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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Hail Mary

This was first posted back in May 2008.

The word "pray" and all of its various forms has a number of different meanings. Of course when we pray to God, our prayer can have several different forms - prayers of worship and praise, prayers of petition, prayers of thanksgiving to name a few.

When Catholics talk about "praying" to Mary or the saints, THEY ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT PRAYERS OF WORSHIP. And although I suppose one could point out that many prayers praise Mary or the saints, those prayers are always in reference to God i.e. Mary the obedient, Mary the humble servant, Mary mother of God. We praise the saints and Mary because they give more perfect examples of being a child of God and overcoming their sins, than we do.

The Hail Mary is actually very scriptural.


Hail Mary, Full of Grace the Lord is with you
Blessed art thou amongst women
And Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus


The account of the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she is to be the mother of our Savior is familiar to all Christians. We find here the first elements of the Ave Maria. The angel’s words are "Hail, O favored one," (Luke 1:28 RSV), or as Jerome translated it in his 4th century Latin edition, "full of grace."

What does it mean to be greeted as one "full of grace"? At the very least, Mary is highly favored by having been chosen to bear the Son of the Most High. The Latin translation using "full" points to the overflowing abundance and perfection involved. God Himself will dwell in her womb, the Creator will come into the world. The Holy Spirit will overshadow and dwell in her. It is all of grace. By this grace, Mary is special and blessed. The Church’s reflections over the centuries have their root in these words of the angel Gabriel, sent from God. She teaches us to look to Mary for our model of what we ourselves hope to become by God’s fullness of grace.

Mary, and we too, have the next words of the angel to assure us of His help in this. "The Lord is with you" (Luke 1:28). How many times in salvation history have servants of God heard these words? In Genesis 26:24, the Lord appears to Isaac, saying, "Fear not, for I am with you". The Lord God promises to be with Jacob (Gen. 31:3), with Moses (Exod. 3:12), with Joshua (Joshua 1:5), and with Gideon (Judges 6:16). Jesus Himself tells his accusers, "He who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him"(John 8:29). The Lord will be with Paul in the city where He has many people (Acts 18:10). This is His promise to the Church in Matthew 28:20, "I am with you always." And in Revelation 21:3, a great voice tells us, "Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them and they shall be his people and God himself will be with them." The Lord is with Mary, according to the angel, and we know He is with us. His assistance in the Old Testament has been brought to great fulfillment by His very presence with Mary in her womb. "The Lord is with you," has been a pregnant phrase throughout salvation history. And now in the Church, His real presence is with us in His Eucharist.

"Blessed art thou among women," says the prayer, in the words of Elizabeth (Luke 1:42). All the promises of blessing in the Old Testament are fulfilled with the coming of the Savior. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, continues, "and blessed is the fruit of your womb". Mary is blessed because of her child, Son of the Most High. Elizabeth recognizes this, saying in astonishment, "And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:43). Both Mary and Elizabeth are pregnant miraculously, by the grace of God, emphasizing to us that our life in God is all of grace, all by His willing and doing. We, too, are totally dependent on His grace, His mighty acts, his fulfilling of promises. In the Incarnation, Mary is blessed to have the God of the universe dwell in her womb. In the Church, we are graced to receive in the Eucharist His presence, His very body, the fruit of Mary’s womb.

The scriptural first half of the prayer ends with the name of Jesus (Luke 1:31). We are told in Acts that "there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Mary rejoices in God her Savior, and all generations shall call her blessed. Like Mary, we are to rejoice in God’s salvation through Jesus. Like Mary, we are blessed in the Son of the Most High. And like her, we are to be conformed to his image. "For those whom He foreknew, He also pre destined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the first-born among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29). Catholics believe that Mary’s sinlessness is due only and completely to the grace of her Savior, her Son. She did not earn this great privilege, but was prepared by His saving grace to shine as a promise of what we will be, when "we shall be like Him" (1John 3:2).


The second part of the prayer is a prayer of petition.


To ask (someone) imploringly; beseech. Now often used elliptically for I pray you to introduce a request or entreaty: Pray be careful.


Holy Mary, Mother of God
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death, Amen


Catholics strongly believe in the community of saints, that those who died in Christ are alive in Christ (who died for us, so that whether we wake or sleep, we might live with Him" (1 Th. 5:10) so we ask for their prayers, just like we ask each other for prayer. In the second half of the Hail Mary, we address Mary as the Mother of God, for indeed she is. We ask her to pray for us, admitting our sinfulness, and asking for those prayers now as we live our lives but particularly at the end of our life when most likely we will need prayer the most!

For more on the Hail Mary see
Hail Mary
EWTN's explanation.



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90 comments:

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

It's worthwhile to note this significant difference between the Our Father, which is addressed to God, and the Hail Mary, which is addressed to "just" Mary:

In the Our Father, we pray, "Forgive us our sins."

In the Hail Mary, we pray, "Pray for us sinners."

Clearly, we understand that Mary is simply an intercessor. A great and wonderful intercessor, yes--but hardly someone who can be confused with God!

Unashamed said...

Hi ladies, it's been a while :)

As a "protestant" I am dismayed by the lack of honour that is given to the Holy Theotokos in much of the Protestant world. Somehow the distinction between honouring and "worshiping" Mary has become confused, and in an effort to distance themselves from what they see as Mariolatry, some Protestants have lost the biblical understanding of the honour that is due the mother of God.

I have no problem with the explanation that the petition in the Hail Mary is a request for prayer. I guess what I get hung up on is whether we have any assurance that Mary actually hears those prayers. Can you expand on that? (I did a quick google to see if I could find anything and found a reference to Rev. 5:8, but not much in the way of explanation.) Thanks!

Moonshadow said...

I get hung up on is whether we have any assurance that Mary actually hears those prayers.

I think Scripture gives us assurance that the saints in heaven pray for us, as they did when they were on earth:

Rev. 6:10 - They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?"

Col. 1:9 - we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

As to whether she hears me ... or whether God hears me ... I can only gauge by how my prayers are answered. That is, empirically.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Unashamed wrote:

"I have no problem with the explanation that the petition in the Hail Mary is a request for prayer. I guess what I get hung up on is whether we have any assurance that Mary actually hears those prayers. Can you expand on that? (I did a quick google to see if I could find anything and found a reference to Rev. 5:8, but not much in the way of explanation.) Thanks!"
-----------------------------------

Hi Unashamed!

From one Prostestant to another :-)

Whether or not Mary hears those prayers is dependent on whether you believe Mary has some special priestly role in heaven or not. Under the Jewish law, the priests would offer incense before God in the temple. The incense symbolically represented the prayers of the people. The Jewish priests acted as intercessors for the people to God; however, the priests were not privy to the prayers of the people. The people prayed directly to God, and the priests offered up incense symbolically to represent those prayers.

Luke 1:5,9,10 (NLT, emphasis mine):

5 When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron...
9 AS WAS THE CUSTOM OF THE PRIESTS, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense.
10 While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.


Based on what I have read here on this blog, it would seem that Mary and the saints have special intercessory roles in heaven,in which they not only intercede fo us, but are also able to hear our prayers,or take our requests to God. The question is this: Is it okay to call upon a saint in heaven for help to make requests for us? Is this permissible in God's sight? Can you present any evidence from the Bible where a saint, such as Elijah or Moses, was called upon for help after they were taken to heaven?

Peace.

Next, an explanation of Revelation 5:8

Daughter of Wisdom said...

And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints (Revelation 5:8).

In the above scripture the four beasts and the twenty four elders each had harps and golden vials filled with odours (incense). The incense represents symbolically the prayers of the saints (see last part of the verse).

These beasts and elders are doing the same thing the Jewish priests on earth do - offer up incense to God. They are not really offering up prayer, except symbolically by offering incense to God.

Incense I believe is still used in some Catholic churches. Let those here who are Catholic explain the use of incense in worship. They can do a better job than me!

I hope this explanation helps!

Peace.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Based also on Revelation 5:8, it DOES SEEM that saints in heaven (the elders, etc.) DO INTERCEDE on our behalf for our salvation. I don't think they are up there on vacation. Do they hear our prayers to God or can we pray to them for help? That is another matter.

Jennie said...

Hillary,
Thank you for sharing those passages and comments. They shed helpful light on the subject.
I'm wondering, do the saints in heaven (all believers are called saints) have to hear our prayers individually in order to join with us in love and communion? Are they not joining with us when they depend on God, praise and thank Him, and ask for help for those of us still on earth, even though they may not be able to hear and see us individually?


It's important that the Israelites prayed directly to God and not to or through anyone else. Why should we as Christians have to do anything else? I'm thinking about how the Children of Israel were afraid to come to God and were glad to have Moses to go and speak to Him, as opposed to later when they had the law and the tabernacle (and later the Temple) well established. I think then the law showed them their sin, but the sacrifices of the Temple showed them that they could be forgiven by God's provision. They learned to fear AND trust in God (and had to relearn it several times). So Moses was an intercessor for a while, and others came and went, but they were all only shadows of the final intercessor, who is Christ.

Kelly said...

Can you present any evidence from the Bible where a saint, such as Elijah or Moses, was called upon for help after they were taken to heaven?

The Transfiguration: Matt. 17:3, Mark 9:4, and Luke 9:30

There is also 1 Sam 28, although that is necromancy, and so quite the same thing. Samuel still seems to be aware of the situation, as he says:

16 Samuel said, "Why do you consult me, now that the LORD has turned away from you and become your enemy? 17 The LORD has done what he predicted through me. The LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors—to David. 18 Because you did not obey the LORD or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the LORD has done this to you today. 19 The LORD will hand over both Israel and you to the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also hand over the army of Israel to the Philistines."

Jennie said...

But Samuel was a prophet and apparently God still spoke through him. Nobody prayed to him and it wasn't right to try to contact him.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Kelly,

I do not think Jesus was calling upon Moses or Elijah for help in the transfiguration. We do know that Moses and Elijah are two of the 24 elders represented in the book of Revelation; however, it is more likely that they were calling upon Jesus, the Lamb.

It says in Revelation 14:4 that the saints in heaven (the 144,000) "follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth." The saints follow Him, not the other way around.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

As for Samuel...

"And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth" (1 Samuel 28:13).

The apparition which came up WAS NOT SAMUEL. It was a lying spirit from Satan - an evil spirit.


Peace.

Daughter of Wisdom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daughter of Wisdom said...

Jennie wrote:

"I'm wondering, do the saints in heaven (all believers are called saints) have to hear our prayers individually in order to join with us in love and communion? Are they not joining with us when they depend on God, praise and thank Him, and ask for help for those of us still on earth, even though they may not be able to hear and see us individually?"
-----------------------------------

Jennnie, you are correct that all believers (dead or alive) are saints, and not some specially cannonized individuals. I do not believe it is a necessity to hear a person's prayer in order to intercede for them.

I believe the saints in heaven are there as co-laborers with God for our salvation, with the angels in heaven. I do not believe that the saints or angels have their own private 'prayer line' where we can pray to them or make requests of them, before they present these requests to God.

SAINTS ARE NOT THERE TO CATER TO OUR INDIVIDUAL DEMANDS, WISHES, AND DESIRES! THEIR PURPOSE IS FOR THE SALVATION OF MAN!

That's JMHO.

Peace.

Elena said...

and not some specially cannonized individuals.

Actually the Catholic Church teaches this as well. All in heaven are saints. The church singles out notable individuals with extraordinary holiness but realizes that many saintly people live quiet lives that are known only to God and the people who knew them. We celebrate All Saints Day in their honor.

Now can we get back to the Hail Mary?

Kelly said...

Elena already cleared up the Catholic definition of saints, so I'll work on a few other things. There is a high likelihood I'll be interrupted, so I'll do them one comment at a time instead of consolidating.

DOW wrote I do not think Jesus was calling upon Moses or Elijah for help in the transfiguration. We do know that Moses and Elijah are two of the 24 elders represented in the book of Revelation; however, it is more likely that they were calling upon Jesus, the Lamb.

Jesus asked John to baptize Him, although He had no need to be baptized himself. He also asked Peter, James, and John to sit and pray with him in the garden at Gethsemane.

As God, Jesus did not need help in anything. However, as a human, he did feel emotions such as sorrow and fear. He is our model in all things. Moses and Elijah were certainly assisting in some manner after they were taken to heaven.

Kelly said...

Jennie:But Samuel was a prophet and apparently God still spoke through him. Nobody prayed to him and it wasn't right to try to contact him.

I said in my original comment that it was not quite the same thing, and prohibited because it was necromancy.

DOW: The apparition which came up WAS NOT SAMUEL. It was a lying spirit from Satan - an evil spirit.

I see no indication that it was not actually Samuel. I looked up some commentaries to see how it is normally interpreted.

Matthew Henry: Saul had despised Samuel's solemn warnings in his lifetime, yet now that he hoped, as in defiance of God, to obtain some counsel and encouragement from him, might not God permit the soul of his departed prophet to appear to Saul, to confirm his former sentence, and denounce his doom? The expression, to �Thou and thy sons shall be with me, to � means no more than that they shall be in the eternal world. There appears much solemnity in God's permitting the soul of a departed prophet to come as a witness from heaven, to confirm the word he had spoken on earth.

John Wesley: 28:11 Samuel - Whose kindness and compassion as he had formerly experienced, so now he expected it in his deep distress. This practice of divination by the dead, or the souls of dead persons, was very usual among all nations.
28:12 Saw Samuel - The words are express, the woman saw Samuel, instead of the spirit whom she expected to see, God ordering it so for his own glory. She cried with a loud voice - Terrified and astonished, and thence easily conjectured, whom she had been talking with.
28:13 Gods - That is, a god, and divine person, glorious, and full of majesty and splendor, exceeding not only mortal men, but common ghosts.She used the plural number, gods, either after the manner of the Hebrew language, which commonly uses that word of one person: or, after the language and custom of the heathens.

Adam Clarke:

Verse 12. When the woman saw Samuel] That Samuel did appear on this occasion, is most evident from the text; nor can this be denied from any legitimate mode of interpretation: and it is as evident that he was neither raised by the power of the devil nor the incantations of the witch, for the appearances which took place at this time were such as she was wholly unacquainted with. Her familiar did not appear; and from the confused description she gives, it is fully evident that she was both surprised and alarmed at what she saw, being so widely different from what she expected to see.

Verse 13. I saw gods ascending out of the earth.] The word µwhla elohim, which we translate gods, is the word which is used for the Supreme Being throughout the Bible; but all the versions, the Chaldee excepted, translate it in the plural number, as we do. The Chaldee has, I see yyd akalm malacha dayeya, an angel of the Lord, ascending from the earth. This sight alarmed the woman; it was what she did not expect; in this she could not recognise her familiar, and she was terrified at the appearance.

So it seems generally accepted that the apparition really was Samuel.

Kelly said...

More later.

Jennie said...

Kelly,
Jennie:But Samuel was a prophet and apparently God still spoke through him. Nobody prayed to him and it wasn't right to try to contact him.

I said in my original comment that it was not quite the same thing, and prohibited because it was necromancy.


I was just responding to your comment that Samuel seemed to be aware of the situation with Saul. I was saying that Samuel knew about it because God told him, not because he would normally know about it. Samuel was not in heaven, but in the 'good' side of Hades, where the Old Testament saints went. I believe the saints went to heaven when Jesus died or when He rose again.

Kelly said...

So, I have my hands free again and can pick up where I left off.

I was reading through the purgatory discussion we had on your blog, Jennie, because I thought we covered some of this already there. When I was searching through my e-mail, I found at least 3 occasions where I said this to you:

We believe that God is the God of the living and not the dead, because the dead are alive to Him (Matt. 22:32; Mark 12:27; Luke 20:38) and that they are aware of us on earth, surrounding us as a great cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1). The saints present their prayers to God before His throne in heaven (Rev. 5:8).

Each time, you skipped over it and addressed some other point. How interesting that DOW says one time that the saints pray for us in heaven, referencing the same verse, and now you say you agree! You are certainly cementing our opinion that you often disagree with us just to disagree.

Have you changed your opinion that the dead are not aware of us?

Hillary wrote: SAINTS ARE NOT THERE TO CATER TO OUR INDIVIDUAL DEMANDS, WISHES, AND DESIRES! THEIR PURPOSE IS FOR THE SALVATION OF MAN!

How many people treat God in just such a way. It was just a few weeks ago that Candy was asking everyone on her blog to pray that God would allow them to buy this one particular house that was her dream house. That is very common.

But as we've said repeatedly, we see asking the saints to pray for us as no different from asking our friends or relatives to pray for us. But then, many people ask their friends to pray for their demands, wishes and desires.

Isn't it frivolous to pray for help on a test, or a raise at work instead of praying for the conversion of sinners? Yet, God is our Father, and there is no matter too trivial to take to him. He is patient and loving, even as we show our selfish natures in our prayer requests.

As to the nature of the saints in heaven being able to hear our prayers, it is true that the nature of that is not revealed in Scripture. I assume it is all possible through the communion of saints, and those in heaven being joined in the beatific vision of heaven.

So what are your thoughts on all of this, Unashamed?

Sarah said...

I understand why Mary is hailed as being 'blessed among women' - and indeed she was so blessed what an honour! But I've wondered why she (among the Saints) is lauded above John the Baptist who was described by Jesus that there has been no-one born of woman greater than he (with the caveat that he was less than those in heaven)?

Jennie said...

Kelly,
I don't have any problem with the saints in heaven praying for us; I don't think they can hear our prayers or see us individually. I surmise that they may be able to know general needs of the body of Christ as God lets them know. I don't see anything in scripture that encourages prayer to people in that have passed on, or that says they can hear us.
About God as the God of the living, I have heard this quite a few times and addressed it before, that I believe the same thing: that the believers are alive with God; we call them dead because their bodies are dead, while their spirits live in heaven; their bodies will be resurrected at Christ's return to earth. Then they will have bodies like Christ's. I apologize for not addressing the comments you made about this in the past; it was an oversight. I guess I just didn't see why the passage made any difference in our argument; just because they are alive doesn't mean they can hear prayers like God does.

Jennie said...

Kelly,
also, we believe that we are saints as well, while on earth. It just means people of God, or those set apart for God.

Jennie said...

Oops! my last comment should have been addressed to Elena, about all believers being saints. And Hillary (DOW) also said the same thing.

Elena said...

Then we have different definitions of "saint."

Daughter of Wisdom said...

"As God, Jesus did not need help in anything. However, as a human, he did feel emotions such as sorrow and fear. He is our model in all things. Moses and Elijah were certainly assisting in some manner after they were taken to heaven."
----------------------------------
How were Elijah and Moses assisting Jesus personally?

I believe that Elijah and Moses were there to get advice and instructions from Jesus, in order to carry out the work in heaven - not Jesus calling upon them for personal help.

Peace.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

The above comment about Elijah and Moses was made by Kelly.

Kelly said...

I believe that Elijah and Moses were there to get advice and instructions from Jesus, in order to carry out the work in heaven - not Jesus calling upon them for personal help.

But it doesn't say that in the text, either.

Sarah said...

I always saw the Transfiguration scripture as being a lesson for the disciples and the glorification of Jesus Christ as Son of God and His pre-eminence. Elijah and Moses symbolised the prophets and the law. When Peter suggested making the booths Elijah and Moses were immediately taken from view and they were told "...listen to Him". Jesus is the fulfilment of the law and the prophets; the embodiment of the Word of God. Moses and Elijah are gone, their work is fulfilled, Jesus is here; He is the One to be honoured and listened to.

I think angels were sent to minister to Jesus when needed, I'm not sure Moses and Elijah were there to minister. It would be wonderful to know what they spoke about.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Okay Kelly, I have the details of the conversation between Jesus and Elijah/Moses:

Luke 9:28-31, NLT:

28 About eight days later Jesus took Peter, John, and James up on a mountain to pray.
29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white.
30 Suddenly, two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared and began talking with Jesus.
31 They were glorious to see. And they were speaking about his exodus from this world, which was about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem.

They were discussing Jesus' upcoming crucifixion! Jesus certainly was not seeking personal help, but was detailing His plans to them.

I kinda figured Jesus was giving them some kind of instruction, because, afterall, they were accountable to Jesus - they were His servants!

After Elijah and Moses left, Peter, James, and John heard a voice from heaven saying , "This is my beloved Son: hear him" (vs. 35). God wanted the disciples to now listen to the instructions of Jesus.

Peace.

Jennie said...

Elena,
I'm using the word as it's used in scripture, as referring to believers.

Psalm 16:2 O my soul, you have said to the LORD,
“You are my Lord,
My goodness is nothing apart from You.”

Psalm 30:4 Sing praise to the LORD, you saints of His,
And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.

Proverbs 2:
8 He guards the paths of justice,
And preserves the way of His saints.

Daniel 7:21
“I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them

Acts 9:13
Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem."

Acts 9:41
Then he gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive.

Acts 26:10
This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.

Romans 1:
7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jennie said...

Oops! the first scripture should be Psalm 16:3 As for the saints who are on the earth,
“They are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.”

Elena said...

It doesn't say specifically that believers = saints.

Jennie said...

When Catholics talk about "praying" to Mary or the saints, THEY ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT PRAYERS OF WORSHIP. And although I suppose one could point out that many prayers praise Mary or the saints, those prayers are always in reference to God i.e. Mary the obedient, Mary the humble servant, Mary mother of God. We praise the saints and Mary because they give more perfect examples of being a child of God and overcoming their sins, than we do.

I'm not sure about all protestants, but I am used to thinking of prayer as an inherent part of worship, depending upon someone greater than we are to help us. We believe that God is the only one who can hear prayer and the one through whom all help comes. I know the catholics will probably say that God can use the saints in heaven to help us, but why do we need that if God can hear us and help us? I believe that God wants us to pray to Him alone in heaven because depending on others in heaven can lead to idolatry. Idolatry is basically turning our eyes away from God to depend on someone else more or instead, even ourselves.

I do not see that praise to Mary and the Saints always refer to God. Many I've seen to Mary praise her giving her the names of God and attributing these characteristics to her instead. That is what I object to.

Jennie said...

It doesn't say specifically that believers = saints.

Elena, who then do you think these passages are referring to? They are talking about those who trust in God.

Unashamed said...

Kelly - thanks for the clarification. Interesting discussion. So, my 2 cents for what it's worth...

I don't think we can say dogmatically from the text that the saints in heaven "hear" our prayers, but Scripture does explicitly say that the saints in heaven bring prayers before the Lord (Rev. 5:8). Whose prayers would they be? Probably not their own, since the are in communion with Christ and prayer wouldn't be necessary (would it? I am speculating here) so it seems logical to assume that they are bringing prayers on behalf of the saints not yet gone on to heaven. Again, whether an individual saint hears those prayers, I don't think we can say for sure.

I do not recall anything in the Small Catechism that forbids asking the saints in heaven to pray for us. It does explicitly say that we are not to pray "for" the dead (ref. Hebrews 9:27) and it does explicitly say that we are to pray "to" the One True God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit *only*.

Luther held Mary in high esteem and he advocated praying the first half of the Hail Mary as a pious prayer and proper for use in giving praise to God for His grace towards Mary (which seems to be the Catholic view as well). If I had to guess, I would say that Luther probably discouraged the use of the second petition because he was afraid of blurring the distinction between asking Mary to pray for us and praying *to* her as a deity. This is understandable in the context of history. During Luther's time, the veneration of Mary had become idolatry - believers prayed directly to Mary for aid and access to her Son. Like so many aspects of Luther's theology, he sought to correct beliefs that had become corrupted, not to discard them entirely.

Bottom line for me: if a person holds the belief that he may ask Mary to bring prayers before the Lord on his behalf, this is fine, so long as it is not made an article of faith.

But I'm open to correction *wink*

Unashamed said...

Elena, I have to agree with Jennie that the word "saints" as used in the Scriptures she quoted does explicitly refer to believers. Romans 1:7 - "To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Why would Paul refer to God as *our* Father if he was not addressing believers? The inference is quite clear.

Moonshadow said...

in giving praise to God for His grace towards Mary

YES! and all the saints. Now, how do we know who they are ...

Elena said...

I believe that all saints are believers. I just don't believe the opposite is true.

Elena said...

"called to be saints"

Proving my point. We are all called to be saints, and we all have the potential of becoming saints, and when we make it to heaven we will be saints. But I for one ain't there yet. I'm guessing I'm in good company.

Unashamed said...

Or "called to be saints" could also mean that they have been called presently and eternally. For example, our parish has called my husband to be an elder. Logically, we understand this to mean that he is being called *presently* to service as a church elder, not "potentially" some time in the future.

Jennie said...

Unashamed,
Luther held Mary in high esteem and he advocated praying the first half of the Hail Mary as a pious prayer and proper for use in giving praise to God for His grace towards Mary (which seems to be the Catholic view as well). If I had to guess, I would say that Luther probably discouraged the use of the second petition because he was afraid of blurring the distinction between asking Mary to pray for us and praying *to* her as a deity. This is understandable in the context of history. During Luther's time, the veneration of Mary had become idolatry - believers prayed directly to Mary for aid and access to her Son. Like so many aspects of Luther's theology, he sought to correct beliefs that had become corrupted, not to discard them entirely.

Here's the prayer again for reference:

Hail Mary,
Full of Grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit
of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary,
Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of death.

Amen.


Unashamed, I understand Luther's belief that the first part of the prayer could be prayed as a remembrance of God's grace toward Mary, but I wouldn't be able to do it myself in good conscience, since
1) I don't believe the angel said 'full of grace' but said 'highly favored' or 'one shown much grace'.
2)I don't believe we are to pray to Mary, and this is addressed to her, not to God.

As to the second part of the prayer, I agree with your assessment of why Luther would discourage praying it, and I agree with the fact that distinctions can easily be blurred and veneration can turn into worship and idolatry. I think that is why God commanded and stressed prayer and worship to Himself alone so many times in scripture.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

31Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.

32And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the SAINTS which dwelt at Lydda.
(Acts 9:31-32).


2Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be SAINTS, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their's and our's(1 Corinthians 1:2).

Saints = believers in both of these passages.

Peace.

Elena said...

Or "called to be saints" could also mean that they have been called presently and eternally. For example, our parish has called my husband to be an elder. Logically, we understand this to mean that he is being called *presently* to service as a church elder, not "potentially" some time in the future.

I think this illustrates my point as well. He is presently being called, he may be one in the future, but he is not one yet!

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Luke called the believers in Lydda saints (Acts 9:32), and Paul called the believers in Corinth saints (1 Corinthians 1:2). These believers were not in heaven but on earth.

Elena said...

Saints = believers in both of these passages.

and maybe they were saints= believers in those passages. I totally believe that some people of extraordinary holiness might reach that state on earth.

But it is an inductive reasoning fallacy to assume that because those believers = saints that ALL believers = saints.

I'd like to see one passages that says such a thing.

Jennie said...

Proving my point. We are all called to be saints, and we all have the potential of becoming saints, and when we make it to heaven we will be saints. But I for one ain't there yet. I'm guessing I'm in good company.

Elena, my point was that all those passages were referring to people on earth; and all referred to the people of God's congregation that trusted in Him and worshiped Him.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Elena,

You do have a point about the "called to be saints" being future; however, in 1 Corinthians 1:2, Paul was referencing back to the original call of the Corinthians to be saints before they became saints. They had now answered the call and were now saints/believers on earth.

Jennie said...

Saints doesn't mean perfection, it means those justified by His grace, that trust in Him by faith.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Elena wrote:

"and maybe they were saints= believers in those passages. I totally believe that some people of extraordinary holiness might reach that state on earth."
-----------------------------------

Again, here is the difference with Protestant understanding of sainthood vs. Catholic understanding. In Prostestant circles a saint is not someone with "extraordinary holiness." A saint is anyone who has been saved and sanctified by Jesus.

Elena said...

Saints doesn't mean perfection, it means those justified by His grace, that trust in Him by faith.


As I suspected - our definitions are not the same.

Unashamed said...

>>He is presently being called, he may be one in the future, but he is not one yet!<<

Um...except he was called to be an elder about eight years ago and has been serving as one ever since...but this is all OT. That saints=believers is well established in Scripture. It's simply the plain reading of the text.

Moonshadow said...

Thayer's Lexicon, ἅγιος :

"of things which on account of some connection with God possess a certain distinction and claim to reverence, as places sacred to God which are not to be profaned, Acts vii. 33; ... of persons whose services God employs; as for example, apostles, Eph. iii. 5; angels, 1 Th. iii. 13 ... "

You can read it for the definition that appeals to you.

Elena said...

It's simply the plain reading of the text.

Ah! The old old plain read.

In modern English

translated from the ancient texts,

written in a different culture by the writers of the period.

Right.

Elena said...

and of course there is also the possibility that both definitions are correct - as in one word with several different and subtle meanings.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Okay Elena, here is your scripture:

Ephesians 5:1-3, emphasis mine:

1Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;
2And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.
3But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints.

Paul is here counselling the Ephesian believers to conduct themselves in a fitting manner "as becometh saints" (vs. 3).

Peace.

Elena said...

Well Hilary you again support my point. I totally agree that we are "becoming" saints.


But where does it say that believers ARE saints simply by virtue of being believers?

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Signing off now. Great discussion, but I am in the midst of a great spiritual experience right now, with the God of an ancient text who has written instructions for me from another culture.

Peace and Blessings.

Unashamed said...

Hey Jennie, I understand why your conscience would not allow you to pray the first petition of the Hail Mary. I'm not sure I would be entirely comfortable either, but maybe that's because it is not part of our church's tradition. For those who are able to keep the distinction clear, in Christian charity I would not condemn the use of the first petition. Luther was fond of saying that abuse of a thing didn't nullify the usefulness of the thing.

BTW, I really don't have a problem with the rendering of "full of grace" in the text. Mary's grace (or favour with God) is not on account of any righteousness of her own, but rests wholly on Christ’s righteousness, for her. She believes the promised Messiah will be her deliverance and this is accounted to her as righteousness. In this way, she is no different than you or I, whom God favours on account of faith in His Son.

Elena said...

Interesting? I'm assuming then that there is no scripture supporting that or it would have been presented.

Is it possible then that the idea that only saints = believers is not a scriptural one?

I just throw that out there as food for thought. Please finish any discussions on the actual topic and I'll close this one up tomorrow.

Unashamed said...

>>Ah! The old old plain read.

In modern English

translated from the ancient texts,

written in a different culture by the writers of the period.

Right.<<

I don't read Greek, but my husband does. I could ask him if you like...

Kelly said...

Away from computer, but I agree w/Jennie and Hillary that the early Xns were called saints in the present tense. See communion of saints in CCC.

Jennie said...

Well Hilary you again support my point. I totally agree that we are "becoming" saints.

Elena, 'as becometh saints' is a different meaning of the word 'becomes'. Maybe you realized that and are making play on words. But in the passage Paul is still calling all the believers 'saints'.

Jennie said...

I meant to add that 'becometh' means that the behavior is 'appropriate' for those who are set aside for God.

But where does it say that believers ARE saints simply by virtue of being believers?
By believer I mean one who is justified and regenerated (made a new creation) by faith, and is set apart for God, beginning to be made like Christ. They live a life of abiding in Christ and repentance from sin and become more and more like Christ. We are saints because of Jesus' righteousness and because His Spirit is in us helping us live righteously.
All the passages referring to the saints are referring to the congregation of believers either on earth or in heaven or both.

Moonshadow said...

They live a life of abiding in Christ

This presupposes "perseverance of the saints" or "assurance."

Jennie said...

Teresa,
thanks for posting the link to the Greek word and definitions. 'A most holy thing, a saint' is the Greek word hagios. It says from the root hagos, 'an awful thing', which is the old meaning of awful as 'inspiring awe', I think.
This is a wonderful and humbling idea, that we are made into holy ones by God's grace and His righteousness. It is awe inspiring :)

Moonshadow said...

. 'A most holy thing, a saint' is the Greek word hagios.

And we are debating the meanings of "holy" and "saint", therefore I posted an excerpt from Thayer's Lexicon.

One needs to browse the entire entry, though.

Dr MikeyMike said...

I'm curious to see where the discussion goes in reference to the second half of the prayer.

"Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death."

Yes, there is already rampant discussion on whether Saints can pray for us (though I ponder what is different between asking Mary to pray for us and bring her petitions before God, such like the passage from Revelations stated). But is it wrong to call Mary "holy"? Is that idolatry? Is it right to call -anyone- holy? And is she not the Mother of God by simply being the mother of Jesus, who is God incarnate? That doesn't necessarily mean its a statement of her abilities as a person, rather I think it's more a simple statement. If Jesus=God incarnate, and Mary=Mother of Jesus, then Mary=Mother of God Incarnate?

I also contend an earlier statement that you made, Unashamed (but might I also say your comments have been interesting! Welcome to the forum!)

During Luther's time, the veneration of Mary had become idolatry - believers prayed directly to Mary for aid and access to her Son.

Can you back that up? How is that any different from current Protestant claims against Catholics? And even if it is true (which, I actually believe that it might be if you apply it to certain individuals), isn't that more of a blanket statement? I dare bring up the I-word (indulgences), but just because some people might have abused the concept, does that make the whole thing bad?

Dr MikeyMike said...

"I know the catholics will probably say that God can use the saints in heaven to help us, but why do we need that if God can hear us and help us?"

Along that line of thought, if God can hear us and help us, why does he utilize angels as messengers and meddlers instead of doing it Himself? What's the point of angels? Scripture clearly references them, and shows them more than just the Heavenly Host who sing, play harps, and bathe in the presence of the Almighty.

Moonshadow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Moonshadow said...

why does he utilize angels as messengers and meddlers instead of doing it Himself?

Because the transcendent God uses mediators, and now we have "one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus," - 1 Tim 2:5

IOW, He did it Himself.

Jennie said...

Teresa,
here's an entry that came up when I clicked on the part that said 'Vines expository dictionary of New Testament words' and under Strongs g40, hagios, it says:
Saint(s):
for the meaning and use of which see HOLY, B, No. 1, is used as a noun in the singular in Phl 4:21, where pas, "every," is used with it. In the plural, as used of believers, it designates all such and is not applied merely to persons of exceptional holiness, or to those who, having died, were characterized by exceptional acts of "saintliness." See especially 2Th 1:10, where "His saints" are also described as "them that believed," i.e., the whole number of the redeemed. They are called "holy ones" in Jud 1:14, RV. For the term as applied to the Holy Spirit see HOLY SPIRIT. See also SANCTIFY.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Dr.Mike asked:

"But is it wrong to call Mary "holy"? Is that idolatry? Is it right to call -anyone- holy?"
-----------------------------------

No, it is not wrong to call anyone holy. It is not idolatry. God has said that we should be holy as He is holy. He has called us to be a holy nation, and a royal priesthood (1 Peter 1:16; 1 Peter 2:9).

Peace.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Dr. Mike, while the saved in heaven do intercede for us, we have NO access to them through prayer. Every prayer that is prayed needs to be addressed to God. Prayer is our direct line of communication with God - it is our private line to God. Praying to someone other than God is a perversion of prayer.

It is interesting to note that when Jesus transfigured, both Elijah and Moses had to come down from heaven to speak with Jesus. Why did Jesus not just pray to them instead of having them come down to earth to speak with them? Jesus also could have spoken to them in a vision as well, as in the case of John in the book of Revelation. Face to face encounters or visionary interaction with spiritual beings is NOT PRAYER.

There is absolutely no evidence in scripture of any of the Old Testament or New Testament believers praying to the saved in heaven. None.

Every prayer that has ever been recorded in the Bible have all been addressed to God. I see no evidence of prayers being

Peace.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

I see no evidence of prayers being addressed to persons other than God.

Dr MikeyMike said...

Because the transcendent God uses mediators, and now we have "one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus," - 1 Tim 2:5

Based on this, "It's a Wonderful Life" is a sham? :( I'm praying my, "Angel of God, my Guardian dear.." prayer all for nothing!

Prayer is our direct line of communication with God - it is our private line to God. Praying to someone other than God is a perversion of prayer.

Worshipful prayer is. Asking someone else to pray for you is hardly worshipful. I guess I'm committing idolatry, then, by having a quiet conversation with my grandmother at graveside.

Elena said...

Incidentally the USCCB Bible on line version of Ephesians 5 is:

1
So be imitators of God, 1 as beloved children,
2
and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.
3
Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones.


As I suspspected, in the NT verses supplied, it may well be that the term "saints" applies to the definition that Theresa supplied from the Lexicon.

That is NOT the meaning that Catholics typically mean when we discuss "Saints" in general.

Glad we cleared that up - still not sure what that has to do with the Hail Mary. I have piano lessons this morning and will be wrapping this up this afternoon.

Kelly said...

Dr. Mike, Unashamed actually predates your arrival. She, along with Sue Bee and Miz Ellen are our Lutheran contingent. It has been awhile since any of them stopped by, but they always add a lot to the discussion.

Kelly said...

Jennie, I see now that I misunderstood what you meant when you said that the dead couldn't hear us. I thought you were saying that the dead were sleeping in the grave until the second coming. I didn't realize you meant that they couldn't hear us in heaven.

I thought of another verse which speaks to that.

Phil 2:10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth

When the name of Jesus is invoked, those in heaven are aware and bow as well as "confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

My 1 year old has been feverish for 3 days now, and is mostly only content sitting in my arms. That is having a big impact on my ability to type. I'll try to chip away at it some more later.

Unashamed said...

Hello Dr. Mike,

I'm happy to respond and clarify.

>>I'm curious to see where the discussion goes in reference to the second half of the prayer…is it wrong to call Mary "holy"?<<

Certainly not. Mary is holy by virtue of her sanctification by the Holy Spirit, even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth.

>> And is she not the Mother of God?<<

Indeed she is. She is the mother of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who is True God and True Man. She is the Mother of God by virtue of who Christ is, and not any special attribute of her own.

I think that it’s important to note that the use of these appellations (“Holy”, “Mother of God”) tells us something about the action of God towards His creation. God sanctifies His creation (including Mary) by grace through faith. God binds Himself to His creation by taking upon the nature of His creation (and He did so through Mary).

>>"Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death."<<

I must admit, the idea that the Holy Theotokos is at the throne of God praying on my behalf brings me comfort. I am confident that she does so through the prompting of the Holy Spirit (just as the Spirit may prompt me to pray for another). But again, she does so because she is empowered by the Spirit and not through any inherent power of her own.

I imagine you’re probably noticing a pattern here…in each case what we confess about Mary reveals something about the Saviour. Mary very properly points us back to Christ and what He has done for us, and this is the proper reason the Church venerates her.

The problem, as you have pointed out, is that some have abused the concept. Luther, (who was himself Catholic and acquainted with the Church’s teachings and the beliefs of the people at that time) wrote about the abuse of the veneration of Mary:

“No one can deny that by such saint worship we have now come to the point where we have actually made utter idols of the Mother of God and the saints, and that because of the service we have rendered and the works we have performed in their honor we have sought comfort more with them than with Christ Himself. Thereby faith in Christ has been destroyed.” (D.Martin Luthers Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe, Abteilung Werke 11:415)

“Take note of this: no one should put his trust or confidence in the Mother of God or in her merits, for such trust is worthy of God alone and is the lofty service due only to him. Rather praise and thank God through Mary and the grace given her. Laud and love her simply as the one who, without merit, obtained such blessings from God, sheerly out of his mercy, as she herself testifies in the Magnificat.” (Luther’s Works 43:38)

Unashamed said...

Cont'd

To put ones trust in anything other than the completed work of the Saviour is idolatry, and this is what Luther objected to. During his time, beliefs had arisen that Mary’s intercession went beyond asking for her prayers. Luther was well acquainted with these beliefs and gives a personal example: he had once cut himself badly and feared he would bleed to death; in his fear he prayed to Mary to save his life! Over time he came to see such a view of Mary as idolatrous and he discouraged venerating Mary in ways that were likely to be confused or abused.

“I beseech in Christ that your preachers forbear entering upon questions concerning the saints in heaven and the deceased, and I ask you to turn the attention of people away from these matters in view of the fact…that they are neither profitable nor necessary for salvation. This is also reason why God decided not to let us know anything about His dealings with the deceased. Surely he is not committing a sin who does not call upon any saint but only clings firmly to the one mediator, Jesus Christ.” (Letter to Erfurt evangelists July 10, 1522)

>>but just because some people might have abused the concept, does that make the whole thing bad?<<
No, it doesn’t, and I think that proper, ongoing catechesis does much to curb misunderstanding and abuse. For that reason, I do not condemn those who would ask Mary to make supplication before God on their behalf (assuming, of course that they have a proper understanding of what is going on).

That being said, because the Hail Mary can be so easily misunderstood (especially with regards to the nature of Mary’s intercession), and because it is not a belief necessary for salvation, neither do I condemn those who refrain from using it.

Hope that helps.

Jennie said...

Well said, Unashamed.

Jennie said...

Philippians 2:9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

When the name of Jesus is invoked, those in heaven are aware and bow as well as "confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Kelly,
I have been used to thinking of these verses as talking about the future, when Jesus returns and every knee bows. Certainly every knee has not yet bowed, nor every tongue yet confessed that Jesus is Lord. So I don't think of it as meaning that every time someone on earth invokes His name, those in heaven bow. I don't think that is what this passage is talking about.

Kelly said...

But it doesn't say ever knee WILL bow, it says that ever knee SHOULD bow. I checked several translations, and all say the same.

I see no indication from the chapter that this particular line should be interpreted as looking to the future. On the contrary, Paul is speaking of how highly God HAS exalted Jesus (present tense) that every person SHOULD bow to acknowledge that. Not only on earth, but in heaven and under the earth (which Catholics would say is a reference to purgatory).

Kelly

Kelly said...

Sarah wrote:
I understand why Mary is hailed as being 'blessed among women' - and indeed she was so blessed what an honour! But I've wondered why she (among the Saints) is lauded above John the Baptist who was described by Jesus that there has been no-one born of woman greater than he (with the caveat that he was less than those in heaven)?

The verses immediately preceding are referencing the Old Testament prophets. As John dies before the death of Jesus, he is the closing of the Old Testament prophets. As the one who proclaims Jesus as the Messiah, he is the greatest of those born of women, i.e., the greatest of the prophets.

Chip, chip.

Kelly said...

1) I don't believe the angel said 'full of grace' but said 'highly favored' or 'one shown much grace'.

As you probably know, "full of grace" comes from the Latin Vulgate translation, which was used for centuries by Catholics. The current translation in use translates Luke 1:28 as "And coming to her, he said, "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you."

We continue to use the "full of grace" version because it is so deeply entrenched at this point. Many people use trespasses or debts in the Lord's Prayer for the same reason.

Unashamed said...

Re: "full of grace" vs. "favoured one"

When approached with a Christocentric hermeneutic, both of these renderings have the same meaning: Mary is full of grace/God's favour on account of Christ. We do not have to read very far to know the reason for this favour - "the Lord is with you". (This, btw, gives me shivers everytime I read it. I always wonder if in that moment Mary understood the full import of that greeting; that the Lord now dwelt bodily inside her?)

Jennie said...

Kelly,
looking at some other instances of the word 'should' in the Bible and thinking of how it is used in older books I've read, it doesn't always mean the same thing as it does to us today, as in 'you should do this.' Often it is used like 'if such and such should happen, then I will do such and such.' It doesn't mean such and such SHOULD happen, it just means if it happens then something else will happen as a result. Look up some examples of 'should' in the Bible and see how it is used. Here's one:
Genesis 42:38 But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is left alone. If any calamity should befall him along the way in which you go, then you would bring down my gray hair with sorrow to the grave.”

Jennie said...

The verses immediately preceding are referencing the Old Testament prophets. As John dies before the death of Jesus, he is the closing of the Old Testament prophets. As the one who proclaims Jesus as the Messiah, he is the greatest of those born of women, i.e., the greatest of the prophets.

Kelly,
this doesn't mean that Mary IS greater than John the Baptist. And I don't agree that it is only comparing John to the other prophets. It seems to be comparing him to everyone, except of course Jesus Himself. Mary is blessed AMONG women not above them or above all mankind. It doesn't say that anywhere in scripture.

Dr MikeyMike said...

Wow! Unashamed predates me? That's awesome! I guess I should be saying, 'Hello' rather than welcoming you to the place :P~.

And that was a very good post! I feel as though there is much common ground. :)

Elena said...

Thanks Mike - and with that, this thread is closed.