Why Ask the Saints?

Jesus is the sole mediator between God and man

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

Tuesday February 20, 2018 / February 7, 2018
First Week of the Great Lent. Tone four.
Great Lent. By Monastic Charter: Strict Fast (Bread, Vegetables, Fruits)

Venerable Parthenius, bishop of Lampsacus on the Hellespont (4th c.).
Venerable Luke of Mt. Steirion (953).
New Hieromartyr Barlaam, archbishop of Perm (1937).
New Hieromartyr Alexander priest (1938).
New Hieromartyr Alexis priest (1942).
The 1,003 Martyrs of Nicomedia (303).
Venerable Mastridia of Jerusalem, woman ascetic of the desert (ca. 580).
Six Martyrs of Phrygia (305) (Greek).
Venerable Peter of Monombateia (Greek).
St. Aprionus, bishop of Cyprus (Greek).
New Martyr George of Crete (1861) (Greek).
Martyr Theopemptus and Synodia (Greek).
St. Avgul, bishop of Brittany, who suffered under Diocletian (ca. 305).
St. Roman, bishop of Kilmaronen.
St. Richard, father of Saints Willibald, Wunnibald and Walburga.

The Scripture Readings

Isaiah 1:19-2:3

19 If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land;
20 But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword”;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

The Degenerate City

21 How the faithful city has become a harlot!
It was full of justice;
Righteousness lodged in it,
But now murderers.
22 Your silver has become dross,
Your wine mixed with water.
23 Your princes are rebellious,
And companions of thieves;
Everyone loves bribes,
And follows after rewards.
They do not defend the fatherless,
Nor does the cause of the widow come before them.

24 Therefore the Lord says,
The Lord of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel,
“Ah, I will rid Myself of My adversaries,
And take vengeance on My enemies.
25 I will turn My hand against you,
And thoroughly purge away your dross,
And take away all your alloy.
26 I will restore your judges as at the first,
And your counselors as at the beginning.
Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.”

27 Zion shall be redeemed with justice,
And her penitents with righteousness.
28 The destruction of transgressors and of sinners shall be together,
And those who forsake the Lord shall be consumed.
29 For they shall be ashamed of the terebinth trees
Which you have desired;
And you shall be embarrassed because of the gardens
Which you have chosen.
30 For you shall be as a terebinth whose leaf fades,
And as a garden that has no water.
31 The strong shall be as tinder,
And the work of it as a spark;
Both will burn together,
And no one shall quench them.

The Future House of God

2 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

2 Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the Lord’s house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And all nations shall flow to it.
3 Many people shall come and say,
“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

Genesis 1:14-23

14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 16 Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. 17 God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

20 Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” 21 So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 So the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

Proverbs 1:20-33

The Call of Wisdom

20 Wisdom calls aloud outside;
She raises her voice in the open squares.
21 She cries out in the chief concourses,
At the openings of the gates in the city
She speaks her words:
22 “How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?
For scorners delight in their scorning,
And fools hate knowledge.
23 Turn at my rebuke;
Surely I will pour out my spirit on you;
I will make my words known to you.
24 Because I have called and you refused,
I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded,
25 Because you disdained all my counsel,
And would have none of my rebuke,
26 I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when your terror comes,
27 When your terror comes like a storm,
And your destruction comes like a whirlwind,
When distress and anguish come upon you.

28 “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer;
They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me.
29 Because they hated knowledge
And did not choose the fear of the Lord,
30 They would have none of my counsel
And despised my every rebuke.
31 Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way,
And be filled to the full with their own fancies.
32 For the turning away of the simple will slay them,
And the complacency of fools will destroy them;
33 But whoever listens to me will dwell safely,
And will be secure, without fear of evil.”

Abbot Tryphon

About Abbot Tryphon

The Very. Rev. Abbot Tryphon 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.

10 comments:

  1. Father Bless, I truly believe that the Saints intercede for us; but when the Saints fall asleep in the Lord, are their souls active or are they asleep awaiting the second coming? I had heard when we die we are “alive”, but asleep until the 2nd coming. Please help clarify. Thanks. Have a blessed Lent.

    1. The Eastern Orthodox Church, as well as the Non-Chalcedonian Churches (i.e., Oriental Orthodoxy and Assyrian Church of the East), teach that both the elect and the lost enter into the presence of God after death, and that the elect experience this presence as light and rest, while the lost experience it as darkness and torment.

      1. Are the souls that have departed and in the presence of God one with our souls, praying in the Church in unity with God as our head? I had attended a retreat where I had learned that at a certain level, my sin in Mi affects you in Wa, and your joy in Wa affects me here in Mi, because we are all interconnected. Are our souls also interconnected with those who have departed through the grace of our Lord Savior Jesus Christ?

  2. Abba,
    your blessing, please.
    Too often many of us forget our Lord’s words about Abraham — God is God of the living.

  3. Fr. Tryphon,
    I resonated with your first paragraph, read and enjoy so many of your writings. Yes, we are all eternal beings living one place or the other. We can only assume, the ones we love and honor have graduated to the heavenly places. But God only knows both sides.
    I deeply respect the person of John the Baptist but it would seem error to go to him now and ask him to pray for me because I feel God will listen to the superstar saint more than my own simple prayer to Him. Seems like a dysfunctional family dynamic, rules according to man, not God. Is God too busy or do I think He listens better if I pray to God’s creatures instead of the Creator. I hear John say, don’t look at me, talk to God yourself. I hear people say we don’t worship them, but isn’t praying a kind of worship? Praying is conversation, supplication, adoration, etc. Praying is a relationship. When I pray for others here on earth, it is work for me to think of their needs and take them in trust to God. It gets me out of my personal little world to consider others needs and it helps me grow closer to Him. God knows all, knows our thoughts before we speak them. I wonder how He thinks when we go to others to speak before we go to Him, others here on earth and others in another place yet to be understood by us. It’s work enough for me to go directly to God with my prayers, I don’t need the diversions of praying to Saints who have done the hard work on earth and are hopefully in a more glorious worry free, burden free life. I think those prayers they prayed to God while here on earth are eternal and give eternal Glory to God. They are the prayers the angels keep presenting and remembering with the incense before God.
    Rev 19:10 NIV
    At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.”

    1. Well, we could say that there is no need to ask a family member, or a friend, to pray for us. After all, our prayers to God don’t need reinforcements, do they? Such thinking is contrary to the teachings of the Ancient Church. This is why I stand by the premise of my article, for nothing I’ve written is in contrast to the teachings of the Church. Your premise is foreign to the Apostolic teachings of the Church.

      1. Thank-you so much for allowing my message to be posted. There is so much I respect about the Orthodox Faith and your mission. Some of my Protestant teachings separate but I see NO divide in the message of the cross that Jesus gave us. I know we both are seeking the Truth even if we can never totally grasp it fully, and to simply love God with all our hearts. You are a great witness to your faith. God Bless you and your fellow monks. Fr. Tryphon

  4. Dear Father Tryphon,
    I’m an Orthodox , but adopted Protestant Faith first, and in the last few years, understand Orthodoxy much better and coming closer to it day by day.
    I understand our departed are in presence of Christ and they pray for the Church here on earth. So whenever I pray for the Church and the world, I feel that Mother, Apostles, Saints, Martyrs & Confessors through out the centuries pray with me. Because what they and we desire and pray is the same -‘ Let your kingdom come, let your will be done’.
    But I find it difficult when I want to raise something temporal, let’s say something like a job interview , and ask prayer for that. The reason is when I look at saints, I see those who has sacrificed everything and left everything temporal to follow Christ. How can I ask for prayer for something temporal to them. I know that there is a fault in my reasoning, since I don’t have issue in asking the same temporal things to Lord Jesus Christ, who is the perfect one. But I think it’s because I trust in my Lord’s understanding and never ending mercy.
    I can ask my family and friends on this world because I’ve a close connection to them. It’s easier for me to ask prayers from my departed grandparents, since I knew them and they knew me. But I don’t feel that connection to the Saints of the past. Again, how will we decide to which saint we should direct the prayer request to and how many saints should we do it to feel it’s enough. Or should we just use a general prayer to all the past saints. Please advise and correct me.

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