Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

Energetic Procession post: Prayers to Saints in the Pre-Nicene Era

July 29, 2011

It is commonly claimed that the practice of praying to departed saints and to angels is a late development in Christianity, probably post-dating the Council of Nicea. In this post, I will try to argue that prayers to departed saints were relatively common in the pre-Nicene Church. There are 5 to 8 clear post-Apostolic references from at least 3 locations. Some of the references come from official Christian teachers. The earliest reference may be first or second century, and many of the second and third century writers’ beliefs probably reflect the customs of even earlier times.

Read more at Energetic Procession.

Mary as Intercessor in Scripture

February 28, 2008

There are two places where Mary acts as intercessor in Scripture:

John 2:1-6
And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there. And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece…

Acts 1:12-14
Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James [the son] of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas [the brother] of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

In the Gospel of John, there are numerous events that are anticipatory of the new creation. This is clearly one such case: note the changing of water into wine, the fact that this is a marriage feast (Christ and the Church), and the manifestation of Jesus’ glory. Mary’s intercession comes in close association with the world to come.

In Acts, the scene is in an upper room, paralleling the Eucharist in Luke. This scene is a manifestation of the unity, authority, and glory of the Church, right after Jesus’ departure at a time of crucial decision and determination. Mary participates in the prayer that begins the first and greatest evangelistic outreach.

We already know that those in heaven are interceding for us (Rev. 5:8, 8:3-4). We already know that they are aware of what is happening on earth (Rev.6:9-11). The Saints have powers that are far beyond our present earthly abilities (Mat 17:1-3). It is okay to pray to (=ask of) angels that they would praise God with us (Psalms 103:20-21). If Mary’s intercession is so intimately connected with the new creation and the inbreaking of the kingdom of God (both of which we participate in) why not pray to her?

Saint Isaac the Syrian on Love and Hell

December 22, 2007

Few arguments against Christianity are stronger and more troubling than the problem of hell. The problem is familiar to anyone who is familiar with Christianity. But not all understandings of hell are equally problemmatic. As Swinburne notes in Responsibility and Atonement for every “hard” position about salvation, sin, hell, justice, or human agency, there is a “soft” or more “liberal” view. Ironically, the more “liberal” view is hardly “liberal”, if by that we mean “new, innovative, rebelling against conservative consensus”. I think we sometimes assume for some reason that the harshest, most morally-repugnant view of Christianity is the most faithful to text and tradition. To help start correcting that tendency, I offer some words from Saint Isaac the Syrian:

What is a merciful heart? It is a heart on fire for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for demons, and for all that exists. By the recollection of them the eyes of a merciful person pour forth tears in abundance. By the strong and vehement mercy that grips such a person’s heart, and by such great compassion, the heart is humbled and one cannot bear to hear or to see any injury or slight sorrow in any in creation. For this reason, such a person offers up tearful prayer continually even for irrational beasts, for the enemies of the truth, and for those who harm her or him, that they be protected and receive mercy. And in like manner such a person prays for the family of reptiles because of the great compassion that burns with without measure in a heart that is in the likeness of God.

The person who is genuinely charitable not only gives charity out of his own possessions, but gladly tolerates injustice from others and forgives them. Whoever lays down his soul for his brother acts generously, rather than the person who demonstrates his generosity by his gifts.

God is not One who requites evil, but who sets evil right.

Paradise is the love of God, wherein is the enjoyment of all blessedness.
The person who lives in love reaps the fruit of life from God, and while yet in this world, even now breathes the air of the resurrection.

In love did God bring the world into existence; in love is God going to bring it to that wondrous transformed state, and in love will the world be swallowed up in the great mystery of the One who has performed all these things; in love will the whole course of the governance of creation be finally comprised..

As for me I say that those who are tormented in hell are tormented by the invasion of love. What is there more bitter and violent than the pains of love? Those who feel they have sinned against love bear in themselves a damnation much heavier than the most dreaded punishments. The suffering with which sinning against love afflicts the heart is more keenly felt than any other torment. It is absurd to assume that the sinners in hell are deprived of God’s love. Love is offered impartially. But by its very power it acts in two ways. It torments sinners, as happens here on earth when we are tormented by the presence of a friend to whom we have been unfaithful. And it gives joy to those who have been faithful. That is what the torment of hell is in my opinion: remorse. But love inebriates the souls of the sons and daughters of heaven by its delectability.

If zeal had been appropriate for putting humanity right, why did God the Word clothe himself in the body, using gentleness and humility in order to bring the world back to his Father?

(Taken from here)

Prayer for the dead?

November 12, 2007

Zach has given a biblical argument for prayer to the dead. It can be read here.

Depravity and the Absolute Importance of Prayer

October 29, 2007

Recently I’ve been reading one of the basics in Orthodox spirituality: “The Way of The Pilgrim, and The Pilgrim Continues His Way.” So I guess, that would actually be two books, but it’s in one volume, so…eh. But the Pilgrim books are the old story of a Russian pilgrim who wonders across the land with nothing but a knapsack on his back with breadcrusts and his Bible in it. He travels to various holy sites, attends liturgy, and somehow finds a way to get enough hospitality to survive.

One day the Pilgrim hears an epistle reading during liturgy in which the words “Pray without ceasing…” are said, and from then on he decides he must find out what this means. This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand Orthodox prayer/spirituality. In the “Sixth Meeting,” in “The Pilgrim Continues His Way,” the pilgrim is having a conversation, when one of the wiser men decides to give him a lecture on some of the mysteries of the “Philokalia.”

Within this talk, the man decides to explain what part men play in their own salvations, ie: what is left up to our wills. First, he brings up faith, because obviously faith is necessary for salvation. But, the man says, man can’t just have faith. Faith is a gift from God. On his own, man cannot even produce faith the size of a mustard seed. So how can we get this gift? Ask and ye shall recieve the man responds.

Next, he brings up works. For as St. James says, “Faith without works is dead,” and “For a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” However, St. Paul reveals to us that we are powerless an unable to justify ourselves by keeping all the commandments of the law. So how can one be saved? The Savior Himself reveals this mystery: “Without me ye can do nothing,” and “He who abides in Me…bears much fruit.” To be in Christ, the man says, is, “continually to know His presence and to unceasingly to ask in His name.” So the man says, once again we see that it is only through prayer that one can ever perform good works. This, he says, is “why prayer is necessary above all else, because it gives life to faith and through it all the virtues are aquired.”

Not so fast though, the man next tells us that “True prayer requires its own conditions. It mus tbe offered with a pure mind and heart, with ardent zeal and undivided attention, with tremendous awe and profound humility.” Yet, obviously no one does this because as the blessed St. Paul tells us, “…we do not know what to pray for as we ought…” So what can a man do if he can’t even pray right, but all of salvation comes down to prayer? The only thing that is actually up to our will, the man says, is quantity.

So there you have it. How depraved are we? Pretty doggone depraved, but not completely. We have it within our power to choose how frequently we pray. It’s not within our power to have faith, do good works, or to pray rightly, but we can choose how much we pray in our own feeble, imperfect manner. True prayer is a gift of grace.

So the question is…how often do call up on the name of the Lord for mercy? Might want to rethink the priority that you currently assign to your prayer life. I know I have. Peace and blessings.