Praying FOR the saints and Theotokos

On a forum about a year ago I posted a thread that eventually digressed into a discussion about whether it is right or proper to pray FOR the saints in heaven.

Numerous sources were cited. With the sole orthodox representative claiming the Orthodox do not pray FOR the saints in heaven. I still do not know what I believe on this issue. Hopefully I will receive some clarification.

To get the ball rolling here is a quote from Father Robert Taft and his essay "Eastern Presuppositions" and Western Liturgical Renewal:

It is enough to read the extraordinary incomprehension and arrogance with which the Latins treated the Armenians of Cilicia during the Crusades. The Armenians, always more open and lacking the chauvinism and bigotry of the Byzantines after Trullo (692 A.D.) and of the medieval Latins, were quite prepared to accept communion with the Latins provided their integrity was not violated.

Anyone who reads that history with openness and objectivity can only conclude that the Armenian Apostolic Church, when confronted with the obtuseness of the Latins, was fully justified in rejecting a communion which threatened not only their integrity, but the very survival of their age-old tradition. (50) The contentions in large part concerned the liturgy and its theology. One problem for the Latins were the liturgical intercessions for the Mother of God and the saints in the Armenian anaphora, where, as in the Byzantine Chrysostom anaphora, one continued to pray “for” Mary and the saints indifferently, along with the rest of the departed. Here as elsewhere, modern studies have shown that the Armenians had preserved the ancient tradition, (51) and that the Latins were simply wrong.

50- See Claudio Gugerotti, I riti di ordinazione e la Cilicia armena. Orientalia Christiana Analecta (Rome: Edizioni Orientalia Christiana, forthcoming).
51- Robert F. Taft, “Praying to or for the Saints? A Note on the Sanctoral Intercessions Commemorations in the Anaphora: History and Theology,” in Michael Schneider, Walter Berschin, eds., Ab Oriente et Occidente (Mt 8, I 1). Kirche aus Ost und West. Gedenkschrift fur Wilhelm N yssen (St. Ottilien: EOS-Verlag, 1996), 439-455.

On the other coin, In his commentary on the Divine Liturgy, Saint Nicholas Cabasilas says:

That is why the priest asks for nothing on behalf of the saints; rather, he asks that he may be assisted by them in his prayers; because, as we have said, for them the gifts are offered not in supplication and thanksgiving.


In this manner, many have been led into error: they regard the commemoration of the saints not as a thanksgiving, but as a prayer to God on their behalf. I do not know where they got such an idea, for neither the facts nor the words of the liturgy support such an assertion.

So what’s the straight deal on this? Thanks in advance!

In the Divine Liturgy and other services of the Church, we do not pray for the saints, but ask them for their prayers. By venerating them as saints we confess that they are sanctified, united to Christ, full of the Holy Spirit, in the presence of God, and as such they do not need our prayers but instead interceed consantly on our behalf. Having said that, prayer is an act of love and I wouldn’t find it inappropriate to pray for anyone, no matter what their sanctity, so long as this isn’t understood as a denial of their holiness. If prayer for the saints is part of the ancient Armenian tradition, then I wouldn’t force them to stop.

I do not read Armenian, but looking at a translation of the anaphoral text, it seems to me that the prayers “for” the Holy Virgin etc are, in fact, remembrances, same as is the case in the Syriac & Byzantine Churches (and I presume the same is true for Alexandrenes as well). From that, I can only say that I have no clue where Taft is either coming from or going with his comment. :confused:

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