Saint Worship - Part 6

Man’s is from God by way of creation as first cause, and to God as final cause without absorption in Him. All religions, the false as well as the true, assert this itinerary, or procession of existences from God, and their return to Him; but the ancient and modern heathen religions, especially the Hindu and the Buddhist, teach that the procession of existences from God is by way of emanation or generation, which is the radical assumption of pantheism, and that their return to Him is absorption in Him, the return of the stream to its source; which denies all individual existence, and individual or personal immortality. All the gentiles early lost the tradition and even the conception of the creative act; and Christianity – counting the Jewish and Christian religions as substantially the one and the same religion – is the only religion the world has ever known that is not pantheistic. (4) It asserts the procession of existences from God to be by virtue of the divine creative act, and their return to Him to be without absorption in Him, or loss of individual or personal existence. It is I individually, in my own personal identity, who will live again, either in heaven or in hell.

All religion pertains to this second part of the soul’s itinerary. It teaches man his origin, but as the condition of his knowing and aspiring to his end in God. Its real mission is to show man his obligation of seeking that end by the exercise of his reason and will, and to supply him with the means necessary for attaining it. All religion is teleological, and has reference solely to the end, to the perfection, the consummation, of man’s existence as a creature of God and a free, moral, and rational activity. The word religion is probably from re-ligare, to bind again, for as creation binds us to God as first cause, so religion binds us again or anew to God as final cause.

This return to God as final cause, as our last end, our supreme good, or beatitude (all terms meaning practically the same thing), is possible only through the Incarnation. The Incarnation is the only medium of this return and final union with God; equally so whether we hold that, if man had not sinned, God would or would not have become incarnate. The only Mediator between God and men is the man Christ Jesus, and there is no Name but His, under heaven, given among men whereby we can be saved. He who denies the Holy Trinity denies the Incarnation, and he who denies the Incarnation denies the possibility of man’s returning to God, fulfilling his destiny, or attaining to beatitude. Saint-worship has, as we have seen, its chief ground in the relation which the saints bear to the Word Made Flesh, or God incarnate. It, then, pertains chiefly at least, to the teleological order, the return of existences to God and beatitude in union with Him.

I have shown that the worship of saints is founded on the great mysteries of our religion, and is the bets possible safeguard of faith in those mysteries themselves, especially the great facts of creation and Incarnation, which the heathen lose sight of, pervert, or travesty. Indeed all Catholic practices, growing as they do out of the great principles of faith, have a direct tendency to keep faith fresh, living, and life-giving in the heart and soul. There is a profound logic, a living reality, in all that the Church commands or approves. The Real Presence, if I may so speak, is everywhere, at once a particular and a universal truth. Hence it is that our religion is always coherent, self-consistent, and when embraced and observed, is efficient. It is always real, founded on the truth and reality of things. Hence it is that it appears to those who study it without believing it a masterpiece of human wisdom. A masterpiece of wisdom it is, but of the wisdom of God, not of man, for man was never equal to its invention or discovery.

But not only for the reasons assigned is saint-worship religious, and serviceable to religion; it is religious because the honor we pay to the saints redounds to the honor of God. We worship God in them, and we worship them in God, and for God. We do not honor the saints because they are nearer to us than God, or because they more readily sympathize with us; [as was said earlier], this is not true. God is infinitely nearer our souls, and infinitely more tender and loving, than any saint. The saints’ power, tenderness, and love come from God, and return to God, and are His. Mary is indebted to God for all those qualities and virtues we love and honor in her. Her personal merit is solely in her voluntary concurrence, by the aid of divine grace, with divine grace. If we honor the saints in a certain sense for their own merits, we know that those merits are only the fruits of God’s gifts, and in rewarding them He only crowns His own gifts. Our great reason for honoring them is that God Himself honors them. How can we be Godlike if we honor not whom God honors? How can we really love God if we love not whom He loves? The worship of the saints is, then, connected with the worship of God, and bears the same relation to it that the saint himself bears to Him Who has created, redeemed, regenerated, and glorified him. As we cannot love God fully without embracing in our love all that He loves, so we cannot give Him the honor that is His due without honoring all whom He honors.