Friday, 27 June 2014

Necromancy and the Intercession of the Saints

There are those among Protestants who consider that seeking the intercession of the saints is the same as necromancy, and is forbidden by Deuteronomy 18 which says…

There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
Now in this passage we see that the Jewish people were forbidden to adopt the practices of the nations around them. But let us be clear, there is no comparison between asking the intercession of those faithful Christians who have departed to be with Christ in Paradise, indeed asking them to pray for us before God, and all these vile and depraved practices which are forbidden.
Someone who does ask those who live in Christ to remember us in prayer must wonder if those Protestants who equate this simple and proportionate practice, no different in kind at all to asking the prayers of any other fellow Christian, with the worst excesses of pagan witchcraft have understanding of what Orthodox Christians mean by seeking the intercession of the saints.

What sort of things does this passage in Deuteronomy forbid? It is child sacrifice, all sorts of fortune telling, the casting of spells and other witchcraft, and the summoning of demonic spirits. How can any of this be compared with a committed Christian adding to his devotions a simple request such as…

St Alban (or some other saint) intercede for me before God that he would grant the grace to do His will this day.

Can this honestly be compared with child sacrifice? Can it be compared to the summoning of demonic spirits? It is impossible for me to see that there is any comparison. The Christian who simply asks for intercession, with no demand or desire or expectation of having any material or intellectual contact with the one whose intercessions are requested has nothing at all in common with the demonic practices which are forbidden. Shall we compare the appearance of Elijah and Moses with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration with necromancy?

The text of the Septuagint, the oldest version of the Old Testament and that which Our Lord Jesus and the Apostles knew and used and quote, we find that the word necromancer is translated as ‘one who enquires of the dead’. In fact the ancient origins of this word refer to one who summons the spirits of the pit, of holes in the ground, to ask them questions about various matters of the present and future. These are the troubled spirits that such mediums were reputed to be able to summon. What has this diabolical perversion to do with quietly and reverently asking one of the faithful departed to intercede for us before God. It has nothing in common at all and it is almost shameful to suggest such a connection. In the first place no medium is consulted when intercessions are asked for. Secondly no vision or representation or communication with the saints is expected or requested. And thirdly, such intercessions, when asked for, are always directed by the faithful departed towards God, in whose presence they stand.

Who do we address when we ask for the intercessions of the saints? It is the members of the one Body of Christ whose unity is not sundered by the experience of physical death. Who are these spirits of the pit, of the holes of the ground, that the necromancers purported to summon? They are demons and evil spirits. Dare we imply that when we say humbly and with hope in Christ, ‘St Alban, intercede for us before God’, we are addressing a demon? Dare we say this? I will insist that it is unreasonable in the extreme to suggest such a thing and my years of experience of Orthodoxy, both in the years I was learning about this ancient spiritual way and in the years since I became Orthodox, I have never had any reason to believe that those who are seeking by the intercession of the saints praying on our behalf before God, will find that God rejects such earnest requests for prayer as being of the enemy. That is what we must say otherwise, that those who are most seriously seeking the grace of God, and ask even the intercessions of those most faithful Christians who stand in the presence of God are in fact entirely deluded by Satan and are requesting the intercession of demons.
How far from the truth such a view is, and almost a blasphemy. As if those seeking a fish of God, our Heavenly Father, would be rewarded with a stone, indeed much worse than a stone.

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