Why Ask the Saints?

Jesus is the sole mediator between us and the Father

Most Protestant churches strongly reject all saintly intercession, citing passages such as 1 Timothy 2:1-5, which says that Jesus is the sole mediator between God and man, as well as Deuteronomy 18:10-11 which seems to forbid invoking departed souls. They also point to the fact that there are no examples in the Bible of living humans praying to dead humans — Jesus Christ being the lone exception, because He is alive and resurrected, and because He is both human and Divine.

Yet the Bible indeed directs us to invoke those in heaven and ask them to pray with us. In Psalms 103, we pray, “Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word! Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers that do his will!” (Psalms 103:20-21). And in Psalms 148 we pray, “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens, praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his host!” (Psalms 148:1-2).

Not only do those in heaven pray with us, they also pray for us. In the book of Revelation, we read: “[An] angel came and stood at the altar [in heaven] with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God” (Rev. 8:3-4). And those in heaven who offer to God our prayers aren’t just angels, but humans as well. John sees that “the twenty-four elders [the leaders of the people of God in heaven] fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Rev. 5:8). The simple fact is, as this passage shows: The saints in heaven offer to God the prayers of the saints on earth.

Yes, we have Christ as the only intercessor before the Throne, but that never stopped any of our Protestant brethren from asked fellow believers from praying for them. We ask the friends of God to pray for us all the time, when we ask for the prayers of our friends and fellow believers. Asking those who’ve gone on before us is possible because they are alive in Christ, and offer their prayers to Christ just as do we. We all, both those in heaven and those still upon this earth, pray before the same “sole mediator between God and man”, Jesus Christ. It is Christ through whom we approach the Throne of the Father.

Finally, why would we not want to ask for the prayers of those who have already won their place in Paradise, and are already standing before the Throne of God, worshiping the Holy Trinity?

Part of the problem for Protestants to accept the veneration of the saints stems from their reliance on an approach to doctrine and practice as being Bible only based. Proof texts is thus the norm for most protestant debate on the interpretation of any given passage. By the same token, the unity of worship and doctrine found within the Orthodox Church is the fact we’ve based both our way of worship AND our doctrinal teachings on Holy Tradition and Scripture. Since the Bible comes out of the living oral Tradition of the Church, the scriptures can only be properly interpreted from within the life of the Church. Our unity is based on what has always been taught.

The Orthodox Church proclaims as dogma that which has been taught everywhere and at all times. The Church is catholic because that which she teaches and the way she worships is not only from Apostolic times, but was everywhere taught and practiced in Apostolic times. She is catholic (universal) because she is the same now as she was from the earliest times in her history. Her Holy Tradition is relied upon when interpreting the Bible, because it is from her Tradition from which the Bible emerged.

Another point to think about is how we (from our Protestant upbringing) interpret the concept of Christ as the ‘sole mediator between God and man.’ The Protestant idea assumes that ‘mediator’ means ‘intercessor’. But, there is a more profound meaning, not merely an intercessor but the reconciliation of God and man in the reality of the hypostatic union of God and man in the person of Jesus Christ. That is, I think, the real meaning of ‘mediator’. Confer the meaning of the Latin source of the word, mediare: ‘place in the middle’, according to the Pocket OED. Doesn’t that make clear that the Protestant interpretation is missing the real point? Once we understand that, then the whole argument against the intercession of the saints has no reality.

Love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Photos: The monastery hosted the first meeting, following the summer break, of the Washington Orthodox Clergy Association.

Wednesday September 13, 2017 / August 31, 2017
15th Week after Pentecost. Tone five.
Fast. Food with Oil

The Placing of the Cincture (Sash) of the Most Holy Theotokos (395-408).
New Hieromartyr Alexander priest and Vladimir deacon (1918).
New Hieromartyrs Michael and Myron priests (1937).
New Hieromartyr Demetrius (1938).
Hieromartyr Cyprian, bishop of Carthage (258).
St. Gennadius, patriarch of Constantinople (471).
St. John, metropolitan of Kiev (1089).
St. Paulinus, bishop of Trier (358).
St. Gennadius Scholarius, patriarch of Constantinople (1372).
St. Eanswythe, abbess, of Folkestone (England) (640) (Celtic & British).
St. Cuthburga, abbess of Wimborne (Celtic & British).
St. Aidan, bishop of Lindisfarne (651) (Celtic & British).
Four Martyrs of Perge in Pamphylia (Greek).
Martyrs: Menas, Faustus, Andrew, Heraclius, Phileortus and Diadoch (Greek).
Martyr Phileortus (Greek).
Martyr Diadoch (Greek)
Eight Virgin-martyrs of Gaza (Greek).
366 Martyrs of Nicomedia (Greek).
New Martyrs of Jasenovac (1941-1945) (Serbia).

The Scripture Readings

Galatians 3:15-22

The Changeless Promise

15 Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it. 16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. 17 And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. 18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

Purpose of the Law

19 What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. 20 Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one.

21 Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. 22 But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

Mark 6:7-13

Sending Out the Twelve

7 And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits. 8 He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts— 9 but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics.

10 Also He said to them, “In whatever place you enter a house, stay there till you depart from that place. 11 And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!”

12 So they went out and preached that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them.

Abbot Tryphon

About Abbot Tryphon

The Very. Rev. Abbot Tryphon is of the All-Merciful Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island, Washington. The Monastery is under the omophore of The Most Rev. Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America, of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Situated in the heart of a beautiful forest, surrounded by the Salish Sea, the monastery is reached by ferry from either Seattle, or Tacoma, Washington.

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