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Comparative Theology, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III
35- The spirituality of asking the prayers of the saints
(11) The spirituality of asking the prayers of the saints
(a) Asking the intercession of the saints implies belief in the life to come; belief that the departed are still living and have their work to perform; belief in the constant relationship between heaven and earth, and belief in venerating the saints who are venerated by God Himself.
(b) Intercession is a fellowship of love between the members of the One Body. The Church is the body, Christ is the Head and all of us, whether on earth or in heaven, are members of the One Body. Love, prayers and fellowship are peretually exchanged between the members of the One and same Body. We plead for the departed in our prayers and they intercede for us through their prayers; it is an inseparable relationship.
It is regrettable that people who object to intercession seem adamant to destroy this fellowship. They resist our for the sake of the departed and their prayers or intercessions for us? Does the love relationship between God the Father and every believer contradicts the existence of love relationship between God's children? Did the Lord Jesus Christ not ask the Father: "...that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us... that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one" (John.17: 21, 23)?
(c) Intercession is beneficial. Whoever denies it loses its benefits and gains nothing in lieu. Those who believe in intercession benefit from the love relationship between them and the saints. They benefit from the mere connection with the souls of those who have departed. They add to their own prayers the more profound and powerful prayers of those abiding in the next world, without any loss on their part.
However, those who deny intercessions of the saints lose this relationship and these prayers without gaining anything in stead. They lose a simple and an uncomplicated belief manifested by those who celebrate the feasts of the saints, visit their churches and ask their prayers. How would they cope with meeting these saints in the next life after, while they have refused to venerate them or ask their prayers and intercessions?
(d) Intercession entails meekness of heart. The person who asks for intercession is a humble person. He is not conceited about his personal relationship with God, but takes the position of the sinner and the weak who requests the intercession of others for his sake, and we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other pages. Vice versa is he who denies intercession. He might pompously ask: "What is the difference between me and those saints? The relationship between me and God is too strong to need intercession"! He raises himself to the rank of the saints, martyrs and angels.
Those people will be reproached by the Apostle's words: "Pray for us" (Heb.13: 18) and "...praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints" (Eph.6: 18).
(e) Intercession is proof of God's justice in the principle of equal opportunities. If God permits Satan to fight His children, tempt them in false visions and dreams and torments them, so, according to His justice and the principle of equal opportunities, He permits the angels and the souls of the righteous to help His children on earth. Thus God's justice is manifest in the intervention of the souls of those abiding in the next world in the life of men.
If God permitted Satan to harm Job, He also permits angels to bandage the injuries of men and to minister to His children without them asking. How much more if they pray for it! "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?" (Heb.1: 14).
So long as the angels are sent forth for this purpose why should we not ask their intervention to help us while they are near us?
(12) Intercession is a living reality
The intercession of the saints for us is not merely a theological research text-proved from the Holy Bible, but it is a living reality we experience. It is a living history through the generations, narrating the amazing relationship between those who departed and those who are still living on earth. It is a living contact with the saints who truly pity our state more than we do to the extent that sometimes our problems are solved for us due to their intercessions for us without our request or prayers. They understand more than we do and they apply the verse: "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep" (Rom.12: 15) more than we do.
Intercession is proof of the bond between the members of the Church on earth and the members of the Church in heaven. It is one Church: one part of it is on earth, which we call Church Militant and the other part is in heaven which we call Church Triumphant. Both of them pray for each other.
Those who reject the intercession of the saints are in fact disregarding the marvellous miracles that occurred and are testified to by people, through the prayers of the saints on the occasion of their feasts or in their churches and monasteries. It appears that such dogmatic arguments in theology may of resulted in denial of factual history and day to day facts of life.
It suffices to mention the miracles which occurred by the appearance of the Virgin Mary in her Church at Zeitoon. Whether to Christians or Muslims, and which were documented by the people's oral and written testimonials. Also the miracles which occur in the name of St. George, Archangel Michael and other saints. All these should be sufficient to convince our Protestant brethren in coming to terms with the reality of the intercessions of the saints.
Read the life-stories of the saints and you will come to know about the intervention of the angels and saints in people's lives. You will see how they appear, foretell, give promises and guidance and bring good news of the birth of a saint from a barren mother or of God's choice of a saint for His ministry. As far as these people are concerned, the subject of their relationship with the saints is not a one day and night acquaintance but it is ages-long relationship. It is a relationship we can never destroy. It is a relationship between people, the angels and the saints. This is why many of these people find it difficult to understand the Protestant stance of rejecting the inseparable bond between the Church on earth and its members in heaven.
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