Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

Should We Pray to Michael the Archangel?

December 4, 2015

Pope Francis tweeted: “Let us ask the help of Saint Michael the Archangel to defend us from the snares of the devil.” (source)
Paul, Apostle of Jesus, wrote: “Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,” (Colossians 2:18)

And yes, that’s what asking Michael the Archangel for help is – an example of worshipping of angels. We are nowhere encouraged to trust in angels for deliverance. Instead, our trust is to be in God. We should ask God for deliverance, not Michael the Archangel.

In case you think there is some ambiguity in the tweet, and that the pontiff could be just asking God to send Michael – consider these more complete remarks (from two and a half years earlier), “In consecrating Vatican City State to St. Michael the Archangel, I ask him to defend us from the evil one and banish him.” (link)

Michael wasn’t the only worshiped creature at that particular consecreation:

We also consecrate Vatican City State in St. Joseph, guardian of Jesus, the guardian of the Holy Family. May his presence make us stronger and more courageous in making space for God in our lives to always defeat evil with good. We ask Him to protect, take care of us, so that a life of grace grows stronger in each of us every day.

(same source)

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Two Recent Debates

May 25, 2015

I recently did two very different debates:

1. Is the Father Alone Almighty God? David Barron vs. TurretinFan (link to debate page)(direct link to mp3)

2. Intercession of the Saints – William Albrecht vs. TurretinFan (link to debate page)(direct link to mp3).

I’d like to provide more comments on the debates, but I lack time at present.

-TurretinFan

Prayers for the Dead and Marian Intercession

September 8, 2011

“I pray that, through the intercession of Mary Immaculate whom he so greatly venerated, the Lord may welcome this faithful pastor of the Gospel and the Church into His Kingdom of eternal joy and peace”, the Pope concludes.

(Vatican Information Service, 5 September 2011)

Notice that here the Pope is explicitly requesting Marian intercession for a dead Cardinal (Cardinal Deskur). This falls into the category of prayers “through” Mary (as opposed to prayers simply to Mary) and of prayers “for” the dead.

I know that some of Rome’s advocates are fond of saying that one is “just asking Mary to pray” in one’s prayers to Mary.  Actually, though, the goal here is for the prayed-for person to be accepted on the basis of Mary, that is to say, on the basis of her person and merits.  While this is not completely explicit, notice that she’s described as “immaculate.”  This is the wrong way to pray.

Our prayers are to be God through the intercession of Jesus Christ, our one mediator.  Only Christ’s merits form a sufficient basis for the intercession we need.  Christ is not simply the best mediator, he is the only mediator.

It is also foolish to pray for the dead.  They have already either entered into Heaven or Hell.  There is no third place from which they need to be freed in order to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.  The pope’s teaching here is consistent with his own church’s dogmas, but not with the Scriptures.

It seems doubly foolish for the pope to pray for the dead in this way.  Does he not supposedly possess the ability to release souls from Purgatory by means of indulgence?  Why not simply declare the Cardinal free himself rather than hoping that Mary will intercede for him?  This aspect of the pope’s messages seems out of line with the traditional view of Purgatory – or at least rather odd, considering that the pope evidently feels kindly toward the deceased Cardinal.

To put it in another way, isn’t this rather like telling a naked and hungry man, “be warmed and fed,” but not actually giving him food and clothing?  Perhaps there is more to the story, but it certainly inconsistent for the pope not to exercise his own papal prerogatives, if he really wants the Cardinal to get out of Purgatory.

Finally, perhaps it is worth pointing out that the pope acknowledged that the Cardinal engaged in the veneration of Mary.  Moreover, the pope recognized that he did so to a notable degree “so greatly,” the English text reads.  Cardinal Foley put it this way:

Cardinal Deskur had a particular love for the Blessed Virgin Mary, and his apartment door carried the sign “Casa di Maria” (house of Mary). He was quite devoted to his most recent responsibilities as President of the Pontifical Academy of the Immaculate Conception.

(Catholic News Agency)

Do my readers in the Roman communion want to tell me that this “veneration” isn’t “worship”?  I suppose some will.  But I think most people can see that this kind of religious devotion is worship.

-TurretinFan

Prayers to God Alone (and Worship to God Alone, in general) in the Early Church

June 26, 2010

To whom should prayers be addressed? They should be addressed to God alone.

Augustine (354-430):

As for those spirits who are good, and who are therefore not only immortal but also blessed, and to whom they suppose we should give the title of gods, and offer worship and sacrifices for the sake of inheriting a future life, we shall, by God’s help, endeavor in the following book to show that these spirits, call them by what name, and ascribe to them what nature you will, desire that religious worship be paid to God alone, by whom they were created, and by whose communications of Himself to them they are blessed.

NPNF1-02 St. Augustine’s City of God and Christian Doctrines, City of God, Chapter 23

Leo the Great (400-461):

From such a system of teaching proceeds also the ungodly practice of certain foolish folk who worship the sun as it rises at the beginning of daylight from elevated positions: even some Christians think it is so proper to do this that, before entering the blessed Apostle Peter’s basilica, which is dedicated to the One Living and true God, when they have mounted the steps which lead to the raised platform, they turn round and bow themselves towards the rising sun and with bent neck do homage to its brilliant orb. We are full of grief and vexation that this should happen, which is partly due to the fault of ignorance and partly to the spirit of heathenism: because although some of them do perhaps worship the Creator of that fair light rather than the Light itself, which is His creature, yet we must abstain even from the appearance of this observance: for if one who has abandoned the worship of gods, finds it in our own worship, will he not hark back again to this fragment of his old superstition, as if it were allowable, when he sees it to be common both to Christians and to infidels?

This objectionable practice must be given up therefore by the faithful, and the honour due to God alone must not be mixed up with those men’s rites who serve their fellow-creatures. For the divine Scripture says: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve [S. Matt. iv. 10.].”

NPNF2-12 Leo the Great, Gregory the Great, Sermon 27 of Leo the Great, Sections 4-5

Chrysostom (349-407) commenting on Psalm 7, v. 3:

This must everywhere be our concern, not simply to pray but to pray in such a way as to be heard. It is not sufficient that prayer effects what is intended, unless we so direct it as to appeal to God.

Robert Charles Hill, St. John Chrysostom Commentary on the Psalms, Volume 1, Psalm 7 (Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1998), p. 117.

Athanasius (293-373):

This was the advice he gave to those who came to him. And with those who suffered he sympathised and prayed. And oft-times the Lord heard him on behalf of many: yet he boasted not because he was heard, nor did he murmur if he were not. But always he gave the Lord thanks and besought the sufferer to be patient, and to know that healing belonged neither to him nor to man at all, but only to the Lord, who doeth good when and to whom He will. The sufferers therefore used to receive the words of the old man as though they were a cure, learning not to be downhearted but rather to be long-suffering. And those who were healed were taught not to give thanks to Antony but to God alone.

NPNF2-04. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters, Life of Anthony, Section 56

Cyprian of Carthage (died 258):

Moreover, when we stand praying, beloved brethren, we ought to be watchful and earnest with our whole heart, intent on our prayers. Let all carnal and worldly thoughts pass away, nor let the soul at that time think on anything but the object only of its prayer. For this reason also the priest, by way of preface before his prayer, prepares the minds of the brethren by saying, “Lift up your hearts,” that so upon the people’s response, “We lift them up unto the Lord,” he may be reminded that he himself ought to think of nothing but the Lord. Let the breast be closed against the adversary, and be open to God alone; nor let it suffer God’s enemy to approach to it at the time of prayer. For frequently he steals upon us, and penetrates within, and by crafty deceit calls away our prayers from God, that we may have one thing in our heart and another in our voice, when not the sound of the voice, but the soul and mind, ought to be praying to the Lord with a simple intention. But what carelessness it is, to be distracted and carried away by foolish and profane thoughts when you are praying to the Lord, as if there were anything which you should rather be thinking of than that you are speaking with God! How can you ask to be heard of God, when you yourself do not hear yourself? Do you wish that God should remember you when you ask, if you yourself do not remember yourself? This is absolutely to take no precaution against the enemy; this is, when you pray to God, to offend the majesty of God by the carelessness of your prayer; this is to be watchful with your eyes, and to be asleep with your heart, while the Christian, even though he is asleep with his eyes, ought to be awake with his heart, as it is written in the person of the Church speaking in the Song of Songs, “I sleep, yet my heart waketh.” [Cant. v. 2.] Wherefore the apostle anxiously and carefully warns us, saying, “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same;” [Col. i. 2.] teaching, that is, and showing that those are able to obtain from God what they ask, whom God sees to be watchful in their prayer.

ANG05. Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Caius, [and] Novation, Treatises of Cyprian, Treatise IV (On the Lord’s Prayer)

What did the ancients think of prayers to angels and saints? Undoubtedly there are a variety of ancient views about that subject. Here are a few of them.

Irenaeus (c. 130-c. 200):

Nor does she [the church] perform anything by means of angelic invocations, or by incantations, or by any other wicked curious art; but, directing her prayers to the Lord, who made all things, in a pure, sincere, and straightforward spirit, and calling upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, she has been accustomed to work miracles for the advantage of mankind, and not to lead them into error. If, therefore, the name of our Lord Jesus Christ even now confers benefits [upon men], and cures thoroughly and effectively all who anywhere believe on Him, but not that of Simon, or Menander, or Carpocrates, or of any other man whatever, it is manifest that, when He was made man, He held fellowship with His own creation, and did all things truly through the power of God, according to the will of the Father of all, as the prophets had foretold. But what these things were, shall be described in dealing with the proofs to be found in the prophetical writings.

ANF: Vol. I, Against Heresies, 2:32:5.

Tertullian (c. 160-c. 220):

For we offer prayer for the safety of our princes to the eternal, the true, the living God, whose favour, beyond all others, they must themselves desire. They know from whom they have obtained their power; they know, as they are men, from whom they have received life itself; they are convinced that He is God alone, on whose power alone they are entirely dependent, to whom they are second, after whom they occupy the highest places, before and above all the gods. Why not, since they are above all living men, and the living, as living, are superior to the dead? They reflect upon the extent of their power, and so they come to understand the highest; they acknowledge that they have all their might from Him against whom their might is nought. Let the emperor make war on heaven; let him lead heaven captive in his triumph; let him put guards on heaven; let him impose taxes on heaven! He cannot. Just because he is less than heaven, he is great. For he himself is His to whom heaven and every creature appertains. He gets his scepter where he first got his humanity; his power where he got the breath of life. Thither we lift our eyes, with hands outstretched, because free from sin; with head uncovered, for we have nothing whereof to be ashamed; finally, without a monitor, because it is from the heart we supplicate. Without ceasing, for all our emperors we offer prayer. We pray for life prolonged; for security to the empire; for protection to the imperial house; for brave armies, a faithful senate, a virtuous people, the world at rest, whatever, as man or Caesar, an emperor would wish. These things I cannot ask from any but the God from whom I know I shall obtain them, both because He alone bestows them and because I have claims upon Him for their gift, as being a servant of His, rendering homage to Him alone, persecuted for His doctrine, offering to Him, at His own requirement, that costly and noble sacrifice of prayer dispatched from the chaste body, an unstained soul, a sanctified spirit, not the few grains of incense a farthing buys —tears of an Arabian tree,—not a few drops of wine,—not the blood of some worthless ox to which death is a relief, and, in addition to other offensive things, a polluted conscience, so that one wonders, when your victims are examined by these vile priests, why the examination is not rather of the sacrificers than the sacrifices. With our hands thus stretched out and up to God, rend us with your iron claws, hang us up on crosses, wrap us in flames, take our heads from us with the sword, let loose the wild beasts on us,—the very attitude of a Christian praying is one of preparation for all punishment. Let this, good rulers, be your work: wring from us the soul, beseeching God on the emperor’s behalf. Upon the truth of God, and devotion to His name, put the brand of crime.

ANF: Vol. III, The Apology, Chapter 30.

Chrysostom (349-407) said the incantation of Angels was introduced by the devil:

Therefore the devil introduced those of the Angels [requests in the name of angels], envying us the honor. Such incantations are for the demons. Even if it be Angel, even if it be Archangel, even if it be Cherubim, allow it not; for neither will these Powers accept such addresses, but will even toss them away from them, when they have beheld their Master dishonored. “I have honored thee,” He saith, “and have said, Call upon Me”; and dost thou dishonor Him?

NPNF1: Vol. XIII, Homilies on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians, Homily 9.
Greek text:

Διὰ ταῦτα ὁ διάβολος τὰ τῶν ἀγγέλων ἐπεισήγαγε, βασκαίνων ἡμῖν τῆς τιμῆς. Τῶν δαιμόνων τοιαῦται αἱ ἐπῳδαί. Κἂν ἄγγελος ᾖ, κἂν ἀρχάγγελος, κἂν τὰ Χερουβὶμ, μὴ ἀνέχου· ἐπεὶ οὐδὲ αὗται αἱ δυνάμεις καταδέξονται, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἀποσείσονται, ὅταν ἴδωσι τὸν Δεσπότην ἀτιμαζόμενον. Ἐγώ σε ἐτίμησα, φησὶ, καὶ εἶπον· Ἐμὲ κάλει· καὶ σὺ ἀτιμάζεις αὐτόν;

In epistulam i ad Colossenses, Caput III, Homily IX, §3, PG 62:365.

Council of Laodicea (363-364 A.D.):

Christians ought not to forsake the Church of God, and depart aside, and invocate (οὐνομάζω) angels, and make meetings, which are things forbidden. If any man therefore be found to give himself to this privy idolatry, let him be accursed, because he hath forsaken our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and betaken himself to idolatry.

For translation, see James Ussher, An Answer to a Challenge Made by a Jesuit (Cambridge: J. & J. J. Deighton, 1835), p. 406.
Greek text:

Ὅτι οὐ δεῖ Χριστιανοὺς ἐγκαταλείπειν τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ Θεοῦ, καὶ ἀπιέναι, καὶ ἀγγέλους ὀνομάζειν, καὶ συνάξεις ποιεῖν, ἅπερ ἀπηγόρευται. Εἴ τις οὖν εὐρεθῇ ταύτῃ κεκρυμμένῃ εἰδωλολατρείᾳ σχολάζων, ἔστω ἀνάθεμα, ὅτι ἐγκατέλιπε τὸν Κύριον ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν, τὸν Υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ, καὶ εἰδωλολατρείᾳ προσῆλθεν.

Synodus Laodiciae (Synod of Laodicea), Canon XXXV.

Chrysostom also speaks on the absence of need for any intermediaries between us and God to present our requests.

Chrysostom (349-407):

There is in fact no need either of doorkeepers to introduce you, or of managers, guardians or friends; rather, when you make your approach in person, then most of all he will hear you, at that time when you ask the help of no one. So we do not prevail upon him in making our requests through others to the degree that we do through ourselves. You see, since he longs for our friendship, he also does everything to have us trust in him; when he sees us doing so on our own account, then he accedes to us most of all. This is what he did too in the case of the Canaanite woman: when Peter and James came forward on her behalf, he did not accede; but when she persisted, he promptly granted her petition. I mean, even if he seemed to put her off for a while, he did it not to put the poor creature aside but to reward her more abundantly and render her entreaty more favorable.

Robert Charles Hill, St. John Chrysostom Commentary on the Psalms, Volume 1, Psalm 4 (Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1998), pp. 48-49.

Chrysostom (349-407):

Prayer is a great weapon, prayer is a wonderful adornment, security and haven, a treasury of good things, wealth beyond threat. When we make requests of human beings, we need an outlay of money, servile flattery, much to-ing and fro-ing and negotiating. Often, in fact, it is not possible to make a direct approach to their lordships personally to grant a favor: it is necessary first to wait upon their ministers or managers or administrators with money and words and every other means, and only then through them to be in a position to receive the request. With God, on the contrary, it is not like this: it not so much on the recommendation of others as on our own request that he grants the favor. In this case, too, both the one receiving it and the one not receiving it are better off, whereas in the case of human beings we often come off worse in both cases.

Since, then, for those approaching God the gain is greater and the facility greater, do not neglect prayer: it is then in particular that he will be reconciled with you when you on your own account appeal to him, when you present a mind purified, thoughts that are alert, when you do not make idle petitions, as many people do, their tongue saying the words while their soul wanders in every direction — through the house, the marketplace, the city streets. It is all the devil’s doing: since he knows that at that time we are able to attain forgiveness of sins, he wants to block the haven of prayer to us, and at that time he goes on the attack to distract us from the sense of the words so that we may depart the worse rather than the better for it

Robert Charles Hill, trans., St. John Chrysostom, Old Testament Homilies, Volume Three: Homilies on the Psalms (Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2003), Homily on Psalm 146.1, p. 125.

Chrysostom (349-407):

And even if you do not confess, He [i.e., God] is not ignorant of the deed, who knew it before it was committed. Why then do you not speak of it? Does the transgression become heavier by the confession?—nay, it becomes lighter and less troublesome. And it is for this reason that He would have you confess, not that you should be punished, but that you should be forgiven; not that He may learn thy sin, (how could this be, since He has seen it,) but that you may learn what favour He bestows. He wishes you to learn the greatness of His grace, that you may praise Him perfectly, that you may be slower to sin, that you may be quicker to virtue. And if you do not confess the greatness of the need, you will not understand the exceeding magnitude of His grace. I do not oblige you He [God] saith, to come into the midst of the assembly before a throng of witnesses; declare the sin in secret to Me only, that I may heal the sore and remove the pain.

F. Allen, trans., Four Discourses of Chrysostom, Chiefly on the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, 4rd Sermon, §4 (London: Longmans, Green, Reader and Dyer, 1869), p. 102. Cf. also Catharine P. Roth, trans., St. John Chrysostom On Wealth and Poverty, 4th Sermon on Lazarus and the Rich Man, §4 (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1984), p. 89. Cf. Concionis VII, de Lazaro 4.4 PG 48:1012.

Chrysostom (349-407):

For things which often we have not strength to perform successfully from our own exertions, these we shall have power to accomplish easily through prayers. I mean prayers which are persevering. For always and without intermission it is a duty to pray, both for him who is in affliction, and him who is in relief from it, and him who is in dangers, and him who is in prosperity — for him who is in relief and much prosperity, that these may remain unmoved and without vicissitude, and may never change; and for him who is in affliction and his many dangers, that he may see some favorable change brought about to him, and be transported into a calm of consolation. Art thou in a calm? Then beseech God that this calm may continue settled to thee. Hast thou seen a storm risen up against thee? Beseech God earnestly to cause the billow to pass, and to make a calm out of the storm. “Hast thou been heard? Be heartily thankful for this; because thou hast been heard. Hast thou not been heard? Persevere in order that thou mayest be heard. For even if God at any time delay the giving, it is not in hatred and aversion; but from the desire by the deferring of the giving perpetually to retain thee with himself; just in the way also that affectionate fathers do; for they also adroitly manage the perpetual and assiduous attendance of children who are rather indolent by the delay of the giving. There is to thee no need of mediators in audience with God; nor of that much canvassing; nor of the fawning upon others; but even if thou be destitute, even if bereft of advocacy, alone, by thyself, having called on God for help, thou wilt in any case succeed. He is not so wont to assent when entreated by others on our behalf, as by ourselves who are in need; even if we be laden with ten thousand evil deeds. For if in the case of men, even if we have come into countless collisions with them, when both at dawn and at mid-day and in the evening we show ourselves to those who are aggrieved against us, by the unbroken continuance and the persistent meeting and interview we easily demolish their enmity — far more in the case of God would this be effected.

NPNF1: Vol. IX, Concerning Lowliness of Mind and Commentary on Philippians 1:18, §11.

Chrysostom (349-407) commenting on John 16:22, 23:

“And ye now therefore have sorrow — [but I will see you again, and your sorrow shall be turned into joy].” Then, to show that He shall die no more, He saith, “And no man taketh it from you. And in that day ye shall ask Me nothing.”

Again He proveth nothing else by these words, but that He is from God. “For then ye shall for the time to come know all things.” But what is, “Ye shall not ask Me”? “Ye shall need no intercessor, but it is sufficient that ye call on My Name, and so gain all things.

NPNF1: Vol. XIV, Gospel of St John, Homily 79, §1.

Notice also in the following passage from Chrysostom how he emphasizes that if one gives himself to prayer frequently and fervently, then one (generally speaking) needs no instruction from an intermediary, because God enlightens one’s mind. In other words, he knows nothing of some human infallible interpreter to act as one’s mediator in to understand Holy Scripture.

Chrysostom (349-407):

Besides, what benefit would there be in a homily when prayer has not been joined to it? Prayer stands in the first place; then comes the word of instruction. And that is what the apostles said: “Let us devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word.” Paul does this when he prays at the beginning of his epistles so that, like the light of a lamp, the light of prayer may prepare the way for the word. If you accustom yourselves to pray fervently, you will not need instruction from your fellow servants because God himself, with no intermediary, enlightens you mind.

FC, Vol. 72, On the Incomprehensible Nature of God, Homily 3.35 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1984), pp. 111.

I offer also this testimony of Ambrose who says that the Lord alone is to be invoked in prayer…

Ambrose (c. 339-97):

My heart is worn out, because a man has been snatched away, whose like we can hardly find again; but yet Thou alone O Lord, art to be invoked, Thou art to be entreated, that Thou mayst supply his place with sons.

Herbert Mortimer Luckock, After Death: An Examination of the Testimony of Primitive Times respecting the State of the Faithful Dead, and Their Relationship to the Living, 2nd Ed. (London: Rivingtons, 1880) pp. 192-193.
Latin text:

Conteror corde; quia ereptus est vir, quem vix possumus invenire: sed tamen tu solus, Domine, invocandus es, tu rogandus, ut eum in filiis repraesentes.

De obitu Theodosii oratio (Funeral Oration for Theodosius, §36, PL 16:1397A-1397B.

– TurretinFan (with assistance from Pastor David King)

What did the Early Church think of Prayer for the Dead?

October 5, 2009

Doubtless there were a variety of thoughts, but here is one (courtesy of Pastor David King):

Lactantius (260-330): But if it appears that these religious rites are vain in so many ways as I have shown, it is manifest that those who either make prayers to the dead, or venerate the earth, or make over their souls to unclean spirits, do not act as becomes men, and that they will suffer punishment for their impiety and guilt, who, rebelling against God, the Father of the human race, have undertaken inexpiable rites, and violated every sacred law. (ANF: Vol. VII, The Divine Institutes, Book II, Chapter 18.)

I think that in the full context, it is even more powerful:

I have shown that the religious rites of the gods are vain in a threefold manner: In the first place, because those images which are worshipped are representations of men who are dead; and that is a wrong and inconsistent thing, that the image of a man should be worshipped by the image of God, for that which worships is lower and weaker than that which is worshipped: then that it is an inexpiable crime to desert the living in order that you may serve memorials of the dead, who can neither give life nor light to any one, for they are themselves without it: and that there is no other God but one, to whose judgment and power every soul is subject. In the second place, that the sacred images themselves, to which most senseless men do service, are destitute of all perception, since they are earth. But who cannot understand that it is unlawful for an upright animal to bend itself that it may adore the earth? which is placed beneath our feet for this purpose, that it may be trodden upon, and not adored by us, who have been raised from it, and have received an elevated position beyond the other living creatures, that we may not turn ourselves again downward, nor cast this heavenly countenance to the earth, but may direct our eyes to that quarter to which the condition of their nature has directed, and that we may adore and worship nothing except the single deity of our only Creator and Father, who made man of an erect figure, that we may know that we are called forth to high and heavenly things. In the third place, because the spirits which preside over the religious rites themselves, being condemned and cast off by God, wallow [Roll themselves.] over the earth, who not only are unable to afford any advantage to their worshippers, since the power of all things is in the hands of one alone, but even destroy them with deadly attractions and errors; since this is their daily business, to involve men in darkness, that the true God may not be sought by them. Therefore they are not to be worshipped, because they lie under the sentence of God. For it is a very great crime to devote [Addico, “to adjudge,” is the legal term, expressing the sentence by which the prætor gave effect to the right which he had declared to exist.] one’s self to the power of those whom, if you follow righteousness, you are able to excel in power, and to drive out and put to flight by adjuration of the divine name. But if it appears that these religious rites are vain in so many ways as I have shown, it is manifest that those who either make prayers to the dead, [[Let this be noted.]] or venerate the earth, or make over [Mancipo. The word implies the making over or transferring by a formal act of sale. Debtors, who were unable to satisfy the demands of their creditors, were made over to them, and regarded as their slaves. They were termed addicti. Our Lord said (John viii. 34), “Whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin.” Thus also St. Paul, Rom. vi. 16, 17.] their souls to unclean spirits, do not act as becomes men, and that they will suffer punishment for their impiety and guilt, who, rebelling against God, the Father of the human race, have undertaken inexpiable rites, and violated every sacred law.

– Lactantius, The Divine Institutes, Book 2, Chapter 18 (editors’ footnotes placed in brackets)

Analogical Argument on the Object of Prayer

August 30, 2009

There are many great arguments that are presented as to why we should not pray to anyone besides God. One underused argument, however, is the analogical or typological argument. The Old Testament worship of God employed incense. That incense is a symbol and picture of our prayers. We can see its connection to prayer in the New Testament:

Luke 1:9-11
According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.

Revelation 8:3-4
And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.

It was, indeed, prophesied in the Old Testament that incense would be offered unto the name of the Lord throughout the world.

Malachi 1:11 For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.

Furthermore, Scripture informs us of the fact that prayer corresponds to incense and sacrifice:

Psalm 141:2 Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

Thus, today we do not offer literal incense to God but instead offer prayers.

This understanding, of course, is not unique to me.

We see it in Justin Martyr (lived about A.D. 100-165):

What sober-minded man, then, will not acknowledge that we are not atheists, worshipping as we do the Maker of this universe, and declaring, as we have been taught, that He has no need of streams of blood and libations and incense; whom we praise to the utmost of our power by the exercise of prayer and thanksgiving for all things wherewith we are supplied, as we have been taught that the only honour that is worthy of Him is not to consume by fire what He has brought into being for our sustenance, but to use it for ourselves and those who need, and with gratitude to Him to offer thanks by invocations and hymns for our creation, and for all the means of health, and for the various qualities of the different kinds of things, and for the changes of the seasons; and to present before Him petitions for our existing again in incorruption through faith in Him.

– Justin Martyr, First Apology, Chapter 13

We see it in Irenaeus (lived about A.D. 115 – 202):

But what other name is there which is glorified among the Gentiles than that of our Lord, by whom the Father is glorified, and man also? And because it is [the name] of His own Son, who was made man by Him, He calls it His own. Just as a king, if he himself paints a likeness of his son, is right in calling this likeness his own, for both these reasons, because it is [the likeness] of his son, and because it is his own production; so also does the Father confess the name of Jesus Christ, which is throughout all the world glorified in the Church, to be His own, both because it is that of His Son, and because He who thus describes it gave Him for the salvation of men. Since, therefore, the name of the Son belongs to the Father, and since in the omnipotent God the Church makes offerings through Jesus Christ, He says well on both these grounds, “And in every place incense is offered to My name, and a pure sacrifice.” Now John, in the Apocalypse, declares that the “incense” is “the prayers of the saints.”

– Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 17, Section 6

We see it in Clement of Alexandria (lived about A.D. 150 – 215):

Now breathing together is properly said of the Church. For the sacrifice of the Church is the word breathing as incense from holy souls, the sacrifice and the whole mind being at the same time unveiled to God. Now the very ancient altar in Delos they celebrated as holy; which alone, being undefiled by slaughter and death, they say Pythagoras approached. And will they not believe us when we say that the righteous soul is the truly sacred altar, and that incense arising from it is holy prayer? But I believe sacrifices were invented by men to be a pretext for eating flesh. But without such idolatry he who wished might have partaken of flesh.

– Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, Book 7, Chapter 6

We see it in Origen (lived about A.D. 185 – 254):

Celsus then proceeds to say that “we shrink from raising altars, statues, and temples; and this,” he thinks, “has been agreed upon among us as the badge or distinctive mark of a secret and forbidden society.” He does not perceive that we regard the spirit of every good man as an altar from which arises an incense which is truly and spiritually sweet-smelling, namely, the prayers ascending from a pure conscience. Therefore it is said by John in the Revelation, “The odours are the prayers of saints;” and by the Psalmist, “Let my prayer come up before You as incense.”

– Origen, Contra Celsus, Book 8, Chapter 17

We see it in Cyprian of Carthage (died about A.D. 258):

That the ancient sacrifice should be made void, and a new one should be celebrated

In Isaiah: “For what purpose to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? Says the Lord: I am full; I will not have the burnt sacrifices of rams, and fat of lambs, and blood of bulls and goats. For who has required these things from your hands? ” Isaiah 1:11-12 Also in the forty-ninth Psalm: “I will not eat the flesh of bulls, nor drink the blood of goats. Offer to God the sacrifice of praise, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver you: and you shall glorify me.” In the same Psalm, moreover: “The sacrifice of praise shall glorify me: therein is the way in which I will show him the salvation of God.” In the fourth Psalm too: “Sacrifice the sacrifice of righteousness, and hope in the Lord.” Likewise in Malachi: “I have no pleasure concerning you, says the Lord, and I will not have an accepted offering from your hands. Because from the rising of the sun, even unto the going down of the same, my name is glorified among the Gentiles; and in every place odours of incense are offered to my name, and a pure sacrifice, because great is my name among the nations, says the Lord.”

– Cyprian of Carthage, Treatise 12, Book 1, Section 16

We see it in Methodius (died about A.D. 311):

Therefore, also, it stands nearer to God within the Holy of holies, and before the veil, with undefiled hands, like incense, offering up prayers to the Lord, acceptable as a sweet savour; as also John indicated, saying that the incense in the vials of the four-and-twenty elders were the prayers of the saints.

– Methodius of Olympus, Banquet of the Ten Virgins, Discourse 5, Chapter 8

We see it in Lactantius (lived about A.D. 250 – 325):

But the worship of God consists of one thing, not to be wicked. Also in that perfect discourse, when he heard Asclepius inquiring from his son whether it pleased him that incense and other odours for divine sacrifice were offered to his father, exclaimed: “Speak words of good omen, O Asclepius. For it is the greatest impiety to entertain any such thought concerning that being of pre-eminent goodness. For these things, and things resembling these, are not adapted to Him. For He is full of all things, as many as exist, and He has need of nothing at all. But let us give Him thanks, and adore Him. For His sacrifice consists only of blessing.” And he spoke rightly. For we ought to sacrifice to God in word; inasmuch as God is the Word, as He Himself confessed. Therefore the chief ceremonial in the worship of God is praise from the mouth of a just man directed towards God.

– Lactantius, Divine Institutes, Book 6, Chapter 25

We see it in Athanasius (lived about A.D. 293 – 373):

For such meditation and exercise in godliness, being at all times the habit of the saints, is urgent on us at the present time, when the divine word desires us to keep the feast with them if we are in this disposition. For what else is the feast, but the constant worship of God, and the recognition of godliness, and unceasing prayers from the whole heart with agreement? So Paul wishing us to be ever in this disposition, commands, saying, “Rejoice evermore; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks.” Not therefore separately, but unitedly and collectively, let us all keep the feast together, as the prophet exhorts, saying, “O come, let us rejoice in the Lord; let us make a joyful noise unto God our Saviour.” Who then is so negligent, or who so disobedient to the divine voice, as not to leave everything, and run to the general and common assembly of the feast? Which is not in one place only, for not one place alone keeps the feast; but “into all the earth their song has gone forth, and to the ends of the world their words.” And the sacrifice is not offered in one place, but “in every nation, incense and a pure sacrifice is offered unto God.” So when in like manner from all in every place, praise and prayer shall ascend to the gracious and good Father, when the whole Catholic Church which is in every place, with gladness and rejoicing, celebrates together the same worship to God, when all men in common send up a song of praise and say, Amen; how blessed will it not be, my brethren! who will not, at that time, be engaged, praying rightly? For the walls of every adverse power, yea even of Jericho especially, falling down, and the gift of the Holy Spirit being then richly poured upon all men, every man perceiving the coming of the Spirit shall say, “We are all filled in the morning with Your favour, and we rejoice and are made glad in our days.”

– Athanasius, Letter 11, Section 11

We see it in Ephraim the Syrian (lived about A.D. 306 – 373):

Glory be to You Who clothed Yourself in the body of mortal Adam, and made it a fountain of life for all mortals. You are He that livest, for Your slayers were as husbandmen to Your life, for that they sowed it as wheat in the depth [of the earth], that it may rise and raise up many with it. Come, let us make our love the great censer of the community, and offer on it as incense our hymns and our prayers to Him Who made His cross a censer for the Godhead, and offered from it on behalf of us all. He that was above stooped down to those who were beneath, to distribute His treasures to them. Accordingly, though the needy drew near to His manhood, yet they used to receive the gift from His Godhead. Therefore He made the body which He put on, the treasurer of His riches, that He, O Lord, might bring them out of Your storehouse, and distribute them to the needy, the sons of His kindred.

– Ephraim the Syrian, Homily on Our Lord, Section 9

We see it in John Chrysostom (lived about A.D. 347 – 407):

The psalmist therefore asks for his prayer to become like that sacrifice defiled by no blemish of the offerer, like that pure and holy incense. Now, by his asking he also teaches us to offer prayers that are pure and fragrant. Hence he is also the one who touched on the stench of prayer in saying, “Because my iniquities rose up over my head, they weighed me down like a heavy load. My wounds were putrid and foul-smelling.” As, then, the incense even of itself is fine and sweet-smelling, but gives particular evidence of its fragrance at the time when it is mixed with the fire, so too is prayer fine of itself but becomes finer and more sweet-smelling when offered with ardor and a glowing spirit, when the soul becomes a censer and lights a burning fire. I mean, the incense would not be added unless the brazier had previously been lit, or the coals set alight. Do likewise in the case of your own mind: first light it with enthusiasm, and then offer your prayer.

– John Chrysostom, Commentary on the Psalms, at Psalm 141:2

We see it in Augustine (lived about A.D. 354 – 430):

“Let my prayer be set forth in Your sight as incense, and the lifting up of my hands an evening sacrifice” Psalm 140:2. That this is wont to be understood of the Head Himself, every Christian acknowledges. For when the day was now sinking towards evening, the Lord upon the Cross “laid down His life to take it again,” John 10:17 did not lose it against His will. Still we too are figured there. For what of Him hung upon the tree, save what He took of us? And how can it be that the Father should leave and abandon His only begotten Son, especially when He is one God with Him? Yet, fixing our weakness upon the Cross, where, as the Apostle says, “our old man is crucified with Him,” Romans 6:6 He cried out in the voice of that our “old man,” “Why have You forsaken Me?” That then is the “evening sacrifice,” the Passion of the Lord, the Cross of the Lord, the offering of a salutary Victim, the whole burnt offering acceptable to God. That “evening sacrifice” produced, in His Resurrection, a morning offering. Prayer then, purely directed from a faithful heart, rises like incense from a hallowed altar. Nought is more delightful than the odour of the Lord: such odour let all have who believe.

– Augustine, Exposition on Psalm 141 at verse 2.

We see it in John Cassian (lived about A.D. 360 – 435):

Wherefore we ought to pray often but briefly, lest if we are long about it our crafty foe may succeed in implanting something in our heart. For that is the true sacrifice, as “the sacrifice of God is a broken spirit.” This is the salutary offering, these are pure drink offerings, that is the “sacrifice of righteousness,” the “sacrifice of praise,” these are true and fat victims, “holocausts full of marrow,” which are offered by contrite and humble hearts, and which those who practise this control and fervour of spirit, of which we have spoken, with effectual power can sing: “Let my prayer be set forth in Your sight as the incense: let the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice.”

– John Cassian, Conference 9, Chapter 36

Doubtless many more could be added to these. The point is that Scripture is fairly clear in making the association between Old Testament incense and prayer. In the New Testament we no longer use incense. I realize that there are churches today who use incense, but that was not the practice of the ancient churches. Arnobius (flourished about A.D. 284-305) tells us:

Having shown briefly how impious and infamous are the opinions which you have formed about your gods, we have now to speak of their temples, their images also, and sacrifices, and of the other things which are nailed and closely related to them. For you are here in the habit of fastening upon us a very serious charge of impiety because we do not rear temples for the ceremonies of worship, do not set up statues and images of any god, do not build altars, do not offer the blood of creatures slain in sacrifices, incense, nor sacrificial meal, and finally, do not bring wine flowing in libations from sacred bowls; which, indeed, we neglect to build and do, not as though we cherish impious and wicked dispositions, or have conceived any madly desperate feeling of contempt for the gods, but because we think and believe that they — if only they are true gods, and are called by this exalted name — either scorn such honours, if they give way to scorn, or endure them with anger, if they are roused by feelings of rage.

– Arnobius, Against the Heathen, Book 6, Section 1

Similarly, John Chrysostom explains: “You must worship ‘in truth’; as former things were types, such as circumcision, and whole burnt offerings, and victims, and incense, they now no longer exist, but all is ‘truth.’” (John Chrysostom, Homily 33 on the Gospel of John, at John 4:24)

But how does this tell us that we should not pray to saints? Let us look closely at the institution and formula of incense:

Exodus 30:34-38
And the LORD said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight: and thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy: and thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put of it before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy. And as for the perfume which thou shalt make, ye shall not make to yourselves according to the composition thereof: it shall be unto thee holy for the LORD. Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people.

Notice that the incense is reserved for Jehovah: “it shall be unto thee holy for the LORD.” Furthermore, God threatens with death those who used it for any other purpose: “Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people.” By analogy, prayer is reserved for Jehovah as well.

Thus, as we saw above, the prophet Malachi declares that incense will be offered “unto my name … saith the LORD of hosts.” It is to God and God alone that we make our prayers. Prayers to anyone but God is an abuse of the incense of prayer. We are not free to pray to whomever we want to, but instead we are to pray to God alone by the merits of Christ alone, since he is the only mediator between God and man.

-TurretinFan

The real Francis Turretin on: Invocation of Saints by Prayer

August 18, 2009

Marc Lloyd has kindly provided a nice collection of quotations from the real Francis Turretin on the invocation of dead saints by prayer. (link). Of particular note, Turretin deals with the argument from requesting prayers from our fellow brethren. This argument’s been around a long time and is just as wrong today as it was when Turretin addressed it.

-TurretinFan

Sad News – "Jesus Christ" Not Welcome in PA State House

July 21, 2009

Apparently this is also old news, but it is reported that chaplains who pray in the Pennsylvania state House of Representatives are forbidden from using the name of Jesus Christ (link). There is such a thing as a state begging for God to send judgment upon it. Let us pray that instead he shows mercy.

Updated to reflect that this is PA state, not USA, house.

Prayers For, To, and Through the Dead

April 21, 2009

Within Roman Catholicism (and within some other churches as well) there are prayers that are made for, through, and to the dead. We, as Reformed believers, reject all three of these categories but on different grounds. In discussing these issues with Roman Catholics it may be useful to be able to understand the different categories and to explain why it is that we reject each. We should pray for the living, to the living and true God, through the merits and intercession of Christ alone.

1. Prayers For the Dead

In Roman Catholicism, there is a belief in Purgatory. Although Roman Catholics give varying explanations, a popular perception is that purgatory is a place where, through a period of suffering, the soul is purged of sin (it’s worth noting that some Roman Catholics today deny that Purgatory is either an actual place or that it has actual time, but we’ll leave that for another discussion).

Those within Purgatory want to be purged of their sins (in Roman Catholic theology) but they also want to get out of there and on to heaven. So people are encouraged to pray for the souls of the deceased, for relief/escape from Purgatory. After all, apparently, this suffering can be alleviated through the granting of an indulgence to the person in purgatory.

The Bible, however, teaches that the souls of believers are, at their death made perfect in holiness and do immediately pass into glory. (See Thomas Watson’s discussion, for a more detailed discussion.) Given this, prayers for dead believers are useless, since believers are already in heaven.

Furthermore, while certain folks have (from time to time) suggested that salvation is still possible in hell, it is not. Of course, this itself is not normally disputed by Roman Catholics, who recognize that there is no escape from hell itself. Thus, prayers for dead unbelievers are also useless, since unbelievers are already in hell, from which they cannot escape.

Thus, there is no third category – no third option that exists, where prayers for the deceased would have any value. Accordingly, we reject prayers for the dead as vain and superstitious, and we do not engage in such prayers.

2. Prayers To the Dead

In Roman Catholicism there are, from time to time, prayers to the dead. I would be quick to point out Mary, but this doctrine they have of the Assumption of Mary leaves it unclear whether they really consider Mary to be dead or resurrected (although, of course, as a matter of objective fact, she is dead and awaits the resurrection of the faithful). Aside from Mary, however, other saints are sometimes prayed to within Catholicism. One particularly popular saint in English-speaking countries is St. Jude (aka Judas not Iscariot, one of the twelve apostles), the patron saint of lost causes.

We, Reformed Christians, reject such prayers for several reasons. First, there is no reason at all to think that such prayers will be heard and understood by the dead. Second, not only does Scripture not encourage attempted communication with the dead, it condemns such attempts as witchcraft and necromancy. Third, the use of such prayers suggests a lack of faith in the efficacy of prayers directly to the Father. Fourth, the use of such prayers suggests a desire for the mediation of someone other than Christ, an issue that flows over into the next section, below.

This is one of those areas where Roman Catholic apologists are very eager these days to recast the issue in terms like “we’re just asking our fellow believers to pray for us, are you saying that’s wrong?” The answer to that question is that we do not object to asking fellow believers to pray for us. In fact, we ought to do so. James 5:16 Confess [your] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

However, while many of the prayers to the dead are explicitly prayers that the dead would hear the person and pray to God for the person, that simply avoids the most grotesque abuses of the practice, such as when things are requested specifically from the saints or Mary, which are not theirs to give (such as success, grace, salvation, etc.). Those prayers (meta-prayers that request prayer by the saint to whom the prayers are offered) suffer from the objections as to the lack of warrant or example from the Scriptures as well as from the apparent view that these saints are to serve as mediators rather than Christ. As this is not a direct answer to the Romanist objections, I won’t go on at greater length here.

3. Prayers Through the Dead

Roman Catholics sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly, offer up prayers that are through the dead. For example, the “Approved Prayer for the intercession of Pope John Paul II” (link) is a prayer that is not for John Paul II (JP2) or to JP2 but it is through JP2. It is addressed to God, “O Holy Trinity,” but it requests that something be granted “Grant us,” via the intercession of JP2 “through his intercession … .”

Other times the request is more indirect. For example, sometimes when Mary (or others) are entreated it is suggested (as a justification) that since “the prayer of a righteous man availeth much” that the more righteous a person is, the more their prayer will avail (although, of course, the Scriptures do not teach such any such formula). Consequently, the idea is that we are asking these creatures to intercede before God on the basis of the merits that are theirs.

The connection between the two can be seen in this prayer to God pleading the merit and intercession of Rita of Cascia:

O God! who didst deign to confer on St. Rita for imitating Thee in love of her enemies, the favor of bearing her heart and brow the marks of Thy Love and Passion, grant we beseech Thee, that through her intercession and merit, we may, pierced by the thorns of compunction, ever contemplate the sufferings of Thy Passion, who livest and reignest forever and ever. Amen.

(emphasis added – source)

See this similar prayer to God through Mary:

Prayer to Our Lady of Light

O radiant beam of celestial clarity,
O spotless Mother of infinite purity,
O seat of Wisdom and divine reliquary
of the Word Incarnate,
Hear my prayer,
O Queen of Light!
O Blessed Trinity,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
You glorified my Mother, Mary,
as Queen of heaven and earth
and gave to her the gift of holding
Your Omnipotence in her holy hands,
Graciously grant what I seek
through her merits and intercession.
Amen.

(emphasis added – source)

This can be further seen within the writings of Roman Catholicism. For example, Pious XII quotes with approval from a writing attributed to Eadmer (circa A.D. 1060 to circa A.D. 1124) as follows: “just as . . . God, by making all through His power, is Father and Lord of all, so the blessed Mary, by repairing all through her merits, is Mother and Queen of all; for God is the Lord of all things, because by His command He establishes each of them in its own nature, and Mary is the Queen of all things, because she restores each to its original dignity through the grace which she merited.” (Ad Caeli Reginam (To the Queen of Heaven) section 36 – link)

It also can be seen in the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” section 956:

956 The intercession of the saints. “Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness…. They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus…. So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.”

(emphases and elipses in original – footnote omitted – source)

This is the point at which the Roman Catholic position comes into direct conflict with the unique mediatorial role of Christ (despite the contrary claim – anticipating this assertion of ours – that you see in CCC 956). Only by Christ’s merits can we come before God. The merits of a mere man (like John Paul II, even assuming he were a godly man) are of infinitesimal value compared with the righteousness of Christ.

It is by Christ and by Christ alone that we have access to the Father – not by Mary, not by the saints. Even when we ask our fellow believers to pray for us, we do not (or at least we certainly ought not) ask them to do so on the basis of their own merits, but alone on the basis of Christ’s merits.

We give token of this when we conclude our prayers, “in Jesus’ name, Amen.” That expression “In Jesus’ name” is asking that God consider our prayer on the basis of Christ’s merits, not our own. However, when someone prays the approved prayer for JP2’s intercession, they are praying for God to consider JP2’s merits. The same is the case (in general) with any prayers that are made either through or to the deceased in the Roman Catholic schema.

Conclusion

Prayers are to be offered through the merits of Christ and in the name of Christ. We are exhorted and encouraged to do so by Scripture:

John 16:23-27
23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. 24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. 25 These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. 26 At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: 27 For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.

John 14:12-14
12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. 13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

Ephesians 3:11-12
11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: 12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.

Hebrews 10:19-22
19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21 And having an high priest over the house of God; 22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

1 Peter 3:12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

So let us pray in the name of the Lord to the Lord God Almighty, for the living, eschewing the superstition of praying for the dead, for it is written:

1 John 5:16-17
16 If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. 17 All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.

Psalm 2:12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

2 Corinthians 6:2 (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)

Hebrews 4:7 Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Psalm 95:7-11
7 For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. 10 Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: 11 Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.

Revelation 22:11 He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.

Isaiah 38:18 For the grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.

If you are an unbeliever reading this, seize the day to repent of your sins and turn to Christ. Today you have life and hope, but tomorrow you may be in the grave, and in that grave no prayers will save you. So, if you do not trust in Christ alone for salvation, turn from your sins and set aside all other hope, placing it in Him alone for there is no other name under heaven by which men can be saved.

-TurretinFan

UPDATE: I note that Steve Hays has added some interesting points regarding prayers for the past (link). I should clarify that when I say that prayers for the dead are vain, I mean only to say that prayers for the dead as such are vain, without weighing in on the interesting, but more speculative, question of whether prayers for past events are appropriate (e.g. praying that one’s loved one did not board a plane that you have just heard has crashed).

>To Whom Can Roman Catholics Pray?

March 12, 2009

>That is to say, is it permitted by the sources of authority of Catholicism for the members of Catholicism to pray to anyone beyond God, Mary, and the saints? For some background, James Swan has been discussing this issue at his own blog (Can you pray to whoever you want to?).

Book IV, Part II, Title IV governs “The Veneration of the Saints, Sacred Images, and Relics.” The Title includes the following canons:

Canon 1186 To foster the sanctification of the people of God, the Church commends to the special and filial reverence of the Christian faithful the Blessed Mary ever Virgin, Mother of God, whom Christ established as the mother of all people, and promotes the true and authentic veneration of the other saints whose example instructs the Christian faithful and whose intercession sustains them.

Canon 1187 It is permitted to reverence through public veneration only those servants of God whom the authority of the Church has recorded in the list of the saints or the blessed.

Canon 1188 The practice of displaying sacred images in churches for the reverence of the faithful is to remain in effect. Nevertheless, they are to be exhibited in moderate number and in suitable order so that the Christian people are not confused nor occasion given for inappropriate devotion.

Canon 1189 If they are in need of repair, precious images, that is, those distinguished by age, art, or veneration, which are exhibited in churches or oratories for the reverence of the faithful are never to be restored without the written permission of the ordinary; he is to consult experts before he grants permission.

Canon 1190
§1. It is absolutely forbidden to sell sacred relics.

§2. Relics of great significance and other relics honored with great reverence by the people cannot be alienated validly in any manner or transferred permanently without the permission of the Apostolic See.

§3. The prescript of §2 is valid also for images which are honored in some church with great reverence by the people.

As you can see, a lot of the title is taken up with the issue of the idolatry of relics and images. For the issue at hand, the two relevant canons are 1186 (which promotes the veneration of Mary) and 1187 (which prohibits public veneration of non-canonical people).

Now, as a preliminary matter, from what I have read, there is no single global list in reality. Nevertheless, the basic of the idea is that “public veneration” of uncanonized/beatified people is not permitted.

Here’s the question: can someone within Catholicism legitimately pray to (religiously venerate) just anyone?

The answer that is typically given in popular circles today is, “As long as you have a good faith belief that the person is in heaven, you can pray to them,” or occasionally, “As long as you don’t think that the person is in Hell, it’s ok to pray to them.”

The problem I have with that is two-fold:

1) Obviously, the Scriptures don’t tell us that.

2) There does not appear to be any other authoritative source within Catholicism that tells people that they can pray to anyone other the canonized or the blessed.

Now, I can anticipate one argument:

Argument: “Since canon law doesn’t prohibit it, as long as it is not ‘public,’ it’s ok.”

This is a sort of “if it is not prohibited, then it is permitted” mentality. I understand this mentality, but it does not seem consonant with other of Rome’s canon law. For example:

Canon 214 The Christian faithful have the right to worship God according to the prescripts of their own rite approved by the legitimate pastors of the Church and to follow their own form of spiritual life so long as it is consonant with the doctrine of the Church.

So then, the question is whether this particular practice is, objectively, “consonant with the doctrine of the Church” or not.

I liken the arguments that because canon law doesn’t specifically address it, people can do what they like, to the argument of the modernists (at Catholic Answers and elsewhere) against the historic practice of prayer veils, a practice clearly mandated in Scripture.

So, for now, I pose this as a question to my readers. What authoritative source out there tells you that you can pray (as Mr. Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers seems to think) to your dead mother, who has not been beatified and really has no real likelihood of being either beatified or canonized, ever?

-TurretinFan

For those who would prefer the main title discussed above in the authoritative Latin language (I think it still is the authoritative language in canon law) …

Latin:

Can. 1186 — Ad sanctificationem populi Dei fovendam, Ecclesia peculiari et filiali christifidelium venerationi commendat Beatam Mariam semper Virginem, Dei Matrem, quam Christus hominum omnium Matrem constituit, atque verum et authenticum promovet cultum aliorum Sanctorum, quorum quidem exemplo christifideles aedificantur et intercessione sustentantur.

Can. 1187 — Cultu publico eos tantum Dei servos venerari licet, qui auctoritate Ecclesiae in album Sanctorum vel Beatorum relati sint.

Can. 1188 — Firma maneat praxis in ecclesiis sacras imagines fidelium venerationi proponendi; attamen moderato numero et congruo ordine exponantur, ne populi christiani admiratio excitetur, neve devotioni minus rectae ansa praebeatur.

Can. 1189 — Imagines pretiosae, idest vetustate, arte, aut cultu praestantes, in ecclesiis vel oratoriis fidelium venerationi expositae, si quando reparatione indigeant, numquam restaurentur sine data scripto licentia ab Ordinario; qui, antequam eam concedat, peritos consulat.

Can. 1190 —

§ 1. Sacras reliquias vendere nefas est.

§ 2. Insignes reliquiae itemque aliae, quae magna populi veneratione honorantur, nequeunt quoquo modo valide alienari neque perpetuo transferri sine Apostolicae Sedis licentia.

§ 3. Praescriptum § 2 valet etiam pro imaginibus, quae in aliqua ecclesia magna populi veneratione honorantur.

P.S. Let me be clear about one other thing. It is wrong to religiously venerate anyone but God. This is a clear teaching in Scripture (“Him only shalt thou serve”). My question in the post, however, is not about that issue – but rather about one apparently unfounded practice that is prevalent in modern Romanism of religiously venerating folks that are not canonized saints, and have no immediate prospects of becoming such.


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