St. Augustine – Are the Glorified Saints extra Mediators beside Christ?

Some of our Protestant friends have a difficult time removing the concept of “mediation” between humanity and God from a zero-sum construct. In other words, either Christ and Christ alone successfully mediates for man, in which case not a crumb can be added to it, or there is no mediation whatsoever. When Protestants hear Catholics try to explain the unique mediation of Christ and the secondary mediation of the Saints “in and through Christ,” what they hear is often a person who they think is straining to avoid the obvious error of innumerable mediators between God and man. It is alright, I’ve been there, and I understand where Protestants are coming from when they feel this way. Well, I’m not here to necessarily stop that today. But, perhaps hearing that strain from St. Augustine might at least serve the day with a change of speaker. You’ll notice below that just like Christ can be said to be the *only* Shepherd, this does not preclude the fact that we have Shepherds in the Apostles, Prophets, and various pastors. However, this doesn’t amount to multiple shepherdships, but simply instantiations of one single Shepherdship “in Christ”. In the same way, we really only have one Advocate, but all Christians who suffer or give sacrifice for another in the body of Christ are also advocates because they offer their merits in the matrix of Christ’s redeeming body, and so they can be legitimate called advocates and mediators, but not amounting to multiple mediator-ships, but rather instances of one mediator-ship “in Christ”. Mental gymnastics? Well, if St. Augustine is working out in that gymnasiusm, then count me in forever 😀

St. Augustine states:”The justice of the martyr is perfect, because they have been perfected by their sufferings. That’s why they aren’t prayed for in the Church. The other faithful departed are prayed for, not the martyrs; they left the world, you see, so perfected that they are not our dependents, but our advocates. And this too, not in themselves, but in the one to whom as their head they ahve stuck close as his members. He, you see, is indeed the one advocate, who intercedes for us, seated at the right hand of the Father, but the one adovate in the same way as the one shepherd. Because ‘I must’, he said, ‘bring those sheep too, which are not of this fold’. So Christ is a shepherd, Peter not a shepherd? Indeed Peter too is a sheperd, and all others like him are without the slightest doubt shepherds, pastors. I mean, if he isn’t a shepherd, how can he be told, ‘Feed my sheep’? But all the same, the real shepherd is the one who feeds his own sheep. Peter, you see, was not told ‘Feed your sheep,’ but ‘mine’. So Peter is a shepherd, not in himself but in the body of the Shepherd.”

-Sermon 285, On the Birthday of the Martyrs Castus and Aemilius; cited from Saint Augustine: Essential Sermons, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P. (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2007), 333.

2 thoughts on “St. Augustine – Are the Glorified Saints extra Mediators beside Christ?

  1. Thanks for the article, Erick.
    I am an Eastern Orthodox (Greek) who wants to become Catholic, but I have one major issue. I have heard that some Eastern Catholics venerate the heretic Nestorius. (He was condemned at Ephesus) I have heard this happens in churches like the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and the Chaldean Catholic Church. I don’t know if Rome allows them to do so, or if these churches just venerate Nestorious themselves, without permission. I have not been able to find a clear answer on this issue and was wondering if you had any knowledge on the issue. But if it is true and Rome allows Nestrious to be venerated, that I can’t become Catholic in good conscience, since Nestorius is a heretic and was condemned at an ecumenical council.

    Thanks,
    Elijah Hallberg

    • I can’t answer this question about present-day practice (I hope it’s not true) but the present-day “Church of the East and of the Assyrians” owes its very existence to Rome’s anti-Nestorian actions. In the early 1550s a fragment of the Persian (“Nestorian”) Church entered into union with Rome with its own patriarch. They were treated badly by the Turkish authorities, and so fled and took refuge in the mountains of Hakkari in what is today SE Turkey. They remained in contact (and communion) with Rome for about 50 years, but after ca. 1605 there was no contact with Rome for about 50 years. When contact with Rome resumed about 1660, Rome learned that these “Chaldeans” continued to commemorate Nestorius, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and others of that sort as saints; and Rome ordered them to stop doing so. They refused, and broke off communion with Rome in 1672.

      Meanwhile, down in the plains of what is today NE Iraq, the “original Nestorians” underwent various internal quarrels and divisions in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, with the result that they became divided into two, and sometimes three, rival bodies. From the 1770s until ca. 1805 the bishops of these separate bodies were all brought into communion with Rome, forming the “Chaldean Catholic Church,” reorganized by Rome around 1830. If these Chaldean Catholics have begun venerate Nestorius, it is a recent development, and one symptomatic of the struggles between orthodoxy and heterodoxy taking place throughout the Catholic Church over recent decades.

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