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The question posed for this morning is about saints, and why in the Catholic tradition they’re prayed to and revered, whereas in our Protestant and Presbyterian Church, they’re rarely – if ever – mentioned.
The word SAINT appears many times in the Second Testament. The Greek word HAGIOS, which we translate as saint refers to one who is holy, set apart, or marked as righteous. It’s someone who is a model for others in the way and the life of faith. Through the Epistles – Paul’s letters – like today’s selection from 1 Corinthians, Paul calls the members of the various churches under his care – “Holy Ones” or “Saints”.
In later Church tradition, emerging out of the Roman Empire time, “Saint” came to be associated with those who had been martyred for the faith in times of persecution. MARTYR means literally witness. It’s a celebration and reverence for those who died to witness to the truth and conviction of their personal faith in the God known through Jesus. The Church was illegal during much of these early centuries of the Common Era. So Christians literally worshipped underground, near the tombs and burial places of holy martyrs, who’s lives of faithfulness served as examples of faithfulness – in other words they worshipped near the final resting place of “Saints”. The tradition of praying to the saints, or trying to access God through prayer via the saints, emerged from this early obligation for illegal worship.
So what does it mean for us today? Paul calls everyone in the Corinthian church (which has a lot of troubles in their community) a saint, inspiring them to faith-full living. Jesus talked in John 17 of the holy ones who follow him who live in the world, asking for God’s blessing for them.
QUESTIONS FOR GOING DEEPER: