I was interested in references from the early Church Fathers talking about praying to the Saints. Unfortunately, I don't have an easy way to search this, and was hoping others had references.
And if there are bible passages, that would be great.
Christ is Risen!
This is something that Dr. Prof George Bebis (Professor of Patristics of Holy Cross) wrote:"THE INTERCESSION OF THE SAINTS Mosaic Icon of St. George
The fact that Christians ask the prayers of saints and their intercession is prefigured in the New Testament. St. Paul asks the Christian Ephesians, Thessalonians, Colossians and Romans to pray for him (Ephes. 6:19, 1 Thesal. 5:25; Colos. 4:3, and Rom. 15:30-31). In every Liturgy, we ask God the Father to accept, on our behalf, "the prayers and the intercession" of all the Saints who now live in heaven. The Fathers of the Church also accept as a matter of course the prayers and the intercession of all the saints.
In one of his letters, St. Basil
explicitly writes that he accepts the intercession of the apostles, prophets and martyrs, and he seeks their prayers to God (Letter 360). Then, speaking about the Forty Martyrs, who suffered martyrdom for Christ, he emphasizes that "they are common friends of the human race, strong ambassadors and collaborators in fervent prayers" (Chapter 8). St. Gregory of Nyssa
asks St. Theodore the Martyr "to fervently pray to our Common King, our God, for the country and the people" (Encomium to Martyr Theodore
). The same language is used by St. Gregory the Theologian in his encomium to St. Cyprian
. St. John Chrysostom says that we should seek the intercession and the fervent prayers of the saints, because they have special "boldness" (parresia
), before God. (Gen. 44:2 and Encomium to Julian, Iuventinus and Maximinus
, 3). THE VENERATION OF THE SAINTS
In the Orthodox Church the worship (latreia
) given to God is completely different from the honor (tim
) of love (agape
) and respect, or even veneration (proskynesis
), "paid to all those endowed with some dignity" (St. John Chrysostom, Hom. III
, 40). The Orthodox honor the saints to express their love and gratitude to God, who has "perfected" the saints. As St. Symeon the New Theologian writes, "God is the teacher of the Prophets, the co-traveller with the Apostles, the power of the Martyrs, the inspiration of the Fathers and Teachers, the perfection of all Saints ... " (Catechesis
Throughout early Christianity, Christians customarily met in the places where the martyrs had died, to build churches in their honor, venerate their relics and memory, and present their example for imitation by others. Interesting information on this subject derives from the Martyrdom of St. Polycarp
(ch. 17-18), according to which the early Christians reverently collected the remains of the saints and honored them "more than precious stones." They also met on the day of their death to commemorate "their new birthday, the day they entered into their new life, in Heaven." To this day the Orthodox have maintained the liturgical custom of meeting on the day of the saint's death, of building churches honoring their names, and of paying special respect to their relics and icons. The Seventh Ecumenical Council (787 A.D.), in summarizing this practice of the Church, declares that "we adore and respect God our Lord; and those who have been genuine servants of our common Lord we honor and venerate because they have the power to make us friends with God the King of all."
The feast days and the celebrations honoring the saints had become a common practice by the fourth century. The twentieth canon of the Council of Gangra in Asia Minor (between the years 325 and 381) anathematizes those who reject the feast days of the saints. So great was the esteem in which the Apostles, prophets, and martyrs were held in the Church, that many writings appeared describing their spiritual achievements, love and devotion to God.
Together with the Martyrdom of St. Polycarp
, information on the veneration of the Saints derives from the Martyrdom of the Martyrs of Scilli, a small town in North Africa (end of the second century). The list of sources indudes St. Athanasius' Life of St. Anthony
; St. Basil's Homily honoring the "Forty Martyrs"; Gregory of Nyssa's Homily honoring St. Theodore; St. John Chrysostom also delivered a considerable number of sermons dedicated to the Martyrs of the Church. RELICS OF VARIOUS SAINTS AND MARTYRS
The Fathers, and all early Christians in general, paid especially great respect to the relics of the martyrs. In addition to the sources already mentioned, Eusebius of Caesarea
, the Church historian, says that "those who suffered for the glory of Christ always have fellowship with the living God" (Church History
, 5:1). In the Apostolic Constitutions
(5:1) the martyrs are called "brothers of the Lord" and "vessels of the Holy Spirit." This helps to explains the special honor and respect which the Church paid to the relics of the martyrs. St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Cyril of Jerusalem
, and St. John Chrysostom
remind us that the relics of the martyrs "are filled with spiritual grace," that even their tombs are filled with a special "blessing." This Patristic practice still continues today, and people from all over the world visit churches that possess the relics of martyrs and saints. Also, according to the ancient tradition, the consecration of new churches takes place with the deposition of holy relics in the Holy Table of the sanctuary."
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