The Communion of Saints / Intercession of Saints and Angels in the Bible and Early Church Writings

All-SaintsMagisterial Teaching on the Communion of Saints / Intercession of Saints and Angels

The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states;

“194. What is the meaning of the “communion of saints”?

This expression indicates first of all the common sharing of all the members of the Church in holy things (sancta): the faith, the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, the charisms, and the other spiritual gifts. At the root of this communion is love which “does not seek its own interests” (1 Corinthians 13:5) but leads the faithful to “hold everything in common” (Acts 4:32), even to put one’s own material goods at the service of the most poor.

195. What else does “the communion of saints” mean?

This expression also refers to the communion between holy persons (sancti); that is, between those who by grace are united to the dead and risen Christ. Some are pilgrims on the earth; others, having passed from this life, are undergoing purification and are helped also by our prayers. Others already enjoy the glory of God and intercede for us. All of these together form in Christ one family, the Church, to the praise and glory of the Trinity.”

>>  Go to the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s Full Teaching on the Intercession of Saints in Heaven (CCC, par. 946-962)

The Communion of Saints / Intercession of Saints and Angels in the Bible

  • Hebrews 12:1 “says we “are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” after speaking at length of saints that have died.
  • In Mark 9:4, Jesus has a conversation with Moses and Elijah (both of whom had long since died) on the Mount of Transfiguration.
  • Revelation 5:8 describes humans in heaven offering the prayers of those on earth to God:  “the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints”
  • In Revelation 6:9-10, the souls of martyrs in heaven cry out to God for earthly justice.
  • James 5:16 says that the “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.”  [This is why so many miracles happen through the intercession of saints.]
  • Tobit 12:12,15 “And so, when you and your daughter-in-law Sarah prayed, I brought a reminder of your prayer before the Holy One; and when you buried the dead, I was likewise present with you…I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints and enter into the presence of the glory of the Holy One.”
  • Baruch 3:4:  “O Lord Almighty, God of Israel, hear now the prayer of the dead of Israel and of the sons of those who sinned before thee, who did not heed the voice of the Lord their God, so that calamities have clung to us.”
  • 2 Maccabbees 15:12-16 describes a vision in which two departed saints continue pray for and strengthen the people of Israel:                           “What he saw was this: Onias, who had been high priest, a noble and good man, of modest bearing and gentle manner, one who spoke fittingly and had been trained from childhood in all that belongs to excellence, was praying with outstretched hands for the whole body of the Jews. Then likewise a man appeared, distinguished by his gray hair and dignity, and of marvelous majesty and authority. And Onias spoke, saying, “This is a man who loves the brethren and prays much for the people and the holy city, Jeremiah, the prophet of God.” Jeremiah stretched out his right hand and gave to Judas a golden sword, and as he gave it he addressed him thus: “Take this holy sword, a gift from God, with which you will strike down your adversaries.”

The Communion of Saints / Intercession of Saints and Angels in Early Church Writings

Hermas                                                                                                                             “[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]).

St. Clement of Alexandria                                                                                                      “In this way is he [the true Christian] always pure for prayer. He also prays in the society of angels, as being already of angelic rank, and he is never out of their holy keeping; and though he pray alone, he has the choir of the saints standing with him” -(Miscellanies 7:12 [A.D. 208]).

Origen                                                                                                                                 “But not the high priest [Christ] alone prays for those who pray sincerely, but also the angels . . . as also the souls of the saints who have already fallen asleep” -(Prayer 11 [A.D. 233]).

St. Cyprian of Carthage                                                                                                      “Let us remember one another in concord and unanimity. Let us on both sides [of death] always pray for one another. Let us relieve burdens and afflictions by mutual love, that if one of us, by the swiftness of divine condescension, shall go hence first, our love may continue in the presence of the Lord, and our prayers for our brethren and sisters not cease in the presence of the Father’s mercy” -(Letters 56[60]:5 [A.D. 253]).

Anonymous Funerary Inscription

“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]).

Anonymous Funerary Inscription

“Pray for your parents, Matronata Matrona. She lived one year, fifty-two days” -(funerary inscription near St. Sabina’s in Rome [A.D. 300]).

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

St. 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., [A.D. 305]).

“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., [A.D. 305]).

St. Cyril of Jerusalem                                                                                                       “Then [during the Eucharistic prayer] we make mention also of those who have already fallen asleep: first, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition . . . ” -(Catechetical Lectures 23:9 [A.D. 350]).

St. Hilary of Poitiers                                                                                                              “To those who wish to stand [in God’s grace], neither the guardianship of saints nor the defenses of angels are wanting” -(Commentary on the Psalms 124:5:6 [A.D. 365]).

St. Ephraim the Syrian                                                                                                       “You victorious martyrs who endured torments gladly for the sake of the God and Savior, you who have boldness of speech toward the Lord himself, you saints, intercede for us who are timid and sinful men, full of sloth, that the grace of Christ may come upon us, and enlighten the hearts of all of us so that we may love him” -(Commentary on Mark [A.D. 370]).

“Remember me, you heirs of God, you brethren of Christ; supplicate the Savior earnestly for me, that I may be freed through Christ from him that fights against me day by day” -(The Fear at the End of Life [A.D. 370]).

The Liturgy of St. Basil                                                                                                        “By the command of your only-begotten Son we communicate with the memory of your saints . . . by whose prayers and supplications have mercy upon us all, and deliver us for the sake of your holy name” -(Liturgy of St. Basil [A.D. 373]).

Pectorius                                                                                                                     “Aschandius, my father, dearly beloved of my heart, with my sweet mother and my brethren, remember your Pectorius in the peace of the Fish [Christ]” -(Epitaph of Pectorius [A.D. 375]).

St. Gregory of Nazianz                                                                                                      “May you [Cyprian] look down from above propitiously upon us, and guide our word and life; and shepherd this sacred flock . . . gladden the Holy Trinity, before which you stand” -(Orations 17[24] [A.D. 380]).

“Yes, I am well assured that [my father’s] intercession is of more avail now than was his instruction in former days, since he is closer to God, now that he has shaken off his bodily fetters, and freed his mind from the clay that obscured it, and holds conversation naked with the nakedness of the prime and purest mind . . . ” -(ibid., 18:4, [A.D. 380]).

St. Gregory of Nyssa                                                                                                “[Ephraim], you who are standing at the divine altar [in heaven] . . . bear us all in remembrance, petitioning for us the remission of sins, and the fruition of an everlasting kingdom” -(Sermon on Ephraim the Syrian [A.D. 380]).

St. John Chrysostom                                                                                                           “He that wears the purple [i.e., a royal man] . . . stands begging of the saints to be his patrons with God, and he that wears a diadem begs the tentmaker [Paul] and the fisherman [Peter] as patrons, even though they be dead” -(Homilies on Second Corinthians 26 [A.D. 392]).

“When you perceive that God is chastening you, fly not to his enemies . . . but to his friends, the martyrs, the saints, and those who were pleasing to him, and who have great power [in God]” -(Orations 8:6 [A.D. 396]).

St. Ambrose of Milan                                                                                                         “May Peter, who wept so efficaciously for himself, weep for us and turn towards us Christ’s benign countenance” -(The Six Days Work 5:25:90 [A.D. 393]).

St. Jerome                                                                                                                           “You say in your book that while we live we are able to pray for each other, but afterwards when we have died, the prayer of no person for another can be heard. . . . But if the apostles and martyrs while still in the body can pray for others, at a time when they ought still be solicitous about themselves, how much more will they do so after their crowns, victories, and triumphs?” -(Against Vigilantius 6 [A.D. 406]).

St. Augustine of Hippo  

“A Christian people celebrates together in religious solemnity the memorials of the martyrs, both to encourage their being imitated and so that it can share in their merits and be aided by their prayers” -(Against Faustus the Manichean [A.D. 400]).

“There is an ecclesiastical discipline, as the faithful know, when the names of the martyrs are read aloud in that place at the altar of God, where prayer is not offered for them. Prayer, however, is offered for the dead who are remembered. For it is wrong to pray for a martyr, to whose prayers we ought ourselves be commended” -(Sermons 159:1 [A.D. 411]).

“At the Lord’s table we do not commemorate martyrs in the same way that we do others who rest in peace so as to pray for them, but rather that they may pray for us that we may follow in their footsteps” -(Homilies on John 84 [A.D. 416]).

“Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ” -(The City of God 20:9:2 [A.D. 419]).

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