Getting ready to do our men's Bible study (Thursday morning at 6:15 at the InnKeeper restauarant in Hamel - join us!) and we're starting to study the Large Catechism. As I was reading through the section on the first commandment I was struck by a thought I'd not had before.
Luther, of course, abominates replacing calling upon God with calling upon the saints: "For all such people place their heart and trust elsewhere than in the true God." Yet I wonder if there is a way to understand this differently than he does, based on his later comments:
"So we receive these blessings not from them, but through them, from God. For creatures are only the hands, channels, and means by which God gives all things." This he says of parents, etc. God uses human beings to give us His goodies.
I wondered if this could be applied to the intercession of the saints for us as well? I don't mean our calling upon them per se, but their intercession in heaven for us. They remain very much creatures, but may indeed serve as "hands, channels, and means" for God to give us.
I know part of this touches on the whole mystery of prayer and how it "works" and I've decided I'm never going to understand that and so I've stopped trying. It suffices to know that God commands us to prayer, promises to hear us, and has given us the pattern and words. But I do not doubt that God makes use also of our earthly prayers to grant us both temporal and eternal blessings. Why on earth would we not assume he makes use of heavenly prayers to accomplish the same?
Does the problem with invocation of the saints occur when one crosses over from seeking help through them to seeking help from them? When they are in fact the ones we turn to as though we didn't have a Father who loves us, a Savior who never ceases to plead for us, and the Holy Spirit who prays within us with groans too deep for words? And yet knowing all of that, I do not cease to ask those on earth to pray for me also, and I know that is not problematic at all. I'm not worshipping them by asking for their intercessions. So the saints? Is it possible for this practice to exist WITHOUT it becoming the idolatry that Luther rightly abominates?
Okay, boys, fire away. I'm ducking.
(Oh, and a p.s. - I notice that in the traditional Western mass, the so-called invocation of the saints appears to be non-existent. It seems rather that God is petitioned to have mercy on us through their prayers. I'm thinking of the Canon and the Embolism of the Our Father. Odd, but I'd not seen that before.)