All Saints and All Souls

Since last night was the Feast of All Saints, today is the Feast of All Souls, and tomorrow will be the actual celebration of the former for many parishes, allow me to quote some words from Philip Melanchthon, the author of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession. In article 20:8-9, he says:

Besides, we also grant that the angels pray for us. For there is a testimony in Zech. 1:12, where an angel prays: O Lord of hosts, how long wilt Thou not have mercy on Jerusalem? Although concerning the saints we concede that, just as, when alive, they pray for the Church universal in general, so in heaven they pray for the Church in general, albeit no testimony concerning the praying of the dead is extant in the Scriptures, except the dream taken from the Second Book of Maccabees, 15:14.

So, Melanchthon admits that the Angels and Saints of heaven pray for us (and how could he deny it, cf. Rev. 5:8; 8:3-5). He goes on to say that “even supposing that the saints pray for the Church ever so much, yet it does not follow that they are to be invoked.” Here I must disagree with him, especially since the ‘invocation’ of the saints have been part of the Church since its beginning. We see many drawings of this in the catacombs. But I think Melanchthon can be shown to be wrong. In Rev. 5:8, we see that “the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” The twenty-four elders are probably a representation of the saints of the Old and New Covenant (12 representing the 12 tribes of Israel; 12 representing the Apostles). They offer prayers to God. They are offering “the prayers of the saints.” But it seems obvious to me that the saints here are the saints on earth, and the twenty-four elders (along with the four living creatures) are offering their prayers. The saints of heaven are then not only praying for the saints on earth. They are offering the prayers of the saints on earth. What is that, if not the ‘invocation’ of the saints?


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