Saturday, November 7, 2009

Missing the Glory

or, Such Irony

There are, hypothetically at least, people who pray to the saints instead of to Christ. (I have never personally known any, but apparently there have been a lot of them in history and presumably there still are.) There are also those who refuse to speak with the saints and tell you they prefer to focus upon Christ instead.

Both sorts of people are depriving themselves greatly on account of the very same error. They forget to consider, or else misunderstand, what is the "mystical union," as it is called in the West, or "deification," as it is termed in the East. In short, there simply is no such thing as saints instead of Christ or Christ instead of His saints. It isn't as though there were saints over here and Christ over there, discreet entities.

"I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me," said St. Paul. This statement is true of every saint. A glorified saint, the kind the Orthodox invoke, is someone in whom the Church has recognized Her Lord, truly living His life in the saint's body. A saint is Christ with skin on. (That's why, in the Orthodox Church, we don't have saints in whom it is difficult to find any resemblance to Christ.)

"For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." (Ephesians 5:30) The saints are literally, albeit mystically, the Body of Christ, filled with His own Spirit, nourished by His own flesh and blood. He Himself is all their power, all their wisdom, all their glory, all their life, all their meaning.

When someone tells you he focusses upon Christ instead of the saints, that's like saying he's looking at the vine but not the branches. How can you do that? Or he's looking at the lightbulbs but not the crystals, when Christ is the whole chandelier. If a person fails to look at the prisms too, he won't see all the glorious ways in which the Light is refracted. He has not corrected in himself the error of the person who only prays to saints; he is actually repeating it, by making an either/or where there is none. He isn't recognizing the Very One he so fervently longs to see.

The disciples on the road to Emmaus and Mary Magalene at His tomb made a similar mistake when, due to His different appearance, they at first failed to recognize the risen Lord. But then, after a while, they did recognize Him after all. God give us all to do the same.