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Author Topic: Converts: Praying for intercession through the saints and the Theotokos  (Read 7888 times) Average Rating: 0
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« Reply #90 on: December 27, 2011, 04:25:07 PM »

It's becoming obvious that American Orthodox do not pray to Saints in the same manner as their Orthodox brothers and sisters in the home countries but instead they restrict themselves to asking the Saints to intercede for them with God.

Does anybody have any thoughts as to why this divergence from traditional Orthodoxy has occurred in America? 

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« Reply #91 on: December 27, 2011, 04:29:24 PM »

It's becoming obvious that American Orthodox do not pray to Saints in the same manner as their Orthodox brothers and sisters in the home countries but instead they restrict themselves to asking the Saints to intercede for them with God.

Does anybody have any thoughts as to why this divergence from traditional Orthodoxy has occurred in America? 



Could you explain the difference? 
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« Reply #92 on: December 27, 2011, 04:29:42 PM »

And a secondary question:

The Church is almost literally awash with liturgical and devotional material to the Mother of God, to the Angels and to the Saints.  

Do American Orthodox make use of these prayers to the Saints, and Akathists and Canons, or do they eschew them since they go beyond asking for intercession?

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« Reply #93 on: December 27, 2011, 04:35:01 PM »

I don't see this as a dichotomy. Looking at hymnography, there is the constant motif of asking the saint to pray to God on our behalf for the salvation of our souls, and for Him to grant us mercy. The standard refrain in the Canons at Matins is Holy/Saint XXX, pray to God for us.
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« Reply #94 on: December 27, 2011, 04:35:18 PM »

It's becoming obvious that American Orthodox do not pray to Saints in the same manner as their Orthodox brothers and sisters in the home countries but instead they restrict themselves to asking the Saints to intercede for them with God.

Does anybody have any thoughts as to why this divergence from traditional Orthodoxy has occurred in America? 



Could you explain the difference? 

If you run back through the thread you will find illustrations of prayer to the Mother of God and to the Saints which is other than asking them to intercede with God.  The prayers in our daily morning and night prayers are an example.
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« Reply #95 on: December 27, 2011, 04:35:23 PM »

And a secondary question:

The Church is almost literally awash with liturgical and devotional material to the Mother of God, to the Angels and to the Saints.  

Do American Orthodox make use of these prayers to the Saints, and Akathists and Canons, or do they eschew them since they go beyond asking for intercession?

Father Ambrose

I try to use them, but not regularly.  I think they're beautiful.  At one time I kept the Akathist-  "Mother of God Nurturer of Children" in my purse to pray while waiting in lines, etc.  I've gotten out of the habit though.
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« Reply #96 on: December 27, 2011, 04:36:51 PM »

It's becoming obvious that American Orthodox do not pray to Saints in the same manner as their Orthodox brothers and sisters in the home countries but instead they restrict themselves to asking the Saints to intercede for them with God.

Does anybody have any thoughts as to why this divergence from traditional Orthodoxy has occurred in America? 

I can't speak about anything except my own experience here, but if there is indeed a difference, perhaps it has to do with culture? Or in my case, lack thereof. I wasn't taught to pray by anyone in Orthodoxy. The talk about prayer life when I was becoming Orthodox was essentially:

Catechist: Do you have a prayer book?
Justin: Yeah. I've been using the X one.
Catechist: That's a great version. Just be as consistent as you can.
Justin: [advice goes in one ear and out the other] Ok, great.
Catechist: And you're attending services. So basically we are done talking about prayer. Next is dogmatic theology vis-a-vis the interrelationships between the persons of the Trinity. We will spend about 2 months on this.

 Wink Cheesy  So, yeah, no one was there since childhood to teach me, mostly by actions, how to be Orthodox. I read, I read, I talked with other people who read and read... and that was mostly it. I'm sure this has left a lot of gaps...

Regarding the question in your last post, I have used prayers/akathists/etc. to saints from time to time, though generally if I have done a canon it's been the canon of repentance. That has more to do with what I think will be of some benefit, though, and isn't based on anything specifically to do with saints. I think.  Huh
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« Reply #97 on: December 27, 2011, 04:38:15 PM »

I don't see this as a dichotomy. Looking at hymnography, there is the constant motif of asking the saint to pray to God on our behalf for the salvation of our souls, and for Him to grant us mercy. The standard refrain in the Canons at Matins is Holy/Saint XXX, pray to God for us.

There is no dichotomy in traditional Orthodoxy.  But, I many be wrong, some (converts in the West?) wish to make a restriction, limiting prayer to the Saints to the intercessory prayer for which you give examples.
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« Reply #98 on: December 27, 2011, 04:42:20 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

It's becoming obvious that American Orthodox do not pray to Saints in the same manner as their Orthodox brothers and sisters in the home countries but instead they restrict themselves to asking the Saints to intercede for them with God.

Does anybody have any thoughts as to why this divergence from traditional Orthodoxy has occurred in America? 



Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Just a thought:

Perhaps the underlying tension that many converts experience with approaching Our Lady the Virgin in particular, is that folks from a Protestant background tend to harbor negative sentiments towards the veneration of the Virgin.  One of the defining lines of Protestantism is an almost vitriolic rejection of Our Lady, and it becomes to one crux that many folks debate against Orthodox or Catholic.  For example, when discussing my Orthodoxy with Protestants, most inevitably tell me, "The Church is cool.. but the problem is they worship the Virgin as a Goddess" or something along those lines, but the bone of contention is almost always the Virgin Mary.  So that being said, when folks who grew up believing in this unnecessary hostility and dichotomy perhaps have subconcious guilt when approaching Our Lady?

Perhaps because so much of their previous theology and religion was built up in opposition to the Church, often revolving around misunderstandings of Our Lady, that folks harbor this guilt and shame, even if again subconcsiously, and it is this underlying guilt that creates this distance some converts experience when coming to venerate Our Lady.  That being said, let the cards fall where they fall.  From my experience with the Virgin Mary, she is not a symbol, she is real, therefore let her speak for herself.  Allow yourselves to experience the Virgin Mary in your lives without any assumptions, without any intentions, without anything but simple experience, and then let your heart do the deciding.  We don't in the Church intend to force or coerce veneration, it has to be natural, but like all natural things, it must then come about naturally.

stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #99 on: December 27, 2011, 04:46:23 PM »

It's becoming obvious that American Orthodox do not pray to Saints in the same manner as their Orthodox brothers and sisters in the home countries but instead they restrict themselves to asking the Saints to intercede for them with God.

Does anybody have any thoughts as to why this divergence from traditional Orthodoxy has occurred in America?  



perhaps what you are comparing is old world cradle Orthodox vs newer American convert.  I bet these thing grow and blossom with time.  It might be interesting find out how prayers have changed with those who embraced Orthodoxy 15-20-30 yrs ago.
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« Reply #100 on: December 27, 2011, 04:51:17 PM »

If you run back through the thread you will find illustrations of prayer to the Mother of God and to the Saints which is other than asking them to intercede with God.  The prayers in our daily morning and night prayers are an example.
Father,

By "other than" you mean that, instead of explicitly saying "pray to God" or "intercede to God" they say things like, "Help me, save me, O Theotokos"?

And you are saying that, as it is intercession regardless whether or not it is explicitly stated by some sort of legal disclaimer words like "intercede for us" or "pray to God for us", there is no real difference?
« Last Edit: December 27, 2011, 04:51:51 PM by NicholasMyra » Logged

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« Reply #101 on: December 27, 2011, 04:52:34 PM »

It's becoming obvious that American Orthodox do not pray to Saints in the same manner as their Orthodox brothers and sisters in the home countries but instead they restrict themselves to asking the Saints to intercede for them with God.

Does anybody have any thoughts as to why this divergence from traditional Orthodoxy has occurred in America?  



perhaps what you are comparing is old world cradle Orthodox vs newer American convert.  I bet these thing grow and blossom with time.  It might be interesting find out how prayers have changed with those who embraced Orthodoxy 15-20-30 yrs ago.

Maybe it's a relationship vs. formal things? It's easier for some to just ask for intercessions. To develop relationships with the saints takes more time and effort, in a way. I have found that reading the Lives of the saints and having their icons nearby is very helpful in this. And, I think, that there are some saints each of us is closer to than others--that is, we remember others more, we ponder them, we talk to them, etc. I think, also, that one can be very excited about a saint for awhile, and then it sort of fades and maybe reappears when needed, but of course the saint never forgets. The saint is like your mother who keeps every picture and remembers every dandelion you give her. Of course this is true, they emulate God.
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« Reply #102 on: December 27, 2011, 04:55:43 PM »

Regarding the question in your last post, I have used prayers/akathists/etc. to saints from time to time, though generally if I have done a canon it's been the canon of repentance. That has more to do with what I think will be of some benefit, though, and isn't based on anything specifically to do with saints. I think.  Huh

People develop a love and a close relationship with particular Saints, by reading about them, by simply standing in front of their icon in church where the Saint himself may come forth to aid and guide the person, to inspire him or to rebuke him.   As the relationship grows between the two, there is a growing desire to deepen the relationship and this impels us to start using prayers to the Saint.  We start to pray in our own words or pray using the Akathist to the Saint or a Canon.   This prayer "holds' us in the presence of the Saint for 15 or 20 minutes.   

The benefit?   There will be benefits of course... guidance in life, protection from harm and from evil, courage to face adversity and sickness.... but the benefits are really secondary to the love and joy of developing a close relationship with such wonderful and holy people.
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« Reply #103 on: December 27, 2011, 05:02:07 PM »

If you run back through the thread you will find illustrations of prayer to the Mother of God and to the Saints which is other than asking them to intercede with God.  The prayers in our daily morning and night prayers are an example.
Father,

By "other than" you mean that, instead of explicitly saying "pray to God" or "intercede to God" they say things like, "Help me, save me, O Theotokos"?

And you are saying that, as it is intercession regardless whether or not it is explicitly stated by some sort of legal disclaimer words like "intercede for us" or "pray to God for us", there is no real difference?

The best way to learn about these things is to read.... read the lives of the Saints,  and, if you have access to such things, read church magazines from Russia, Greece. Serbia, Romania......  There will be material in there which immediately highlights the paucity of restricting prayer to the Mother of God and the Saints to intercessory prayer.
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« Reply #104 on: December 27, 2011, 05:03:13 PM »

And a secondary question:

The Church is almost literally awash with liturgical and devotional material to the Mother of God, to the Angels and to the Saints.  

Do American Orthodox make use of these prayers to the Saints, and Akathists and Canons, or do they eschew them since they go beyond asking for intercession?

Father Ambrose

I think this varies on the individual and the parish they were raised in.

The UOC parish I was raised in did not have a lot of services outside of the Divine Liturgy on Sunday. I was not aware of the Akathists and Canons until I started investigating Orthodoxy more intently as an adult, and attended OCA and GOA parishes. It was in the OCA and GOA parishes that I was introduced to Vesper services, Akathists, Paraklesis, and other "minor" services in the Church.

I did not grow up in a parish with a lot of converts. If anyone was a convert, it was because they had married someone who was Orthodox, and converted as a result. The priest that is currently serving the parish has been there for over thirty years, and is the first American raised priest to serve said parish. (He was born to Ukrainian parents in Germany in one of the camps after the war.) The reason I state this is to emphasize that the Orthodox culture I grew up in was not heavily influenced by American ideas of Orthodoxy, but rather, Ukrainian immigrants and their descendents, and how Orthodoxy should fit in America.
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« Reply #105 on: December 27, 2011, 05:04:00 PM »

Regarding the question in your last post, I have used prayers/akathists/etc. to saints from time to time, though generally if I have done a canon it's been the canon of repentance. That has more to do with what I think will be of some benefit, though, and isn't based on anything specifically to do with saints. I think.  Huh

People develop a love and a close relationship with particular Saints, by reading about them, by simply standing in front of their icon in church where the Saint himself may come forth to aid and guide the person, to inspire him or to rebuke him.   As the relationship grows between the two, there is a growing desire to deepen the relationship and this impels us to start using prayers to the Saint.  We start to pray in our own words or pray using the Akathist to the Saint or a Canon.   This prayer "holds' us in the presence of the Saint for 15 or 20 minutes.   

The benefit?   There will be benefits of course... guidance in life, protection from harm and from evil, courage to face adversity and sickness.... but the benefits are really secondary to the love and joy of developing a close relationship with such wonderful and holy people.

And if, God-willing, you get to heaven, you're not surrounded by people who know you and you don't know them. That's more like PK hell, or at least everyday life.
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« Reply #106 on: December 27, 2011, 05:04:47 PM »

There will be material in there which immediately highlights the paucity of restricting prayer to the Mother of God and the Saints to intercessory prayer.
Father,

I'm saying, isn't it all really intercessionary prayer in the end, so we shouldn't really worry about it being some sort of formal request for representation?
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« Reply #107 on: December 27, 2011, 05:06:23 PM »

And a secondary question:

The Church is almost literally awash with liturgical and devotional material to the Mother of God, to the Angels and to the Saints.  

Do American Orthodox make use of these prayers to the Saints, and Akathists and Canons, or do they eschew them since they go beyond asking for intercession?

Father Ambrose

I think this varies on the individual and the parish they were raised in.

The UOC parish I was raised in did not have a lot of services outside of the Divine Liturgy on Sunday. I was not aware of the Akathists and Canons until I started investigating Orthodoxy more intently as an adult, and attended OCA and GOA parishes. It was in the OCA and GOA parishes that I was introduced to Vesper services, Akathists, Paraklesis, and other "minor" services in the Church.

I did not grow up in a parish with a lot of converts. If anyone was a convert, it was because they had married someone who was Orthodox, and converted as a result. The priest that is currently serving the parish has been there for over thirty years, and is the first American raised priest to serve said parish. (He was born to Ukrainian parents in Germany in one of the camps after the war.) The reason I state this is to emphasize that the Orthodox culture I grew up in was not heavily influenced by American ideas of Orthodoxy, but rather, Ukrainian immigrants and their descendents, and how Orthodoxy should fit in America.

In the Fr. Arseny books, several people have memorized akathists or at least troparia, apart from church services. By playing CDs over and over, I've memorized a few troparia There should be more CDs...
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« Reply #108 on: December 27, 2011, 05:32:54 PM »

There will be material in there which immediately highlights the paucity of restricting prayer to the Mother of God and the Saints to intercessory prayer.
Father,

I'm saying, isn't it all really intercessionary prayer in the end, so we shouldn't really worry about it being some sort of formal request for representation?

Yes and no!  Saint Nicholas is quite able to lift your 3 year old son out of a storm water drain.  He does not have to first hive off and say to  God:  "Someone has asked me to intercede with You to rescue their boy. Can I do it, or not?"

The Mother of God can calm a storm at sea, cure a sick child, rescue you from a burning building.  She and the Saints are not in some sort of paralysis until someone has asked them to intercede with God.
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« Reply #109 on: December 27, 2011, 05:40:38 PM »

There will be material in there which immediately highlights the paucity of restricting prayer to the Mother of God and the Saints to intercessory prayer.
Father,

I'm saying, isn't it all really intercessionary prayer in the end, so we shouldn't really worry about it being some sort of formal request for representation?

Yes and no!  Saint Nicholas is quite able to lift your 3 year old son out of a storm water drain.  He does not have to first hive off and say to  God:  "Someone has asked me to intercede with You to rescue their boy. Can I do it, or not?"

The Mother of God can calm a storm at sea, cure a sick child, rescue you from a burning building.  She and the Saints are not in some sort of paralysis until someone has asked them to intercede with God.

God forbid that they should be! "Sorry, St. N. for interrupting your party in heaven, but..."
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« Reply #110 on: December 27, 2011, 06:03:35 PM »

There will be material in there which immediately highlights the paucity of restricting prayer to the Mother of God and the Saints to intercessory prayer.
Father,

I'm saying, isn't it all really intercessionary prayer in the end, so we shouldn't really worry about it being some sort of formal request for representation?

Yes and no!  Saint Nicholas is quite able to lift your 3 year old son out of a storm water drain.  He does not have to first hive off and say to  God:  "Someone has asked me to intercede with You to rescue their boy. Can I do it, or not?"

The Mother of God can calm a storm at sea, cure a sick child, rescue you from a burning building.  She and the Saints are not in some sort of paralysis until someone has asked them to intercede with God.
Father, I agree.

You know, it's surprising how much evangelical baggage in the American Church I have found out about lately, among converts from such groups.  Wink
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« Reply #111 on: December 28, 2011, 08:42:35 AM »

What if as an individual one does not feel particularly faithful towards praying to intricate personalities of the cloud of heavenly witnesses and just feels that, although these saints are present, I am at the mercy of God for whatever will transpire and it is up to me to confess my sin & strive to follow the commandments? Personally I do not have much faith in this otherwise & may start to wonder what really comes first within Orthodox faith?
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« Reply #112 on: December 28, 2011, 12:46:21 PM »

What if as an individual one does not feel particularly faithful towards praying to intricate personalities of the cloud of heavenly witnesses and just feels that, although these saints are present, I am at the mercy of God for whatever will transpire and it is up to me to confess my sin & strive to follow the commandments? Personally I do not have much faith in this otherwise & may start to wonder what really comes first within Orthodox faith?

The last thing any saint would want, would be to be a stumbling block on someone's path to Christ. You are not required to have a relationship with particular saints anymore than you are required to have relationships with your fellow parishoners. You can go to Church, stand in a sea of strangers, and it's still the Divine Liturgy. It's still worship of God and it's still the Body and Blood of Christ you are offered.

Of course, deliberately holding yourself aloof your fellow parishoners is, ultimately, just hurting yourself as you restrict your own participation in the Body of Christ, and the same is true of cutting yourself off from the 'cloud of heavenly witnesses'.

But there is no need to 'force' it, any more than you need to force relationships with your fellow parishoners. Let it develop organically. Concentrate on Christ--but talk to Him about your issues. At liturgy listen to all the hymns which will leave no doubt about the focus of Orthodoxy, but will introduce you to saint after saint. Acknowledge the saints by venerating their icons when they are presented to you out of simple politeness, just as you  acknowledge your fellow living Christians with a polite 'hello' even if that's the current extent of your relationship. At the start or end of your evening prayers, spare a minute or two to try just saying something (not necessarily a 'prayer' or request) to your Guardian Angel and your patron saint. And over time the relationships will grow naturally, just as your relationships with your fellow living parishoners do, and as they do, you do will find that it actually deepens your relationship with Christ, the Head of the Body you are more and more fully participating in. But you don't have to force anything.
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« Reply #113 on: December 28, 2011, 02:16:03 PM »

What if as an individual one does not feel particularly faithful towards praying to intricate personalities of the cloud of heavenly witnesses and just feels that, although these saints are present, I am at the mercy of God for whatever will transpire and it is up to me to confess my sin & strive to follow the commandments? Personally I do not have much faith in this otherwise & may start to wonder what really comes first within Orthodox faith?

The last thing any saint would want, would be to be a stumbling block on someone's path to Christ. You are not required to have a relationship with particular saints anymore than you are required to have relationships with your fellow parishoners. You can go to Church, stand in a sea of strangers, and it's still the Divine Liturgy. It's still worship of God and it's still the Body and Blood of Christ you are offered.

Of course, deliberately holding yourself aloof your fellow parishoners is, ultimately, just hurting yourself as you restrict your own participation in the Body of Christ, and the same is true of cutting yourself off from the 'cloud of heavenly witnesses'.

But there is no need to 'force' it, any more than you need to force relationships with your fellow parishoners. Let it develop organically. Concentrate on Christ--but talk to Him about your issues. At liturgy listen to all the hymns which will leave no doubt about the focus of Orthodoxy, but will introduce you to saint after saint. Acknowledge the saints by venerating their icons when they are presented to you out of simple politeness, just as you  acknowledge your fellow living Christians with a polite 'hello' even if that's the current extent of your relationship. At the start or end of your evening prayers, spare a minute or two to try just saying something (not necessarily a 'prayer' or request) to your Guardian Angel and your patron saint. And over time the relationships will grow naturally, just as your relationships with your fellow living parishoners do, and as they do, you do will find that it actually deepens your relationship with Christ, the Head of the Body you are more and more fully participating in. But you don't have to force anything.

Thanks for your post and I will ponder what you say here. I realize I have plenty of sin to deal with via confession etc. & I mean no disrespect to  more involved personal venerations. I am also well involved in parish life from choir, to council, to janitor etc. I even read a daily account of a given saint on a calendar during morning prayer before leaving for work. Regrettably, I have a tendency to remember  & nitpick about less inspring accounts than those that seem more truly so. The saints I revere do not seem to have many recorded miracles associated to them & personally this seems more consoling. Guess I'll work it out somehow.
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« Reply #114 on: December 28, 2011, 04:11:41 PM »

Personally I do not have much faith in this otherwise

Worrisome, since prayer and communication with the Saints is part of the communion saints, and that forms an integral part of our doctrine and tradition.  I hope that your faith in this area will grow.  From my own experience I would feel that it will.  Some converts have initial problems with these things (praying to the Saints, the belief that the Mother of God was taken into Heaven) but with time their belief starts to fall into line with the rest of the believers.


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& may start to wonder what really comes first within Orthodox faith?

Wondering is good because you need to investigate all aspects of Orthodoxy in order to make a reasoned decision to convert.  

"what really comes first...." I am a monk although I have to live in a parish situation.  My daily prayer rule would constitute around 2-3 hours plus to God in the Holy Trinity, probably about 20 minutes to the Mother of God, and less to the Saints. But I read an Akathist a day, to Saint Seraphim of Sarov, to Saint Nil Sorksy or to Saint Anastasia.  This would take another 15 minutes.

Would you be able to live in our Church where you will have brothers and sisters in the faith who pray in this way?
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« Reply #115 on: December 28, 2011, 04:16:41 PM »

...I read an Akathist a day... to Saint Nil Sorksy
Father,

I did not know he had an Akathist. Where could I obtain it?
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« Reply #116 on: December 28, 2011, 04:19:30 PM »


Thanks for your post and I will ponder what you say here. I realize I have plenty of sin to deal with via confession etc. & I mean no disrespect to  more involved personal venerations.

It is not "personal veneration" really.   You've probably never been exposed to the full daily cycle of Services?  Matins in particular has quite a large amount devoted to the Saints who are commemorated on that day....  a large number of verses and prayers to the Saints of the day, plus of course the lengthy Canon to the Saint.   This removes it from the field of personal veneration and places it in the liturgical worship of the Church.
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« Reply #117 on: December 28, 2011, 04:22:16 PM »

...I read an Akathist a day... to Saint Nil Sorksy
Father,

I did not know he had an Akathist. Where could I obtain it?

Here's something online in English

http://saintnilus.blogspot.com/2009/12/akathist-hymn-to-st-nilus-wonderworker.html

and Slavonic

http://stnil.narod.ru/acathist.htm
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« Reply #118 on: December 28, 2011, 04:31:42 PM »

...I read an Akathist a day... to Saint Nil Sorksy
Father,

I did not know he had an Akathist. Where could I obtain it?

Here's something online in English

http://saintnilus.blogspot.com/2009/12/akathist-hymn-to-st-nilus-wonderworker.html

and Slavonic

http://stnil.narod.ru/acathist.htm
Thanks, Father. He's a favorite of mine.
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« Reply #119 on: December 28, 2011, 05:07:40 PM »

If you run back through the thread you will find illustrations of prayer to the Mother of God and to the Saints which is other than asking them to intercede with God.  The prayers in our daily morning and night prayers are an example.
Father,

By "other than" you mean that, instead of explicitly saying "pray to God" or "intercede to God" they say things like, "Help me, save me, O Theotokos"?

And you are saying that, as it is intercession regardless whether or not it is explicitly stated by some sort of legal disclaimer words like "intercede for us" or "pray to God for us", there is no real difference?

The best way to learn about these things is to read.... read the lives of the Saints,  and, if you have access to such things, read church magazines from Russia, Greece. Serbia, Romania......  There will be material in there which immediately highlights the paucity of restricting prayer to the Mother of God and the Saints to intercessory prayer.

Under the Grapevine, A Miracle by St. Kendeas of Cyprus

“When Christina becomes seriously ill, her mother prays constantly for her, until one day a holy man appears on a white horse and takes her to his church to be healed. Christina returns to the family farm, where she runs to her parents to tell them about the holy grandfather who helped her. This true story, Under the Grapevine: A Miracle by Saint Kendeas of Cyprus describes the miraculous healing of a young girl in Cyprus by a much-loved local Saint who lived more than one thousand years ago.”

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« Reply #120 on: December 29, 2011, 02:15:33 PM »


Thanks for your post and I will ponder what you say here. I realize I have plenty of sin to deal with via confession etc. & I mean no disrespect to  more involved personal venerations.

It is not "personal veneration" really.   You've probably never been exposed to the full daily cycle of Services?  Matins in particular has quite a large amount devoted to the Saints who are commemorated on that day....  a large number of verses and prayers to the Saints of the day, plus of course the lengthy Canon to the Saint.   This removes it from the field of personal veneration and places it in the liturgical worship of the Church.
My wording was off, I really meant an individual's piety but used an example of piety (this topic) out of proper context. Nonetheless this does not change my previously mentioned anxieties (such as they are) which are rooted in  apathy & passive frustration. Acquaintances, friends etc. do not come to mind but individuals like our archdiocese hierarchs, who I do not know personally but certain policies they utter,  some overall old world ways of dubious tradition etc. make serious commitment to the church seem like wasted time since it seems to do  little to help people in America.  It is not theology or worship of the church that come to mind but the finer points of its expression that do not seem worth considering in an institutution that seems to lack vibrancy  & commitment (in America overall, not individual parishes withstanding, some are outstanding I know). I do thank you for your posts Father (irish hermit) & I will ponder them also. I also leave myself open for criticism here since my sinful flaws are evident. Surely I have spoken in great generality here but I do not want to digress from this & start argument on secondary matters.
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« Reply #121 on: January 03, 2012, 01:29:19 AM »

Okay, so I think this has been asked before but I'm not sure it's really been answered. Under what circumstances should one ask not for intercession but for help from a saint. I'm not saying I challenge that they can help, but I've been a protestant for 40 years, I'm used to just going straight to God. So, if a saint can help but so can God, what's the incentive for asking the saint rather than just asking God?
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« Reply #122 on: January 03, 2012, 02:04:26 AM »

So, if a saint can help but so can God, what's the incentive for asking the saint rather than just asking God?

Well, it's a relationship within a family, our much larger family which is already in the next life, it's not really a question of, what do I get out of it?

There will be benefits from a relationship with a Saint... guidance in life, protection from harm and from evil, courage to face adversity and sickness.... but the benefits are really secondary to the love and joy of developing a close relationship with such wonderful and holy people.
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« Reply #123 on: January 03, 2012, 12:13:49 PM »

The way it was explained to me:

We ask our friends and family to pray for us. That does not mean we question our ability to pray to the Lord, but would like their intercession as well.

As the Saints are not only alive (as Christ Himself said), and part of the Church still, but they are at the feet of our Lord and are not distracted with jobs, bills, SIN, stresses, or their own prayer requests.

Why would we not?

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« Reply #124 on: January 03, 2012, 12:18:09 PM »

To go along with what primuspilus said...

"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." - James 5:16

Not that God doesn't listen to the prayers of sinners of course.
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« Reply #125 on: January 03, 2012, 03:14:57 PM »

Okay, so I think this has been asked before but I'm not sure it's really been answered. Under what circumstances should one ask not for intercession but for help from a saint. I'm not saying I challenge that they can help, but I've been a protestant for 40 years, I'm used to just going straight to God. So, if a saint can help but so can God, what's the incentive for asking the saint rather than just asking God?

I, personally, do not see a difference between asking for a saint's prayer and a saint's help.
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« Reply #126 on: January 03, 2012, 11:10:28 PM »

Well, let's see if I can put this any better. But, first I am grateful, for all your responses though, it seems that for the most part I did not phrase my question well enough to be understood.

Primuspilus: good answer to where I was previously, you've posted something similar before and it really did help me move past a sticking point, thank you.

Asteriktos: likewise a good answer and one that has helped me move along the path.

Shanghaiski: If I have understood some of what I've read on the part of several posters but especially Irish Hermit (Father Ambrose, I think?) while Saints can help us by praying to God for us, they can also take direct miraculous action themselves on our behalf.

Father: thank you, I think your response may come closest to answering what I was actually asking. I'll come back to this.

So then…

Saints, Mary included, are alive and can hear our prayers and pray for us, check, I'm there with that.

Saints intercede by praying to God just like fellow Christians here on earth do, check, I'm good there.

Saints can do miracles, and are willing to help us not only by praying for us, but also by taking direct action, even without talking to God first. Check, I can go along with that too.

What I'm asking, and perhaps I can use a small story to explain this, is in what circumstance would I ask a Saint to help me by taking direct action rather than simply by praying for me? Because as a protestant (or perhaps I should say ‘former Protestant' now), that is what a prayer to a Saint asking anything other than ‘pray for me’ is saying. Also why would I ask a Saint to do this when I can just ask God?

So on to the story: I'm in a room moving, say, boxes. Right next to me is a large extremely strong man (God), who is totally willing and obviously able to help me. Beyond him is another lesser man (a Saint) who is also willing to help, and though less, still able. Now from a Protestant perspective I would ask the large man right next to me to help me, and probably wouldn't even notice the other man was in the room. From an Orthodox perspective I would know the other man was in the room, but the large man is still closer, He's willing, and so able that if I do ask him to help me I don't need to ask anyone else he can finish the job in nothing flat all by himself. So why would I bypass the large man right next to me to ask for help from the lesser man beyond him?

Now back to your answer Father, and I really didn't mean "what's the incentive” from a selfish what's in it for me perspective, if I understand what you're saying is that while the relationship with the larger man (God) is important, there is also a value to having a relationship with the lesser man (the Saint). So then if that's correct the reason why I might sometimes, and when is random and up to me, bypass the closer larger man  and ask the smaller man beyond him is that I want to develop a relationship with the smaller man too.

So hopefully, I've explained myself better and not muddied things up, and hopefully, I've figured out something new and taken another step.

Father, one more thing, if I am understanding and explaining you correctly let me also ask are there other reasons beyond relationship building to bypass the larger man and ask the lesser man to help me? Also, are there specific times to ask the lesser man to help me rather than it just being ‘random’ and 'up to me’?

Thanks again to everyone.
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« Reply #127 on: January 04, 2012, 12:08:18 AM »

What I'm asking, and perhaps I can use a small story to explain this, is in what circumstance would I ask a Saint to help me by taking direct action rather than simply by praying for me? Because as a protestant (or perhaps I should say ‘former Protestant' now), that is what a prayer to a Saint asking anything other than ‘pray for me’ is saying.

I think what Shanghaiski was getting at is that there is no practical difference. Let's presume I have something that I need help with. I pray, "St. Nicholas, please help me with this." Now, St. Nicholas can pray to God for me in regards to the task. He can take some kind of direct action. He can do both. If you accept idea that St. Nicholas can do either or both, then do you really care which he does? If I ask for prayers and he takes direct action (or vice versa), I'm just going to presume that St. Nicholas has a better grasp of what's needed than I do.

Quote
Also why would I ask a Saint to do this when I can just ask God?

Given the above, I think this just brings us back to the 'why ask your fellow (living) Christians for prayers, when you can just ask God'? Forgive me if I'm misunderstanding, but I think you may be getting hung up on trying to distinguish something like the following:

"Okay, money's tight. Do I
A) Ask God for money
B) Ask the Theotokos for money
C) Ask the Theotokos to pray to God for money"

But I would say that B and C are basically the same thing. And that A, B, and C are no more exclusive of each other than if I add additional options:
"D) Ask my brother to pray to God to help my financial situation
E) Ask my brother for a loan"

A, B+C, and D are not exclusive--you don't have to pick one. The recommendation in fact would be that if you need help, then do all 3, on the principle that the more help the better.

I tossed in E, because it gets at the relationship aspect of all this. Maybe I have a relationship with my brotheer that makes E a realistic option on top of the other choices. Maybe I don't. Maybe it's my particular relationships mean that it's easier to ask my best friend for a financial help than my brother (or vice versa). The saints are not simply pictures on wood. They are living members of the Church with whom we should be building relationships. I came to Orthodoxy from a very low Church background. Prayer to the saints was something that took me quite a while to spiritually integrate even after I had intellectually accepted it. At this point, I have never asked St. Barsanuphius to pray for me. I don't know that I ever will--but that is in large part because I don't really know anything about St. Barsanuphius--his name just stuck in my head so he's an example I can pull out now of a saint I don't know well. On the other hand, I ask for the help of my patron saint and another dozen or so saints that I have developed a strong affinity for--beginning with reading their lives or their writings and then growing as I communicate with them. And maybe someday, maybe I'll read St. Barsanuphius' life and I'll have that spark of recognition and begin to go to him in particular too. Or maybe someday I'll share a problem with a friend or confessor and the friend will say, "you know who I found particularly helpful when I was dealing with something like that...."

My point is that once you begin to develop relationships with the saints, then the idea of 'why should I ask X instead of God' largely resolves itself. In the first place, as above, you don't ask X instead of God--you ask both. And in the second place, you ask for the same reason you ask your friends, your fellow parishoners, your family--because it's just natural to take the things that are troubling you not only to God, but to your friends and respected mentors--including the ones already in heaven.
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« Reply #128 on: January 04, 2012, 12:27:20 AM »


Beyond him is another lesser man (a Saint) who is also willing to help, and though less, still able. Now from a Protestant perspective I would ask the large man right next to me to help me, and probably wouldn't even notice the other man was in the room. From an Orthodox perspective I would know the other man was in the room, but the large man is still closer, He's willing, and so able that if I do ask him to help me I don't need to ask anyone else he can finish the job in nothing flat all by himself. So why would I bypass the large man right next to me to ask for help from the lesser man beyond him?

You actually are not obliged to ask any Saint for anything.  That is not an obligatory part of the relationship with him or her.

People develop a love and a close relationship with particular Saints, often by reading about them and something strikes a chord in their heart.  Or by simply standing in front of their icon in church where the Saint himself may come forth to aid and guide the person, to inspire him or to rebuke him.

As the relationship grows between the two, there is a growing desire to deepen the relationship and this impels us to start using prayers to the Saint. They do not have to be “asking” prayers.   We start to pray in our own words or pray using the Akathist to the Saint or a Canon. This prayer "holds' us in the presence of the Saint for 15 or 20 minutes.

Here is a small section from the Akathist to Saint Nil Sorski..... not one prayer of supplication/asking anywhere in sight, only prayers of love and praise. .

Emulating the life of the angels and patterning thyself on those who were great among the fathers, thou didst cut thyself off wholly from the confusion of the world, and, manfully arming thyself for the struggle of asceticism, didst carefully follow the way of the commandments of God, O blessed one; wherefore, we who honor thy most sacred memory with faith do bless thee with these praises:

Rejoice, O emulator of the life of the angels;
rejoice, follower of the life of the fathers of old!
Rejoice, courageous vanquisher of invisible foes;
rejoice, earnest fulfiller of the commandments of God!
Rejoice, careful preserver of the divinely inspired Traditions of the fathers;
rejoice, codifier of rules for the monastic life of asceticism!
Rejoice, most pure mirror of the virtues;
rejoice, sweet-sounding timbrel of the Holy Spirit!
Rejoice, image of profound humility;
rejoice, zealous doer of the will of God!
Rejoice, for through thee have we learned to tread the straight path;
rejoice, for through thy mediation for us before God we hope to receive salvation!
Rejoice, O venerable Nilus, wonderworker of Sora!


http://saintnilus.blogspot.com/2009/12/akathist-hymn-to-st-nilus-wonderworker.html
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« Reply #129 on: January 04, 2012, 12:28:20 AM »

I, personally, do not see a difference between asking for a saint's prayer and a saint's help.
Amen and amen. It is a distinction without a difference.

It's becoming obvious that American Orthodox do not pray to Saints in the same manner as their Orthodox brothers and sisters in the home countries but instead they restrict themselves to asking the Saints to intercede for them with God.
Father, I suppose as always the distinction needs to be made between American Orthodox converts and cradles. I know more than one "ethnic" old lady -- how I hate the distinction, but what can one do? -- whose devotions make the converts blush.

Quote
Does anybody have any thoughts as to why this divergence from traditional Orthodoxy has occurred in America?  
I know I have in the past hammered on the convert literature that gets passed around in American circles, and I certainly don't mean to beat that horse (or that metaphor) any more than necessary, but I think that's at least part of it. How Orthodox beliefs get explained is often done in such a fashion that is perhaps a little too sensitive to possible Evangelical baggage, and so people get a "soft" version of the faith. This in turn gets carried on into their Orthodox life once in the Church, and as they share it.

(I could also comment that a devotion to the cult of the saints that looks like something more than just asking a neighbor to pray for you is also not as marketable to seekers, but I am probably just being cynical. Lord have mercy. I realize that people need to crawl before they can walk.)

I have observed that people coming from a background of no faith have much less trouble with this sort of thing than people who have been raised Protestant.
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« Reply #130 on: January 04, 2012, 12:36:32 AM »

I think what Shanghaiski was getting at is that there is no practical difference. Let's presume I have something that I need help with. I pray, "St. Nicholas, please help me with this." Now, St. Nicholas can pray to God for me in regards to the task. He can take some kind of direct action. He can do both. If you accept idea that St. Nicholas can do either or both, then do you really care which he does? If I ask for prayers and he takes direct action (or vice versa), I'm just going to presume that St. Nicholas has a better grasp of what's needed than I do.
That makes sense to me.


A, B+C, and D are not exclusive--you don't have to pick one. The recommendation in fact would be that if you need help, then do all 3, on the principle that the more help the better.


I think this may be on target with me, I think I've read a number of stories about the intervention of Saints where it seems people would ask the Saint for help, seemingly to the exclusion of asking God for help but perhaps they are directly asking God also. I think I was getting stuck thinking it was one or the other and that there would be circumstances that would make it appropriate to ask one rather than both. Hmmm...
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« Reply #131 on: January 04, 2012, 12:58:19 AM »

Here is a small section from the Akathist to Saint Nil Sorski..... not one prayer of supplication/asking anywhere in sight, only prayers of love and praise. .

Thank you again Father this was an aspect of prayer to Saints that had not yet fully occurred to me, though perhaps it should have.

People develop a love and a close relationship with particular Saints, often by reading about them and something strikes a chord in their heart.  Or by simply standing in front of their icon in church where the Saint himself may come forth to aid and guide the person, to inspire him or to rebuke him.

Here also, I can now, see how as one is reading about a Saint or standing in front of the icon or praying an Akathist that would lend itself to a situation where a more intimate conversation between just yourself and the Saint would occur and a request may be made to a Saint exclusively, at least for that moment. Thank you this has been most helpful.
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« Reply #132 on: January 04, 2012, 01:14:37 AM »

I think this may be on target with me, I think I've read a number of stories about the intervention of Saints where it seems people would ask the Saint for help, seemingly to the exclusion of asking God for help but perhaps they are directly asking God also. I think I was getting stuck thinking it was one or the other and that there would be circumstances that would make it appropriate to ask one rather than both. Hmmm...

I've read many similar (if not the same) accounts, and I'm sure that in many cases, prayers were going up through multiple channels, but there was something about the timing or the manner of the response that made it clear that the Saint was the particular avenue of grace in this case. In other cases, the individual may have just gone directly to the saint--but that was dictated by the personal relationship. Someone who's patron saint is St. Nicholas, who's always had a strong relationship with that saint, might go directly to St. Nicholas, whereas another person would go to their guardian angel, a third would simply go directly to God, and a fourth would be busy praying to all 4. This is not a 'theological question' for which there is one right answer.

Let me give you one example from my own life: I have no musical ability. I'm not literally tone-deaf, but I do seem to be effectively so. My patron saint is St. Caedmon, an Anglo-saxon monk and poet. The fact that he publicly chanted the hymns he composed was not part of why I took him as my patron saint, but it is a well-attested aspect of his life. When asked to read in the Church, I got into the habit of 'praying' to St. Caedmon. I put praying in quote marks, because it wasn't a thought-out thing or even a clear request for anything at all. More a request for sympathy to someone who I knew had been in the situation. And after a while, as I got more comfortable in my relationship with him, I started doing the same thing not only when I was reading but just anytime I was singing in the Church--something along the lines of 'don't let me distract others by doing this too badly." In neither case (i.e., reading or singing) did it ever occur to me as something I should be praying about or asking some specific help on. I was just turning to what I knew to be a sympathetic ear.

I had been doing this for about 10 years when my daughter, who got all the musical talent in the family, commented, "It's weird. You're always off-key; except when you're singing in Church."

Could I have gone to God about this? Obviously. Would I have gotten the same results? No idea. But it wasn't a deliberate choice of 'should I go to God or should I go to St. Caedmon or should I go to both.' It's just that on that particular issue, with the particular interpersonal dynamics, St. Caedmon was the one I was talking to about it.
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Personal Text? We can have personal text?


« Reply #133 on: January 04, 2012, 01:29:42 AM »

This too is helpful witega, thank you.
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O Holy St. Demetrius pray to God for us!


« Reply #134 on: January 04, 2012, 12:26:17 PM »

I have a hybrid Baptist/Orthodox background (Mom was Baptist, Dad was Orthodox), so I too struggled with praying to the saints for a while.

I think the problem is we get hung up on the fact that we can't see them, even though they can see us.

Going back to Witega's loan analogy, let's say you and your best friend are out shopping. You go to pay for an item, and you're a dollar short. Without thinking twice about it, because he's your best friend, you ask your friend, "Hey Joe, can I borrow a single, and I'll pay you back when we get to my house?"

Joe gladly gives you the single, and you're able to make your purchase. You thank God for putting such good friends in your life.

Now, no one here would say that such a transaction would represent a lack of faith in God because you asked your friend for a single instead of getting down on your knees and asking God to give you a dollar. You're perfectly comfortable asking Joe because Joe is a good friend, a blessing from God. Someone you have a relationship with and can rely on.

It's the same with the saints. God has blessed us with these role models of righteousness, people who were flesh and blood, just like you and me, and lived a wonderful Christian life. Some were pious from day one, others had a rocky beginning and found the Lord later in life.

I remember a priest telling me that he loved St. Nicholas Planas because unlike many saints who are monastics, St. Nicholas Planas was a married priest with a child, just like him. He was also from the same island that this priest's mother was from. So in many ways, this priest identified with St. Nicholas in a way that we can't always identify with Christ.

Christ was a single male living in Israel who never married and never had kids. For many of us, that's difficult to identify with. So, by looking to the saints, and finding someone we can identify with, and how they led their Christian walk, it helps us in our Christian walk.

Just like our friends in real life do.

Now, to go back to your moving the box analogy.

This is a big box. Lots of weight associated with it. God is a big guy, He can handle it, but since all three of you are in the room, why not each take a corner and move it together?

After all, haven't you ever been in a situation where you have prayed about something, and you know God has heard your prayer, and you know he can handle it, but you still ask your wife, your friend, or pastor to pray for you as well? After all, multiple prayers can't hurt, right?

It's the same with praying to the saints.

During the Divine Liturgy, we address many prayers to God directly. Many hymns of praise are sung directly to Him. Yet look at the closing prayers of the Liturgy:

Quote
Priest: Glory to You, O God, our hope, glory to You.

May Christ our true God (who rose from the dead), as a good, loving, and merciful God, have mercy upon us and save us, through the intercessions of His most pure and holy Mother; the power of the precious and life-giving Cross; the protection of the honorable, bodiless powers of heaven; the supplications of the honorable, glorious, prophet, and forerunner John the Baptist; the holy, glorious, and praiseworthy apostles; the holy, glorious, and triumphant martyrs; our holy and God-bearing Fathers (name of the church); the holy and righteous ancestors Joachim and Anna; Saint (of the day) whose memory we commemorate today, and all the saints.

People: Amen. Lord, grant long life to him who blesses and sanctifies us.

Priest: Through the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us and save us.

People: Amen.

source

So even though we go to God directly, we, in the immortal words of Paul McCartney and John Lennon, "get by with a little help from our friends."  laugh
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"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jer 29:11
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