Saintly Intercession

[Here is the first of the two posts in a Being Frank thread. It clarifies the concept of asking the Saints in heaven to intercede, which is a prerequisite for the second part; understanding the intercession we receive from our mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary]

< Saintly Intercession • The Blessed Virgin Mary >

I think the question of intercession of angels and Saints in heaven necessarily precedes the understanding of Mary’s role. Here are some Scriptural basis for this practice help our separated brethren understand this Catholic and Orthodox (and some Anglican, I understand?) practice, since the Holy Writ is a sure common ground between all Christians.

The Protestant understanding seems to be that Saints in heaven cannot be called to intercede, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5). This one needs to be read in context, however, because it is Christ Himself who calls us into communion in Him, with all that this implies.

The preceding verses in the very same chapter call for intercession from the Church and, further, specifically endorses it in its goodness and acceptability in God’s sight. So the principle of sole mediatorship does not exclude human intercessors: 

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. (I Timothy 2:1–7)

This is the case because saints are the Body of Christ – we participate in Christ’s mediatorship:

and he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:22–23)

The Church becomes one with Christ through spiritual marriage: 

I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband. (II Corinthians 11:2)

Thus, Christ and the Church are one flesh, as husband and wife are: 

So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder. (Matthew 19:6)

Christ is our forerunner on our behalf, and is our eternal high priest in heaven: 

where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest for ever after the order of Melchiz’edek. (Hebrews 6:20)

The Church is also in heaven, since death cannot separate us from Christ or His Body:

For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38–39)

Hense, the Saints in heaven are, though without body until the resurrection, alive in Christ:

And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God said to him, `I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living (Mark 12:26–27)

For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40)

I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God (Revelation of John 20:4)

Christ intercedes for us, since intercession is a priestly ministry: 

Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us (Romans 8:34)

Thus, the Church on earth and in heaven share in this intercessory ministry in our royal priesthood through her belonging in the eternal priesthood of Christ – our mediatorship through Christ’s sole mediatorship, in His Body:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (I Peter 2:9)

I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men (I Timothy 2:1–7)

Catholics call the heavenly Church “the Church Triumphant”, and the earthly Church “the Church Militant” – the one body consists of many parts, and one part cannot say to another, “I have no need of you” (which goes both ways – those in heaven need us out of perfected love, and those on earth need them for their closeness to Christ) or, indeed, “because you are dead, you do not belong to the body”. Those worthy of honour – those who have run the race (1 Corinthians 9:24) and are crowned in glory (James 1:12, II Timothy 4:8, 1 Peter 5:4, Revelation 2:10) – are given honour (as opposed to worship, which is due to God alone), so that the whole body may rejoice together: 

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single organ, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those parts of the body which we think less honorable we invest with the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior part, that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

(I Corinthians 12:12–27)

We therefore honour them and follow their example, that we too may be holy and worthy of imitation: 

for our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit; so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedo’nia and in Acha’ia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedo’nia and Acha’ia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us what a welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God (I Thessalonians 1:5–9)

The communion of saints is powerful, since we are united through the one Body of Christ and the one Spirit of God:

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call (Ephesians 4:4)

Thus they lovingly bear our burdens through intercession, as we honour them in return:

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10)

It is not a false and unholy communion through necromancy, which is forbidden by God (Deuteronomy 18:10-11) and thus also the Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2116), but true and holy communion through the Body of Christ and the spirit of God. Hence, the Church in heaven are aware of the Church on earth, in the one Body of Christ through the one Spirit:

[the passage speaks of those who have died in faith, mentioned in Hebrews 11]

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1)

because love is stronger than death: 

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death… (Song of Solomon 8:6)

“O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” (I Corinthians 15:55)

Thus, they are aware of our requests – our need for their assistance – so that this call for those in the Body of Christ still applies: 

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)

Just as they were appealed to on earth: 

I appeal to you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, (Romans 15:30)

Brethren, pray for us. (I Thessalonians 5:25)

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfil every good resolve and work of faith by his power (II Thessalonians 1:11)

The Church in heaven are the saints perfected in holiness (here lies evidence for purgation which occurs to the saints after death and before heaven), and so their prayers have great powers: 

nothing unclean shall enter [heaven] (Revelation of John 21:27)

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect (Hebrews 12:22–23)

The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects. (James 5:16)

We also see this in John’s vision of heaven, where the angels and the 24 elders (possibly representative of the people of the Old and the New covenant – 12 sons/tribes of Jacob and 12 Apostles/new covenant saints) – who are like the angels – offer up saints’ prayers (presumably from the earthly Church) mixed with the incense, just as priests symbolically do today during liturgy. We see that this assists them to rise up to God:

And another angel came and stood at the altar 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. (Revelation of John 8:3–4)

For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. (Mark 12:25)

And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints (Revelation of John 5:8)


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3 thoughts on “Saintly Intercession”

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