Protection Is A Gracious Hiding

Archpriest Stephen Freeman | 14 October 2016

I reflected this morning on the “Veil of Protection” which we enjoy many times in the course of our life. Protection is more than the active warding off of enemies – it is sometimes a gracious hiding. My short trek to Church this morning was through one of the fogs that blanket the Tennessee Valley this time of year. Many things are hidden.

Much of my life remains hidden even from myself. Who is there that knows all of his own sins or all of the goodness of God? I think that these things remain hidden from us by the mercies of God. Who could bear the full knowledge of his own sins or even the full knowledge of the goodness of God?” The depths of such things are hidden and revealed to us by a merciful God as and when they are good for our salvation.

The prayers of the saints, including those of the Mother of God, is a great mystery – they are part of the greater reality of life as communion with God. Earlier this year I offered this thought on the prayers of the saints:

Christ’s “intercession for us” should not be understood as an eternal torrent of words; intercession is Christ’s union with us who have now been united to Him and thus united to His eternal communion with the Father.

This same understanding of prayer is at the heart of the intercession of the saints. Much confusion about the intercession of the saints has been wrought by poor images of prayer. We have reduced prayer to talk and intercession to talk to God about someone else. It is in this imagery that the Protestant question comes forward: “Why do we need someone else to speak to God for us? Isn’t Christ’s prayer enough?”

Of course, if prayer is just talk, then surely Christ’s words would be sufficient. But this oversimplification of prayer fails to do justice to Christ’s own prayer (as well as that of the saints). The intercession of the saints is their communion and participation in the life of Christ. By His life they live and the very character of that life is a communion with God. Rightly understood – that communion is prayer itself. When we express our own communion with the saints through asking their prayers we are giving verbal expression to what is already an ontological reality. As we are in communion with Christ so we are in communion with the saints. The Church cannot be other than the Church.

There may be those who reject the “intercession of the saints” (particularly as caricatured by inadequate understandings of prayer), but if they are truly in the communion of the Church then the intercession of the saints is inherently part of that communion. There is no Church that is not also the communion of the saints.

Today I give thanks for the protecting veil of the Mother of God – for the things I do know and those that I do not.

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