is permissible and profitable to venerate the relics of the Saints. (De fide.)
I will just give the scripture passages and make brief comment:

 EXODUS 13:19 And Moses took Joseph's bones with him: because he had adjured the children of Israel, saying: God shall visit you, carry out my bones from hence with you.

2 KINGS 13:21 And some that were burying a man, saw the rovers, and cast the body into the sepulchre of Eliseus. And when it had touched the bones of Eliseus, the man came to life, and stood upon his feet

2 KINGS 2:13 - And he took up the mantle of Elias, that fell from him: and going back, he stood upon the bank of the Jordan, [14] And he struck the waters with the mantle of Elias, that had fallen from him, and they were not divided. And he said: Where is now the God of Elias? And he struck the waters, and they were divided, hither and thither, and Eliseus passed over.[15] And the sons of the prophets at Jericho, who were over against him, seeing it said: The spirit of Elias hath rested upon Eliseus. And coming to meet him, they worshipped him, falling to the ground,

[15] They worshipped him: viz., with an inferior, yet religious veneration, not for any temporal, but spiritual excellency.
ACTS 19:12 So that even there were brought from his body to the sick, handkerchiefs and aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the wicked spirits went out of them.
3.  It is permissible and profitable to venerate images of the Saints. (De fide.)
The type of veneration engaged in regarding the saints is of a different type than that referred to in Exodus 20:4, which was intended to prevent the Israelites from relapsing into the idolatry of their pagan ancestory.  The council of Trent determined that honor shown to the images refers to the prototypes which they represent..  Examples are Ex. 25:18 (Cherubim on the ark) and Numbers 21:8 (The Brazen Serpent):

EXODUS 25:18 Thou shalt make also two cherubims of beaten gold, on the two sides of the oracle.

NUMBERS 21: 8 And the Lord said to him: Make brazen serpent, and set it up for a sign: whosoever being struck shall look on it, shall live.

For the Catholics (who are not, themselves, superstitious and misunderstanding of the idea - they are indeed in error), the imagery of Saints is a visual reminder of their lives.  Something akin to the busts and statues in a museum of great characters from history.  It is also akin to carrying photographs of those you love in your wallet, or putting together photo albums.  You look a statue or a picture, and it is a reminder of that persons life, or their deeds.  Their holiness, and the exemplary life they led.  It is also a tribute and an honor in art.  It is not such as the "golden calf", in which the material item itself is believed to be a God, or that the item itself gives power.  We are not making Gods of statues of a Saint, or a painting of a Saint.  We are remembering a great person from our "family" history.  It is often a visual reminder to ourselves to imitate some aspect of that Saint's life in our own.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is derived from scripture, Christian councils of Bishops, Papal documents, and the Saints, Doctors, and Fathers of the Christian Church has this to say on the Saints and Intercessory Prayer:

2634 Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners.112 He is "able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them."113 The Holy Spirit "himself intercedes for us . . . and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."114
2635 Since Abraham, intercession - asking on behalf of another has been characteristic of a heart attuned to God's mercy. In the age of the Church, Christian intercession participates in Christ's, as an expression of the communion of saints. In intercession, he who prays looks "not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others," even to the point of praying for those who do him harm.115
2636 The first Christian communities lived this form of fellowship intensely.116 Thus the Apostle Paul gives them a share in his ministry of preaching the Gospel117 but also intercedes for them.118 The intercession of Christians recognizes no boundaries: "for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions," for persecutors, for the salvation of those who reject the Gospel.119

956 The intercession of the saints. "Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness. . . . They do not cease to intercede with the Father 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."495

Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life.496I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth.497
957 Communion with the saints. "It is not merely by the title of example that we cherish the memory of those in heaven; we seek, rather, that by this devotion to the exercise of fraternal charity the union of the whole Church in the Spirit may be strengthened. Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself"498:

We worship Christ as God's Son; we love the martyrs as the Lord's disciples and imitators, and rightly so because of their matchless devotion towards their king and master. May we also be their companions and fellow disciples!499
958 Communion with the dead. "In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead; and 'because it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins' she offers her suffrages for them."500 Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.
959 In the one family of God. "For if we continue to love one another and to join in praising the Most Holy Trinity - all of us who are sons of God and form one family in Christ - we will be faithful to the deepest vocation of the Church."501
960 The Church is a "communion of saints": this expression refers first to the "holy things" (sancta), above all the Eucharist, by which "the unity of believers, who form one body in Christ, is both represented and brought about" (LG 3).
961 The term "communion of saints" refers also to the communion of "holy persons" (sancti) in Christ who "died for all," so that what each one does or suffers in and for Christ bears fruit for all.
962 "We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always [attentive] to our prayers" (Paul VI, CPG § 30).

479 Nicetas, Expl. Symb., 10:PL 52:871B.
480 St. Thomas Aquinas, Symb., 10.
481 Roman Catechism I, 10,24.
482 Acts 2:42.
483 Roman Catechism I, 10,24.
484 LG 12 § 2.
485 1 Cor 12:7.
486 Acts 4:32.
487 Roman Catechism I, 10,27.
488 Cf. Lk 16:1, 3.
489 Rom 14:7.
490 1 Cor 12:26-27.
491 1 Cor 13:5; cf. 10:24.
492 LG 49; cf. Mt 25:31; 1 Cor 15:26-27; Council of Florence (1439):DS 1305.
493 LG 49; cf. Eph 4:16.
494 LG 49.
495 LG 49; cf. 1 Tim 2:5.
496 St. Dominic, dying, to his brothers.
497 St. Thérèse of Lisieux, The Final Conversations, tr. John Clarke (Washington: ICS, 1977), 102.
498 LG 50; cf. Eph 4:1-6.
499 Martyrium Polycarpi, 17:Apostolic Fathers II/3,396.
500 LG 50; cf. 2 Macc 12:45.
501 LG 51; cf. Heb 3:6.