(The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs by Fra Angelico, Public Domain, U.S.A.)
“…we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses….” (Hebrews 12:1)
If the “saints” here on earth can prayerfully intercede on our behalf (see Romans 1:9; 1 Tim. 2: 1-3), how much more so can the glorified Saints in Heaven who stand before the the throne of God (see Rev. 5: 8-9)!
The New Testament verse from Hebrews, set forth above, confirms the following four points:
1). We on earth
2). are surrounded
3). by a great cloud of witnesses
4). who are in Heaven.
Under the heading, “A Cloud of Witnesses,” Section 2683 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church says the following:
2683 The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom, especially those whom the Church recognizes as saints, share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings, and their prayer today. They contemplate God, praise him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth. When they entered into the joy of their Master, they were “put in charge of many things.” Their intercession is their most exalted service to God’s plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world.
The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible states:
“Images of the faithful departed [in Hebrews 12:1] cheering us on hints at the communion and intercession of the saints. It shows that the Church in heaven is neither cut off from nor disinterested in the pilgrim Church on earth but is actively solictious of her salvation.”
As we run the race of salvation (the metaphor used in Hebrews 12:1) it is comforting to know that there are a “huge” multitude of saints in Heaven who are “intensely interested” in us persevering to the end! “We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world” (CCC 2683).
“All the good we do,” says a great spiritual writer, “Jesus Christ does in us.” Accordingly, “we may say that [Jesus] has done, in a manner, all the good works of the Saints….” Thus, “when we keep the feast of some Saint, we keep the feast of Jesus Christ, who is the author of all the sanctity of the Saints” (Father L. Lallemant, The Spiritual Doctine, p.262).
Another great spiritual writer, Father Weiss, tells us that in “His Merciful Providence God sent each saint to remind the world of its duties and to save it from its corrupt life. The saints…are selected as instruments of salvation by the compassionate Doctor of the nations [Jesus].” For “those who receive the saints, they are a great means of salvation. A people will never fall hopelessly into corruption as long as they have a single saint” (The Mystical Evolution, Vol. II, p. 373).
The great Father Olier adds:”In a certain sense the Feast of All Saints seems to me to be greater than that of Easter or the Ascension because this mystery perfects our Lord. But Jesus as Head is not perfect except in union with all His members, who are the Saints. This Feast is very glorious…for all the excellence of the perfection of the saints is nothing more than an emanation of His Spirit poured forth on them” (Id at 501).
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.
P.S. Even a number of Protestant commentaries, in commenting on this verse from Hebrews, establish that, at a minimum, the Saints in Heaven are very interested in what is happening on earth.
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