Early Church Fathers

Discussion in 'Philosophy and Theology' started by Achilles Smith, Nov 13, 2017.

  1. Achilles Smith

    Achilles Smith New Member Anglican

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    Hello!

    I had a nice time talking to my Catholic friend about praying to saints and contrary to what I have been taught, he told me that Church Fathers encouraged praying to saints! I thought the Church Fathers didn't teach praying to saints, but why do these writing seem to do so? Here are some writings from the Church Fathers:

    "Atticus, sleep in peace, secure in your safety, and pray anxiously for our sins" (funerary inscription near St. Sabina’s in Rome [A.D. 300]).

    "Pray for your parents, Matronata Matrona. She lived one year, fifty-two days" (ibid.).

    "Mother of God, [listen to] my petitions; do not disregard us in adversity, but rescue us from danger" (Rylands Papyrus 3 [A.D. 350]).

    "[The Shepherd said:] ‘But those who are weak and slothful in prayer, hesitate to ask anything from the Lord; but the Lord is full of compassion, and gives without fail to all who ask him. But you, [Hermas,] having been strengthened by the holy angel [you saw], and having obtained from him such intercession, and not being slothful, why do not you ask of the Lord understanding, and receive it from him?’" (The Shepherd 3:5:4 [A.D. 80]).

    Here is a writing by Methodius:
    "Hail to you for ever, Virgin Mother of God, our unceasing joy, for to you do I turn again. You are the beginning of our feast; you are its middle and end; the pearl of great price that belongs to the kingdom; the fat of every victim, the living altar of the Bread of Life [Jesus]. Hail, you treasure of the love of God. Hail, you fount of the Son’s love for man. . . . You gleamed, sweet gift-bestowing Mother, with the light of the sun; you gleamed with the insupportable fires of a most fervent charity, bringing forth in the end that which was conceived of you . . . making manifest the mystery hidden and unspeakable, the invisible Son of the Father—the Prince of Peace, who in a marvelous manner showed himself as less than all littleness" (Oration on Simeon and Anna 14 [A.D. 305]).

    "Therefore, we pray [ask] you, the most excellent among women, who glories in the confidence of your maternal honors, that you would unceasingly keep us in remembrance. O holy Mother of God, remember us, I say, who make our boast in you, and who in august hymns celebrate the memory, which will ever live, and never fade away" (ibid.).

    "And you also, O honored and venerable Simeon, you earliest host of our holy religion, and teacher of the resurrection of the faithful, do be our patron and advocate with that Savior God, whom you were deemed worthy to receive into your arms. We, together with you, sing our praises to Christ, who has the power of life and death, saying, ‘You are the true Light, proceeding from the true Light; the true God, begotten of the true God’" (ibid.).

    What do I make of this?
     
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  2. DivineOfficeNerd

    DivineOfficeNerd Member Anglican

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    What one really ought to make of this is that the ancient Fathers supported asking the Saints for intercession. A distinction can be made simply between the orthodox practice of invoking a Saint and the more Romish doctrines forbidden in the Thirty Nine Articles. I would of course defer to some of the more learned students of theology on this site though. :)
     
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  3. anglican74

    anglican74 Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Ah.. yes this is a sophism that my orthodox friends used to constantly bring up, until I raised up this point:
    How exactly do we know that any of those early Christian inscriptions were from orthodox Christians? I mean when you look at so many early heretics, the donatists, the paulists, the docetists, the arians, the nestorians.... all of these were Christians! And what evidence would it have for us about proper Christianity to find one of the inscriptions of such a purported Christian?..

    Observe how insignificant the quotes you presented are... some inscription next to some obscure place; an anonymous papyrus.. where are the great "prayers to the saints" treatises in St. Augustine, or St. Cyril? They don't exist! We have many writings left from the Church Fathers, such as for instance the majestic Catechetical Lectures of St. Cyril.. and if we read those lectures, training about apostolic doctrine for a new Christian, a "Catechumen", we find a treatise that is 100% devoted to Christ and not keen on getting distracted on common men and frail creatures who have no redemptive significance
     
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  4. Rhys

    Rhys New Member

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    Intercessory prayer to "the saints" is not found in the Bible, therefore it is not a Protestant practice. The Romish system of canonization is also not found in the Bible, and in fact goes quite against the Scriptural definition of what a "saint" is.
     
  5. Achilles Smith

    Achilles Smith New Member Anglican

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    That's a great point, thank you!
     
  6. Philip Barrington

    Philip Barrington Well-Known Member

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    I struggle in this area a bit. I have a friend who constantly offers prayers to St Anthony to find her a parking space at the supermarket. Perhaps she finds some comfort in it, perhaps it helps calm her down and minimise the road rage. It is certainly not a practice that I would endorse.

    however:

    I also subscribe to the idea that Church is family, and that in Christ death has been defeated. If I can ask for your intercession whilst you are alive, what am I saying if I hold that death precludes the request? For me a logical outcome of my belief in the resurrection is an acceptance of the prayers of the saints. That is not in place of praying to God, but rather the recognition that prayer is the work of the whole Church, living and departed. It is not as if it is the major part of my intercession, but the acknowledgement that we are part of one holy catholic and apostolic church.

    in the words of the debauched and glorious Dean of St Paul's John Donne:

    Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
    Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
    For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
    Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me. ​

    In the midst of our brokenness, we find wholeness; in the midst of our solitude, we find community;

    XXII. OF PURGATORY
    The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping, and Adoration, as well of Images as of Reliques, and also invocation of Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.​

    I don't see what I am speaking of as an invocation of the saints in the terms of the articles, but rather as an acknowledgement of the wider community of faith in which I stand. I am sure that some will want to accuse me of sophism, however I don't think that is fair. When I was in Papua New Guinea we noticed in the community a sense of tangible connection with a spirits of the old folk in the tribe, now dead. We forget our forbears, we forget our history and we are the poorer for it.

    In the midst of life we are confronted by death, and in dying we are born to eternal life.

    AllSaintsIcon_Whole960.jpg
     
  7. Shane R

    Shane R Active Member

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    Philip's post is well reasoned. I will tell you something about the saints -something for which the definition of 'saint' is irrelevant- they are praying for us whether we ask them to or not. The Apocalypse gives us a picture of the celestial life as one of continual joy, worship, thanksgiving, and prayer. The holy incense of prayer continuously wafts before the throne of God.

    I do not have a problem acknowledging our brethren who have passed from the church militant to the church triumphant. But all prayer must, in the end, come into focus upon the holy God. Let me give an example, the Angelus:
    The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary:
    And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

    Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of
    our death. Amen.


    Behold the handmaid of the Lord: Be it done unto me according to Thy word.

    Hail Mary . . .

    And the Word was made Flesh: And dwelt among us.

    Hail Mary . . .


    Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

    Let us pray:


    Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord.

    Amen.
    Here, the format is to include a proper collect to close the cycle of prayer. A collect "through the same Christ Our Lord."
     
  8. SirPalomides

    SirPalomides Member

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    That there were no full-blown treatises is likely true, but that's because the question of the intercession of saints was not a matter of dispute even between orthodox vs. Donatists, Nestorians, etc. The saints you mention above, and many others, make passing mention of the practice, however. Indeed Saint Cyril, in his last catechetical lecture (on the liturgy), says, "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."
     
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  9. Aidan

    Aidan Well-Known Member

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    And that's what makes the Rosary such a beautiful prayer. It is scriptural , based upon the life, passion, death and resurrection of Our Blessed Lord while also having a mantra element which assists meditation
     

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