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Ante-Nicene references to the intercession of Mary and deceased saints?


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#1 Brad D.

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 01:32 AM

Does anyone by chance know of a book that examines specifically Ante-Nicene references to requesting Mary and deceased saints to intercede on our behalf? Or was this something that more concretely developed after Nicaea?

#2 Paul Cowan

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 02:15 AM

This concretely developed during the life of Jesus and in the Acts of the Apostles.

Paul

#3 Brad D.

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 02:20 AM

I would be greatly interested in you expanding on that statement.

#4 Nina

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 02:59 AM

In the book 'The Truth of our Faith' Elder Cleopas explains this and provides references even from the Old Testament about intercession of the holy and righteous on behalf of people. It is two chapters, therefore too long to be copied here, however it is a very good book and highly recommended for such questions.

#5 Paul Cowan

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 03:42 AM

I am not very good with words. Others here have a much more extensive library than I do. Here are a couple of posts you might find helpful.

Protestant converts and praying to the saints
Prayers to the saints and Theotokos
The importance of the commemoration for the departed
Why invoke intercessors at all?

Myself also coming from a Methodist (as well as many other belief systems) I too had to get past what was engrained in me as a repulsion of Mary and dead people. And then someone actually told me the Bible was not all that there was to the Bible. That the Bible could not be understood withouth it's second half; Holy Tradition. What the heck was that? No one ever discussed this before in any church I had been in. Imagine my shock to realize when the people of Jesus' day were in church they were not reading out of the KJV. It was a "duh" moment at about the age of 30. How could they be reading out of the Bible when it had ot even been written yet? let alone compiled until some 300 years later?

Things are much easier for me after 10 years in Orthodoxy, but I still have baggage to leave at the curb.

Paul

#6 Kosta

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 06:31 AM

The earliest accounts of invocation and intercessions of the departed saints began early, in remembrance of the martyrs. In the early church the date of a martyrs death was remembered and their memories invoked annually. As the church expanded this commemoration included other heroes of the faith such as confessors, doctors and passion bearers etc. This commemoration was not simply a memorial but petitions for the departed to intercess on behalf of the living christians. While St Ephraim the Syrian lived in the mid 300's he represented the mind of the aramaic speaking syriac church of edessa. He exclusively wrote his hymns in the aramaic syriac dialect expressing the common beliefs as handed down to him:

"Remember me, ye heirs of God, ye brethren of Christ, supplicate the Saviour earnestly for me, that I may be freed through Christ from him that fights against me day by day.[14]
Ye victorious martyrs who endured torments gladly for the sake of the God and Saviour; ye who have boldness of speech towards the Lord Himself; ye saints, intercede for us who are timid and sinful men, full of sloth, that the grace of Christ may come upon us, and enlighten the hearts of all of us that so we may love him."[15]

We first see the intercession of the saints in the book of Revelation where both the heavenly saints and angels offer the prayers of the earthly church:

5.8And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints...
8.3And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne.

BY the mid 4th century, St Cyril of Jerusalem in his catechesis to converts teaches the common practise of the church of Jerusalem as handed down to him by the previous generations. We see how the syriac tradition in no way conflict with the greek tradition:
"We then commemorate also those who have fallen asleep before us, first, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, that God, by their prayers and intercessions, may receive our petitions.[16]" ch 33

The first complete known prayer in existence to the theotokos asking for her intercession is found in Rylands papyrus fragment 470 and dates to about 250 a.d. It seems to originate within the greek/coptic speaking churches of Alexandria. Here is the prayer:

"Beneath thy tenderness of heart
we take refuge, O Theotokos,
disdain not our supplications in our necessity,
but deliver us from perils,
O only pure and blessed one."
Here is a link to the actual photo of the papyrus fragment:
http://theoblogoumen...apyrus-470.html

Here are some quotes from ante-nicene funerary inscriptions in the catacombs:

'Atticus, sleep in peace, secure in your safety, and pray anxiously for our sins' (funerary inscription near St. Sabina's in Rome [A.D. 300]).

'Pray for your parents, Matronata Matrona. She lived one year, fifty-two days' (ibid.).

Gentianus, faithful, in peace who lived twelve years, eight monthsand sixteen days. You will intercede for us in your prayers because we know that you are in Christ" (Lateran Museum).

#7 Brad D.

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 02:21 AM

Thank you all for your replies! I am very thankful for you taking the time to visit with me about this. I am waiting for my Orthodox Prayer Book (Publicans Prayer Book) to come in the mail, and I will enjoy reading through the prayers in there along with the content about prayer. I am not opposed to the concept of saints interceding for us in Heaven. Having come from (and now ministering in) Protestant churches these are just things that are not discussed. One person said it very very well in a post that Paul referred me to, saying that Protestants simply shun anything that is "too Catholic". I am grateful that thus far my primary theological education has been from the Ante-Nicene Fathers, and not from only modern evangelical sources. The early church fathers certainly, without any vague question, held many beliefs that are "too Catholic". Seeing such obvious discrepancies between some Protestant theology and the teachings of the first 300 years of the church helps me to remain open-minded to Orthodox teachings…but my first place to turn for verification is to these early testimonies. That is why I was hoping someone might know of a book that specifically discussed Ante-Nicene texts referring to this subject. At any rate, thanks again very much and I look forward to visiting with you more in other areas.

Brad

#8 Kosta

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 07:04 AM

Here are some more pre-nicene quotes on the intercession of the saints:

Hermas:
"[The Shepherd said:] ‘But those who are weak and slothful in prayer, hesitate to ask anything from the Lord; but the Lord is full of compassion, and gives without fail to all who ask him. But you, [Hermas,] having been strengthened by the holy angel [you saw], and having obtained from him such intercession, and not being slothful, why do not you ask of the Lord understanding, and receive it from him?’" (The Shepherd 3:5:4 [A.D. 80]).

Clement of Alexandria
"In this way is he [the true Christian] always pure for prayer. He also prays in the society of angels, as being already of angelic rank, and he is never out of their holy keeping; and though he pray alone, he has the choir of the saints standing with him [in prayer]" (Miscellanies 7:12 [A.D. 208]).

Origen
"But not the high priest [Christ] alone prays for those who pray sincerely, but also the angels . . . as also the souls of the saints who have already fallen asleep" (Prayer 11 [A.D. 233]).

Cyprian of Carthage
"Let us remember one another in concord and unanimity. Let us on both sides [of death] always pray for one another. Let us relieve burdens and afflictions by mutual love, that if one of us, by the swiftness of divine condescension, shall go hence first, our love may continue in the presence of the Lord, and our prayers for our brethren and sisters not cease in the presence of the Father’s mercy" (Letters 56[60]:5 [A.D. 253]).

Methodius
"Hail to you for ever, Virgin Mother of God, our unceasing joy, for to you do I turn again. You are the beginning of our feast; you are its middle and end; the pearl of great price that belongs to the kingdom; the fat of every victim, the living altar of the Bread of Life [Jesus]. Hail, you treasure of the love of God. Hail, you fount of the Son’s love for man. . . . You gleamed, sweet gift-bestowing Mother, with the light of the sun; you gleamed with the insupportable fires of a most fervent charity, bringing forth in the end that which was conceived of you . . . making manifest the mystery hidden and unspeakable, the invisible Son of the Father—the Prince of Peace, who in a marvelous manner showed himself as less than all littleness" (Oration on Simeon and Anna 14 [A.D. 305]).

"Therefore, we pray [ask] you, the most excellent among women, who glories in the confidence of your maternal honors, that you would unceasingly keep us in remembrance. O holy Mother of God, remember us, I say, who make our boast in you, and who in august hymns celebrate the memory, which will ever live, and never fade away" (ibid.).

"And you also, O honored and venerable Simeon, you earliest host of our holy religion, and teacher of the resurrection of the faithful, do be our patron and advocate with that Savior God, whom you were deemed worthy to receive into your arms. We, together with you, sing our praises to Christ, who has the power of life and death, saying, ‘You are the true Light, proceeding from the true Light; the true God, begotten of the true God’" (ibid.).

"Mother of God, [listen to] my petitions; do not disregard us in adversity,but rescue us from danger" (Rylands Papyrus 3 [A.D. 350] This is another fragment given a late date but probably dates to mid third century).

Also i highly recommend reading the Martyrdom of Perpetua written in 203 a.d. , in that moving account of martyrdom elements of prayers for the dead and prayers to the saints start to become obvious.

#9 Brad D.

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 12:14 PM

Thank you so much! This is excellent. Extremely helpful.




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