Dancing on the Head of a Pin

There is a legend of St Thomas Aquinas asking "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" At this blog we ask all questions dealing with our faith and spirituality. Some are down to earth, rubber meets the road questions, while others are more lofty...like, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Blessed Virgin Mary and All Thy Saints

This week Anglicans and Roman Catholics released a document that clarified the role the Virgin Mary occupies in both Churches. The document for the most part affirmed agreement between the largest Christian body (Roman Catholics) and the third largest Christian body (Anglicans) about the person of and devotion to, Mary. The main difference lies in the word dogma. Anglicans may, if they desire, believe that Mary was born without the stain of original sin, and that she didn't die but was assumed into heaven like Enoch and Elijah. But Anglicans do not have to and Anglican Churches certainly do not say this belief is necessary for salvation. Roman Catholics, on the other hand, hold these doctrines to be dogma "definitive teaching of the church which is to be believed by the members of the church" (An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church).

One interesting comment in the document concerned the intercession of Mary (and other saints for that matter) in prayer. The document states: "Asking the saints to pray for us is not to be excluded as unscriptural, though it is not directly taught by the Scriptures to be a required element of life in Christ." The idea of asking saints to pray for us is typically rejected immediately by Protestants, but think about this: do we not ask others in our church, family and friends to pray for us? Upon close reflection, we might come to the conclusion that there is not much difference. Furthermore, most everyone I know has talked to a deceased loved one - either at their grave site of in some other context. If we think our deceased love ones can hear us and care for us in heaven, surely Sts Peter, Paul, Stephen, and the rest (including the Virgin Mary) hear and care for us as well.

For Anglicans, this is certainly not required and will never be imposed on anyone. But it is the traditional practice of the church, and deserves a second look.



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