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Rachel wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Can someone please help me explain the Communion of Saints to a Protestant?

I'm having a hard time on my own and thought maybe you could help me.

Rachel

  { Can someone please help me explain the Communion of Saints to a Protestant? }

John replied:

Hi, Rachel —

Below is a letter that I sent a while back. It explains the Communion of Saints to a Fundamentalist.

It includes most of the texts we've discussed but it's in a systematic presentation which addresses the typical objections that Protestants raise.

I hope you find it useful; perhaps your parents might consider reading it.

God bless you,

In the Love and service of Jesus Christ,

John DiMascio


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Let me start of by saying that I appreciate your zeal for Christ and His Truth. Although you disagree with my conclusions, I would hope that you would appreciate similar zeal in me which lead me to study and seek the answers which "Protestantism" (for lack of a better word) was not answering.

I realize that the Catholic Church makes claims for herself, that you reject. That is your right to do so. Perhaps, as we continue this dialogue, we can address those claims as well.

I would like to address one particular issue that was brought up in our chat this evening.

That being your claim that Catholics consult the dead.

It is clear to me that you do not understand what we believe. Further, It is not my goal to persuade you to believe as we do. Rather I would like to clear up, what it is the Church teaches about the Communion of Saints and where it derives Her teaching from Scripture. At that point, you are still free to disagree but it is not fair to accuse us of something we don't believe.

You made reference to Deuteronomy 18:11:

"or conjure spells, or mediums, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead."

This is a Biblical prohibition on divination and magic.

I have promised to give you biblical support for what we believe about the Communion of Saints and I will, but first I want to defend the Church from your accusation that She teaches these practices. The following is the official Church dogma on Divination and Magic. It is from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. As you can read, it in no way condones:

  • consulting the dead
  • divination
  • sorcery
  • magic
  • mediums
  • new age
  • occult practices, and so on.

Divination and magic

2116 All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to "unveil" the future.[48] Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.

2117 All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others - even if this were for the sake of restoring their health - are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's credulity.

Having allowed the Church to speak for itself on the subject of divination and magic, I will now present to you what I found in the Scripture with regards to the Communion of Saints:

(1 Timothy 2:1 and 1 Timothy 2: 5)

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplication, prayers and giving of thanks be made for all men.

1 Timothy 2:1

Verse 5 then spells out that there is but one Mediator, Jesus Christ.

For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

1 Timothy 2: 5

The fact that there is only one Mediator does not prevent others to pray for one another. Rather, the fact that Jesus is the one Mediator allows all those "in Christ" to pray and intercede.
There is no prayer that can be heard outside of the fact that Christ is the Mediator.

Interestingly enough, the times He is mentioned as one Mediator, there is an exhortation for all to pray, or a link to the unity of the Body. I will address this other verse a bit later.

The fact is that, if one is "in Christ", when one is present in the body, one is still "in Christ" when one is no longer physically living. One does not cease to be a member of the mystical body of Christ when he or she is in Heaven.

Now this raises the question:

  • Can they see us?

Well, Hebrews Chapter 11, often called the "faith Hall of Fame" talks about the Old Testament Saints who had died not receiving the promise. Hebrews Chapter 12 starts by saying,

"Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses ..."

The first thing I was taught in Bible School is that when you see "Therefore", you need to see what it's therefore . This cloud of witnesses is a reference to the "dead" Old Testament Saints. Now if you go on to verses 22 through 24a, you get an even more vivid understanding of the mystical unity that exist between Heaven and earth.

"But you have come to Mount Zion and the city of the living God. The heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and the Church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, To Jesus the mediator of the new covenant."

Hebrews 11:22-24a

First of, again we see a reference to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant, but this reference is not in a vacuum, His Mediation is linked by covenant to the rest of His Body. That is why all who are in Christ, share in His Priesthood. He is the High Priest, we are priest by virtue of our being in Him.

We see here mentioned the Spirits of Just men made perfect. This can only mean those saints who are separated from their earthly bodies.

Remember the context of Hebrews. The writer is writing to Jewish believers that were wavering. They were going to abandon the New Covenant for the Old Covenant. The writer, throughout the epistle, constantly compares the two. In this section, he is comparing the inaccessibility of Heaven in the Old Covenant as opposed to the New Covenant. But you have come to Mount Zion and the city of the Living God. (Hebrews 12:22) Then he goes on to describe who you will find there.
The Apostle Paul wrote that we approach boldly the throne room of grace. If we approach the throne room of grace (mystically speaking), we are in His presence. They are also in His presence. If we are both in His presence, we are mystically in each others presence.

Luke 23:45 says that when Jesus was on the cross just as He was giving up His Spirit, the temple veil was torn in two. Compare this with the vision Ezekiel had of the Heavenly temple where there was no veil separating the Holy of Holys.

Consider that on the mount of transfiguration, the Apostles were allowed to see through the veil and see Moses and Elijah speaking to Jesus.

We, as Catholics, believe that one of the results of the atoning death of Christ is that He has restored full communion between Heaven and earth.

Further, I would like to talk about Revelation 5:8,

"Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the lamb, each had a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints."

There is agreement by most theologians that the twenty four elders represent the Old and New Testament Church in Heaven. This all takes place while the earth is beginning the Tribulation.
We see the Church in Heaven upholding the prayers of the saints on earth before the Lamb.
We see that, not only can they see us but, they are united with us in prayer.

One last point. One of the gospels records that the Pharisees scorned Jesus when He said that Abraham saw Jesus' day and rejoiced. They said "you are not yet fifty and you claim to have seen Abraham who has been dead for hundred of years." (loosely paraphrased) He responded that God was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob The God of the LIVING, NOT THE DEAD.

The saints who have gone before us are not dead; they are alive in Christ. We do not conjure the dead, we ask for their prayers, much as we have agreed to pray for one another here on earth.

There is a lot more I could say on this subject and perhaps we will have the opportunity to exchange further notes on this particular topic. At least, in this case, I believe I've provided sufficient Scripture to support our belief. You don't have to agree with our interpretation,
but at least recognize that we are not practicing divination.

This falls into the category of secondary issues. Christians often disagree among each other on these things.

Many genuine believers don't think that Tongues are for today, others believe that the are, both present there Scriptural support for their respective position. One funny thing I find over and over, when non-Catholic Christians don't understand a Catholic interpretation or disagree with a Catholic interpretation, they quickly misrepresent what the Church dogmatically teaches and they call it something that it is not. The fact is that "Bible Christians", Protestants, or what ever term you choose, have their own traditions. Any time you establish an interpretation of the Bible where there is not a unanimous agreement on, each group, or individual establishes their own tradition. Every time you interpret Scripture on the basis of your own experience, you establish a tradition and the one tradition I've found amongst non-Catholic Christians is that Catholics are wrong!!

I sincerely hope to continue this dialogue in the Spirit of Christian Brotherhood. I hope that you will search the Scriptures as I have. I did not become a Catholic based on history, but based on what I began to see in the Scriptures. If you don't find the same things as we continue to talk, I hope that you extend me the same license, you extend yourself and other non-Catholics, — the right to interpret Scripture. After all, the battle cry of Martin Luther and the Reformation was Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone). That means that every man for Himself can interpret the Bible by the Holy Spirit. If, as a Bible Christian, you hold this to be true, then you must extend this to Catholics as well, or else you are upholding your tradition over another man's.

John DiMascio

 

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