The Saints are dear brothers who have struggled like us and have departed to Paradise. They are not dead, but are sleeping, as our Lord said (John 11: 11), and as St. Paul called them (I Thess. 4:13).
The Saints and the Bond of Love
Our early Fathers spoke clearly and in detail about our relationship with Saints. The Saints in Paradise are the triumphant members of the same one church in which we are militant members. We, the triumphant and militants, are members of the Church, which is the one Body of Jesus Christ. The triumphant become invisible members because of the death of their bodies, and then militants ire the visible ones. This is man’s point of view, but in God’s sight, we are all a visible holy family.
They departed from earth, but did not leave the church; their love toward their brothers did not cease by their departure and dwelling in Paradise. The death of their bodies does not sever the bond of mutual love between them and us; on the contrary it increases in depth and strength. Their prayers for the salvation of all the world never cease. They pray for us, and we venerate them as they are our holy and dear friends.
We venerate the icons of saints and put them on the iconstasis (icon-stand). Church walls and doors are hung with icons, also our homes etc., as a sign of our communion with them in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Coptic Icons have their own characteristics as we have mentioned in the book : “Church, House of God.”
We all – the triumphant and militants – as one Body, have love that never fails (I Cor. 13:8), for our interaction is unceasing. Those who preceded us pray for us, and we through love – pray for those who departed, and God in His Fatherhood appreciates this mutual love.
Our belief in intercession is biblical, as it appears from the following points:
1. Saints who departed are still alive, for it is said, “When he called the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob for He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all are alive in Him” Luke 20:37,38; Matt. 22:32; Mark 12:26. Moses and Elijah appeared on Jesus’ transfiguration (Luke 9:28-33), and many bodies of the saints were raised on Jesus’ transfiguration (Matt. 27:52,53).
2. God disclosed many secrets which concern the future of His men in both the Old and the New Testaments (Acts 20:22, 23, 29, 30; 2 Pet. 1: 14), no wonder that He reveals our conditions to the saints who are in Paradise. Their knowledge about us is a gift from God to them. Therefore Abraham knew that Moses and other prophets had come (Luke 16; 29-3 1), and those who are in heaven rejoice for the repentance of a sinner (Luke 15:7-10).
3. The believers who departed have a kind of privilege before God, therefore the Lord blessed Isaac for the sake of Abraham his father (Gen. 26:5), and He was gracious to Israel and had compassion on them because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (2 kings 13:23). He did not tear down the kingdom in the days of Solomon for the sake of his father David (I kings 11: 11- 13). God raised a dead man when his corpse touched the bones of Elisha the prophet, revealing the great position of this prophet in God’s sight (2 Kings 13:20,21).
4. We, the militants ask for the intercessions of the saints, as Jacob did when he asked for the intercessions of his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac (Gen. 32:9). Moses asked for the intercession of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Exod. 32:13)… For God honors those who honor Him (1 Sam. 2:30). He attributes Himself to them (Gen. 26:24; 28:13), and hears their supplications… Therefore the rich man appealed to Abraham (Luke 16:27,28).
Origen says: “It is not against truth, that we ask saints and seek for their intercessions… but that they might help us.” St. Athanasius says: “O lady and queen, the mother of God (Theotokos) intercede for us.”