Objections to the practice of praying to the saints come in a few different forms, from the extreme of calling it idolatry to a mild discomfort that one is not “going directly to Christ.” But what all of them seem to have in common is a low estimation of what it means to be incorporated into Christ’s mystical body.
The hidden presupposition is that Christ is fundamentally “other” to the saint, and consequently, that to address a petition to the saint is to not address it to Christ. (Unless perhaps one does so separately.)
But this is contrary to Paul’s theology of incorporation into Christ. By Baptism and participation in the Sacrament of Christ’s Body, we become Christ’s Body.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:12-13
We are no longer ourselves alone. We are the hands Christ stretches out to a lost and dying world. And those who clasp that hand are not just touching us, but Christ.
That is a very fine idea, you say, but how do we know that it applies to intercession in the way that you think? Because of this…
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.
This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time.
1 Timothy 2:1-6
Here Paul grounds the intercession of the Church in the intercession of Christ himself. These are inseparable, because they are not two intercessions, but one: the intercession of Christ in His Body.
But, you object, you’re talking about the dead and Paul was talking about the living!
No. In fact, I am talking about those who are most alive, those who are most fully incorporated into Christ, those over whom death has no power. As Our Lord himself said, “He is not God of the dead, but of the living; for all are alive to him.” (Luke 20:38)
Paul was addressing those still on Earth, certainly. But he was speaking of the Church. And the Church, the New Jerusalem, is born from above. (Rev. 21)
Are we to say that Christ’s saints, having overcome sin and the world by the power of the cross, are no longer part of Christ’s Body? Are we to say that the virgins, martyrs, prophets, and apostles, having united themselves to Christ in this world, have now no participation in Christ’s high priestly intercession. Heaven forbid!
And it does.
This impulse to exclude the Church Triumphant from our prayer lives is a subtle but serious temptation. It tempts those of us in the Church Militant to do precisely what Paul ridicules.
“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”
Saints of God, pray for us.