How to honor the saints

Thanks to Cincinnatus for bringing into focus for me a great paradox:  On the day after we mark the breaking of the church due to the always necessary struggle against how the church tends to fall into corruption and the obscuring of Christ’s Gospel (Reformation Day), we celebrate the unity of the church, how all who have faith in Christ constitute the everlasting “communion of the saints” (All Saints’ Day).

And now on that holiday, we can turn to the Lutheran Confessions to see how saints ought to be honored:

Our Confession approves honoring the saints in three ways. The first is thanksgiving. We should thank God because He has shown examples of mercy, because He wishes to save people, and because He has given teachers and other gifts to the Church. These gifts, since they are the greatest, should be amplified. The saints themselves, who have faithfully used these gifts, should be praised just as Christ praises faithful businessmen (Matthew 25:21, 23). The second service is the strengthening of our faith.When we see Peter’s denial forgiven, we also are encouraged to believe all the more that grace truly superabounds over sin (Romans 5:20). The third honor is the imitation, first of faith, then of the other virtues. Everyone should imitate the saints according to his calling. The adversaries do not require these true honors. They argue only about invocation, which, even if it were not dangerous, still is not necessary.

Source: Apology of the Augsburg Confession Article XXI Paragraphs 4-7. Concordia CPH: 2006, p. 202.

HT:  Paul McCain @ Thoughts for All Saints Day: We Feebly Struggle, They in Glory Shine | CyberBrethren-A Lutheran Blog.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Joe

    I think it is only paradoxical on the surface. We are talking about the difference between the visible church, which is fractured and even lost in some places, and the invisible church, which by nature can not be fractured.

  • Joe

    I think it is only paradoxical on the surface. We are talking about the difference between the visible church, which is fractured and even lost in some places, and the invisible church, which by nature can not be fractured.

  • steve

    What Joe said.

  • steve

    What Joe said.

  • kerner

    I have to add a little to my previous statements to Cinncinatus. I think Cin’s and tODD’s experiences may not be completely atypical. I have been a Lutheran 40 years, but I do not have a clear recollection of regular “All Saints” Sundays decades ago. Maybe they were there and I just don’t remember.

    But I suspect that there is currently an upswing in “All Saints” observance among Lutherans, and I further suspect that it has something to do with the Lutheran drift towards American Protestant practice decades ago, and the current Lutheran trend away from it (and toward more Liturgical practice).

    Like Dr. Veith, I have to admit there is a certain irony about celebrating the fracturing of the visible administration of the church (for the sake of maintaing truth and solid doctrine) one Sunday, while celebrating the unity of the invisible Church on the very next Sunday. But, planned or accidental, I think doing it that way creates a good opportunity for catechizing the congregation.

    I’m not a pastor, but if I were, I would think this is a good way to preach consecutive sermons in sort of an “on the one hand…but on the other hand” way. As someone who sometimes finds it interesting to be able to discern continuity between last week’s sermon and this week’s sermon, I would appreciate an approach like that. (Which is not to say that my own pastors’ sermons lack that kind of continuity. They are both pretty good at using the lectionary to develop sermon themes over two or more Sundays.)

  • kerner

    I have to add a little to my previous statements to Cinncinatus. I think Cin’s and tODD’s experiences may not be completely atypical. I have been a Lutheran 40 years, but I do not have a clear recollection of regular “All Saints” Sundays decades ago. Maybe they were there and I just don’t remember.

    But I suspect that there is currently an upswing in “All Saints” observance among Lutherans, and I further suspect that it has something to do with the Lutheran drift towards American Protestant practice decades ago, and the current Lutheran trend away from it (and toward more Liturgical practice).

    Like Dr. Veith, I have to admit there is a certain irony about celebrating the fracturing of the visible administration of the church (for the sake of maintaing truth and solid doctrine) one Sunday, while celebrating the unity of the invisible Church on the very next Sunday. But, planned or accidental, I think doing it that way creates a good opportunity for catechizing the congregation.

    I’m not a pastor, but if I were, I would think this is a good way to preach consecutive sermons in sort of an “on the one hand…but on the other hand” way. As someone who sometimes finds it interesting to be able to discern continuity between last week’s sermon and this week’s sermon, I would appreciate an approach like that. (Which is not to say that my own pastors’ sermons lack that kind of continuity. They are both pretty good at using the lectionary to develop sermon themes over two or more Sundays.)

  • –helen

    “Fracturing” is what happened, but Luther’s intention was to appeal to the church to go back to first principles, and away from the accretions of the centuries which obscured the Gospel.
    He was not the first to attempt this, but possibly the first to die in his bed, having tried.

  • –helen

    “Fracturing” is what happened, but Luther’s intention was to appeal to the church to go back to first principles, and away from the accretions of the centuries which obscured the Gospel.
    He was not the first to attempt this, but possibly the first to die in his bed, having tried.

  • fws

    The Holy Catholic Church is a visible government EXACTLY in the same way the other two “ordos/orders” or governments of family and society/civil are. Baptism is the entrance. Doctrine is the Law that is to be obeyed by all it’s citizens. It consists of both hipocrites and true believers in Christ our dear Lord.

    It differs in only two ways from other earthly governments:

    It is scattered over the earth and is not bound by ethnic, cultural, political or even denominational boundaries

    Alone in this government will one find ALL who , by baptism, are also members of the Communion of Saints who are those who hide their own works in the Works of Another.

    This is a paraphrase of the Apology to the Augsburg Confessions . Art VII. This is the Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms applied to the churchly vocations.

  • fws

    The Holy Catholic Church is a visible government EXACTLY in the same way the other two “ordos/orders” or governments of family and society/civil are. Baptism is the entrance. Doctrine is the Law that is to be obeyed by all it’s citizens. It consists of both hipocrites and true believers in Christ our dear Lord.

    It differs in only two ways from other earthly governments:

    It is scattered over the earth and is not bound by ethnic, cultural, political or even denominational boundaries

    Alone in this government will one find ALL who , by baptism, are also members of the Communion of Saints who are those who hide their own works in the Works of Another.

    This is a paraphrase of the Apology to the Augsburg Confessions . Art VII. This is the Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms applied to the churchly vocations.


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