Monday, April 24, 2006
Johnny asks a great question about the Invocation of the Saints
My cyber-chum Johnny Drums recently asked, "What evidence do we have that a saint in Heaven can hear what a man utters in his heart, or has the omniscience to hear and understand all these prayers at one time? To me, these seem to be attributes of God in which we have no part."
Well Johnny, you are certainly right to suggest that we have no evidence whatsoever that the saints in Heaven can hear what a man utters in his heart, or for that matter, what he utters with his mouth. But this is of no consequence at all to the practice of invoking saints. It is the faith of the Church that matters, in two respects: (1) that the Church believes that the saints, though departed this life, are nonetheless alive and living with God; and (2) that they continue to pray with and for the Church militant here on earth (the doctrine of comprecation). Neither concept should be terribly difficult for a Protestant to accept.
As for invoking saints specifically by name in our supplications, especially those petitions that employ 2nd person address, the Daily Office canticle Benedicite, omnia opera might be able to help us understand such language. Of the many stanzas in this canticle are such like: "O ye Mountains and Hills, bless ye the Lord" and "O ye Fowls of the Air, bless ye the Lord," as well as "O ye Spirit and Souls of the Righteous, bless ye the Lord." Now no one understands the first two of these examples in a literal sense, that is to say, that we would actually expect mountains, hills, or even fowls of the air to hear our exhortations to praise God; let alone would we expect them to understand what we were saying. This is metaphoric language, the truth of which transcends the literal dimension, giving us a glimpse of the realm of the eternal. The same could be said of the last example which exhorts "ye Spirits and Souls of the Righteous" by direct address to bless the Lord. Could not this same metaphoric use make sense of the Church's language of direct address in the invocation of saints, especially in the context of corporate worship?
As I said in my earlier post on this topic, we pray to saints in the certain hope that God will answer the general requests of the Church Triumphant in specific ways for us.