Praying to the Saints
Catholics nor Jews pray to the dead. Catholics and Jews believe that no one who is created in the image and likeness of the Lord can in actually die since they have an immortal soul which lives on forever. This soul is the true essence of man which animates and gives the body life here on earth.
Jews believe that those who pass away from their physical existence on earth are not dead but fully alive in the bosom of Abraham and able by the Mercy of the Lord to hear all supplications made to them. Jews today continue the practice of praying to righteous departed - the tzaddikim. They will ask the tzaddikim for their intercession. However, the tzaddikim are not merely intercessors but also channels of divine grace which flow through them from the Lord.
Jews believe in the communion of the Jewish people that is the belief that all Jews be they on earth, Sheol or in the intermediate state of purgatory belong to a single body of people and that when something hurts those on earth the others feel that hurt as well. Jews believe that without the intercession of the righteous departed that this world would be unendurable place of pain and woe.
The righteous departed still have the love for those on earth and care for them and their problems and continually intercede with the Lord acting as a meilitz yosher (advocate) for those living. It is the Jewish belief that the tzaddikim are more with us than they have been in their mortal life because they are now free of the bounds placed by their mortal bodies and can ignore all limitation placed upon them by their physical bodies.
Jews do not consider praying to the tzaddikim idolatry rather as “unidolatory”. Judaism has a strong belief that there is no intermediary between the Lord and man, yet they believe that the tzaddikim who are closer to the Lord can intercede on their behalf. They make a distinction between the divine and the tzaddikim as there is a lehavdil (separateness) between them yet they abide in the Lord. Praying to the tzaddikim does not take anything away from the great glory and majesty of the Lord due to the metaphysical lehavdil which exists between them. The intercession of a tzaddikim is worth the prayers of 1,000 persons on earth. The term of “unidolatory” is used to describe the golden cherubs which sit atop the Ark of the Covenant and other images in the temple as these were permitted by the Lord Himself or directly commanded by Him.
The root word for tzaddik is tzedakah meaning charity. The tzaddikim have achieved great holiness through prayer and joyful habitual charity. This love of the other continue beyond their passing away from the earth. Those in Sheol continue to pray through charitable love for those on earth. One can today go to Jerusalem and join one of the Hassid (Orthodox) tzaddikim tours which visit the graves of the tzaddikim so that Jews can visit and ask for their intercession and graces.
Because, the tzaddikim are channels of Divine Grace, those things with they used in life here on earth are charged with spiritual power – their clothing, pens, yad and anything else he used in life. These relics are not in and of themselves magical by any means but by only the Mercy of the Lord have spiritual power made available. Jews do not worship the tzaddikim but they are venerate out of respect for them and the Lord who has been merciful by making the tzaddik available.
The Catholic belief is exactly the same no different except for one. That is the Jews believe that the graces that flow from the tzaddik is limited while the Catholics believe this this is unlimited. This divergence in view can very easily be reconciled when one takes into account that the Jews do not consider the tzaddikim to be in heaven but in Sheol and do not yet behold the Face of Lord while Catholics believe that the saints are in heaven and behold the face of the Lord and are awash in a sea of graces which flow from the Godhead.
Just like the Jews, Catholics believe in the Communion of Saints, those in Heaven (Church Triumphant), those on earth (Church Militant) and those in purgatory (Church Penitent). One of the Catholic teachings is that you do not need faith or hope in heaven and that only love survives past death.
Catholicism has not invented anything, it just follows those things which the Lord taught Moses on the mountain for 40 days and carried through the Oral Tradition into Catholicism. All this goes to show that Catholicism is nothing new, but a continuation of Judaism carry on those beliefs, practices, customs and traditions of the Jews congruent with the post-messianic age. Each covenant builds upon the previous covenants.
If one wishes to pray to the tzaddikim St. Gamaliel or his son St. Abibas one can visit the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Pisa. Both are buried together under the main altar.
to be continued…