“He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” – Mk 12:27
“The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand.” – Rev 8:4
-by Karlo Broussard
Discussions about the intercession of the saints often centers around the biblical evidence. But seldom does the conversation make it to the evidence from early Christian sources.
So, let’s look at some of that evidence here.
The earliest reference outside the New Testament that speaks of heavenly beings interceding for Christians on earth is the Shepherd of Hermas, also known as The Shepherd, which dates to around A.D. 80. Several influential early Christians—Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Tertullian—viewed The Shepherd as authoritative (well before the final canon of Scripture was declared at the Council of Rome in 382).
It records five visions given to one named Hermas, a former slave. In the fifth vision, an angelic messenger appears to Hermas in the guise of a shepherd. The shepherd says to Hermas,
But those who are weak and slothful in prayer hesitate to ask anything from the Lord; but the Lord is full of compassion, and gives without fail to all who ask him. But you, [Hermas,] having been strengthened by the holy angel [you saw], and having obtained from him such intercession, and not being slothful, why do you not ask understanding of the Lord, and receive it from him?” (The Shepherd 3:5:4).
If early Christians believed angels could intercede for Christians on earth, then it’s not that far of a stretch to think they believed the souls in heaven intercede as well.
St. Clement of Alexandria confirms this line of reasoning at the beginning of the second century:
In this way is he [the true Christian] always pure for prayer. He also prays in the society of angels, as being already of angelic rank, and he is never out of their holy keeping; and though he pray alone, he has the choir of the saints standing with him (Miscellanies 7:12).
The implication is that just as the Christian is never out of the holy keeping of the angels, so too the Christian is never out of the keeping of the choir of the saints who stand with him as he prays. For Clement, where there’s angelic intercession there’s also the intercession of the saints. And such intercessory prayer is conjoined with the prayers of the Christians on earth.
Our next early Christian witness to the intercession of the saints is Origen. Although he’s not considered an early Church Father, he is a witness to early Christian belief. In his work Prayer, which dates to about A.D. 233, he writes,
But not the high priest [Christ] alone prays for those who pray sincerely, but also the angels . . . as also the souls of the saints who have already fallen asleep (11).
That Origen speaks of the “saints” as having “already fallen asleep” tells us that he’s thinking of the saints in heaven and not Christians on earth. And like Clement, he combines the intercessory prayer of the angels and the saints. For Origen, they go hand in hand.
Our next witness, and perhaps the strongest so far, is St. Cyprian of Carthage. In his Letters, which dates to around A.D. 252, he writes,
Let us remember one another in concord and unanimity. Let us on both sides always pray for one another. Let us relieve burdens and afflictions by mutual love, that if any one of us, by the swiftness of divine condescension, shall go from here first, our love may continue in the presence of the Lord, and our prayers for our brothers and sisters not cease in the presence of the Father’s mercy (56:5).
Clearly, St. Cyprian believed the saints in heaven intercede for Christians on earth.
We also have evidence from early Christian epigraphical remains. Indeed, along with the idea that the saints intercede for us, we find the added requests made for their intercession. Consider, for example, an inscription concerning one named Sozon:
Blessed Sozon gave back [his spirit] aged nine years; may the true Christ [receive] your spirit in peace, and pray for us (Christian Inscriptions, no. 25, c. A.D. 250).
Another inscription speaks of someone named Gentianus, “a believer, in peace, who lived twenty-one years, eight months, and sixteen days, and in your prayers ask for us, because we know that you are in Christ” (Christian Inscriptions, no. 29, c. A.D. 250).
At the beginning of the fourth century (A.D. 300), we have evidence that Christians made requests from the Blessed Virgin Mary. Consider Methodius of Philippi, for example:
[W]e pray you, the most excellent among women, who boastest in the confidence of your maternal honors that you would unceasingly keep us in remembrance. O holy Mother of God, remember us, I say, who make our boast in you, and who in august hymns celebrate the memory, which will ever live, and never fade away (Oration on Simeon and Anna 14).
The request that Mary “remember” them is not merely a request for mental remembrance, but a request for intercessory prayer.
In St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechetical Lectures, we discover that the intercession of the saints was invoked in the liturgy. Speaking of the Eucharistic Prayer, Cyril writes,
We commemorate those who have already fallen asleep: first, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that in their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition (23:9, c. A.D. 350).
Ephraim the Syrian, in his Commentary on Mark (A.D. 370), makes several requests of the martyrs in heaven, whom he calls “saints”:
You victorious martyrs who endured torments gladly for the sake of the God and Savior, you who have boldness of speech toward the Lord himself, you saints, intercede for us who are timid and sinful men, full of sloth, that the grace of Christ may come upon us, and enlighten the hearts of all of us so that we may love him.
In Gregory of Nazianzen’s Orations (A.D. 374), we find the principle that the saints’ intercession in heaven is more effective than it was here on earth. Speaking of his father’s intercession, he writes,
Yes, I am well assured that [his] intercession is of more avail now than was his instruction in former days, since he is closer to God, now that he has shaken off his bodily fetters, and freed his mind from the clay that obscured it, and holds conversation naked with the nakedness of the prime and purest mind (18:4).
The last early Christian source that we’ll reference here is St. John Chrysostom. In his Homilies on Second Corinthians (A.D. 392), he writes,
For he who wears the purple himself goes to embrace those tombs, and, laying aside his pride, stands begging the saints to be his advocates with God, and he that wears the crown implores the tentmaker and the fisherman, though dead, to be his patrons (26:2:5).
To beg the saints to advocate with God on our behalf is to request their intercessory prayer.
In light of this evidence, we can conclude that the saints intercede for us and our invoking their prayers is not something that the Church made up somewhere down the line in its history. Rather, it’s something that was part of historic Christianity.”
The Scriptures are written on our hearts. Paper pages also exist.
“There are some things in them (Epistles of St. Paul) hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” -2 Peter 3:16
“Ever since the Protestant Revolt in the 16th century, the Catholic Church has been accused of ignoring, opposing, hiding, and even destroying the Bible in order to keep it from the people. Allegedly, copies of the Bible were chained to the walls of churches during the Middle Ages so that people could not take them home to read. Supposedly the Church during the Middle Ages also refused to translate the Bible into the various tongues of the common people, the vernacular languages, in order to further hinder personal Bible reading. Furthermore, it is claimed that the Church even went as far as to burn vernacular Bibles.
When examining these charges against the Church, we must consider several points. First, if the Church truly wanted to destroy the Bible, why did her monks work diligently through the centuries making copies of it? Before the printing press (before 1450), copies of the Bible were handwritten with beauty and painstaking accuracy. One reason for Bibles being chained to the walls of churches is because each copy was precious both spiritually and materially. It took a monk about a year to hand copy the entire Bible, so Bibles were scarce. The chain kept it safe from loss or theft, so all the people of the church community (parish) could better benefit from it.
Secondly, concerning the vernacular, we must remember that in the 5th century when St. Jerome translated the Bible from the original languages into Latin, Latin was the language of the people. This Bible is commonly called the Vulgate, the common version. Even after a thousand years, Latin still remained the universal language in Europe.
Translating the Bible into the vernacular languages during the Middle Ages was simply impractical. Most vernacular languages at that time did not have an alphabet, so they could not be put into written form. Also, only a few people could read. The few educated persons, who could read, could also read Latin. This situation did not create a great demand for a vernacular Bible nor promote a popular devotion to personal Bible reading.
Even though impractical, there are examples of the Church promoting the vernacular. One example is the mission of Sts. Cyril and Methodius to the Slavic people in Moravia during the 9th century. They are both famous for introducing the Slavonic liturgy. In their work St. Cyril had to develop an alphabet for the Old Slavonic language. (It became the precursor of the Russian “Cyrillic” alphabet.) In 885 St. Methodius translated the entire Bible into this language. Despite strong political opposition from the Germans, Pope Hadrian II, after careful investigation, confirmed St. Methodius as Archbishop of Moravia and endorsed their Slavonic liturgy. (St. Cyril had already died.) Several later popes continued to uphold their work against attacks; however, Pope Stephen VI recalled the liturgy after being deceived by the German opposition. 
In 7th century Britain, before English was even a language, Caedmon, a monk of Whitby, paraphrased most of the Bible into the common tongue. During the early 8th century, St. Bede the Venerable also translated parts of the Bible into the language of the common British people. On his death bed in 735, he translated the Gospel of St. John. Also in this period, Bishop Eadhelm, Guthlac, and Bishop Egbert worked on Saxon Bibles. During the 9th and 10th centuries, King Alfred the Great and Archbishop Aelfric worked on Anglo-Saxon (Old English) translations. After the Norman conquest of 1066, a need for an Anglo-Norman Bible arose, so the Church produced several translations, e.g. Salus Animae (1250). In 1408 the provincial council of Oxford made it clear that vernacular translations could receive approval from the Church. In 1582 the famous Douay-Rheims New Testament translation was completed, while the Old Testament was finished in 1609. Ironically the Douay-Rheims New Testament influenced the King James Bible. [2,3]
After the 14th century when English finally became the popular language of England, vernacular Bibles were used as vehicles for heretical propaganda. John Wycliffe, a dissentient priest, translated the Bible into English. Unfortunately, his secretary, John Purvey, included a heretical prologue, as noted by St. Thomas More. Later William Tyndale translated the Bible into English complete with prologue and footnotes condemning Church doctrines and teachings.  St. Thomas More commented that searching for errors in the Tyndale Bible was similar to searching for water in the sea. Even King Henry VIII in 1531 condemned the Tyndale Bible as a corruption of Scripture. In the words of King Henry’s advisors: “the translation of the Scripture corrupted by William Tyndale should be utterly expelled, rejected, and put away out of the hands of the people, and not be suffered to go abroad among his subjects.”  As food for thought, if the Wycliffe or Tyndale Bibles were so good, why do Protestants today not use them as they do the King James Bible?
One action that Catholic Christians pursued to stop this propaganda was to burn these books. Does this action make the Church anti-Bible? No. If it did, then the Protestants of this period were also anti-Bible. John Calvin, the main Protestant Reformer, in 1522, had as many copies as could be found of the Servetus Bible burned since Calvin did not approve of it. Later, Calvin had Michael Servetus himself burned at the stake for being a Unitarian.  In those days it was common practice on both sides to burn unapproved books. Finally, it is one matter to destroy the real thing and another to destroy a counterfeit.
The Church did not oppose faithful vernacular translations but heretical additions and distortions to the Bible. The Church prohibited these corrupt Bibles in order to preserve the integrity of Holy Scripture. This action was necessary if the Church is to preserve the truth of Christ’s Gospel. As St. Peter in his Epistle (in the Bible) warns us, the ignorant and unstable can distort the Scriptures to their own destruction [2 Peter 3:16; see front panel].
Should good Christian parents allow their children to read a Bible with anti-Christian propaganda or profanity in the footnotes? I certainly would not. Finally, if the Catholic Church truly wanted to destroy the Bible, she had ample opportunity to do so for 1500 years.”
 Warren H. Carroll, The Building of Christendom (Christendom College Press, 1987) pp. 359,371,385.
 The Jerome Biblical Commentary (Prentice-Hall, 1968) Vol. II, pp. 586-588.
 Henry G. Graham, Where We Got The Bible (TAN Books, 1977) p. 99.
 Ibid., pp. 128,130.
 Ibid., p. 129.
The Catholic Church doesn’t have a problem with the Bible. The Church has a problem with inaccurate translations of the Bible. Who is to determine what is inaccurate or not? Who is to determine the meaning of Scripture? The Church. Mt 16:19, 18:18
WHY DID THE CATHOLIC CHURCH CHAIN BIBLES? I HEARD THEY DID IT TO KEEP THE LAITY FROM READING THE BIBLE FOR THEMSELVES?
The same reason Protestants chained them. Because bibles were extremely valuable and susceptible to theft-not to keep them from the laity!
Bibles were rare and valuable. By today’s standards, each one would be worth $100,000. That’s why they were chained by both Protestants and the Catholic Church.
Before the printing press, Bibles were copied by hand and each one took thousands of hours to make so they were scarce. The Church wanted to keep them secure.
-by Steve Weidenkopf
“In his 1929 book Survivals and New Arrivals, Hilaire Belloc examined the forces attacking the Catholic Church and its role in society. He put them into two chief categories: “survivals,” those “old forms of attack” that continue to be used by the Church’s enemies but are, in the main, on their way out; and “new arrivals,” the newer forms of attack that focus primarily on the Church’s moral teachings rather than its theological doctrines.
Among the “survivals” was a holdover from Protestantism Belloc termed the “biblical attack.” Its key element, he wrote, is “Bibliolatry”—elevating the Bible to the level of an idol. It is Bibliolatry that is the root of the myth that the Church locked and chained Bibles in medieval churches to prevent the laity from reading them. The implication of this myth is that if medieval people had been able to read the Bible for themselves, they would have recognized that the Catholic Church’s teachings are false and would have sought to free themselves from the yoke of Rome.
The notion that the Church restricts access to Scripture to control its interpretation comes from the Saxon monk-turned-revolutionary Martin Luther. Luther published three famous treatises in 1520 in response to the bull of Pope Leo X (r. 1513–1521), Exsurge Domine, that condemned many of Luther’s teachings.
In An Appeal to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, Luther exhorted Emperor Charles V and the German nobility to reject papal authority and establish a national German Church in opposition to Rome. He argued that Rome had built three “walls” around itself to maintain its hold on Catholics. He identified these walls as the following false teachings:
1) that the spiritual power is greater than temporal power;
2) that only the pope can authentically interpret Scripture; and
3) that only the pope can call an ecumenical council.
He warned the German nobility that they must be aware “that in this matter we are not dealing with men but with the princes of hell.”
To Luther, the belief that the pope is the only interpreter of Scripture (which is not in fact Church teaching but rather Luther’s erroneous understanding of it) was “an outrageous fable” and is not rooted in the only authoritative source of divine revelation that Luther recognized, Scripture itself. Instead, he put forth the idea that all Christians should be able to interpret Scripture for themselves, a doctrine that would lead to a multitude of rival Protestant denominations.
It is widely believed that, to facilitate the lay reading of Scripture, Luther was first to translate the Bible into German. He was not. The first Bible in the German vernacular was produced in the eighth century at the monastery of Monse. By the fifteenth century, there were 36,000 German manuscript bibles in circulation, and a complete printed Bible in the German vernacular appeared in 1529, five years before Luther’s translation was published. In short, the Church made Scripture accessible to laymen long before Luther and the Reformation did.
There is, in fact, a sense in which the Bible is the product of the Catholic Church, as it was the bishops of the Church who decided which books circulating in the fourth century would be considered canonical. Indeed, the Church took great pains throughout its history to guard, defend, and preserve Scripture. Pope St. Damasus I (r. 366–383) first took up the task of publishing a vernacular version of Scripture, and he employed his brilliant yet irascible secretary St. Jerome (342–420) to accomplish the task. Jerome learned Greek and Hebrew to properly translate the word of God into vernacular Latin.
His translation, which became known as the Vulgate, was not well received in North Africa, where a riot erupted over his version of the book of Jonah. The widespread acceptance of the Vulgate in the Church took time. Perhaps part of the resistance can be attributed to the long memory of the Church. Jerome’s new translation came less than a hundred years after Diocletian initiated the Great Persecution. One of his edicts mandated the surrender of all copies of the sacred writings, an event so destructive that its memory remained with the Church long after the persecution ended. The Church maintained great respect and love for the sacred word, as evidenced by the efforts of monks to preserve it.
The sixth century was witness to the activity of a uniquely saintly man who renounced his worldly life to become a hermit. His reputation for holiness attracted many followers, and soon thereafter Benedict of Nursia founded a monastery at Monte Cassino. Benedict’s vision for his monks was rooted in the idea that monasticism was a “school of divine service” in which the monk committed himself to a life of obedience focused on a routine of work, prayer, study, and self-denial. Benedict’s monks preserved and maintained Western civilization through their painstaking work of copying ancient Greek and Roman manuscripts, as well as devoting time to copying and illustrating Scripture.
Working in the scriptoriums of Benedictine monasteries in the Middle Ages was not easy. It took nearly a year to copy a Bible manuscript. The process was laborious and wearisome; as one monk recorded, “He who does not know how to write imagines it to be no labor; but though three fingers only hold the pen, the whole body goes weary.” Any copying work the monk did not finish during the day had to be completed at night, even in the cold winter months.
Bibles were not only copied but richly and beautifully illuminated with elaborate images. Bible illumination began in the fifth century with Irish monks who painstakingly prepared the skins of calves, sheep, or goats into vellum that was used for the manuscripts. The famous Lindisfarne Gospels manuscript, copied and illuminated in the eighth century, was the work of one scribe who used 130 calfskins and took five years to complete the work. The amount of labor that went into each copy of the Bible led to preventing their theft either by locking them in containers or chaining them to desks. In other words, these were security measures, not efforts to keep Scripture from the faithful.
Indeed, protecting and expensive Bible by securing it allowed greater, not lesser, access to it. Moreover, the Bible was usually placed in a public area of a church so those who could read could peruse its pages. The first mention of this protective policy occurs in the mid-eleventh century in the catalog of St. Peter’s Monastery in Weissenburg, Alsace, where it was recorded that four Psalters were chained in the church. Moreover, the practice was not exclusive to the Catholic Church: Protestants also utilized the well-known security measure, as evidenced by the chaining of the Great Bible (also known as the Chained Bible) published by command of King Henry VIII of England in 1539.
The Real Story
The Protestant principle of sola scriptura led to the myth that the Catholic Church kept the word of God from the faithful to maintain its authority; the chaining of bibles in medieval churches was seen as evidence of this. It also led to the false claim that Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible into German was the first such vernacular edition; in fact, there had been many vernacular editions preceding Luther’s, including St. Jerome’s Vulgate.
It was the Church that, far from suppressing the Bible, determined the canon of its books and then preserved and authoritatively interpreted the written word of God throughout its history. Catholic monks painstakingly preserved the sacred writings and beautifully illustrated them throughout the medieval period. These priceless manuscripts were chained or locked up in churches not to prevent their use but to protect against theft, thus allowing greater access to them, which was standard practice in both Catholic and Protestant churches until the printing press enabled mass production of bibles.”
Love, His Word,
“It’s that time of year again when many Christians encounter claims that pagan deities predating Jesus Christ were born on December 25. In popular films, Internet videos, and other media you can find long lists of gods who were supposedly born on the same day.
This idea is not limited to unbelievers. I have heard many Christians claim that the date of Christmas was intended to provide an alternative to pagan celebrations. In some ways it has become a pious legend. On the other hand, some Fundamentalist denominations refuse to celebrate Christmas for this reason.
Of all the deities of whom people make this claim, only three can be found to come close: Saturn, Sol Invictus (Unconquered Sun), and Mithras.
Saturnalia was the feast dedicated to the Roman god Saturn. Established around 220 B.C., this feast was originally celebrated on December 17. Eventually, the feast was extended to last an entire week, ending on December 23. The supposed connection to Christmas is based on the proximity of the two festivals to each other.
This can be found repeatedly on the Internet. In his article Saturnalia: The Reason We Celebrate Christmas in December, columnist Mark Whittington explains:
It has been suggested that Christians in the 4th Century assigned December 25th as Christ’s birthday (and hence Christmas) because pagans already observed this day as a holiday. In this way the problem of eliminating an already popular holiday would be sidestepped, thus making the Christianizing of the population easier.
If the suggestion were correct, one would expect to find at least a single reference by early Christians to support it. Instead we find scores of quotations from Church Fathers indicating a desire to distance themselves from pagan religions.
Sol Invictus and Mithras
The feast of Sol Invictus was the attempt by the Roman emperor Aurelian to reform the cult of Sol, the Roman sun god, and and reintroduce it to his people, inaugurating Sol’s temple and holding games for the first time in A.D. 274. Not only was this festival not annual, it also cannot be historically documented as having been established on December 25 by Aurelian (cf. Steven HijMans, Sol Invictus, The Winter Solstice, and the Origins of Christmas, Mouseion, Series III, vol. 3, pp. 377-398).
According to inscriptions on candle votives and other ancient works of art, there is a link between Mithras and Sol Invictus. In some cases, it appears the Mithraists believed that Mithras and Sol were two different manifestations of the same god. In others, they appear to be two gods united as one. These connections are difficult to understand given our limited knowledge of the Mithraic belief system, but they are important because they help to explain why skeptics claim the birthday of Mithras was celebrated on December 25.
A manuscript known as the Chronography of 354 shows the birth of Sol Invictus being celebrated on December 25. Given the fact that the Mithraists equated their god with Sol in one way or another, it is understandable that they may have appropriated the date as their own. The problem for the skeptic is that no evidence exists to suggest that Aurelian was a Mithraist, or that he even had Mithraism in mind when he instituted the feast of Sol Invictus. The connection of Mithra to December 25 is only coincidental.
The deathblow to both the Mithras and Sol Invictus parallels is that the Chronography of 354 is the earliest mention of any pagan god being celebrated on December 25. The celebration of the birth of Christ by Christians is also mentioned on the calendar as having been celebrated on that day, which diminishes the likelihood that the pagan feast came first. At the very least, it negates the claim that it can be proved from the historical record that any December 25 pagan festival predates the Christian tradition.
The Reason for Choosing December 25
Although the date of Christ’s birth is not given to us in Scripture, there is documented evidence that December 25 was already of some significance to Christians prior to A.D. 354. One example can be found in the writings of Hyppolytus of Rome, who explains in his Commentary on the book of Daniel (c. A.D. 204) that the Lord’s birth was believed to have occurred on that day:
For the first advent of our Lord in the flesh, when he was born in Bethlehem, was December 25th, Wednesday, while Augustus was in his forty-second year, but from Adam, five thousand and five hundred years. He suffered in the thirty-third year, March 25th, Friday, the eighteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, while Rufus and Roubellion were Consuls.
The reference to Adam can be understood in light of another of Hyppolytus’ writings, the Chronicon, where he explains that Jesus was born nine months after the anniversary of Creation. According to his calculations, the world was created on the vernal equinox, March 25, which would mean Jesus was born nine months later, on December 25.
Nineteenth-century liturgical scholar Louis Duchesne explains that “towards the end of the third century the custom of celebrating the birthday of Christ had spread throughout the whole Church, but that it was not observed everywhere on the same day” (Christian Worship, Its Origin and Evolution: a study of the Latin liturgy up to the time of Charlemagne, p. 260).
In the West, the birth of Christ was celebrated on December 25, and in the East on January 6.
Duchesne writes “one is inclined to believe that the Roman Church made choice of the 25th of December in order to enter into rivalry with Mithraism. This reason, however, leaves unexplained the choice of the 6th of January” (ibid., p. 261). His solution, therefore, was that the date of Christ’s birth was decided by using as a starting point the same day on which he was believed to have died. This would explain the discrepancies between the celebrations in the East and West.
Given the great aversion on the part of some Christians to anything pagan, the logical conclusion here is that one celebration has nothing to do with the other. In his book, Spirit of the Liturgy, Pope Benedict XVI explains:
The claim used to be made that December 25 developed in opposition to the Mithras myth, or as a Christian response to the cult of the unconquered sun promoted by Roman emperors in the third century in their efforts to establish a new imperial religion. However, these old theories can no longer be sustained. The decisive factor was the connection of creation and Cross, of creation and Christ’s conception (p. 105-107).
While these explanations of how December 25 came to be the date of Christmas are all plausible, we know one thing for sure: The evidence that this day held a special significance to Christians predates the proof of a supposed celebration of Sol Invictus or other pagan deities on that day.
That the Christians chose a date so close to the winter solstice is also not proof that this was done to mimic pagan festivals. The various pagan religions all had festivals spanning the calendar. Whatever month the early Christians might have otherwise chosen would still place Christmas near some pagan celebration, and oppositional theorists would still be making the same claims.
The solstice was important to everyone for agricultural reasons in the same way water is important to the survival of human beings, and so we see rituals involving water showing up in various religions. That doesn’t prove that one borrowed the idea or theme from another.”
Love, Merry Birth of Our Lord,
“Scripture gives us many passages that call us to reflect on the role of the supernatural in our lives of faith. St. Paul encourages us to be open to the supernatural when he reminds us, “Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything, holding fast to what is good” (Thess. 5:19-21).
Although Christ worked many miracles of healing, He did not encourage the search for miracles: “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given them except the sign of Jonah” (Matt. 16:4). Christ hints in a parable about Lazarus that even otherworldly revelations will not persuade the world: “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead” (Luke 17:31). When the resurrected Christ addresses Thomas, He seems to be addressing us if we seek signs and wonders in our own day: “Have you come to believe because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (John 20:29).
Despite asking us not to rest our faith entirely on miracles and to not get swept up in pursuing them, Jesus used miracles to draw people to him and encourage their faith. Even in our modern world, for many people, miracles are a connection to the supernatural that might inspire or enliven their belief and participation.
From the beginning of Scripture, God reveals Himself to humanity in major moments, from interactions with Adam in the creation account to Noah at the time of the Great Flood, to Moses, upon whom he bestows the Ten Commandments. There are at least 120 instances of revelation (dreams and visions) mentioned in the Old Testament.vi
Perhaps the Bible’s most famous dreamer was Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel, who shared his revelations with his family, which resulted in his brothers plotting his death (Gen. 37:1-11). In one dream, the brothers of Joseph gathered bundles of grain that bowed to his own bundle. In another, the sun (his father), the moon (his mother), and eleven stars (his brothers) bowed down to Joseph himself.
Revelations continue in the New Testament. At the baptism of Christ, a voice from the heavens said, “This is my beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). At the Transfiguration where Jesus is transformed on the mountaintop and becomes radiant, the prophets Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus (Matt. 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36). A voice from the sky again calls Him “Son.”
The most famous apparitions in Scripture are the numerous times Christ appeared to the apostles (1 Cor. 15:5) and other times to various disciples, including on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). In the early Church, the deacon Stephen saw a vision of the heavens open and Christ at the right hand of God the Father (Acts 7:55-56). The “visions and revelations” from the Lord (Cor. 12:1-6) are the impetus for the conversion of Saul (Gal. 1:11-16), setting him on the path to become Paul, the greatest missionary in Christian history. The final book of the New Testament, Revelation, relates the visions of St. John.
The revelations of the Bible received by prophets and apostles showcase a supernatural connection between the Church and the divine. Throughout Christian history, there have been stories of visions and divine messages, the most common being those attributed to the Virgin Mary. Some Protestants, skeptical of the power and significance that Catholicism affords her, may doubt these reports, but the scriptural basis for Mary’s role in her Son’s saving work cannot be ignored:
- Through her God the Father sent Christ to us physically.
- Elizabeth received the grace of God through the mouth of Mary (Luke 1:44).
- Jesus’ first miracle—the wedding feast at Cana—and the beginning of his public ministry came at her request (John 2:4).
- From the cross, Jesus entrusted her to the care of St. John and symbolically to the care of all believers (John 19:26-27).
Although Jesus Christ is the sole mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5-6), St. Paul has no problem asking the rest of us (including Mary) to be subordinate mediators as he asks us to pray for each other (Rom. 1:9, 1 Thess. 5:25, 1 Tim. 2:1). When we embrace the messages of Church-approved revelations of Jesus, Mary, and the saints, and reflect on the scriptural accounts of God’s tangible intrusions in the human experience, we appreciate more deeply God’s fatherly care for us and better understand His plan for salvation and our participation in it.”
Love, Lord, Holy Mary, all ye holy men and women, be near to me,