Intercession of 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

Photos: Matthew Sautter, a member of Prophet Elijah Orthodox Church in Ellensburg, Washington, attended the Sunday Liturgy at the Monastery.

Monday February 3, 2020 / January 21, 2020
34th Week after Pentecost. Tone eight.
Venerable Maximus the Confessor (662).
Martyr Neophytus of Nicaea (305).
Martyrs Eugene, Candidus, Valerian, and Aquila at Trebizond (303).
Venerable Maximus the Greek of Russia (1556).
New Hieromartyr Elias priest (1938).
Virgin-martyr Agnes of Rome (304).
Martyr Anastasius, disciple of St. Maximus the Confessor (662).
Wonderworking Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos of Paramythia(Vatopedi, Mt. Athos).
Icons of the Most Holy Theotokos “Stabbed” (“Zaklannaya”) and “Xenophite Hodegetria”.
Venerable Neophytes of Vatopedi on Mt Athos (Greek).
St. Zosimas, bishop of Syracuse (662).
Synaxis of the Church of Holy Peace by the Sea in Constantinople.
St. Timon, monk of Nadeyev and Kostroma (1840).

The Scripture Readings

Matthew 11:27-30

27 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. 28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

1 Peter 2:21-3:9

21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:

22 “Who committed no sin,
Nor was deceit found in His mouth”;

23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Submission to Husbands

3 Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. 3 Do not let your adornment be merelyoutward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.

A Word to Husbands

7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

Called to Blessing

8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be [f]courteous; 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.

Mark 12:13-17

The Pharisees: Is It Lawful to Pay Taxes to Caesar?

13 Then they sent to Him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in His words. 14 When they had come, they said to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? 15 Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?”

But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why do you test Me? Bring Me a denarius that I may see it.” 16 So they brought it.

And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”

17 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

And they marveled at Him.

Abbot Tryphon

About Abbot Tryphon

The Very. Rev. Abbot Tryphon is Igumen of All-Merciful Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island, Washington. 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.

3 comments:

  1. Well, I’ve had several confirmations (visible and interiorly) from Saints that my prayers were heard, so I can’t take to heart what the Protestants believe. I think they with the Holy Spirit help to cleanse and purify our prayers as we don’t really pray as we ought.

    St. ……..pray for the conversion of souls! Amen

  2. Father Tryphon,
    a blessing, please.
    It has struck me that the Protestant voiced opposition to praying to saints ignores our Savior’s answer to the Sadducees — our God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is God of the living.

  3. Evelyn Underhill on Intercessory Prayer:

    “A real man or woman of prayer, then, should be a live wire, a link between God’s grace and the world that needs it. In so far as you have given your lives to God, you have offered yourselves, without conditions, as transmitters of his saving and enabling life: and the will and love, the emotional drive, which you thus consecrate to God’s purposes, can do actual work on supernatural levels for those for whom you are called upon to pray. One human spirit can, by its prayer and love, touch and change another human spirit; it can take a soul and lift it into the atmosphere of God. This happens, and the fact that it happens is one of the most wonderful things in the Christian life.
    All your prayers, and far more than that, all your generous and loving desires, trials, sufferings, fatigues and renunciations—and of course there is no real life of prayer without all of these—can avail for those persons and causes you seek to help. to all of them you are or should be, agents of transmitters of the transforming, redeeming power of God; and the most real work you should ever do should be that which you do secretly and alone.”
    Evelyn Underhill, ” Life as Prayer “

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