Author Topic: Father Anthony Messeh tells you that praying "to" the Saints is not right  (Read 2631 times)

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Offline Arnaud

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Hi everybody.

>> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7IQ3_oydVY

I was watching this video yesterday and at '0:24:34' and '0:30:34' Father Anthony says that praying "to" (properly speaking) the Saints and Virgin Mary is not right.

H.H. Pope Shenouda said the same thing, in the case of Virgin Mary, in his book "Comparative Theology": "We do not pray to the Virgin but we address her when we pray and entreat her to intercede for us."

Father Anthony says that those people who pray "to" the Saints are "not doing what they're supposed to be doing" he said..

Are there objections? First maybe first I should ask how would praying to the Saints be defined?
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Offline biro

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Re: Father Anthony Messeh tells you that praying "to" the Saints is not right
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2013, 06:34:30 PM »
I have heard the expression praying "with" the saints. Maybe this is a slightly more precise way to say it.

Offline choy

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Re: Father Anthony Messeh tells you that praying "to" the Saints is not right
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2013, 06:40:46 PM »
I don't see what is wrong about praying "to" saints.  We profess that we believe in the communion of Saints, and that if the Saints are indeed who we believe they are, that is those who have loved Christ and obeyed His commandments and thus He is in them and they in Him just as He is in the Father and the Father in Him, then praying to the Saints is praying to Christ as well who is in them.

Offline choy

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Re: Father Anthony Messeh tells you that praying "to" the Saints is not right
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2013, 06:44:28 PM »
Also, prayer isn't worship.  We pray when we worship, but not every prayer is worship.  We do pray to the Saints, just not in the same way we pray to God.

Offline dzheremi

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Re: Father Anthony Messeh tells you that praying "to" the Saints is not right
« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2013, 07:02:02 PM »
It doesn't take much of a look into Coptic liturgical texts to see what is proper in our tradition. The "Hiteniyat" are all in the form of "Through the intercessions/prayers of St. X, O Lord, grant us the forgiveness of our sins." This is precisely it. Even in those hymns that attribute all manner of things to the saints, this is right, because it is always through their prayers and intercessions, and not through any power of their own separate from God and His work in their life which testifies to His greatness. I think if you find Orthodox resources that talk about praying to saints, chances are they are playing fast and loose with language under the assumption that this understanding is implicit in all Orthodox veneration.

Offline Orthodox11

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Re: Father Anthony Messeh tells you that praying "to" the Saints is not right
« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2013, 07:03:47 PM »
It really depends on what is meant by the word 'prayer'.

Offline choy

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Re: Father Anthony Messeh tells you that praying "to" the Saints is not right
« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2013, 07:04:59 PM »
It doesn't take much of a look into Coptic liturgical texts to see what is proper in our tradition. The "Hiteniyat" are all in the form of "Through the intercessions/prayers of St. X, O Lord, grant us the forgiveness of our sins." This is precisely it. Even in those hymns that attribute all manner of things to the saints, this is right, because it is always through their prayers and intercessions, and not through any power of their own separate from God and His work in their life which testifies to His greatness. I think if you find Orthodox resources that talk about praying to saints, chances are they are playing fast and loose with language under the assumption that this understanding is implicit in all Orthodox veneration.

Is it perhaps that the word "prayer" has a more general meaning in English than the words translated from Greek or whatever language the Fathers used?

Offline Alpo

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Re: Father Anthony Messeh tells you that praying "to" the Saints is not right
« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2013, 07:21:12 PM »
In Eastern Orthodox tradition we most certainly pray TO the Saints. This distinction between praying to vs. asking an intercession from is frankly speaking politicallly correct fuss over nothing. Of course we pray to the Saints. We've always done that.
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Offline mike

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Re: Father Anthony Messeh tells you that praying "to" the Saints is not right
« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2013, 07:22:28 PM »
In Eastern Orthodox tradition we most certainly pray TO the Saints. This distinction between praying to vs. asking an intercession from is frankly speaking politicallly correct fuss over nothing. Of course we pray to the Saints. We've always done that.

Is he asking Eastern Orthodox? Is it a section for Eastern Orthodox to discuss Eastern Orthodox issues?
« Last Edit: February 25, 2013, 07:23:00 PM by Michał Kalina »
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Offline Alpo

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Re: Father Anthony Messeh tells you that praying "to" the Saints is not right
« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2013, 07:30:51 PM »
In Eastern Orthodox tradition we most certainly pray TO the Saints. This distinction between praying to vs. asking an intercession from is frankly speaking politicallly correct fuss over nothing. Of course we pray to the Saints. We've always done that.

Is he asking Eastern Orthodox? Is it a section for Eastern Orthodox to discuss Eastern Orthodox issues?

This is silly. EOs aren't allowed to tell their own perspective in this section? Even in case our tradition is probably exactly alike with OO tradition? I wasn't arguing against HH Pope Shenouda, Father Anthony or anything like that.
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Offline Orthodox11

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Re: Father Anthony Messeh tells you that praying "to" the Saints is not right
« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2013, 07:34:39 PM »
Is it perhaps that the word "prayer" has a more general meaning in English than the words translated from Greek or whatever language the Fathers used?

In the context of Pope Shenouda's comments, I would certainly think the Arabic language, given how heavily it's influenced by Islam, would draw a sharp distinction between salah (prayer) and tawassul (intercession).

Offline choy

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Re: Father Anthony Messeh tells you that praying "to" the Saints is not right
« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2013, 07:35:39 PM »
Is it perhaps that the word "prayer" has a more general meaning in English than the words translated from Greek or whatever language the Fathers used?

In the context of Pope Shenouda's comments, I would certainly think the Arabic language, given how heavily it's influenced by Islam, would draw a sharp distinction between salah (prayer) and tawassul (intercession).

As is English today thanks to Protestant polemics.  But I still think we should stay true to our traditions.  We know better, why do we need to be influenced by those who know less?

Offline Jason.Wike

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Re: Father Anthony Messeh tells you that praying "to" the Saints is not right
« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2013, 08:32:34 PM »
Is it perhaps that the word "prayer" has a more general meaning in English than the words translated from Greek or whatever language the Fathers used?

In the context of Pope Shenouda's comments, I would certainly think the Arabic language, given how heavily it's influenced by Islam, would draw a sharp distinction between salah (prayer) and tawassul (intercession).

As is English today thanks to Protestant polemics.  But I still think we should stay true to our traditions.  We know better, why do we need to be influenced by those who know less?

Maybe it is neither. It seems like there is a danger that people may simply assume what they are doing is "what has always done," which isn't necessarily the case.

Offline Carl Kraeff (Second Chance)

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Re: Father Anthony Messeh tells you that praying "to" the Saints is not right
« Reply #13 on: February 25, 2013, 09:43:08 PM »
I had thought that praying to the saints means asking for their intercessions in line with numerous Biblical passages. We do not worship them but we show them love and esteem--that is we venerate them. I think that the best example of such veneration is the Divine Liturgy itself during the censing of the icons (representing the departed saints) and the people (who are the living saints).

Offline dzheremi

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Re: Father Anthony Messeh tells you that praying "to" the Saints is not right
« Reply #14 on: February 25, 2013, 09:55:16 PM »
I had thought that praying to the saints means asking for their intercessions in line with numerous Biblical passages. We do not worship them but we show them love and esteem--that is we venerate them. I think that the best example of such veneration is the Divine Liturgy itself during the censing of the icons (representing the departed saints) and the people (who are the living saints).

I like this a whole lot.

Offline choy

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Re: Father Anthony Messeh tells you that praying "to" the Saints is not right
« Reply #15 on: February 25, 2013, 10:02:36 PM »
I had thought that praying to the saints means asking for their intercessions in line with numerous Biblical passages. We do not worship them but we show them love and esteem--that is we venerate them. I think that the best example of such veneration is the Divine Liturgy itself during the censing of the icons (representing the departed saints) and the people (who are the living saints).

I agree.  And that is why I said we are being affected by Protestant polemics because they equate prayer with worship.  Prayer can be worship, but is not restricted to worship, we here know about that.  But some people are just moved by the polemics that they have to make this distinction of "pray to" and "pray for" or "pray with".  I guess that is the problem with the non-Liturgical Christians whose view of worship is restricted to prayer only rather than Liturgical acts.

Offline minasoliman

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Re: Father Anthony Messeh tells you that praying "to" the Saints is not right
« Reply #16 on: February 25, 2013, 10:06:49 PM »
This is a good example of semantics.

By prayer, both Islamic and Protestant traditions do not separate the act of communicating from the act of worshipping.  Prayer to them is both.

HH Pope Shenouda and Abouna Anthony took that definition into consideration when saying what is being asked.

In the end, I think it makes no difference what you call it, in my opinion.
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Offline Alveus Lacuna

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Re: Father Anthony Messeh tells you that praying "to" the Saints is not right
« Reply #17 on: February 25, 2013, 10:09:32 PM »
Does not "to pray" mean "to request"?

Offline Mor Ephrem

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Re: Father Anthony Messeh tells you that praying "to" the Saints is not right
« Reply #18 on: February 26, 2013, 12:59:43 AM »
The first hymn of the Wednesday Vespers in the Syriac tradition addresses the Mother of God directly ("to her"), asking her to pray "with us" and "for us" to her Son.  The understanding of "prayer" here is not worship, but more like "communication", "asking", etc.  Furthermore, we believe that it is Christ himself who is the sanctifier of the saints (e.g., festal Trisagion, Vespers, tone 8), and who grants not only the answer to their prayers, but also the efficacy of their intercession before him.  Many of the hymns for the saints in the canonical offices, in referring to their relics, affirm that "(the power of) Christ dwells in their bones".  While I can't speak for the Coptic tradition, I'm pretty sure it is the same concept for them and all the rest of our Churches.         

I, too, believe that the statements of Fr Anthony (disclaimer: I didn't listen before posting) reflect the conflation of "prayer" with "worship" or "adoration".  As someone alluded above, all worship is prayer, but not all prayer is worship.  Many equate the two, leading them to think our veneration of the saints is simply a thinly veiled polytheism.  Sadly, this is practically (if not intentionally) how some of our faithful practice their faith.  I've heard stories from priests of parishioners who'll say something like "I don't have much faith in Jesus, but I have great faith in Saint Insertnameios: he always answers my prayers!" (prompting at least one priest to respond "When you say such things and mean them, you turn the saint's heaven into hell").  Perhaps this tendency among some is a reason why you'll occasionally find Orthodox speakers "downplaying" the "cult" of the saints.  But in doing so, we risk diluting the authentic teaching of our Church on salvation, sanctification, theosis, etc.  We can affirm that "it's all about Jesus", placing the veneration of the saints in its proper relation to Christ, without belittling the economy of salvation by which Christ sanctifies those who believe in him, re-creating them through incorporation into his body and cooperation with divine grace. 

Unfortunately, and in saying this I mean no slight at all to Fr Anthony, it seems that a lot of our recent teaching and preaching is "reactionary".  Instead of going on the offense and taking the time and effort to teach the truth, we're too busy being on the defense, cleaning up the mess caused by heterodox presuppositions.  When we do the latter, it's tempting to take the easy way out and simplify things.  Simple is good, but sometimes it'll just create a different but equally annoying mess.  Truth is better.           
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Offline Mor Ephrem

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Re: Father Anthony Messeh tells you that praying "to" the Saints is not right
« Reply #19 on: February 26, 2013, 01:02:17 AM »
Edit: (e.g., festal Trisagion, Vespers, tone 8) should read "(e.g., festal Trisagion, Vespers, tone eight)".   It sounds cool, but not emoticon cool.   ;)
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Re: Father Anthony Messeh tells you that praying "to" the Saints is not right
« Reply #20 on: February 26, 2013, 01:10:29 AM »
Interesting subject. Never heard that from an Orthodox before.
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Offline Arnaud

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Re: Father Anthony Messeh tells you that praying "to" the Saints is not right
« Reply #21 on: February 26, 2013, 10:58:44 AM »
Yes I understand that 'praying 'to' the Saints' in English in common language simply means addressing them/speaking to them, and then generally requesting a favor (whether intercession or another service) from them.

But initially I thought Father Anthony and H.H. Pope Shenouda, by saying "praying/pray 'to' the Saints" meant addressing the Saints and requesting favors from them granted otherwise than through their intercession to God, their winning of God's approval, and God's main & direct intervention answering the petitions; but considering they stand on their own heads so to speak, expecting their direct intervention of themselves and personally granting the requests, almost without the need of passing by God (manner of speaking, but their independance from God is impossible).

It doesn't take much of a look into Coptic liturgical texts to see what is proper in our tradition. The "Hiteniyat" are all in the form of "Through the intercessions/prayers of St. X, O Lord, grant us the forgiveness of our sins." This is precisely it. Even in those hymns that attribute all manner of things to the saints, this is right, because it is always through their prayers and intercessions, and not through any power of their own separate from God and His work in their life which testifies to His greatness. I think if you find Orthodox resources that talk about praying to saints, chances are they are playing fast and loose with language under the assumption that this understanding is implicit in all Orthodox veneration.

It has been my understanding as well. But what about our guardian angel? If I address my guardian angel and besides asking him his prayers I ask him to keep protecting me, would it be wrong? It seems right.

Is it perhaps that the word "prayer" has a more general meaning in English than the words translated from Greek or whatever language the Fathers used?

In the context of Pope Shenouda's comments, I would certainly think the Arabic language, given how heavily it's influenced by Islam, would draw a sharp distinction between salah (prayer) and tawassul (intercession).

This is a good example of semantics.

By prayer, both Islamic and Protestant traditions do not separate the act of communicating from the act of worshipping.  Prayer to them is both.

HH Pope Shenouda and Abouna Anthony took that definition into consideration when saying what is being asked.

In the end, I think it makes no difference what you call it, in my opinion.

I, too, believe that the statements of Fr Anthony (disclaimer: I didn't listen before posting) reflect the conflation of "prayer" with "worship" or "adoration".  As someone alluded above, all worship is prayer, but not all prayer is worship.  Many equate the two, leading them to think our veneration of the saints is simply a thinly veiled polytheism.  Sadly, this is practically (if not intentionally) how some of our faithful practice their faith.  I've heard stories from priests of parishioners who'll say something like "I don't have much faith in Jesus, but I have great faith in Saint Insertnameios: he always answers my prayers!" (prompting at least one priest to respond "When you say such things and mean them, you turn the saint's heaven into hell").           

Thanks I understand better now.





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Offline dzheremi

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Re: Father Anthony Messeh tells you that praying "to" the Saints is not right
« Reply #22 on: February 26, 2013, 11:23:12 AM »
It doesn't take much of a look into Coptic liturgical texts to see what is proper in our tradition. The "Hiteniyat" are all in the form of "Through the intercessions/prayers of St. X, O Lord, grant us the forgiveness of our sins." This is precisely it. Even in those hymns that attribute all manner of things to the saints, this is right, because it is always through their prayers and intercessions, and not through any power of their own separate from God and His work in their life which testifies to His greatness. I think if you find Orthodox resources that talk about praying to saints, chances are they are playing fast and loose with language under the assumption that this understanding is implicit in all Orthodox veneration.

It has been my understanding as well. But what about our guardian angel? If I address my guardian angel and besides asking him his prayers I ask him to keep protecting me, would it be wrong? It seems right.

I don't really know anything about this concept in Orthodoxy. There is the conclusion of every hour of the Agpeya, where we ask God to "surround us by Your holy angels, that guided and guarded within their camp, we may attain the unity of faith", but this might be different than the concept of an individual "guardian angel" as it is popularly understood. So I hesitate to comment on this either way.

But I think it's good to invoke the saints in accordance with their great virtues, in the way that we also in the Agpeya ask the Theotokos to overshadow us with her instant help, because she is a good, capable, and helpful mother (as the text puts it). So not every prayer addressing the saints is only to ask for intercession in exactly the manner I mentioned earlier (that's just the conventionalized format for the intercession prayers/hiteniyat). I will often invoke particular saints with this in mind, knowing that their lives and examples show great strength in areas that I am personally lacking.

Offline jah777

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Re: Father Anthony Messeh tells you that praying "to" the Saints is not right
« Reply #23 on: February 26, 2013, 11:56:14 AM »
The lives of the saints are filled with examples of people crying out "St.____, help me", and the saints quickly coming to their aid.  Not, "St.______ pray for me" (which is perfectly appropriate also), but "St.______ help me!"

Offline Alpo

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Re: Father Anthony Messeh tells you that praying "to" the Saints is not right
« Reply #24 on: February 26, 2013, 02:19:15 PM »
The lives of the saints are filled with examples of people crying out "St.____, help me", and the saints quickly coming to their aid.  Not, "St.______ pray for me" (which is perfectly appropriate also), but "St.______ help me!"

Exactly. Somewhere on OC.net we have posts by Irish Hermit or Papist explaining that through theosis Saints themselves are able to help us. And when Papist and Irish Hermit agree on something it can't be wrong.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2013, 02:19:57 PM by Alpo »
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Offline Jonathan

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Re: Father Anthony Messeh tells you that praying "to" the Saints is not right
« Reply #25 on: February 26, 2013, 10:48:17 PM »
The lives of the saints are filled with examples of people crying out "St.____, help me", and the saints quickly coming to their aid.  Not, "St.______ pray for me" (which is perfectly appropriate also), but "St.______ help me!"

"O undefiled Virgin, help me, I, who am your servant.  And keep away from me the waves of vile thoughts.  And raise my sickly soul to watch and pray because it has long lain in heavy sleep.  For you are an able, merciful and helpful mother, the Mother of the Fountain of Life, Jesus Christ my King, my God and my Hope." -- Compline prayer from Coptic Agpeya.

There is no way to argue that this is not prayer to a saint. To pray means to ask. This is asking a saint to help us, not asking a saint to pray for us. Orthodox have always done this. Of course it is understood that all authority comes from God and there is no concept of making the saint into an idol and adoring them.

But we could also argue that we worship saints and there's nothing wrong with that. We say Axia or Axios all the time to saints, which means worthy. Worshipping means confessing one is worthy. Adoration being in English the worship that is due only to God.

There is no point getting so hung up on semantics when terms shift in meaning in languages over time. If what H.H. and Fr. Antony were expressing is that all power comes from God, and all glory is due to Him, then we shouldn't worry too much if they expressed it in modern terms where English is starting to associate prayer with an act directed to a deity only (we don't go around saying "I pray you, open the door for me" anymore). If, on the other hand, they meant that we can't cry out "St. so-and-so, help me!", then that would clearly be a departure from traditional Orthodoxy.