Discussion in 'Faith, Devotion & Formation' started by bwallac2335, Jun 3, 2019.
What is the Anglican teaching on this. It appears confusing from what I have read.
The teaching is contained in Article XXII:
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.
The practice will vary. Anglo-Catholics are more comfortable with invocation of Saints, particularly the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is especially true of those who have a prior history with the Roman or Eastern Churches. Evangelicals are usually appalled, some to the point of being iconoclasts, which is not what the Article called for.
Could you expound on this more?
Traditionally Anglicans reject praying to saints, but at least since the Oxford Movement, as with much of Anglicanism, it's up to you.
Here are some quotes from High Church Caroline divines on the subject (and they are High-Church and generally admired by the Anglo-Catholics, not Low-Church Evangelicals).
“Your invocation of Saints...is not necessary for two reasons: first, no Saint doth love us so well as Christ; no Saint hath given us such assurance of his love, or done so much for us as Christ; no Saint is so willing or able to help us as Christ; and, secondly, we have no command from God to invocate them; but we have another command, ‘Call upon Me in the day of trouble and I will hear thee.’”
The Works of the Most Reverend Father in God, John Bramhall, Volume 1 pp 57-58
"For invocation of saints, though some of the ancient Fathers have some rhetorical flourishes about it, for the stirring up of devotion (as they thought), yet the church then admitted not of the innovation of them, but only of the commemoration of the martyrs, as appears clearly in St. Augustine. And when the church prayed to God for anything, she desired to be heard for the mercies and merits of Christ, not for the merits of any saints whatsoever."
Blessed William Laud, Martyr and Archbishop of Canterbury.
Try to find an Anglican between 1550 and 1850 who encouraged praying to saints, or who did such things in public. I don't know of any.
It is interesting how attitudes towards invocation of the saints have changed in the last century or so. Somewhat after 1850 (around 1900) Bishop Edgar C. S. Gibson in his commentary on the Articles gave his appraisal of the practice. (I find Bishop Gibson credible both because of his scholarship and because he himself was a High Churchman.) If you would like to read it (as well as the very good footnotes), you may do so here. But to condense what Bishop Gibson said about “invocation of the saints” in his text on pages 564-572, here is his conclusion:
“In the absence, therefore, of any distinct revelation, and in the face of so much doubt and uncertainty, it would appear that the Church of England is amply justified (1) in removing from the public services of the Church all traces of such direct invocations, including the “Ave Maria” as well as the “Ora pro nobis”; and (2) in condemning in round terms in the Article before us the current teaching and practice, which can be abundantly shown to be a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the word of God.”
So yes, it is striking to me that current attitudes have changed.
The cult of the saints was massive in medieval England. Images of the saints filled churches. Small country churches could typically have around 10 images whilst larger churches could have at least three times as many. All of these images would've had lights burning before them and some were housed in their own chapels with altars. The walls of the church and panels of the Rood screen would also have colourful paintings of the saints. Parishes formed guilds to pay for lights to be burned before the saint's image and for Masses to be said at their altar. People left bequests for the same.
There were festa ferianda, days solemnly dedicated to the saints on which all but the most essential agricultural work was forbidden. On these days (at least 50 per year) parishioners were expected to fast on the eve of the feast and to attend Mass, Mattins and Evensong on the day.
Pilgrimage shrines could be good money spinners for their custodians and the system was open to abuse. There were for example 'miraculous' statues that had moving eyes or limbs. Corrupt priests might arrange deceptions such as a blind person gaining his sight on pilgrimage who was never actually blind. (Thomas More writes of such abuses and deceptions.) Saints were seen as having the power to obtain cures from various illnesses. One popular practice as a cure for fits was to take 12 candles and inscribe each with the name of an Apostle. The candles would then be burned at the altar during a Mass of the Holy Ghost and the candle that burned the longest would be the saint to bestow healing provided the individual fasted on bread and water on the eve of the Apostle's feast day. There was also a certain ghoulish fascination with saints that had suffered gruesome martyrdoms.
Many of the Medieval excesses were dealt with by the Council of Trent but the English Reformer's went further, perhaps not surprisingly given the excesses and intense focus on the saints. Most of the Collects in the BCP are Cranmer's translation of the Collects from the Sarum Missal. In the case of the Collects for Saint's Days, Cranmer altered or rewrote them to remove petitions for their intercession. The authorised liturgies of the CofE found in the BCP and Common Prayer do not contain prayers to saints. It was the Ritualists (Anglo-Catholics) in the second half of the 19th century who began reintroducing images into English churches and encouraging prayer and devotion to the saints although not perhaps to Medieval excess. The Public Worship Regulation Act of 1874 attempted to deal with this but failed.
It may seem technical, but some of us might speak in favor of saintly advocation rather than invocation.
I am not violently against the practice as I do not find it per se idolatrous but I think it is largely without merit and probably pastorally dangerous. As for us, our articles prohibit it and we clearly can still honor the saints regardless.
I find the anti-saint position a tad confusing. May be it would help a little if we remembered that what we, who do it, do id ask the saints to intercede on our behalf. If we Anglicans accept saints exist then we have to accept a saint is in heaven. If it is wrong to ask a saint to intercede for you why do we have saints' days? If having a statue or image or a saint is idolatrous or asking saints to intercede is wrong why do we have holy days that celebrate them? I can see no more scriptural foundation for celebrating a saint than for asking one to intercede for you.