Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Saints Part IV: Saint Basil on the Intercession of the Saints

Continuing on in the series on the Saints I wanted to have a quick look at Saint Basil of Ceasarea. There is no question as to the Early Church Father's endorsement of the veneration of the Saints and their relics. We have already examined St. Augustine and St. Jerome in the West, and now I want to shift over to the East. Saint Basil was a bishop in Asia Minor in the middle of the 4th century. His impact on liturgy and Christian orthodoxy is well known. What many people however do not know is the small but important treatment on the veneration of the Saints he gives in one of his letters, now known as letter 360. In it Saint basil gives a small profession of faith which resembles the Nicene profession. But in this one he makes a distinct reference to the Saints in directly asking for their intercession. This is very important to know as Catholics when we get bombarded by people who frequently quote the Church Fathers out of context. Not only does the great Saint cover this, he also covers the veneration of sacred images as well, again proving that this was not considered idolatry by the Saint. I will quote the letter in full, but it is quite short. I will add my bit of commentary in between portions of it.

Of the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, the invocation of Saints, and their Images.

According to the blameless faith of the Christians which we have obtained from God, I confess and agree that I believe in one God the Father Almighty; God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost; I adore and worship one God, the Three.

Here is a simple profession of the Holy Trinity, which was under attack in his time. In fact the ecumenical councils of the early Church dealt with the Holy Trinity as well as the person of Our Savior Jesus Christ.

I confess to the œconomy of the Son in the flesh, and that the holy Mary, who gave birth to Him according to the flesh, was Mother of God.

Here Saint Basil confirms the use of the title, "Theotokos" or "Mother of God."
This was also a point of debate in the early Church, which dealt with the two natures of Christ. Of course, the Catholic and Orthodox Churches continue to uphold these important decisions of the early Church, while most Protestants ignore them. The next passage is where the meat of the text is that deals with the Saints.

I acknowledge also the holy apostles, prophets, and martyrs; and I invoke them to supplication to God, that through them, that is, through their mediation, the merciful God may be propitious to me, and that a ransom may be made and given me for my sins. 

Saint Basil is very explicit here and says that he invokes the holy apostles, the prophets and martyrs who came before them in order that through them and their mediation that God may be propitious to him. This is a clear example of what we as Catholics and Orthodox also do. It is also clear that St. Basil, like we as Catholics today are not substituting the "mediation" of the Saints for the mediation of Christ. This would be a misreading of the Saint, and it is also a false accusation made against Catholics today.  Finally the letter is summed up in his veneration of the images of the Saints.

Wherefore also I honour and kiss the features of their images, inasmuch as they have been handed down from the holy apostles, and are not forbidden, but are in all our churches.

Wouldn't the Protestant today reject the act of Saint Basil kissing these images? How many times have I witnessed Protestants online telling their readers that Catholics who kiss the images of the Saints are committing idolatry. It is simply not so! What a beautiful testimony here to the ancient Christian faith! Here Saint Basil tells us that these images are in all of their churches! I find so many people outside of the Church today who think that the early Christians forbade images in the early Church, yet we see here that it is not so. With this testimony we again see our Catholic faith shine through the early Church. We see this same honor, veneration and respect being payed to the Saints today in every ancient apostolic Church including the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

Stay tuned for an upcoming podcast on this subject where I will summarize much of the material I have been compiling here. I will also refute one particular individual who continues to quote the Church Fathers out of context on his blog quite frequently on this and other subjects concerning the Catholic faith.

1 comment:

Alexander said...

What has always amayzed me is how these protestors seem to imagine some mindreading capability that enables them to tell us that we are worshiping the Saints or Mary as gods.