Wednesday, 2 January 2013
A Cloud of Witnesses Continued...
The Church teaches us that those who departed in the faith are not separated from us, but we are One Church having One Faith worshiping the One Lord whom we all serve together in harmony. So if God is the God of the living, and that the departed and we who are sojourners on this earth are united under the Head of the Church then we should constantly ask for the help of the Saints and in our part pray for the reposed souls of our beloved ones. The Church established by Christ has always honoured, venerated the saints and asked for their prayers. If we go back to one of the disciples of St. John the Beloved, St. Ignatius bishop of Antioch who was martyred in Rome around 108 C.E we can observe ourselves how Christians of his time reacted to a Saint’s martyrdom.
“Having ourselves been eye-witnesses of these things, and having spent the whole night in tears within the house, and having entreated the Lord, with bended knees and much prayer, that He would give us weak men full assurance respecting the things which were done, it came to pass, on our falling into a brief slumber, that some of us saw the blessed Ignatius suddenly standing by us and embracing us, while others beheld him again praying for us, and others still saw him dropping with sweat, as if he had just come from his great labor, and standing by the Lord. When, therefore, we had with great joy witnessed these things, and had compared our several visions together, we sang praise to God, the giver of all good things, and expressed our sense of the happiness of the holy [martyr]; and now we have made known to you both the day and the time [when these things happened], that, assembling ourselves together according to the time of his martyrdom, we may have fellowship with the champion and noble martyr of Christ, who trode underfoot the devil, and perfected the course which, out of love to Christ, he had desired, in Christ Jesus our Lord; by whom, and with whom, be glory and power to the Father, with the Holy Spirit, for evermore! Amen."
We have many similar examples in the early Church, such as the collection of the relics of these saints and martyrs that were venerated by the faithful and much more. By venerating them, we should be looking to them as examples of the holy life with Christ that we wish to have. Let our holy fathers and mothers serve as our role models. Once more, let us obey the words of St. Paul the Apostle who tells us, “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”(Philippians 4:9) The prayers of the Theotokos, the heavenly hosts, the prophets, martyrs and saints be with us all, Amen.