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On Saints and Intercession

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  • Dr. Thomas Joseph
    ... Shlomo Mike, I think it is relevant to discuss the question of who is a saint and consider why the sainthood of a person may matter to us. In Syriac, the
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 14, 2000
      --- In SOR-Forum@egroups.com, maurnicus@a... wrote:
      > Grace and peace be with all,
      > I know we have many mutual saits with our roman catholic brethren..
      > but naturally after the schism, we recognize many different saints.
      > What is our view on Roman Catholic Saints? Is devotion to any of
      > them allowed?
      > Mike

      Shlomo Mike,

      I think it is relevant to discuss the question of who is a saint and
      consider why the sainthood of a person may matter to us.

      In Syriac, the saints are the "qaddishe" or the holy--ones whose
      lives on earth were marked with holiness. A saint is also one who
      offers a model of Christian life for others to emulate. They are
      visible symbols of how mortals can rise above the sinful nature that
      we inherited through the first Adam and gain redemption in the second
      Adam--Lord Jesus Christ. To the extent that one offers a model of
      exemplary Christian life, he or she becomes a saint in our sight.

      But the Church also recognizes that the saints, however holy, were
      also mortals born with a sinful nature. Prayers commemorating the
      saints and seeking their intercession often ask of God to forgive
      their shortcomings in this world.

      The Syriac Orthodox Church has no rigorous procedure of elevating a
      person to sainthood, as in the Roman Catholic Church; rather the
      popular recognition of a person's holiness leads the Church to
      consider him or her a saint. In the early Church, the names of the
      righteous were recorded in a Book of Life. The practice evolved into
      the diptychs, read during the liturgy of the divine mysteries. In the
      Syriac Orthodox Church, different versions of the diptychs evolved in
      different monasteries and regions, commemorating saints recognized
      locally, along with the universally acknowledged saints. Perhaps the
      only formal elements of the Church's recognition of a person's
      sainthood is in the inclusion of the name in the diptychs and in the
      permission to use the hymns of devotion to saints (Quqalyon -
      Zadeeqé) during commemorations and at the tomb.

      In our weak and sinful nature, we ask for the intercession of others
      in the presence of God. The Church consists of all the faithful--both
      living and departed. Thus, we may ask for the intercession of the
      living or of the faithful departed. We are not limited in whose
      intercession we may seek. Obviously, the intercession of one who is
      holy in God's sight is superior to that of one less worthy. Hence, we
      commonly ask for intercession of those the Church considers saints.

      Given the above, I don't believe that the doctrines of the Church
      prevent a Syriac Orthodox Christian from attributing sainthood to or
      seeking the intercession of a Roman Catholic who happened to live in
      the time following the schism. However, if such a person promoted
      views contrary to the teachings of the Syriac Orthodox Church during
      his or her life on earth, then the Church could not consider them a
      model for exemplary Christian life.

      In the love of our Lord,
      Thomas Joseph

      (Disclaimer: Having had no formal training in the doctrines of the
      Syriac Orthodox Church, I speak with no authority in these matters.
      I ask for correction if I have erred.)
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