- 1 Scripture
- 1.1 I. We are One Family in Christ in Heaven and on Earth
- 1.2 II. God Desires and Responds to Our Subordinate Mediation / Intercessory Prayer
- 1.3 III. Specific Instructions to Mediate and Examples of Subordinate Mediation
- 1.4 IV. Veneration / Honor of the Saints
- 1.5 V. Posture in Prayer, Veneration and Worship
- 2 Tradition / Church Fathers
I. We are One Family in Christ in Heaven and on Earth
Eph. 3:14-15- we are all one family (“Catholic”) in heaven and on earth, united together, as children of the Father, through Jesus Christ. Our brothers and sisters who have gone to heaven before us are not a different family. We are one and the same family. This is why, in the Apostles Creed, we profess a belief in the “communion of saints.” There cannot be a “communion” if there is no union. Loving beings, whether on earth or in heaven, are concerned for other beings, and this concern is reflected spiritually through prayers for one another.
Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23-32; Col. 1:18,24 – this family is in Jesus Christ, the head of the body, which is the Church.
1 Cor. 12:12,27; Rom. 12:5; Col. 3:15; Eph. 4:4 – we are the members of the one body of Christ, supernaturally linked together by our partaking of the Eucharist.
Rom. 8:35-39 – therefore, death does not separate the family of God and the love of Christ. We are still united with each other, even beyond death.
Matt. 17:3; Mark 9:4; Luke 9:30 – Jesus converses with “deceased” Moses and Elijah. They are more alive than the saints on earth.
Matt. 22:32; Mark 12:27; Luke 20:38 – God is the God of the living not the dead. The living on earth and in heaven are one family.
Luke 15:7,10 – if the angels and saints experience joy in heaven over our repentance, then they are still connected to us and are aware of our behavior.
John 15:1-6 – Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. The good branches are not cut off at death. They are alive in heaven.
1 Cor. 4:9 – because we can become a spectacle not only to men, but to angels as well, this indicates that angels are aware of our earthly activity. Those in heaven are connected to those on earth.
1 Cor. 12:26 – when one member suffers, all suffer. When one is honored, all rejoice. We are in this together as one family.
1 Cor 13:12; 1 John 3:2 – now we see in a mirror dimly, but in heaven we see face to face. The saints are more alive than we are!
Heb. 12:1: we are surrounded by a great glory cloud (shekinah) of witnesses. The “cloud of witnesses” refers to the saints who are not only watching us from above but cheering us on in our race to heaven.
1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 20:6 – we are a royal family of priests by virtue of baptism. We as priests intercede on behalf of each other.
2 Peter 1:4 – since God is the eternal family and we are His children, we are partakers of His divine nature as a united family.
1 Cor. 1:2; Rom. 1:7 – we are called to be saints. Saints refer to both those on earth and in heaven who are in Christ. Proof:
Acts 9:13,32,41; 26:10; 1 Cor. 6:1-2; 14:33; 2 Cor. 1:1; 8:4; 9:1-2; 13:13; Rom. 8:27; 12:23; 15:25,26, 31; 16:2,15; Eph. 1:1,15,18; 3:8; 5:3; 6:18; Phil. 1:1; 4:22; Col 1:2,4,26; 1 Tm 5:10; Philemon 1:5,7; Heb. 6:10; 13:24; Jude 1:3; Rev. 11:18; 13:7; 14:12; 16:6; 17:6;18:20,24; Rev 19:8; 20:9 – in these verses, we see that Christians still living on earth are called “saints.”
Matt. 27:52; Eph. 2:19; 3:18; Col. 1:12; 2 Thess. 1:10; Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4; 11:18; 13:10 – in these verses, we also see that “saints” also refer to those in heaven who united with us.
Dan. 4:13,23; 8:23 – we also see that the angels in heaven are also called “saints.” The same Hebrew word “qaddiysh” (holy one) is applied to both humans and angels in heaven. Hence, there are angel saints in heaven and human saints in heaven and on earth. Loving beings (whether angels or saints) are concerned for other beings, and prayer is the spiritual way of expressing that love.
II. God Desires and Responds to Our Subordinate Mediation / Intercessory Prayer
1 Tim 2:1-2 – because Jesus Christ is the one mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5), many Protestants deny the Catholic belief that the saints on earth and in heaven can mediate on our behalf. But before Paul’s teaching about Jesus as the “one mediator,” Paul urges supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people. Paul is thus appealing for mediation from others besides Christ, the one mediator. Why?
1 Tim 2:3 – because this subordinate mediation is good and acceptable to God our Savior. Because God is our Father and we are His children, God invites us to participate in Christ’s role as mediator.
1 Tim. 2:5 – therefore, although Jesus Christ is the sole mediator between God and man, there are many intercessors (subordinate mediators).
1 Cor. 3:9 – God invites us to participate in Christ’s work because we are God’s “fellow workers” and one family in the body of Christ. God wants His children to participate. The phrase used to describe “fellow workers” is “sunergoi,” which literally means synergists, or cooperators with God in salvific matters. Does God need fellow workers? Of course not, but this shows how much He, as Father, loves His children. God wants us to work with Him.
Mark 16:20 – this is another example of how the Lord “worked with them” (“sunergountos”). God cooperates with us. Out of His eternal love, He invites our participation.
Rom. 8:28 – God “works for good with” (the Greek is “sunergei eis agathon”) those who love Him. We work as subordinate mediators.
2 Cor. 6:1 – “working together” (the Greek is “sunergountes”) with him, don’t accept His grace in vain. God allows us to participate in His work, not because He needs our help, but because He loves us and wants to exalt us in His Son. It is like the father who lets his child join him in carrying the groceries in the house. The father does not need help, but he invites the child to assist to raise up the child in dignity and love.
Heb. 12:1 – the “cloud of witnesses” (nephos marturon) that we are surrounded by is a great amphitheatre of witnesses to the earthly race, and they actively participate and cheer us (the runners) on, in our race to salvation.
1 Peter 2:5 – we are a holy priesthood, instructed to offer spiritual sacrifices to God. We are therefore subordinate priests to the Head Priest, but we are still priests who participate in Christ’s work of redemption.
Rev. 1:6, 5:10 – Jesus made us a kingdom of priests for God. Priests intercede through Christ on behalf of God’s people.
James 5:16; Proverbs 15:8, 29 – the prayers of the righteous (the saints) have powerful effects. This is why we ask for their prayers. How much more powerful are the saints’ prayers in heaven, in whom righteousness has been perfected.
1 Tim 2:5-6 – therefore, it is because Jesus Christ is the one mediator before God that we can be subordinate mediators. Jesus is the reason. The Catholic position thus gives Jesus the most glory. He does it all but loves us so much He desires our participation.
III. Specific Instructions to Mediate and Examples of Subordinate Mediation
Matt. 5:44-45 – Jesus tells us to pray for (to mediate on behalf of) those who persecute us. God instructs us to mediate.
Matt. 17:1-3; Mark 9:4; Luke 9:30-31 – deceased Moses and Elijah appear at the Transfiguration to converse with Jesus in the presence of Peter, James and John (these may be the two “witnesses” John refers to in Rev. 11:3). Nothing in Scripture ever suggests that God abhors or cuts off communication between the living in heaven and the living on earth. To the contrary, God encourages communication within the communion of saints. Moses and Elijah’s appearance on earth also teach us that the saints in heaven have capabilities that far surpass our limitations on earth.
Matt. 26:53 – Jesus says He can call upon the assistance of twelve legions of angels. If Jesus said He could ask for the assistance of angel saints, then so can we, who are called to imitate Jesus in word and in deed. And, in Matt. 22:30, Jesus says we will be “like angels in heaven.” This means human saints (like the angel saints) can be called upon to assist people on earth. God allows and encourages this interaction between his family members.
Matt. 27:47,49; Mark 15:35-36 – the people believe that Jesus calls on Elijah for his intercession, and waits to see if Elijah would come to save Jesus on the cross.
Matt. 27:52-53 – at Jesus’ passion, many saints were raised and went into the city to appear and presumably interact with the people, just as Jesus did after His resurrection.
Mark 11:24 – Jesus says that whatever we ask in prayer, we will receive it. It is Jesus, and also we through Jesus, who mediate.
John 2:3 – Jesus knew the wine was gone, but invites and responds to Mary’s intercession. God desires our lesser mediation and responds to it because He is a living and loving God.
John 2:5 – Mary intercedes on behalf of those at the wedding feast and tells them to do whatever Jesus tells them. Because Mary is our perfect model of faith, we too intercede on behalf of our brothers and sisters.
John 2:11 – in fact, it was Mary’s intercession that started Jesus’ ministry. His hour had not yet come, yet Jesus responds to Mary’s intercession. Even though He could do it all by Himself, God wants to work with His children.
Acts 12:7 – an angel strikes Peter on the side and wakes him up, freeing him from prison. The angel responds to Peter’s prayers.
Rom. 15:30 – Paul commands the family of God to pray for him. If we are united together in the one body of Christ, we can help each other.
2 Cor. 1:11 – Paul even suggests that the more prayers and the more people who pray, the merrier! Prayer is even more effective when united with other’s prayers.
2 Cor. 9:14 – Paul says that the earthly saints pray for the Corinthians. They are subordinate mediators in Christ.
2 Cor. 13:7,9 – Paul says the elders pray that the Corinthians may do right and improve. They participate in Christ’s mediation.
Gal. 6:2,10 – Paul charges us to bear one another’s burdens, and to do good to all, especially those in the household of faith.
Eph. 6:18 – Paul commands the family of God to pray for each other.
Eph. 6:19 – Paul commands that the Ephesians pray for him. If there is only one mediator, why would Paul ask for their prayers?
Phil. 1:19 – Paul acknowledges power of Philippians’ earthly intercession. He will be delivered by their prayers and the Holy Spirit.
Col. 1:3 – Paul says that he and the elders pray for the Colossians. They are subordinate mediators in the body of Christ.
Col. 1:9 – Paul says that he and the elders have not ceased to pray for the Colossians, and that, by interceding, they may gain wisdom.
Col. 4:4 – Paul commands the Colossians to pray for the elders of the Church so that God may open a door for the word. Why doesn’t Paul just leave it up to God? Because subordinate mediation is acceptable and pleasing to God, and brings about change in the world. This is as mysterious as the Incarnation, but it is true.
1 Thess. 5:11 – Paul charges us to encourage one another and build one another up, in the body of Christ. We do this as mediators in Christ.
1 Thess. 5:17 – Paul says “pray constantly.” If Jesus’ role as mediator does not apply subordinately to us, why pray at all?
1 Thess. 5:25 – Paul commands the family of God to pray for the elders of the Church. He desires our subordinate mediation.
2 Thess. 1:11 – Paul tells the family of God that he prays for us. We participate in Christ’s mediation because Christ desires this.
2 Thess. 3:1 – Paul asks the Thessalonians to pray for Him, Silvanus and Timothy so that they may be delivered.
1 Tim. 2:1-3 – Paul commands us to pray for all. Paul also states that these prayers are acceptable in the sight of God.
2 Tim. 1:3 – Paul says “I remember you constantly in my prayers.”
Philemon 22 – Paul is hoping through Philemon’s intercession that he may be able to be with Philemon.
Heb. 1:14 – the author writes, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?”
Hebrews 13:18-19 – the author strongly urges the Hebrews to pray for the elders so that they act desirably in all things.
James 5:14-15- James says the prayer of the priests over the sick man will save the sick man and forgive his sins. This is a powerful example of men forgiving sins and bringing a person to salvation with the sacrament of the sick.
James 5:16 – James instructs us to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another so that we may be healed.
James 5:17-18 – James refers to God’s response to Elijah’s fervent prayer for no rain. He is teaching us about the effectiveness of our earthly mediation.
1 John 5:14-15 – John is confident that God will grant us anything we ask of God according to His will.
1 John 5:16-17 – our prayers for others even calls God to give life to them and keep them from sinning. Our God is a personal and living God who responds to our prayers.
3 John 2 – John prays for Gaius’ health and thus acts as a subordinate mediator.
Rev. 1:4 – this verse shows that angels (here, the seven spirits) give grace and peace. Because grace and peace only come from God, the angels are acting as mediators for God.
Rev. 5:8 – the prayers of the saints (on heaven and earth) are presented to God by the angels and saints in heaven. This shows that the saints intercede on our behalf before God, and it also demonstrates that our prayers on earth are united with their prayers in heaven. (The “24 elders” are said to refer to the people of God – perhaps the 12 tribes and 12 apostles – and the “four living creatures” are said to refer to the angels.)
Rev. 6:9-11 – the martyred saints in heaven cry out in a loud voice to God to avenge their blood “on those who dwell upon the earth.” These are “imprecatory prayers,” which are pleas for God’s judgment (see similar prayers in Psalm 35:1; 59:1-17; 139:19; Jer. 11:20; 15:15; 18:19; Zech.1:12-13). This means that the saints in heaven are praying for those on earth, and God answers their prayers (Rev. 8:1-5). We, therefore, ask for their intercession and protection.
Rev. 8:3-4 – in heaven an angel mingles incense with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne of God, and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God. These prayers “rise up” before God and elicit various kinds of earthly activity. God responds to his children’s requests, whether made by his children on earth or in heaven.
Gen. 20:17 – God responds to Abraham’s intercession and heals Abimelech, and also his wife and slaves.
Gen. 27:29; Num. 24:9 – blessed be everyone who blesses you. If we bless others in prayer, we are also blessed.
Exodus 32:11-14, 30-34; 34:9; Num. 14:17-20; 21:7-9 – these are many examples of God’s response to Moses’ saintly intercession.
1 Sam. 12:23 – Samuel says that he would be sinning against God if he didn’t continue to intercede for the people of Israel.
1 Sam. 28:7-20 – the deceased prophet Samuel appears and converses with Saul, which is confirmed by Sirach 46:13,20).
1 Sam. 28:7; 1 Chron. 10:13-14 – Saul practiced necromancy. He used a medium, not God, to seek the dead and was therefore condemned. Saul’s practice is entirely at odds with the Catholic understanding of saintly mediation, where God is the source and channel of all communication, and who permits His children to participate in this power.
2 Chron. 30:27 – the prayers of the priests and Levites came before God’s holy habitation in heaven and were answered.
Tobit 12:12,15 – angels place Tobit and Sarah’s prayers before the Holy One. This teaches us that the angels are also our subordinate mediators. We pray to the angels to take up our prayers to God.
Job 42:7-9 – Job prayed for three friends in sin and God listened to Job as a result of these prayers.
Psalm 34:7 – the angel of the Lord delivers those who fear him.
Psalm 91:11 – God will give His angels charge of you, to guard you in all your ways.
Psalm 103:20-21; 148:1-2 – we praise the angels and ask for their assistance in doing God’s will.
Psalm 141:2 – David asks that his prayer be counted as incense before God. The prayers of the saints have powerful effects.
Isaiah 6:6-7 – an angel touches Isaiah’s lips and declares that his sin is forgiven. The angel is a subordinate mediator of God who effects the forgiveness of sins on God’s behalf.
Jer. 7:16 – God acknowledges the people’s ability to intercede, but refuses to answer due to the hardness of heart.
Jer. 15:1 – the Lord acknowledges the intercessory power of Moses and Samuel.
Jer. 37:3 – king Zedekiah sends messengers to ask Jeremiah to intercede for the people, that he might pray to God for them.
Jer. 42:1-6 – all the people of Israel went before Jeremiah asking for his intercession, that he would pray to the Lord for them.
Baruch 3:4 – Baruch asks the Lord to hear the prayers of the dead of Israel. They can intercede on behalf of the people of God.
Dan. 9:20-23 – Daniel intercedes on behalf of the people of Israel confessing both his sins and the sins of the people before God.
Zech. 1:12-13 – an angel intercedes for those in Judea and God responds favorably.
2 Macc. 15:12-16 – the high priest Onias and the prophet Jeremiah were deceased for centuries, and yet interact with the living Judas Maccabeas and pray for the holy people on earth.
IV. Veneration / Honor of the Saints
Matt. 18:10 – the angels in heaven always behold the face of God. We venerate them for their great dignity and union with God.
Matt. 15:4; Luke 18:20; Eph. 6:2-3 Exodus 20:12; Lev. 19:3; Deut. 5:16 – we are instructed to honor our father and mother.
Luke 1:28 – the angel Gabriel venerates Mary by declaring to her “Hail, full of grace.” The heavenly angel honors the human Mary, for her perfection of grace exceeds that of the angels.
Romans 13:7 – we are to give honor where honor is due. When we honor God’s children, we honor God Himself, for He is the source of all honor.
1 Cor. 4:16 – the most important form of veneration of the saints is “imitating” the saints, as Paul commands us to do.
1 Cor. 11:1 – again, Paul says, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” The ultimate objective of veneration is imitation.
Phil. 2:25-29 – Paul teaches us to honor Epaprhoditus who almost died for the faith. How much more honor is owed to the saints that did die for the faith!
Phil. 3:17 – Paul says to imitate him and others, which is the goal of veneration. Veneration is not worship.
1 Thess. 1:6 – Paul says to the Thessalonians, “You became imitators of us and of the Lord.” This is the goal of veneration.
2 Thess. 3:7 – Paul says that the Thessalonians should imitate him and the other bishops.
Hebrews 3:3 – Jesus is worthy of “more” glory and honor than Moses. This does not mean that the saints are worthy of no glory and honor. Instead, it proves that saintly people are worthy of glory and honor out of God’s goodness.
Heb. 6:12 – the author teaches us to be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Heb. 13:7 – we must imitate the faith of our faithful leaders. We ask for their intercession and venerate them for their holiness.
James 5:10-11 – James teaches us to take heart in the examples of the prophets and Job, who endured suffering.
1 Peter 2:17 – Peter teaches us to honor all men, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the emperor. Don’t those living with Christ in heaven deserve honor? Catholics believe they do, and honor them with special feast days, just as we honor those living by celebrating their birthdays.
Gen. 19:1 – Lot venerates the two angels in Sodom, bowing himself with his face to the ground.
Gen. 42:6 – Joseph’s brothers bow before Joseph with the face to the ground. This is veneration, not worship.
Exodus 28:2 – it is especially important to honor religious leaders. Sacred garments for Aaron give him dignity and honor.
Lev. 19:32- we should also honor “the face of an old man.” When the elderly die in Christ, we should continue honoring them, because death does not separate them from us or the love of Christ.
1 Sam. 28:14 – Saul bows down before Samuel with his face to the ground in veneration.
2 Chron. 32:33 – Hezekiah was honored at his death. We honor our brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Sir. 44:1-2 – we should praise and give honor to those who the Lord apportioned great glory. It is our family in Christ.
V. Posture in Prayer, Veneration and Worship
Deut. 5:9 – God’s command, “you shall not bow down to them” means “do not worship them.” But not all bowing is worship. Here God’s command is connected to false worship.
Rev. 3:9 – Jesus said people would bow down before the faithful members of the church of Philadelphia. This bowing before the faithful is not worship, just as kissing a picture of a family member is not worship.
Gen. 19:1 – Lot bowed down to the ground in veneration before two angels in Sodom.
Gen. 24:52 – Abraham’s servant bowed himself to the earth before the Lord.
Gen. 42:6 – Joseph’s brothers bow before Joseph with the face to the ground.
Jos. 5:14 – Joshua fell to the ground prostrate in veneration before an angel.
1 Sam. 28:14 – Saul bows down before Samuel with his face to the ground in honor and veneration.
1 Kings 1:23 – the prophet Nathan bows down before King David.
2 Kings 2:15 – the sons of the prophets bow down to Elisha at Jericho.
1 Chron. 21:21 – Ornan the Jebusite did obeisance to king David with his face to the ground.
1 Chron. 29:20 – Israelites bowed down to worship God and give honor to the king.
2 Chron. 29:29-30 – King Hezekiah and the assembly venerate the altar by bowing down in worship before the sin offerings.
Tobit 12:16 – Tobiah and Tobit fell down to the ground in veneration before the angel Raphael.
Judith 14:7 – Achior the Ammonite kneels before Judith venerating her and praising God.
Psalm 138:2 – David bows down before God’s Holy Temple.
Dan. 2:46 – the king fell down on his face paying homage to Daniel and commands that an offering be made to him.
Dan. 8:17 – Daniel fell down prostrate in veneration before the angel Gabriel.
1 Macc. 4:40,55 – Judas and the faithful fell face down to the ground to praise heaven and worship God.
2 Macc. 10:4,26; 13:12 – Maccabeus and his followers fall down prostrate praying to God.
Tradition / Church Fathers
I. Intercessory Power and Veneration of the Saints
“[T]hat it is neither possible for us ever to forsake Christ, who suffered for the salvation of such as shall be saved throughout the whole world (the blameless one for sinners), nor to worship any other. For Him indeed, as being the Son of God, we adore; but the martyrs, as disciples and followers of the Lord, we worthily love on account of their extraordinary affection towards their own King and Master, of whom may we also be made companions and fellow disciples! The centurion then, seeing the strife excited by the Jews, placed the body in the midst of the fire, and consumed it. Accordingly, we afterwards took up his bones, as being more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more purified than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, whither, being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course, and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps.” Martyrdom of Polycarp 17,18 (A.D. 157).
“[Appealing to the three companions of Daniel] Think of me, I beseech you, so that I may achieve with you the same fate of martyrdom.” Hippolytus of Rome, On Daniel, 11:30 (A.D. 204).
“As often as the anniversary comes round, we make offerings for the dead as birthday honours.” Tertullian, The Crown, 3 (A.D. 211).
“Nor is that kind of title to glories in the case of Celerinus, our beloved, an unfamiliar and novel thing. He is advancing in the footsteps of his kindred; he rivals his parents and relations in equal honours of divine condescension. His grandmother, Celerina, was some time since crowned with martyrdom. Moreover, his paternal and maternal uncles, Laurentius and Egnatius, who themselves also were once warring in the camps of the world, but were true and spiritual soldiers of God, casting down the devil by the confession of Christ, merited palms and crowns from the Lord by their illustrious passion. We always offer sacrifices for them, as you remember, as often as we celebrate the passions and days of the martyrs in the annual commemoration. Nor could he, therefore, be degenerate and inferior whom this family dignity and a generous nobility provoked, by domestic examples of virtue and faith. But if in a worldly family it is a matter of heraldry and of praise to be a patrician, of bow much greater praise and honour is it to become of noble rank in the celestial heraldry! I cannot tell whom I should call more blessed,–whether those ancestors, for a posterity so illustrious, or him, for an origin so glorious. So equally between them does the divine condescension flow, and pass to and fro, that, just as the dignity of their offspring brightens their crown, so the sublimity of his ancestry illuminates his glory.” Cyprian, To Clergy and People, Epistle 33(39):3 (A.D. 250).
“I am also of opinion that there were many persons of the same name with John the apostle, who by their love for him, and their admiration and emulation of him, and their desire to be loved by the Lord as he was loved, were induced to embrace also the same designation, just as we find many of the children of the faithful called by the names of Paul and Peter.” Dionysius of Alexandria, Books of Promises, 5 (A.D. 257).
“Then we commemorate also those who have fallen asleep before us, first Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, that at their prayers and intercessions God would receive our petition. Then on behalf also of the Holy Fathers and Bishops who have fallen asleep before us, and in a word of all who in past years have fallen asleep among us, believing that it will be a very great benefit to the souls, for whom the supplication is put up, while that holy and most awful sacrifice is set forth.” Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, 23:9 (A.D. 350).
“Thus might you console us; but what of the flock? Would you first promise the oversight and leadership of yourself, a man under whose wings we all would gladly repose, and for whose words we thirst more eagerly than men suffering from thirst for the purest fountain? Secondly, persuade us that the good shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep has not even now left us; but is present, and tends and guides, and knows his own, and is known of his own, and, though bodily invisible, is spiritually recognized, and defends his flock against the wolves, and allows no one to climb over into the fold as a robber and traitor; to pervert and steal away, by the voice of strangers, souls under the fair guidance of the truth. Aye, I am well assured that his intercession is of more avail now than was his instruction in former days, since he is closer to God, now that he has shaken off his bodily fetters, and freed his mind from the clay which obscured it, and holds intercourse naked with the nakedness of the prime and purest Mind; being promoted, if it be not rash to say so, to the rank and confidence of an angel.” John Chrysostom, On the Death of his Father, Oration 18:4 (A.D. 374).
“He voluntarily undertook all the toil of the journey; he moderated the energy of the faithful on the spot; he persuaded opponents by his arguments; in the presence of priests and deacons, and of many others who fear the Lord, he took up the relics with all becoming reverence, and has aided the brethren in their preservation. These relics do you receive with a joy equivalent to the distress with which their custodians have parted with them and sent them to you. Let none dispute; let none doubt. Here you have that unconquered athlete. These bones, which shared in the conflict with the blessed soul, are known to the Lord. These bones He will crown, together with that soul, in the righteous day of His requital, as it is written, ‘we must stand before the judgment seat of Christ, that each may give an account of the deeds he has done in the body.’ One coffin held that honoured corpse. None other lay by his side. The burial was a noble one; the honours of a martyr were paid him. Christians who had welcomed him as a guest and then with their own hands laid him in the grave, have now disinterred him. They have wept as men bereaved of a father and a champion. But they have sent him to you, for they put your joy before their own consolation. Pious were the hands that gave; scrupulously careful were the hands that received. There has been no room for deceit; no room for guile. I bear witness to this. Let the untainted truth be accepted by you.” Basil, To Ambrose bishop of Milan, Epistle 197 (A.D. 375).
“Furthermore, as to mentioning the names of the dead, how is there anything very useful in that? What is more timely or more excellent than that those who are still here should believe that the departed do live, and that they have not retreated into nothingness, but that they exist and are alive with the Master…Useful too is the prayer fashioned on their behalf…For we make commemoration of the just and of sinners: of sinners, begging God’s mercy for them; of the just and the Fathers and Patriarchs and Prophets and Apostles and Evangelists and martyrs and confessors, and of bishops and solitaries, and of the whole list of them…” Epiphanius, Panarion, 75:8 (A.D. 377).
“Only may that power come upon us which strengthens weakness, through the prayers of him[i.e. St. Paul] who made his own strength perfect in bodily weakness.” Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius, 1:1(A.D. 380).
“But God forbid that any in this fair assembly should appear there suffering such things! but by the prayers of the holy fathers, correcting all our offences, and having shown forth the abundant fruit of virtue, may we depart hence with much confidence.” John Chrysostom, On Statues, Homily 6:19 (A.D. 387).
“As to our paying honor to the memory of the martyrs, and the accusation of Faustus, that we worship them instead of idols, I should not care to answer such a charge, were it not for the sake of showing how Faustus, in his desire to cast reproach on us, has overstepped the Manichaean inventions, and has fallen heedlessly into a popular notion found in Pagan poetry, although he is so anxious to be distinguished from the Pagans. For in saying that we have turned the idols into martyrs, be speaks of our worshipping them with similar rites, and appeasing the shades of the departed with wine and food…It is true that Christians pay religious honor to the memory of the martyrs, both to excite us to imitate them and to obtain a share in their merits, and the assistance of their prayers. But we build altars not to any martyr, but to the God of martyrs, although it is to the memory of the martyrs. No one officiating at the altar in the saints’ burying-place ever says, We bring an offering to thee, O Peter! or O Paul! or O Cyprian! The offering is made to God, who gave the crown of martyrdom, while it is in memory of those thus crowned. The emotion is increased by the associations of the place, and. love is excited both towards those who are our examples, and towards Him by whose help we may follow such examples. We regard the martyrs with the same affectionate intimacy that we feel towards holy men of God in this life, when we know that their hearts are prepared to endure the same suffering for the truth of the gospel. There is more devotion in our feeling towards the martyrs, because we know that their conflict is over; and we can speak with greater confidence in praise of those already victors in heaven, than of those still combating here.” Augustine, Against Faustus, 20:21 (A.D. 400).
“We, it is true, refuse to worship or adore, I say not the relics of the martyrs, but even the sun and moon, the angels and archangels, the Cherubim and Seraphim and ‘every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come.’ For we may not “serve the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Still we honour the relics of the martyrs, that we may adore Him whose martyrs they are. We honour the servants that their honour may be reflected upon their Lord who Himself says:–‘he that receiveth you receiveth me.’ I ask Vigilantius, Are the relics of Peter and of Paul unclean? Was the body of Moses unclean, of which we are told (according to the correct Hebrew text) that it was buried by the Lord Himself? And do we, every time that we enter the basilicas of apostles and prophets and martyrs, pay homage to the shrines of idols? Are the tapers which burn before their tombs only the tokens of idolatry? I will go farther still and ask a question which will make this theory recoil upon the head of its inventor and which will either kill or cure that frenzied brain of his, so that simple souls shall be no more subverted by his sacrilegious reasonings. Let him answer me this, Was the Lord’s body unclean when it was placed in the sepulchre? And did the angels clothed in white raiment merely watch over a corpse dead and defiled, that ages afterwards this sleepy fellow might indulge in dreams and vomit forth his filthy surfeit, so as, like the persecutor Julian, either to destroy the basilicas of the saints or to convert them into heathen temples?” Jerome, To Riparius, Epistle 109:1 (A.D. 404).
“For you say that the souls of Apostles and martyrs have their abode either in the bosom of Abraham, or in the place of refreshment, or under the altar of God, and that they cannot leave their own tombs, and be present there they will…And while the devil and the demons wander through the whole world, and with only too great speed present themselves everywhere; are martyrs, after the shedding of their blood, to be kept out of sight shut up in a coffin, from whence they cannot escape? You say, in your pamphlet, that so long as we are alive we can pray for one another; but once we die, the prayer of no person for another can be heard, and all the more because the martyrs, though they cry for the avenging of their blood, have never been able to obtain their request. If Apostles and martyrs while still in the body can pray for others, when they ought still to be anxious for themselves, how much more must they do so when once they have won their crowns, overcome, and triumphed? A single man, Moses, oft wins pardon from God for six hundred thousand armed men; and Stephen, the follower of his Lord and the first Christian martyr, entreats pardon for his persecutors; and when once they have entered on their life with Christ, shall they have less power than before? The Apostle Paul says that two hundred and seventy-six souls were given to him in the ship; and when, after his dissolution, he has begun to be with Christ, must he shut his mouth, and be unable to say a word for those who throughout the whole world have believed in his Gospel? Shall Vigilantius the live dog be better than Paul the dead lion? I should be right in saying so after Ecclesiastes, if I admitted that Paul is dead in spirit. The truth is that the saints are not called dead, but are said to be asleep. Wherefore Lazarus, who was about to rise again, is said to have slept. And the Apostle forbids the Thessalonians to be sorry for those who were asleep.” Jerome, Against Vigilantius, 6 (A.D. 406).
“Even if we make images of pious men it is not that we may adore them as gods but that when we see them we might be prompted to imitate them.” Cyril of Alexandria, On Psalms 113 (115) (ante A.D. 444).
“The noble souls of the triumphant are sauntering around heaven, dancing in the choruses of the bodiless; and not one tomb for each conceals their bodies, but cities and villages divide them up and call them healers and preservers of souls and bodies, and venerate them a guardians and protectors of cities; and when they intervene as ambassadors before the Master of the universe the divine gifts are obtained through them; and though the body has been divided, its grace has continued undivided. And that little particle and smallest relic has the same power as the absolutely and utterly undivided martyr.” Theodoret of Cyrus, The Cure of Pagan Maladies, 8:54 (A.D. 449).
” Thou gainest nothing, thou prevailest nothing, O savage cruelty. His mortal frame is released from thy devices, and, when Laurentius departs to heaven, thou art vanquished. The flame of Christ’s love could not be overcome by thy flames, and the fire which burnt outside was less keen than that which blazed within. Thou didst but serve the martyr in thy rage, O persecutor: thou didst but swell the reward in adding to the pain. For what did thy cunning devise, which did not redound to the conqueror’s glory, when even the instruments of torture were counted as part of the triumph? Let us rejoice, then, dearly-beloved, with spiritual joy, and make our boast over the happy end of this illustrious man in the Lord, Who is ‘wonderful in His saints,’ in whom He has given us a support and an example, and has so spread abroad his glory throughout the world, that, from the rising of the sun to its going down, the brightness of his deacon’s light doth shine, and Rome is become as famous in Laurentius as Jerusalem was ennobled by Stephen. By his prayer and intercession we trust at all times to be assisted; that, because all, as the Apostle says, ‘who wish to live holily in Christ, suffer persecutions,’ we may be strengthened with the spirit of love, and be fortified to overcome all temptations by the perseverance of steadfast faith. Through our LORD Jesus Christ.” Pope Leo the Great [regn. A.D. 440-461], On the Feast of Laurence the Martyr, Sermon 85:4 (ante A.D. 461).
“To the saints honour must be paid as friends of Christ, as sons and heirs of God: in the words of John the theologian and evangelist, As many as received Him, to them gave He power to became sons of God. So that they are no longer servants, but sons: and if sons, also heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ: and the Lord in the holy Gospels says to His apostles, Ye are My friends. Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth. And further, if the Creator and Lord of all things is called also King of Kings and Lord of Lords and God of Gods, surely also the saints are gods and lords and kings. For of these God is and is called God and Lord and King. For I am the God of Abraham, He said to Moses, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. And God made Moses a god to Pharaoh. Now I mean gods and kings and lords not in nature, but as rulers and masters of their passions, and as preserving a truthful likeness to the divine image according to which they were made (for the image of a king is also called king), and as being united to God of their own free-will and receiving Him as an indweller and becoming by grace through participation with Him what He is Himself by nature. Surely, then, the worshippers and friends and sons of God are to be held in honour? For the honour shown to the most thoughtful of fellow-servants is a proof of good feeling towards the common Master.” John of Damascene, Orthodox Faith, 4:15 (A.D. 743).
“We, therefore, following the royal pathway and the divinely inspired authority of our Holy Fathers and the traditions of the Catholic Church (for, as we all know, the Holy Spirit indwells her), define with all certitude and accuracy that just as the figure of the precious and life-giving Cross, so also the venerable and holy images, as well in painting and mosaic as of other fit materials, should be set forth in the holy churches of God, and on the sacred vessels and on the vestments and on hangings and in pictures both in houses and by the wayside, to wit, the figure of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, of our spotless Lady, the Mother of God, of the honourable Angels, of all Saints and of all pious people. For by so much more frequently as they are seen in artistic representation, by so much more readily are men lifted up to the memory of their prototypes, and to a longing after them; and to these should be given due salutation and honourable reverence, not indeed that true worship of faith (latria) which pertains alone to the divine nature; but to these, as to the figure of the precious and life-giving Cross and to the Book of the Gospels and to the other holy objects, incense and lights may be offered according to ancient pious custom. For the honour which is paid to the image passes on to that which the image represents, and he who reveres the image reveres in it the subject represented. For thus the teaching of our holy Fathers, that is the tradition of the Catholic Church, which from one end of the earth to the other hath received the Gospel, is strengthened.” Ecumenical Council of Nicea II, Action VII (A.D. 787).