Pews

picture of typical pews

A:  "As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us."
								-- Hebrews 12:1

Forbid it Lord, that we should die of loneliness. Recall us boldly to our truest senses. We are in the midst of unseen intercessors; the angelic wings waft our failing spirits upward. Centuries, nay millennia of heroic souls accompany us -- aeons old guardians lift our hands to pray.

Ours is the cross, the sky ... with us pray the Faithful of all ages. The mightiest flights of angels look down upon us and Archangel Michael rallies them to our constant defense. Our prayers are carried unto the Lord as incense by these angels sent to defend the Church. Those awaiting us in Paradise are also one with us in our worship. They are with Christ and we are with Christ - - nothing can separate us. I've always loved what the late Bishop of Pittsburgh, Austin Pardue had to teach in this matter:
(Note: As they Really Are, and The Communion of Saints are excerpted from the Rt. Rev. Austin Pardue's book, He Lives, published in 1946 by Revell.)

(1)
AS THEY REALLY ARE
Austin Pardue, Bishop, Pittsburgh Episcopal Diocese

The physical or temporary body is used as an instrument by the real or spiritual body for the purpose of giving outward expression in a passing material world. It is to the spirit what a fountain pen is to the mind. Suppose that you have an idea you want to express via your pen. Should the pen break or become lost, does that mean that you no longer have a mind, feelings, love, and character? Certainly they are not lost just because you lost your fountain pen. If you lose your pen, you get a pencil, or a typewriter, or a Dictaphone, or you communicate by word of mouth, or by prayer. The loss of a pen does not silence you forever any more than the loss of a physical body can stop you from living.

In enjoying fellowship with the dead, or, as the Prayer Book puts it, when we "rejoice in their fellowship," we must not think in terms of flesh and bones. You can never see the real "me" as long as you look at me with your physical eyes. You can see my hands, my feet, and my body, you can even see my eyes, through which I look out upon the physical world; but you cannot see the real me which is my soul, my character, my sins, my virtues, and my hopes. Yet, what am I but the sum total of the component parts of my spiritual body which is invisible and indestructible?

(2)
THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS
Austin Pardue, Bishop, Pittsburgh Episcopal Diocese

It is also important to remember that the great majority of the members of the whole church, those who have passed on in particular, are not yet perfected "in Him." They are saints in the making; they are in the process of arriving at the state of true perfection. Undoubtedly, the great bulk of the whole Church belongs in that intermediate state known as Paradise, or the Church Expectant. It is in that state that the constant process of education is being carried on whereby the soul learns to overcome selfishness an sin. There, souls are given every possible opportunity to develop and build themselves into Christlike men and women. It is in this process of development, both for us here and for them over there, that we are part of a network of prayer linking each to the other through Jesus Christ our Lord. We do not believe in the abuse of the Medieval Church that "by saying so many masses" souls will be catapulted out of [a semi-] hell into a higher realm. We do believe that our prayers for those who have passed on, and their prayers for us, through Christ, are of great benefit each to the other.

This matter of "praying to the saints" is one that we ought to have straightened out in our minds. Certainly it is a superstitious practice to pray to a saint in the sense that he is a minor God and that we are seeking his supernatural assistance. No such concept is held in the traditional faith. We should merely talk to a saint in prayer as to a friend and ask him to think of us when he says his prayers. Time and again people ask me if I will not remember some person who is sick, and naturally I am delighted with the privilege. So also, the people who are in the realm of the Church Expectant or Triumphant can be asked if they will not kindly do the same in their prayers. After all, they have great experience and growth and understanding and why not enlist their friendship and assistance. This is a very ancient practice and it seems to me, one that is extremely normal and reasonable. Naturally, when a saint is looked upon as a magical device it is a terrible abuse, and it is against such practices that Protestantism rightly rebels. Again, rebellion should be practiced in the sense of reform rather than complete revolution. In the Eastern Church, all good and holy people are thought of as being able to assist us through their prayers and surely that is a wise and sensible approach. Why shouldn't I frequently remember my dearest friends who have passed on and enlist their assistance from time to time? Surely their interest in me would be sufficient to give me the best of their time, attention, and prayer life at certain periods when I am particularly in need. Thus, we can see that in the doctrine of the Communion of Saints there is a vast and rich reservoir of spiritual energy . An opportunity for our participation in it is one of the greatest privileges offered to mankind.

The idea of mutual prayer, within the fellowship of the saints, has ample evidence from the very earliest days of Christianity. St. Cyprian, the martyr-bishop of Carthage, who was born in the century after St. John's death (A.D. 200), made an agreement with his friend Cornelius that whichever of them died first should remember the one who remained behind, "Let us mutually be mindful of each other . . . on both sides, let us always pray for each other. Let us relieve our affections and distresses by a reciprocity of love, and whichever of us goes hence before the other by the speed of divine favor, let our affections continue before the Lord."

A contemporary of St. Cyprian, named Origen, one of the greatest of all Christian scholars, says, "All the souls who have departed this life, still retaining their love for those who are in the world, concern themselves for their salvation and aid them by their prayers and meditation with God . . . . It is my opinion that all these fathers who have fallen asleep before us, fight on our side, and aid us by their prayers." The early fathers of the Church were unanimous in their references to this inter-communion between all of the Saints in the great Universal Church.


B: "All the world is a stage and those upon it actors." (adaptation of William Shakespeare)

Have I chosen the role and written the script and all that, ignoring the Director? Yes Lord, there is my sin, there my folly, and there my suffering.

Please Lord: You've provided the stage for this life and that I could not change -- nor the audience, kind and unkind. But the climax surely nears, the resolution, comic or tragic must be had. I remove my masks by Your kind grace, I would play that final scene as myself -- acting boldly or humbly

			Your script at last,
				and till the last kneeling as the would-be
					hero seeking his Director! Amen

(3)

C: The Children of the Soul (adapted from Origen)

Picture of children sharing an ice cream bar
Let them be beautiful with the fragrances of Heaven's flowers,
brilliant in the paradisiacal colors of infinite graces,
			these children of our souls.

Oh mind, you must love this blood-bought soul,
and in her depths sire ideas and ideals that aspire to Heaven and Home.
Oh think of your wondrous and solemn responsibilities,
				our minds  ...  our souls:

Father of spirits, hear our prayer.  Make our minds fertile with
goodness and sacred studies that our soul's constant offspring shall be
at once humble, holy, and heroic in Christ our Lord ...

Forbid it Lord that rebellious seed be birthed by our souls
				the souls You died to redeem ...
				Forbid it, we plead.
							Amen

D:

Communion is to our minds
as
mercifulness is to God

(analogy of St. Isaac of Syria)


Oh my cathedral soul, consider well:
mind speaks to mind,
mind comes to know another's mind
with or without words ever being spoken

but

always in actions toward one another,
always through communion

even so - -

Oh dearest Christ my Lord, my Creator, we are compatible as are minds to minds only because of Your Image in us. You are somehow our redeemed Image at Your Father's right hand in Your ascended glory,

and both the spoken
and the unspoken prayer
that dwells in any mercifulness
toward our fellow beings
is Image communing in Image:
holy silence

pax

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